The Man With No Tattoos
by Bruce McEwen, October 4, 2017
A bright and beautiful spring day in Ukiah found Suzanne Tuttle working in her garden when the man with no tattoos appears on the sidewalk, a nice looking young man with his shirt off. Ms. Tuttle can see he’s the man with no tattoos when he suddenly kicks her gate open — “he was wearing these great big old boots, like lumberjacks do, I remember that” — and the man with no tattoos walks into Ms. Tuttle’s yard, picks up a big rock, and smashes out a window!
Ms. Tuttle and her father own two residences at 210 and 212 Clara Street, one house adjacent to the other. They rent one of the houses out to Mark Phillips, a tattoo artist who has the Trust Tattoo Shop on School Street near the County Courthouse. It was the rental where the man without the shirt, the man with no tattoos, broke out the window. Ms. Tuttle ran into the tattoo shop and told Mr. Phillips what had just happened.
Phillips — who was in the middle of tattooing somebody — left his client on the operating table and ran out to see what the hey was happening. Almost immediately he finds this guy without a shirt, the man with no tattoos, walking on Norton Street and the tattoo artist angrily confronts him — “Hey you, you fucking nut, what the hell did you do that for?”
For an answer, the guy picks up another rock and smashes it into Phillip’s car.
This is the story the jury was told by Deputy DA Luke Oakley, who was prosecuting the man with no tattoos for felony vandalism.
Defense lawyer Anthony Adams stood to address the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you a different story.”
Adams strolled over to a large map of the downtown Ukiah area. He tapped the map and said, “My client lives here. Now, he doesn’t know these people, neither Ms. Tuttle nor Mr. Phillips; he’s just walking along here” — tap tap — “when this irate person pulls in front of him in a car and starts gesticulating violently and shouting about his broken window — which my client knows nothing about. So of course he would be justified in picking up a rock to defend himself — if, in fact, he did — and we only have Mr. Phillips’s word for it that he did. Now, it’s true that my client doesn’t have any tattoos — but what does that mean? — that he’s out to get Mr. Phillips just because he’s a tattoo artist — huh? My client doesn’t even know Mr. Phillips. Mr. Phillips put my client in harm’s way with his car, and my client, having pushed off the car to free himself, went home and here comes two police cruisers; and when he saw that, he sat down because he had had experiences with the police before.”
The man with no tattoos, Adam Pearson, was known to the Ukiah police for various reasons. He’s been arrested seven or eight times since 2015 and prosecuted for most of those arrests. He fit the description of the nut who’d kicked in the garden gate and heaved a rock through Ms. Tuttle’s window. Suzanne Tuttle identified him.
But there was a problem. One officer had Mr. Pearson at the end of the alley in handcuffs, his shirt still off, and another officer brought the two witnesses, Mr. Phillips and Ms. Tuttle to make the ID. As soon as they turned into the alley, Phillips said, “That’s him.” And Ms. Tuttle agreed.
Officer Matt Edwards of the Ukiah PD had driven Suzanne Tuttle and Mark Phillips to the alley behind the laundromat and convenience store to make the ID.
Adams: “How far away was it from where you turned into the alley and where the officers had Mr. Pearson detained?”
Edwards: “Approximately 60 feet, I’d say.”
Adams: “Are you aware it’s actually 374 feet?”
Edwards: “I am now."
Adams asked Ms. Tuttle how far it was.
Tuttle: “About 50 feet, but I could see it was him, my vision, you see, is perfect.”
Adams confidently explained: “You have seen, ladies and gentlemen, now that the evidence is all in, that Ms. Tuttle’s ID was false because she was just parroting Mr. Philllips, and all either of them noticed from that distance, was that my client had his shirt off and that he had no tattoos. I hope you will agree, when you go to deliberations, that this was a case of vigilante justice, and mistaken identity.”
The jury did not agree. It was a split decision.
It was certainly true Ms. Tuttle didn’t know the defendant, and she told the jury she’d never seen him before — or was it? After all, Mr. Pearson, the man with no tattoos, lived only a few blocks away. And as the man with no tattoos had to pass the two houses where the Tuttles and the tattoo artist lived in order to get to the businesses on State Street, it seemed unlikely that he didn’t know them, either. But this was the testimony given — that neither of them knew the man with no tattoos, and he in turn knew neither the tattoo artist nor the nice lady and her father in the two houses he would have to pass on a weekly if not a daily basis to get to all the fabulous attractions on State Street.
Adams: “Did you refer to my client as ‘that kooky bastard’?”
Tuttle: “I probably did.”
The confrontation on Norton Street was only the first time Mark Phillips accosted the man with no tattoos, Adam Pearson. Phillips accosted Pearson again down by the Radiant Yoga studio, trapping Pearson between a fence and his blue Scion car.
Adams: “So you had nothing to go on except your landlady’s description and yet you engaged my client, a perfect stranger, in this vitriolic manner?”
Phillips: “It was the way he was walking, like he was a bad-ass.”
Adams: “So you don’t mind popping off?”
Phillips: “I might.”
Adams: “But dispatch told you not to?”
Adams: “Why did you pull forward when you were confronting him?”
Phillips: “So he wouldn’t smash my face with a rock.”
Adams: “You weren’t trying to run over him?”
Phillips: “No. That’s when he put the dent in my car with the rock.”
Adams: “You couldn’t see him at that point — are you sure the dent wasn’t caused from him trying to push off from your car?”
Phillips: “I’m pretty sure it was a rock."
Adams: “You were on the phone to dispatch and you told dispatch, ‘He’ll be lucky if I don’t run his ass over,’ did you not?”
Adams: “Why did you say that — did you mean it?”
Phillips: “So they would send somebody pretty quick — he was walking back towards me.”
Adams: “So you were able to run him down…”
Phillips: “No, because he was inside the fence at Radiant Yoga.”
Adams: “How did you recognize him when you pulled into the alley?”
Phillips: “He was standing in front of the police cruiser with his shirt off.”
Adams grilled Officer Edwards for about an hour on the finer points of the Ukiah PD’s Field Identification Policy Manual. Edwards has been on the force about three years, and after this little drill before the jury by Mr. Adams, it’s quite likely that Officer Edwards could now teach classes on the subject — especially Section 610.5 where it says witnesses should view the suspect individually.
Adams: “Would it have been an undue burden to have the witnesses view the suspect individually?”
Edwards: “More than likely, yes.”
Adams: “Why didn’t you do it?”
Edwards: “It takes more time unless two of us are on the call.”
Adams: “So: lack of resources?”
Edwards: “It’s a factor.”
They don’t always deploy the entire force for a broken window, it seems.
Adams: “In Section 610.6 it says the suspect should not be handcuffed when viewed by the witnesses.”
Edwards: “Yes, that’s what it says, but in this case there was information I knew about his priors.”
Adams: “Who ID’d Mr. Pearson first?”
Edwards: “Mr. Phillips.”
Edwards: “As soon as I turned in the alley.”
Adams: “And he was at the other end, handcuffed and standing in front of the cruiser — how far away was that?”
Edwards: “Approximately 60 feet, I ‘d say.”
Adams: “Are you aware the actual distance is 374 feet?”
Edwards: “I am now.”
Adams: “Nothing further.”
The jury hung on this one and as far as I can tell one jury trial was all the DA’s Office was willing to invest in a broken window, because the case — so far — hasn’t been refiled.