Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Good Reason Not to Tattoo "MURDER" on Your Neck

Can you guess? It's because such a tattoo might unduly influence a jury if you are, at some point, charged with murder. At least that was the argument made recently in Barton County, Kansas (Great Bend Tribune), by the defense lawyer for Jeffrey Chapman, who looks like this:
Jeffrey looks like that, not his defense lawyer. I should have been more clear.
Story-sender Thomas B. asks whether this tattoo would be admissible at trial, and I think the answer is no. The fact that you like the word "murder" does not tend to prove you actually commit murders. In fact, you have a First Amendment right to go around saying (or displaying) "murder" all you want, except probably if someone has just asked you "should we murder or not murder this person?" So it is not relevant, but for what are probably obvious reasons it is pretty likely to prejudice a jury. So it would be out underFederal Rule 403, at least.
What seems to be the Kansas equivalent, though, says that a judge can exclude evidence if "its probative value is substantially outweighed by the risk that its admission will unfairly and harmfully surprise a party who has not had reasonable opportunity to anticipate that such evidence would be offered." I don't think it has any probative value, but it's also hard to see how Jeffrey should not reasonably have anticipated his neck tattoo might be an issue. I'd be willing to bet that Kansas interprets this rule in a way similar to the federal rule, though.

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