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Mich. man on trial hides facial tattoos

  |   Sept. 6, 2012 at 7:59 PM
MACOMB TOWNSHIP, Mich., Sept. 6 (UPI) -- A man on trial in the fatal stabbing of a Michigan woman robbed of jewelry worth $2 is wearing makeup to hide devil horn tattoos on his face, his lawyer says.

Joseph Reiner, 28, is charged with the slaying of Joanne Eisenhardt, 69, of Macomb Township who prosecutors say Reiner stabbed twice in the neck during a February 2011 home invasion in which he stole three inexpensive pieces of jewelry. Eisenhardt died seven months later.

Defense attorney Timothy Barkovic said in his opening remarks Thursday his client couldn't have killed the woman because a receipt shows Reiner was at a credit union with another man who had given him a ride at exactly the same time Eisenhardt dialed 911, The Macomb Daily said.

"How can one person be in two places at the same time?" Barkovic said.

The Detroit Free Press reported Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo said in his opening statements that Reiner stabbed Eisenhardt with his victim's own knives and pawned the cheap jewelry he took from her for $2.

The first witness called was the surgeon who removed the knives from Eisenhardt's neck, the Free Press said.

The tattoos on Reiner's forehead were not readily apparent when he appeared in court.

"As far as I'm concerned, they're unsightly tattoos," Barkovic said before trial. "Scientific studies have shown that jurors look at a criminal defendant and make an initial observation within the first 5 minutes of the trial -- that [the defendant] is probably innocent or probably guilty, and carry that through the length of the trial."

Mark deTurck, a jury consultant for R&D Strategic consulting with a doctorate communications degree from Michigan State University, agreed that covering up the tattoos was a good idea.

"It conjures up images of Charles Manson," he said, referring to the notorious 1960s cult leader serving a life sentence for murder in California. "Whether it's in a barroom or courtroom, physical appearance has substantial impact. What you don't want is physical appearance to be the deciding factor. You want the jury making the decision on the evidence and facts."

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