Can tattoos be consider evidence of a crime the same as if a person makes a confession to the police? As a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, I would expect the judge to say that the tattoos cannot be admitted into evidence; however, this issue is before the Superior Court judge presiding over the Aaron Hernandez trial.
Hernandez’s defense lawyers correctly argued that it would be unfairly prejudicial and speculative to allow the jury to infer the reasons why Hernandez may have his tattoos and attempt to infer intent.
Aaron Hernandez now spends his time behind bars serving a life sentence for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. Additionally, he has been charged and is awaiting trial for the double homicide of Daniel de Abreau and Safiro Furtado. It is known that Hernandez has many tattoos on his body, and during a recent motion hearing prosecutors mentioned the potential link between the tattoos and the crimes that were committed- noting that the tattoos are “trophies of his killings”.
The motion hearing largely centered around whether or not the jury, during Hernandez’s trial, should be able allowed access to see the many tattoos Hernandez has. Examples of the tattoos include, but are not limited too, the cylinder of a revolver that has one empty chamber with five live rounds and the words “God Forgives” underneath, and a semi-automatic gun that has smoke coming out of it. The prosecution argued that Hernandez accordingly did fire five rounds into the car that killed the two victims in his case: bringing light to the idea that the tattoos are a symbol of the acts that were committed that fateful night.
Evidence was presented to the judge that the tattoo of the gun is almost an exact replica of a gun Hernandez has previously used. In February of 2013, Hernandez used a gun similar to one of his tattoos in an attempt to silence Alexander Bradley- an individual who was a witness in Hernandez’s case. Prosecutors also noted the time period in which Hernandez got the tattoos, only a few months after the incident with Bradley occurred.
Hernandez’s defense attorney believes that the idea is preposterous and that simply having a tattoo does not necessarily imply that you have committed a crime. During the motion hearing, the defense argued that the tattoos, frankly, are irrelevant to the case, and noted that a motion to exclude the tattoos from the trial is in the works. UCLA professor and tattoo expert, Jorja Leap, agreed and ultimately sided with the defense. Leaps mentioned that tattoos of guns are common and that having such a tattoo does not necessarily imply any gang affiliation or violence. Because Hernandez has a large number of tattoos, it is hard to exemplify exactly what the tattoos could mean, if they even have any meaning at all.
” . . . people get tattoos and some people get tattoos with a gun on them does not mean the commonwealth is allowed to pile inference on top of inference on top of inference to suggest this is an admission. It is unduly prejudicial and should be excluded on that basis.”
-Defense Atty. Ronald Sullivan
If you are facing a criminal charge in Massachusetts and need legal help, make sure to contact Criminal Defense Attorney Michael DelSignore.
To read more about this issue there was an excellent article in the Boston Herald by Chris Villiani and O’Ryan Johnson.
Additionally, Sports Illustrated also had an article featuring the issue in the motion hearing. To stay current on legal issues in Massachusetts and across the country visit our DelSignore Law Facebook page.