Criminals have long used tattoos as indelible ink on their own bodily rap sheet, says the Associated Press. For just as long, police have used them to identify suspects, a distinguishing characteristic to jog a memory or catch the public’s eye. Only rarely does body art play a pivotal role as evidence proving wrongdoing. Prosecutors trying to convict former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez in two homicide cases could try to use his tattoos against him: They are seeking the artists who worked on Hernandez, saying they could be witnesses. Criminal justice experts say it’s hard to determine whether someone with a tattoo linked to a kind of crime actually did the deed. As Todd Bettencourt, a tattoo artist in North Attleborough, Ma., the town where Hernandez was living at the time of the killings, said, “some people just get it because it’s cool.”
Much of Hernandez’s upper body is covered in tattoos. Hernandez’s right forearm has piqued the interest of investigators, though they will not specify which design they have focused on. Hernandez is accused of fatally shooting two men and wounding a third in Boston in 2012. He also is charged in last year’s killing of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found near Hernandez’s home. He is being sued by an associate who says Hernandez shot him in the eye in Miami last year. Photos of Hernandez show he has had five stars and other tattoo work added to his right forearm over the past few years. While many star tattoos have nothing to do with crime, they can sometimes be used to represent killings, said Kevin Waters, a criminal justice professor at Northern Michigan University and former federal drug agent.