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Judge grants defendant's request to cover facial tattoos during murder trial

Cody Dials will be tried for first-degree murder in David Rhea’s shooting death.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Cody Dials will be tried for first-degree murder in David Rhea’s shooting death.

After his arrest on a murder charge nearly two years ago, Cody Dials decided he needed a few jailhouse tattoos.

The 20-year-old got teardrops at the corners of his eyes and the words "out of sight, out of mind" above his eyebrows.

The ink apparently doesn't seem like such a good idea now.

He and his attorney were in court Friday to ask a judge to allow Dials to cover his tattoos during his first-degree murder trial next month. Dials is one of three men charged in the May 2012 shooting death of David Rhea, a 39-year-old commercial fisherman.

Dials' attorney, Andrew Crawford, argued his client's new tattoos weren't pertinent to his trial because he got them after his arrest. They would unfairly prejudice the jury, Crawford said.

He asked to cover them with store-bought concealer.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton granted the request after the state offered no objection.

Witnesses at the trial will reference Dials' older tattoos to identify him, said State Attorney Joshua Riba. Among the many visible outside of Dials' prison jumpsuit Friday was the word "Christine" on his right arm and a skull and star on his left arm.

Dials was arrested in June 2012, about a month after police said he, Zachary Perrine and Randy White broke into Rhea's Pinellas Park home to steal cash and shot him in the abdomen.

Rhea's cousin Malissa Pierce was at Dials' hearing Friday and said she didn't understand why the request was granted.

"I think it's a waste of money and a joke," Pierce said.

After the ruling, Riba said he would rather see Dials cover the new tattoos than risk an appellate court overturning a conviction based on prejudice. His colleague Susan St. John explained that teardrops in particular could be interpreted in a number of ways, from indicating gang affiliation to declaring guilt.

"It's not relevant to anything," Riba said.

This isn't the first time a Tampa Bay area defendant has been allowed to cover up tattoos.

In 2009, a judge in Pasco County authorized a makeup artist to cover murderer Allen Ditullio Jr.'s facial and neck tattoos at taxpayer expense. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Dials' attorney said he wouldn't need a professional to cover his client's face.

Claire Wiseman can be reached at cwiseman@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.

Judge grants defendant's request to cover facial tattoos during murder trial 03/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 10:00pm]
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