It is likely that many people reading this right now have tattoos. They are a popular way that people from all backgrounds choose to express things in a permanent manner. Whether it is to commemorate a major event such as the birth of a child or to remember someone who has died, the story and meaning behind each tattoo varies depending on the person sporting it.

For criminal prosecutors, tattoos often mean something else. In addition to serving as a way for a witness to identify a suspect, some assert that they are evidence of crimes that have been committed. This is because some criminals get new ink to mark the commission of a crime such as homicide. One criminal justice professor said that individuals sometimes get a tattoo of a star to indicate they have committed a murder.

Prosecutors are pursuing this line of inquiry with the former football player Aaron Hernandez, who has been accused of several murders. They are seeking to locate the individuals who gave him several tattoos which were done on his right forearm. It is speculated by the same criminal justice professor that they want to determine whether Hernandez said anything incriminating to the tattoo artists while getting the tattoos.

Several years ago Hernandez indicated the stars he has on that part of his arm were to honor his father and brother. They surround another tattoo that depicts being in God’s hands. Though it is unclear exactly which tattoos prosecutors are interested in, with the meaning sometimes assigned stars it is possible those designs on his arm are relevant to the inquiry. If they are, and the matter is presented at trial, their meaning could be left to the decision makers to determine.

Source: Associated Press, “Murder Ink: Tattoos often used to symbolize wrongdoing, but rarely used as evidence of crime,” Dave Collins, June 4, 2014