Tattoos As Evidence of Background or Character In a Criminal Trial

At the punishment phase of a criminal trial, evidence may be presented as to any matter that the court deems relevant to sentencing, including evidence of the defendant's background or character. Art. 37.071 2(a). A defendant's choice of tattoos, like his personal drawings, can reflect his character and/or demonstrate a motive for his crime. See King v. State, 29 S.W.3d 556, 565 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000) (appellant's tattoos and drawings were evidence of appellant's hatred for African-Americans and his motive in committing the murder); Banda v. State, 890 S.W.2d 42, 61 (Tex. Crim. App. 1994) (tattoo of word "Satan" was evidence that defendant believed that Satan was telling him to kill people), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1105, 132 L. Ed. 2d 260, 115 S. Ct. 2253 (1995); Corwin v. State, 870 S.W.2d 23, 35 (Tex. Crim. App. 1993)(recognizing that defendant's drawing had "an inferential bearing on his character for violence, which relates in turn to the question of future dangerousness").