No, he won’t have to answer questions like “Whad they get you for?”
Jeffrey Wade Chapman is about to stand trial for First Degree Murder –but ooh– doesn’t want to appear before a jury with “MURDER” tattooed like a billboard for brainlessness across his throat. So the pride of Great Bend, Kansas is appealing to the Barton County District Court for help.
Through his attorney, Defendant Chapman has asked that what has essentially become an albatross around his neck be either removed or obscured. Never mind that he lacked the foresight to have thought twice about getting the tattoo. And forget that he’s made himself a walking, talking jury instruction. (Guilty!) Chapman is as desperate as a house cat above a tub full of water. And he should be.
Maybe someday he’ll be able to figure out what the hell he was thinking when he mistakenly chose “MURDER” over “MONSTER COCK.”
He reminds me of a guy I met at Folsom Prison’s Level-4 “Old Yard,” a guy who’d similarly chosen to market what he brought to the table.
They called this guy “Fresno”…because he had “FRESNO” tattooed across his forehead in big, old English lettering. Having eaten a few meals together, I eventually got up the courage to ask him why. Fresno just shrugged and kept eating.
So I have a sneaking suspicion Chapman’s answer won’t be much different. (By the way, were I to go by Fresno’s and Chapman’s logic, my own face would read, “FARTER,” but that’s another post entirely.)
Since the tattoo can’t be easily concealed with clothing (and a giant bandage may not be an improvement), Chapman hopes for either a field trip to a local tattoo parlor or a jail visit from a professional. So far, he’s gotten only resistance from the county Sheriff responsible for his pre-trial detention.
The prosecutors, mind you, are okay with Chapman obscuring his tattoo with clothing or phony bandages. But if you ask me, the Barton County D.A. is guilty of a little prosecutorial joke here. Juries aren’t stupid. Everyone knows turtlenecks don’t work without a zodiac-themed medallion on a long chain.
The fake bandage, though, is another story. With the right gauze wrap, surgical tubing and a simulated puss drainage device, a sympathy-grabbing medical necessity of the highest order can be achieved. Ultimately I can’t imagine who Chapman & Co. would actually fool, but the fact is, any jury left staring at “MURDER” is going to put him away.
Furthermore, unless the tattoo has been declared inadmissible, why wouldn’t a conviction-hungry district attorney just show the jury a picture? No matter, if the tattoo doesn’t scream “Convict me!” – Chapman’s bleak prison eyes sure do.
But speaking of prison, here’re a few certainties for ol’ Jeffrey:
• His Yard nickname will be a done deal.
• During in-processing, he won’t have to answer silly questions like “Whad’ they get you for?”
• Cellblock tattoo artists will snitch on each other for the opportunity to cover the rest of his body with “HITLER-SATAN-PUPPY DESTROYER-طالبانحزب الله”
• Chapman’s Prison Unapproachability Index will make earning a tough guy rep a homicider’s cakewalk
In fact, that rep will roll out before him like a red carpet, which brings me to my real point: “Get character or become one.” Chapman’s tattoo may be the least subtle example of this yet.
How so? Understandably, the defense is worried about pretrial publicity, claiming the tattoo will make finding an impartial jury impossible. The whole point of “getting” character on your own is so that you can proactively avoid concerning yourself with, “What’s the jury gonna think?”
Now for those of you just tuning in, “Get character or become one” is a motto – my motto. It’s an epigraph to coming back from willful neglect, and it goes something like this:
We’re all on this long, forced march to death, right? The horizon is wide and the sun is high. Well along way, we come across tools just laying there all stupid on the ground: pliers, hammers, a piece of rope, maybe a wrench.
As we march, our pockets fill with these jangly, heavy things, and it’s a pain to stop and pick ‘em up. And then what happens? We find one whose purpose we can’t even imagine; its weird shape doesn’t offer a clue. And though we don’t even have the right pocket for the thing, we grab it and go. Whatever. Everything’s already hard, so what do we care?
Except one day, we reach a door, and a note on it says there’s no way around or over – only through. So the hammer, the pliers, the screwdriver – all come into play, and none of ‘em do the trick. But that weird thing we picked up? Bingo.
Which means, of course, that those who chose not to take that one odd-shaped tool are screwed. And you never can tell which tools to do the trick.
I never said there was a surprise ending, but there is a moral to this, and here it is: Be careful about the tools you reject: you don’t want to be left on the wrong side of the door allowing those who made it through speculate whatever they want about you. Jeffrey Wade Chapman has waived jurisdiction over how people see him – or who he is as a person.
His lack of character tools leaves others to call him like they see him: the dumbass with “MURDER” tattooed across his neck.
And poof! Jury trial or not, as far as most are concerned that’s the end of his story.
For another courtroom example based on my own poor choices, check out a previous entry entitled –wait for it– “Get Character or Become One.”