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.
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….
His name in Michael Vines, and we have his South Carolina mug shot. He is charged with unlawfully carrying a firearm. You can see the guilt on his face.
Here is what will happen. We know this, because there have been many cases with criminal defendants standing trial who have, entirely due to their own cretinous choices, incriminating or otherwise potentially prejudicial tattoos, like swastikas, words like “hate,” “kill,” or “murder,” and names like “Hitler” visible somewhere on their head or neck.In each case, the judge has ruled that the tattoos must be covered with make-up—paid for by the State— to ensure a fair trial. A conviction of a man with, say, “hate” tattooed on his neck who is charged with a hate crime would provoke an automatic reversal and new trial. I have several posts about these cases, and normally I would supply the links, but I’m afraid that looking at more than one of these pictures in a 24 hour period will jeopardize my already precarious IQ stability. Search for “tattoos” on the blog: you’ll find them.
This guy’s tattoo is a new wrinkle: Have a graphic representation of your crime imprinted on your forehead. This opens up a whole new vista in self-incriminating body art. Spousal abusers can sport tattoos of a man belting a woman. Embezzlers can have a tattoo showing a hand reaching into the till. Drug pushers can wear a drawing of a loaded syringe. FBI agents can display portraits of Hillary Clinton.
Of course, the simple way to convey the same message is to just have a talented tattoo artist write “I’m an idiot” on your face. (Make sure he’s not eating a Milky Way, or you may be stuck with “I’m an idoit.” Come to think of it, that might be even better.
I have been wondering if a defendant would be allowed to stand trial with nice tattoos on his face that suggest harmlessness and innocence. You know: tattoos of Care Bears, peace signs, hearts or portraits of Gandhi, Jesus, Mother Theresa, or Barack Obama. Would a judge allow such a defendant to appear before the jury with those messages uncovered?
1 Oh, let’s begin the day with Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and present wacko whom Alabama Republicans voted to represent the GOP in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, thus proving that there are a lot of deplorables in the state. As was completely predictable given his record, Moore recently told his drooling followers (after being introduced by Abraham Hamilton, Alexander Lincoln being unavailable),
“Somebody should be talking to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, ‘What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?. . . Tell the Congress: Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremists and they should be taken off the bench.”
So Moore believes that he should not have been removed from the bench for putting his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, but justices should be removed if they interpretation the Constitution in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs. This, he insisted, would ‘solve the problem….such a view would violate not just fundamental principles of judicial review but it would violate the impeachment clause. As the last lead counsel in a judicial impeachment case (in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous), Moore’s view is deeply troubling. As I have previously written, the Good Behavior Clause of Article III was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it from political pressures. It was meant as a guarantee of life tenure against precisely the type of threat that Moore is endorsing.
But it’s pointless to make genuine legal and historical arguments against someone like Moore. He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. This fiasco is their fault, and someone like Moore should be kept out Congress at all costs.
2. Now to someone who is, incredible as it seems, somewhat less ridiculous, this gentleman, Christopher Wilson…
No, that’s not a botched tattoo on his forehead: the blurry words are “fuck” and “sluts”, making the whole, eloquent message, “I’m a porn star. I fuck teen sluts.” This roughly translates into “Look at me! I’m an idiot!” The newspapers that refused to print the blurred words (the police had the mugshot altered) that are essential to the story, meanwhile, are telling us, “We don’t understand our profession.” The story is incomprehensible if the actual words aren’t clear, literally or figuratively. Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” Since the issue is whether the message on his FACE is going to prejudice the jury in his trial for sexual assault, this is juvenile coverage omitting key information to avoid “giving offense.”
Ethics Alarms to the news media: Grow up.
Turley (again…he loves the tattoo stories) writes,
“The court will be left with a question of whether the tattoo is too prejudicial or whether it is unavoidable as a personal choice of the defendant….Yet, these tattoos contain an admission to the crime at issue in the trial. In the end, a judge could legitimately conclude that this falls into the category as bad choices bringing even worse consequences.”
What? First, the defendant is not charged with fucking teen sluts while acting as a porn star. That conduct could well be consensual and legal. Turley is also wrong that the judge could “legitimately” allow the jury to see his message. In both cases involving a defendant’s prejudicial tattoos, the judges agreed that they had to be made invisible, in one case using make-up… Continue reading →
The unethical prosecutor in State v. Flores. Watch out for her!
It’s always heartening to see a court cite the 1935 Supreme Court case of Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, (1935), famous in legal ethics circles for its ringing statement that government lawyers must understand that their obligation “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win . . . , but that justice shall be done.” The principle has been extended by some judges to civil cases as well, making the point that the government in any legal dispute should be interested only in the best interests of citizens and getting the case right. It is less heartening when the cite is in a dissent, as in this case.
The Ninth Circuit, reviewing a conviction for illegal drug importation, conceded that the prosecutor crossed into unethical territory by misstating the law,misstating the defendant’s testimony, and improperly vouching for a witness. Nonetheless, the court in State v. Flores concluded that this misconduct didn’t rise to the level of “plain error,” meaning that the defendant would have been found guilty anyway:
“In sum, while the government misrepresented Flores’s testimony and misstated the law on multiple occasions, in the context of the trial as a whole, it is unlikely that the jury was misled about the law or the facts.”
That’s right: the government misrepresented facts and law, but the jury was probably not misled. Continue reading →
GoFundMe thinks the 6th Amendment is heinous, apparently…
A about a week ago, I designated the crowd-funding website GoFundMe an Ethics Dunce. Now it’s clear that it is worse than that. It’s an unethical website, period.
After the six Baltimore police officers were prematurely charged with serious crimes before the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray was complete, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police created a GoFundMe page for their defense. Less than an hour later, it was taken down, with GoFundMe citing the same dubious policy it used to cut off support for a bakery driven out of business by vengeful same-sex marriage supporters:
“‘Campaigns in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes’ are prohibited by our terms . . . GoFundMe cannot be used to benefit those who are charged with serious violations of the law.”Continue reading →
Long-time Ethics Alarms commenter Michael R. delivers another of his provocative and informative Comments of the Day, this time on the festering scandal that is prosecutor misconduct and abuses of due process in our criminal justice system. This kind of commentary justifies the existence of Ethics Alarms, in my view, regardless of what I may write here. It is a virtual template for what makes a Comment of the Day.
This is res ipsa loquitur: “the thing speaks for itself.” If I have to explain what’s unethical about this and why, you are beyond my help.
From the Washington Post:
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions…
The charming face above belongs to Caius Veiovis, 33, an artist, one might say, who uses his face as his canvas, but who also is charged in Massachusetts with kidnapping, torturing and murdering three men. Now, we are told, his defense attorney is arguing that someone who not only looks like demon from hell but clearly wanted to represent himself to the world this way cannot get a fair trial because, biased fools that jurors are, they might hold Veiovis’s looks against him.
I think it’s fair to say that mad wag Caius finally provides the reductio ad absurdum of the issue I raised here in April, as Kansas murder defendant Jeffrey Chapman petitioned to have the court allow him to remove the giant tattoo that spells out the word MURDER he intentionally had inked around his neck, also to avoid prejudice by the jury. He was allowed to do so, citing as precedent the case of this guy,
…who made the state pay to have a Hollywood make-up artist cover up his tattoos even though the idiot had them put on him while he was awaiting trial. Continue reading →
Hey! Cool tattoo, dude! Just don’t get caught actually murdering someo…oh. Bummer.
Jeffrey Chapman, who is soon to stand trial for first degree murder in Great Bend, Kansas, wants to remove the giant tattoo that spells out the word MURDER around his neck, believing that it will prejudice the jury against him.
The judge will allow Chapman to have the tattoo removed before the trial, it appears. There is precedent for this: in Florida, in 2010, a neo-Nazi charged with hate crimes was permitted to have the hate-related tattoos on his face and neck, including a swastika, covered up by a professional make-up artist. It was paid for by the state, naturally.
I suppose this is the necessary and fair decision by the judge. Lawyer-pundit Alan Dershowitz made some interesting points regarding the Florida case, however, suggesting 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. “He is alleged to have attacked people on the basis of sex orientation and race. The court has the chance to make its rulings based on whether the tattoos are relevant to the case,” Dershowitz said. “It depends on what the prosecution is trying to prove. If they are saying his Nazi ideology drove him, then you could argue that seeing the tattoos is relevant.” Dershowitz noted that his tattoos were obviously the way he chooses to present himself publicly. “It’s not like the swastika was on his rear end,” he said.
Mansfield Frazier, whose name I was blissfully unaware of until I read his astounding opinion piece in The Daily Beast, thinks that in order to prevent another set of deadly riots along the lines of what occurred when the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted, George Zimmerman should be persuaded to accept a prison sentence without a trial by jury of his own. “The time is now for strong hands to take the helm and steady the ship of state—not to mention our national racial, political and legal discourse. The paramount concern has to be to avert a large-scale racial calamity.” he writes.
No, the paramount concern is for the justice system to give George Zimmerman the same due process of law, same fair trial, same guaranteed legal defense and same right to a trial before his peers as any other citizen accused of an alleged crime that has not been used to fan racial hate and suspicion on MSNBC. Those concerned about potential race riots should look to the people who irresponsibly lit the fuse to ignite them, and order them to snuff out the flame. Those concerned should observe the actions of the Florida prosecutors, who have given every indication that they either have no valid case or are incapable of presenting one. They should seek to discipline a national news media that has misinformed the public about the case, stating that there were elements of racism and profiling in Trayvon Martin’s death when the evidence so far firmly establishes neither. It is not George Zimmerman’s responsibility to sacrifice his freedom to prevent a social calamity that was not and will not be of his making. Continue reading →