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'Murder' tattoo: Could man's inked up 'Murder' neck tattoo skew impartial trial?

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A “Murdertattoo prominently displayed on an accused killer’s neck has one suspect fearing he may be sending the “wrong message.” A Kansas man, charged with first-degree murder, is afraid his tatted up neck might send the wrong message to jurors who will be deciding his fate, and his lawyer agrees. Now, the accused murderer is seeking to have the mark removed or at least covered up for his trial.

According to a report from The Associated Press Wednesday, as carried by Fox News, Jeffrey Chapman’s tattoo – written in capital letters and mirrored so that when he looks at himself he sees the word “MURDER” – could potentially prejudice him in a trial jury. Chapman’s attorneys filed a motion that asks that his body art not be seen or mentioned during his trial, set to begin next week. He also is seeking approval to have his tattoo removed.

However, the Barton County's sheriff says he's against transporting Chapman to a licensed facility, for safety reasons and because the suspect should not be allowed preferential treatment. According to the Daily Mail, Chapman is suspected of killing 26-year-old Damon Galyardt in 2011. Galyardt was shot to death and his body was found by hunters in a roadside ditch southwest of Great Bend.

However, Kurt Kerns, Chapman’s defense attorney, said they secured a licensed tattoo remover who was agreeable to bringing his equipment to the jail where Chapman is incarcerated. Kerns says the tattoo is likely too large to be covered up inconspicuously. “Mr. Chapman has secured a licensed tattoo artist from Hays who is willing to go to the jail,” Kern’s motion states. “The fact that he has ‘murder’ tattooed across his neck is irrelevant to the State’s case and extremely prejudicial to Mr. Chapman if introduced at trial or observed by the jury.”

Says the Daily Mail: “Sheriff Brian Bellendir told the court that Kansas Administrative Code 69-15-14 precludes tattoo artists from performing inkings outside of licensed facilities due to strict cleanliness standards.” Because of the media reports circulating regarding Chapman and his dubious tattoo, Chapman’s defense team is also seeking to have the trial moved out of Barton County.

Prosecutors have said they are not opposed to Chapman covering up the tattoo at trial. The State says that even if Chapman cannot get his tattoo removed, he is not prevented from “covering his tattoo using clothing, bandage, or other means compliant with jail policy,” reports the Great Bend Tribune.

Wichita defense attorney Charlie O'Hara, another member of Chapman’s defense team, agrees that Chapman's ink could cause a problem at his trial. “Whenever you try a jury trial, the appearance of the defendant makes a lot of difference,” he told CBS affiliate KWCH.

While it may be true that Chapman’s “Murder” tattoo may bias jurors, should he be allowed to cover it up? Does not the tattoo perhaps speak to his character and the fact he may be inclined to do the very thing he so proudly and prominently displays on his body? Or is the tattoo “irrelevant” to the case, as the defense team suggests? Leave your comments below.

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