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Should courts let defendants conceal racist tattoos?
A Florida court is paying to cover a swastika on an accused murderer's neck so jurors won't be biased. Is this taking "innocent until proven guilty" too far?
 
A Florida court is paying a cosmetologist $125 a day to cover up the swastika and other tattoos sported by accused murderer John Ditullio.
A Florida court is paying a cosmetologist $125 a day to cover up the swastika and other tattoos sported by accused murderer John Ditullio.
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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"

 

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