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Opening Arguments

Fooled you

Ever see "Anatomy of a Murder?" It's a great, gritty courtroom drama from Otto Preminger, considered pretty daring for its time (1959) and featuring one of Jimmy Stewart's best performances. At the heart of the story is the character played by Lee Remick, a boozy, cheerfully amoral slut of an Army wife ("slut" in the film noir movie sense, I hasten to add, not in the 21st century making moral judgments sense). Stewart the attorney realizes she might "prejudice the jury" if she shows up in court in her usual tight sweater and short skirt, making things tough for her husband, who is accused of murdering her alledged rapist. So Stewart, well, "tarts her down," is probably the best phrase. He dresses her in plain clothes, has her hair put up, makes her look like your average spinster librarian.

Anyway, wonderful, highly recommended movie, and I thought of it when I read about the neo-Nazi who is getting an expensive makeover for his murder trial:

 NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — John Allen Ditullio is a walking billboard for the neo-Nazi movement: a large 6-inch swastika tattooed under his right ear, barbed wire inked down the right side of his face, and an extreme and very personal vulgarity scrawled on one side of his neck.

Jurors will never see any of it. A judge has ruled that the state must pay a cosmetologist up to $150 a day during Ditullio's trial on murder and attempted murder charges and apply makeup to cover up the black ink.

Judge Michael Andrews, acting on a request by Ditullio's lawyer, ruled that the tattoos are potentially offensive and could influence a jury's opinion in the state's death penalty case against the 23-year-old accused of donning a gas mask, breaking into a neighbor's home and stabbing two people, killing one of them.

Since his arrest in the March 26, 2006, crime in this suburban county just north of Tampa, the self-described neo-Nazi has added tattoos to his body that are prominently displayed and not easily concealed. Ditullio doesn't have the money to pay to have the tattoos covered up, said his public defender, Bjorn Brunvand, who was worried that a jury might be biased against his client on the basis of the tattoos alone.

"Potentially offensive" -- gee, do ya think? I understand it's important for juries to consider the facts of a specific case and just those facts when trying to reach a verdict. That's why the prosecution isn't usally able to bring up prior convictions (a fact that got a Hoosier rapist a new trial). But this defendant, in pretending to be something he really isn't (or at least look like it) seems to be showing something to the jury that isn't exactly factual, and taxpayers get to foot the bill.


tim zank
Thu, 12/10/2009 - 2:37pm

Shakespeare was right.

Thu, 12/10/2009 - 3:21pm

I just want to know why it costs $150 to slap some flesh-colored goop over the guy's tattoos.
A five-buck can of spray paint ought to hold him for the whole trial.
Too bad there's no law against being an idiot.
If he is convicted, I have a pretty good idea what sort of cellmate I'd like to assign to him. Mike Tyson has some interesting facial tattoos as well.

Thu, 12/10/2009 - 9:47pm

In Boulder, CO lives the world's only honest tattoo artist. His business is called Scarred for Life Tattoos.