BOSTON (WPRI) — After the defense tried and failed to keep a tattoo artist from testifying before the jury, that artist took the stand in the double-murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez Friday morning, the 12th day of testimony.
Judge Jeffrey Locke instructed the jury that the testimony of artist David Nelson should not be used to determine character — only his state of mind. Locke had ruled earlier in the day in favor of Nelson’s testimony.
Nelson gave tattoos to Aaron Hernandez in March 2013 in California, some 8 months after Hernandez is accused of shooting and killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado because one of them reportedly bumped into him at a nightclub and spilled his drink.
Journalists for WBZ-TV, WBZ-AM radio, WHDH-TV and the Boston Herald, among others, have been posting minute-by-minute happenings on Twitter from courtroom seats.
Judge Locke also had another judge, Salim Tabit, seated beside him Friday morning for the proceedings. As reported by the Boston Herald’s Chris Villani, Tabit would be observing but make no rulings.
Photos showed by the prosecution depicted various body parts of Aaron Hernandez covered in tattoo ink. Individual markings he has include a view looking down the barrel of a pistol, a spent shell casing with smoke wafting from it, “Blood, Sweat and Tears” on his hand, the chamber of a gun showing one of six bullets spent, and in script, the phrase “God Forgives,” written backwards so that Hernandez could read it in the mirror.
Prosecutors are trying to prove the gun tattoo was connected to the double shooting.
During cross-examination, Nelson said gun tattoos are very common — even famous people like actresses Rihanna and Angelina Jolie have gun tattoos, he said.
A moment of laughter in court stemmed from defense attorney Jose Baez’s question of Nelson’s having done tattoo work for the actress/singer Rihanna. When the prosecution objected, Judge Locke overruled: “Rihanna’s body may stand.”
The photos of Hernandez’s tattoos had come from a Blackberry smartphone he owned, extracted by special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF agent Matthew Kelsch testified about the data earlier in the day, which he’d extracted between February and June 2013. When police acquired the phone, it had no identifying SIM card in it, or a data storage card. Typically, Kelsch said, he’s been able to extract items that have been deleted from a phone, but not in this case. He also said Blackberry phones are difficult to extract items from.