Monday, September 6, 2010

Skin Head Forehead Tattoo Prejudicial to Skin Head on Trial for Murder? Probably.

The Salt Lake Tribune and its reporter Stephen Hunt has this haunting look at the mechanics of trying murderer Curtis Michael Allgiers  Allgiers is slated to go on trial for a further murder behind bars of a correctional officer in a successful effort to escape from prison.

"Defense attorneys on Wednesday assured a 3rd District Court judge that a make-up artist will need just 10 minutes to cover Curtis Michael Allgier’s numerous tattoos and make them invisible to jurors, not hours as the judge had envisioned. The defense is afraid the murder suspect’s head-to-toe tattoos — which include swastikas, neo-Nazi symbols and the words 'Skin Head' written across his forehead — could negatively influence a jury.

Judge Paul Maughan will not decide until later this month whether to allow Allgier to cover up during the first part of his trial, where the jury will decide whether he is guilty.  [Judge] Maughan told the defense Wednesday that if Allgier is found guilty of killing 60-year-old Corrections Officer Stephen Anderson, he will not allow the use of make-up during the second part of the trial — the penalty phase where the jury will decide whether to impose the death penalty.

At that point in the trial, [Judge] Maughan said, 'the state has a right to show Mr. Allgier as Mr. Allgier.'
The judge’s pronouncement seemed to cause the defense to reconsider the wisdom of hiding Allgier’s prison ink. Said defense attorney Ralph Dellapiana:  'If the jury is going to be surprised [by Allgier’s tattoos] halfway through, then maybe it’s not an effective strategy to cover them up at all.'  The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has filed a motion opposing the use of make-up, claiming the tattoos are relevant for purposes of identifying Allgier.
Utah court rules say a defendant should appear in court appearing approximately as he did at the time of the alleged crime, according to prosecutors. They also argued other courts have found visible tattoos were not necessarily prejudicial to a defendant."

Prosecutor Robert Stott called the idea of using a make-up artist to hide tattoos was  'a first ... it’s unique.'

Allgier, 31, is charged with capital murder for allegedly killing Anderson with his own gun after Anderson unshackled him for an MRI scan June 25, 2007, at a Salt Lake City medical clinic. 

Attorneys told [Judge] Maughan three months ago they expect to be able to try the case in the spring of 2011. But new issues keep cropping up.Dellapiana said his team expects to file another 40 motions, including a motion asking the judge to stop Salt Lake County jail personnel from interfering with Allgier’s attorney/client privilege [ . . . ]

Following a three-day preliminary hearing in March, Allgier was bound over on one count of capital murder, as well as charges of seven other felonies connected to Allgier’s short-lived escape, which ended when a citizen disarmed him during a struggle inside an Arby’s restaurant."
It's pretty easy to despise a creature like Mr. Allgier, he appears to have eradicated all sign of love, and charity from his human canvas.  I wonder what fear and terror served as his muse, no I don't.  He makes me afraid.   Bear with me...

The focus of the balance of this Salt Lake Tribune article which I omitted by copyright concerns relates to the care the correctional authorities take each time Mr. Allgiers is transferred from his cell to places where his lawyers and the court can interact with him.  He is clearly communicating through his "art" that he is a menace to all that come near.  His very molecular existence is in contravention to life force.  He has labeled himself, Angel of Death. 

In the last year I've talked at some length about how a crime is "proved," pointing out that I am not a CDL, a criminal defense lawyer (for a genuine look at many aspects of that discipline, do yourself the favor of follow Scott Greenfield's brilliant "blawg" Simple Justice), on the other hand I am your over-educated, underachieving Bad Lawyer who is committed to telling you about the law from the perspective of someone who has seen many aspects of it from several perspectives over 30 years. Thus I can tell you that a crime is proved by the prosecution presenting evidence beyond a reasonable doubt regarding two specific issues, a criminal act; and a concomitant mens rea which in English means criminal intent.  In this sophisticated age, television programming long ago explained all of this to you. 

My point is that Mr. Allgier appears to have "inked" his criminal intent on his forehead, face and every other visible inch of his body.  I see prison "tats" daily at my AA meeting, and guys describe them as the product of boredom, and fear, and motivated by a need to belong to a tribe of others in order to stay alive behind bars.  If this is the case how afraid do you have to be, to tattoo "White Power" on your forehead?  And can anything in the cosmetician's bag make us any less terrified of you?

Whose child is this?


  1. Alternate option would be to have makeup artists apply matching tattoos to all in the courtroom -- judge, counsel for both sides, witnesses, court reporter, perhaps even spectators. That'd be fun.

  2. This is, of course, an excellent suggestion, my friend and one that you'll be surprised to learn that did not instantly occur to me.

    A mutual friend of ours commented on this by explaining that when behind bars, you need to factor in "as with anything...the addictive aspect of tattoo'g" while another mutual friend of ours said, "as with anything?!" in a tone of voice that left no doubt that he questioned the much questioned sanity of our first friend. Let's see if you can figure out who said what...

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