Monday, April 21, 2014
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STAFF EDIT: Justice is only skin deep

By law, juries are required to base their verdicts solely on the facts of the case at hand, without influence from outside factors. But in the case of John Ditullio, a man on trial for murder in Florida, lawyers feared that the defendant’s appearance would obstruct this opportunity for fairness. As a result of his lawyer’s arguments, the court is paying $125 a day to have Ditullio’s tattoos, which include a swastika on his neck, covered up during the trial process.

Ditullio’s lawyer claimed that it would be impossible for jurors to give a man with his client’s appearance a fair shake and would automatically judge him based on his appearance, an assertion with which the judge concurred. But whether this is true or not, Ditullio made the decision to tattoo a swastika and a crude insult on his neck. His appearance reflects his personality, for better or for worse, and shouldn’t be hidden in order to try to encourage a jury to judge him less harshly.

The bigger issue at stake is not whether his appearance should be altered, but the fact that the court is actively spending money on Ditullio’s lawyer’s efforts to make his client look better. If he wants his tattoos covered up, at least the money should come out of his own defense fund. It is not uncommon for lawyers to attempt to make their clients look more presentable for trial. But it is uncommon for this sort of thing to come out of the public’s pocket.

If the jury is more swayed by Ditullio’s appearance than the facts of the case, then that is their own fault. But using the court’s funds to give a man who has been accused of murder twice a better chance not only benefits him unfairly, but is a bad use of the court’s money. Whether the tattoos should be a consideration or not, Ditullio chose to get them, and now must face the consequences of his actions.

The last time he was accused of murder, Ditullio was acquitted on a mistrial. Allowing him to potentially escape harsh punishment again due to a technicality undermines the very justice system that Ditullio’s lawyer claims to be trying to uphold.

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