This week, a Florida jury is hearing testimony in the murder retrial of John Allen Ditullio, a man accused of stabbing his neighbor and killing a teenager — but they won't be seeing everything. As in the original trial (which ended in a jury deadlock), the jurors won't see the avowed neo-Nazi's prominently placed tattoos, including images of a swastika on his neck and barbed wire on his face. After defense lawyers argued the "scary" tattoos would prejudice the jury against Ditullio, the judge decided the court should pay a makeup artist to cover them up. Is this a valid use of taxpayer dollars? (Watch an MSNBC report about the controversy)
A trial must be fair: This might be distasteful, says Douglas Keene in The Jury Room, but verdicts are supposed to be based on the evidence, not on how the defendant looks. Ditullio's "offensive tattoos" would almost certainly make jurors more inclined to believe he committed the crimes in question — and "raise the probability that a conviction could be overturned."
"Tattoos: When should you clean up your witness?"
The defense should pay: If Ditullio wants to cover up his tattoos so the jury will "judge him less harshly," fine, say the editors of the Boston University Daily Free Press. After all, defense lawyers make scraggly defendants put on a suit and comb their hair all the time so they'll make a good impression. But the makeup costs $125 every time this guy appears in court, and "the money should come out of his own defense fund," not from taxpayers.
"Justice is only skin deep"
This is a small matter when you consider the stakes: The mother of the 17-year-old victim is, of course, "outraged," says Daniel Bates in Britain's Daily Mail. And the cosmetologist's bill could run into the thousands of dollars, as the trial might go on for weeks. But the money doesn't loom so large when you consider that if Ditullio is found guilty, he could be put to death.
"Neo Nazi on trial for murder persuades court to pay for professional make-up artist to cover his face tattoos"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- Hey, grammar nerds! Stop freaking out about 'alot.'
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- The elusive 'It factor' in presidential politics
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- These real-life Rosie the Riveters changed the face of labor
Subscribe to the Week