Regarding The Guy Charged With a Machete Attack Who Has A Machete Tattooed On His Face

I know these stories are stupid, but I love them, and besides, I can’t pass up the chance to correct Jonathan Turley.

Justin Arthur Allen Couch, 25, pictured above,  is charged with using a machete to attack the victim in the arm and leg during an argument in Tarrytown, Florida. The victim is alive but may have permanent injuries. Couch, as you can see above, has a drawing of a machete tattooed on his face. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

Of course, the tattoo doesn’t prove that he’s guilty of a machete attack. It’s circumstantial evidence at best. In fact, if I were defending Couch, I’d be tempted to argue to the jury that the machete should make them question whether Couch was the attacker. Who would be so stupid as to use a machete as a weapon when one is right there on his face? I sure wouldn’t. I’d use a hammer, a golf club, a seafood fork, indeed anything but a machete.

Then again, I would never have a machete tattooed on my face. That act alone raises a rebuttable presumption that Couch is an idiot.

Professor Turley, writing about the case, opines,

Face tattoos are unlikely to be receive assistance from the court in allowing a shroud or covering. The machete tattoo is one of the choices in life that comes back to haunt you in your machete attack case.

The Professor could doubtless make me look like a baboon in a law school class, but he is wrong on this topic, which is a specialty of mine. Turley cites some amusing cases, like the man accused of sexual assault with a forehead where a tattoo reads “I’m a pornstar. I fuck Teen Sluts”…

…and this doofus, who faced charges for multiple crimes….

…but when the tattoo is more specific, judges have allowed the defense to cover it up because of the danger of prejudicing the jury. In 2014, I wrote about Jeffrey Chapman, who was facing trial for first degree murder in Great Bend, Kansas, but had a problem: a large tattoo on his neck that read MURDER.

The judge allowed him to have it removed before trial. The precedent for this was a 2010 trial in which John Allen Ditullio Jr. was facing prosecution in a  hate crime murder trial looking like this:

The defense objected that his tattoos would prejudice the jury, so the judge ordered that the hate-related tattoos on his face and neck be covered up by a professional make-up artist at the State’s expense.

In the post about Chapman, I mused,

  • “I suppose this is the necessary and fair decision by the judge…. Regarding the Florida case, Alan Dershowitz [suggested] that the swastika and other tattoos were an extension of tattooed defendant John Allan Ditullio’s character, and covering them could be construed as misleading the jury. …”
  • “…If a defendant is allowed to cover up marks he placed on his face that convey a negative impression, why shouldn’t a defendant be allowed to have extensive plastic surgery so that he won’t “look like a criminal”? Shaving, grooming and dressing up criminal defendants is already standard practice; lawyers can even place accused murderers in glasses they don’t need so that they will appear less threatening. How far can this this strategy go, or are there no limits?”

This face, also in 2014, raised that question;

  • “Are other conclusions one may reach about someone with a MURDER tattoo fair and reasonable, or just bias? Is it fair, for example, to fear such a person? Would a potential employer be exhibiting a bias if he refused to hire someone based on such a tattoo, even if the potential employee promised to wear turtlenecks? I think it is reasonable to be biased against people with MURDER tattooed on their necks. Now, to be fair, Chapman had the word printed backwards and in a mirror image, so that only he would see it written properly as “MURDER” when he looked in the mirror. This shows planning and intelligence, arguably…”

I’m betting that Couch’s machete tattoo won’t make it to trial.


10 thoughts on “Regarding The Guy Charged With a Machete Attack Who Has A Machete Tattooed On His Face

  1. Depends if the tattoo comes up as evidence, I suppose. Suppose a witness said “I witnessed a man with a small machete tattoo below his eye use a machete to attack another person.” Then, the tattoo in question is an identifying feature and the make-up will have to be removed. So, I don’t understand a case which would allow a tattoo to be “removed” if there’s the potential that it’s tied to witness testimony.

    That said, I support make-up and clothing to cover up the tattoos. I don’t think as a fair prosecutor that you want to win a conviction based solely on that swaying the jury. If your case and evidence against a defendant is hinging on that….I think you should reconsider the charges.

  2. So at what point does someone become responsible for their own actions. Now if someone kidnapped one of these guys and tied them up and put all these tattoos on them (why do so??) then they might have a case for covering them. If you think its a good idea to do all that yourself, to yourself, then you need to think hard about taking up a life of crime. Or limit yourself to cyber crime where no one sees you.

    As my mother would have said: they should have been “left to stew in their own juices.”

    • Mike, I think being a defendant in a criminal trial is EXACTLY when, at least during the duration of the trial, someone becomes not responsible for their own actions. I think you’ve provided a very concise and accurate description of how best to look at such a person in such a situation, i.e., being on trial for a crime. Of course, the jury may reject the supposition, but that’s where things have to start.

  3. Can’t follow the logic. I might think I look rich and intelligent and have a patronising manner when talking to idiots. So, just the sort of person who might have committed some fiendish fraud involving complex financial instruments and vast amounts of money. But with a bit of pretrial cosmetics, misspelt insulting tattoos on my face, I think I could look almost incapable of adding up. And with some elocution l reckon I could even sound empathetic! Might that help me get off?

    As all attorneys know, a jury isn’t just listening to the evidence. They are also assessing the credibility of those before them. In my view Courts should not support or encourage any misrepresentation of character, particularly when obviously undertaken to mislead.

    • I tend to agree with that analysis, Andrew…it’s also basically the Dershowitz approach. I was shocked when that 2010 case came down, and there have been others, like the defendant who had Hitler tattooed on his forehead while waiting for trial. I think judges are afraid of appeals if they don’t bend over backwards to avoid “inflaming the jury.”

      Good to hear from you…it’s been a while.

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