Earlier this convention week, rising star Greg Hamblin hosted one of our partners, Jordan Flake, on his new podcast, On The Docket.
As you have heard from previous episodes, the we touch on a wide-array of topics. The law can wear many hats.
This week's episode, we discussed the (now national story) of a Las Vegas judge that decided a defendant needed to have his tattoos covered up in order for there to be a fair trial.1)You will see pictures if you click the link.
Transcript: The Las Vegas Judge and Tattoos
Greg Hamblin: He's a Neo-Nazi, and he's got a whole bunch of tattoos, including the tear drop tattoos that's meant to indicate that you've killed someone, and swastikas, and things like that. The makeover was actually going to be makeup to cover all these tattoos, so that when he's in front of a jury, they won't see those things.
Jordan Flake: That's interesting.
Greg Hamblin: Isn't it?
Brian: He's spending 2 hours with a makeup artist, each day before trial, because the judge was concerned the jurors were scared of his appearance, and would not be able to evaluate the facts fairly. The other thing, most interesting part about it, is that he didn't have the tattoos when he committed the crime.
Greg Hamblin: Oh.
Brian: I know. Chew on that fact.
Jordan Flake: That's actually the part of it that helps me live with it. I think, otherwise, you just ...
Greg Hamblin: You want to say, "Well, you chose to get these stupid tattoos that are meant to send a very clear signal about ... "
Jordan Flake: Right. There's part of me that wants to say, "Look, if this is your identity, then your identity is something that ... " Your credibility and your character is something that jurors are allowed to consider, and if these tattoos are part of your identity, and part of your character, then that's something that they should consider when evaluating whether or not they believe your side of the story. However, if at the time of the robbery, this individual didn't have those tattoos, I can see a judge saying, "Listen, the only way to make this fair as of that point in time ... " He, still, at that point in time, even though he didn't have the tattoos, was the same person who eventually would go and get these distasteful tattoos. That's interesting. Yeah.
Greg Hamblin: I guess, part of the problem was during jury selection, the judge would ask questions, and the jurors would say things like, "Well, the tattoos mean something, so he's telling us that he's a murderer." They're drawing meaning from the tattoos, and I can see the judge's point of view that they're going in with a predetermined idea of what kind of person this is.
Greg Hamblin: Again, yeah, it's a tough one.
Jordan Flake: Was it the judge pushing for this, or was it the defense team?
Greg Hamblin: Do you know, Brian?
Brian: It was the judge, because they couldn't get a jury selected.
Jordan Flake: Okay. Yeah, I could see that being a problem. The judge is sitting there during voir dire ...
Brian: Even the prosecutor wanted them to do it, because they couldn't get a jury seated.
Jordan Flake: Everyone was just like, they were cycling through. My wife had to go down to jury duty recently. I wish she would've sat in on this one. That would've been great. "Juror number 649." Nope. Don't like Nazis. Sorry. The whole Nazi thing's a problem with me. I could even imagine the defense counsel, or the prosecutor, anyone doing the questioning of voir dire, they're like, "If someone has sworn allegiance to Hitler, would you still be able to be objective about this person?" Could you imagine somebody sitting there, and be like, "Oh, yeah. Hitler. That's no big deal with me. Let me just put it on the record that if you've sworn allegiance to Hitler, then I really don't condemn that at all." Okay. All right.
This is all coming together. This is why you drill down into the facts, because the first second I heard about this story, I was like, "Okay. None of that's going to be taken into consideration." A few minutes go by, and we learn a little bit more about this story, and you're like, "Okay. I can see the judge that." Now, actually, I think standing in the judge's shoes, the prosecutor's shoes, the defense counsel's shoes, it just makes sense. Got to get this guy into makeup, and now, maybe he'll have some jurors who are like, "Oh, that's a really good makeup job." I would like to see this guy after makeup, because he looks totally weird, in spite of their best efforts. The thing that eventually condemns this guy is, "Something just didn't look right about him. There was something about his skin, or his eyes. He had this waxy, almost sub-human appearance about him, and even though I think he's probably not guilty of this crime, he just had this fake look about him."
Greg Hamblin: He seems like a perfectly decent Nazi, but ...
Jordan Flake: Yeah. Something looked off about him, and that's we decided to find him guilty.
Brian: What about the slippery slope of it, though? What about the next defendant that comes out and says that, "You guys need to give me a wig, because the jurors are assuming that bald people are evil." Of color defendants, why are we only making accommodations for white defendants?
Jordan Flake: That would have to come out in voir dire, though, if we got the same answer over and over again. I have red hair, and so I would want that, if I were ever up for a crime, I would want my defense counsel to ask, "Mr. Flake is a redhead. Do you just feel like you would want to prosecute and find a redhead guilty, just for having red hair?" I'd want that to be one of the questions that they ask.
Greg Hamblin: "Do you have anything against people who don't have a soul?"
Jordan Flake: "Yes. Mr. Flake doesn't have a soul." Does that cause you any problems in terms of ... Yeah.
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