Did Aaron Hernandez admit to committing a double murder by getting details of the crime and an acknowledgement of the concept of forgiveness tattooed on his already heavily inked body? That’s what Suffolk County (Mass.) prosecutors argued on Wednesday in a hearing outside the presence of the jury.
Judge Jeffrey A. Locke will rule on whether tattoo artist David Nelson will testify in full in front of the jury.
Hernandez, a former star tight end for the New England Patriots, is standing trial for killing two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012 via a drive-by shooting after a brief encounter in a Boston nightclub. Hernandez, who is already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, has pleaded not guilty.
On Wednesday morning the state brought Nelson, 41, a Hermosa Beach, Calif. tattoo artist to detail two sessions he had with Hernandez not long after de Abreu and Furtado were killed.
In one visit, Nelson said Hernandez wanted some guns put on his arm. The two looked up photos of firearms on a computer inside the Hermosa Ink tattoo parlor. Hernandez made his selections, Nelson said.
The work done then included:
• A front view of a semiautomatic handgun, essentially staring down the barrel of the gun. It included smoke wafting from the barrel.
• A spent shell casing nearby.
• A look at the cylinder of a six-cylinder revolver, with five of the six bullets remaining. Another spent casing rested nearby.
• The words: “God Forgives” written backward.
The state is arguing that this was Hernandez commemorating the killing of de Abreu and Furtado and, in turn, acknowledging guilt by mentioning forgiveness.
Nelson said every choice was made and approved by Hernandez and that as a matter of policy he wouldn’t tattoo anything on anyone without their approval.
“The customer makes all decisions,” Nelson said.
The state showed the judge numerous pictures of Hernandez’s tattoos. The defense argued that Nelson’s testimony was inconsistent from early interviews with police, namely that Hernandez was more forceful and specific in what was drawn. Most notably, in an earlier interview, Nelson wasn’t sure if he tattooed “God Forgives” on Hernandez. Now he is.
Hernandez has numerous tattoos across his body and has continued to collect them while in prison, a not uncommon violation of department of correction rules. Hernandez discussed in media interviews prior to his arrest that he used them as motivation and a way to detail his life story.
Previously, the state put a USA Today sportswriter on the witness list, likely to testify to Hernandez explaining why he used tattoos to “tell his life story.” A judge in New Jersey however ruled the journalist can’t be forced to testify due to First Amendment protections.
The tattoos range from motivational statements to drawings to romantic sentiments with his girlfriend.
In a separate session with Nelson, Hernandez and his girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins, each had part of a quote tattooed on each of their bodies. One got one part, the other a different part. Hernandez’s was: “Remind me that we’ll always have each other” inked in red across his chest. Jenkins’ part was not revealed but it is likely from a popular lyric from the rock group Incubus.
The next line is: “When everything else is gone.”
Jenkins is notably still regularly attending Hernandez’s trial.
Locke’s decision on having Nelson testify in front of the jury is expected to come soon, since Nelson was brought to Boston at the state’s expense from his home in Los Angeles.
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