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New York Times Covers Pasco Death Penalty Case

Just as John Ditullio’s second murder trial started in Pasco County earlier this month, his case was profiled in the New York Times. The article covered the issue of Ditullio’s tattoos and a judge’s decision to allow them to be covered by a makeup artist during trial, at the government’s expense.

Ditullio was accused of first-degree murder and attempted murder. At his first trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict, causing a mistrial. The second jury found Ditullio guilty. Despite the guilty verdict, the jury quickly recommended a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

While awaiting trial in jail, Ditullio got tattoos of a swastika and an offensive phrase on his neck as well as a long barbed-wire-like tattoo down his face. Ditullio’s defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand filed a motion to have the tattoos covered at the state’s expense. The motion was granted prior to both the first and second trials.

As noted in the New York Times article, Brunvand “successfully argued that the tattoos could be distracting or prejudicial to the jurors, who under the law are supposed to consider only the facts presented to them.” Ditullio did not have the covered tattoos at all in 2006, when the state alleges he committed this murder.

“There’s no doubt in my mind – without the makeup being used, there’s no way a jury could look at John and judge him fairly,” Brunvand told the Times.

The state prosecutors opposed the motion to cover Ditullio’s newest tattoos before both trials.

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