We see a lot here in workers' comp. Horrific accidents. Minor boo-boos. Silly mistakes. Fraudulent claims and more. Every once in a while, however, we encounter a story that tells us we're not alone out there; that the weird, the wild and the wacky are not just limited to our little slice of paradise.
A Kansas man accused of murder is fighting to have a tattoo removed before his trial begins, as he now believes that it will be somewhat prejudicial for his case. Jeffrey Chapman has, apparently, come to the realization that if one is to wind up being accused of murder, having the word "MURDER" tattooed boldly across your neck may not have been the best choice for a skin accouterment.
And I suppose it seemed like such a good idea at the time.
Chapman is accused of murdering Damon Gailart in 2011 in Kansas. I doubt Gailart had the words "Murder Me" tattooed anywhere on his body, but it would have been terribly ironic if he had. Prosecutors are not opposed to Chapman removing or covering his tattoo, but they will not transport him to a tattoo parlor for the removal procedure. This leaves Chapman in a bit of a sticky wicket, since Kansas law does not allow tattoo artists to operate outside of licensed facilities. He is no doubt in fear that jurors may take a dimmer than normal view of him because of this.
His defense attorney has filed a motion in Barton County District Court asking that the defendant's tattoo not be seen or mentioned during his upcoming jury trial. That would seem prudent to me, given the nature of the first degree murder charges his client faces.
Imagine if you will that you are an administrative judge or hearing officer, and the workers' compensation claimant before you had the word "Faker" or "Malingerer" scrawled across a visible portion of their body. Wouldst thou pause for introspective reflection? Could the presence of such a public social declaration affect the way you view the case? Methinks it possibly would.
I've written before that words matter, and I think here we clearly have an excellent example of that philosophy in action. If Chapman had the words "Peace", "Love", "Praise The Lord" or "Charity Begins At Home", tattooed across his neck the jury might actually take a kinder view of him from the outset. Likewise, looking back, choosing the words "I'm Innocent" would've seemed like a flat out stroke of genius at this point.
Alas, we can only surmise that Jeffrey Chapman is not a genius, and therefore his "MURDER" tattoo remains the problematic emblem that it is. I suppose if he is convicted he could append an “ER” onto the end of the existing tattoo.
As I noted earlier, authorities do not object to him covering up the tattoo during his trial. I would agree it is indeed in his best interest to do so. A full turtleneck could do the job, or even a dickey might be able to accomplish this. I would just caution him, despite whatever inner voice tells him otherwise, that he should not cover the tattoo by wearing his "Screw You" dickey.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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