What should the court have made of Jason Barnum’s extraordinary tattoo?
It was not something the court could punish him over, of course, but police claimed it indicated the mind-set of man who had turned his back on society.
“I think Jason Barnum decided a long time ago that his life was about being hostile to people,” said Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew, arguing before a court last week that a judge should impose a tough sentence. “I’d like you to take a look at Mr Barnum. He has the right to do this to himself and to express himself. We can’t sentence him for that, but I think we can consider a guy's attitude and his behaviour."
Barnum, 39, who has earned the nicknamed “Eyeball” because of a tattoo that has darkened the white part of his right eye and who has other designs etched on his head, appeared in Anchorage Superior Court last Friday where he pleaded guilty to shooting an Alaska police officer. He was sentenced to 22 years in jail, according to KTUU.
The court was told that Barnum, who had 14 previous convictions against him, had shot police officer Daniel Thyen in September 2012 after police were investigating reports of burglaries at Anchorage Hillside. Barnum fired at Mr Thyen and his partner, firing from inside the lavatory of a hotel
The court was told Barnum’s offences were driven by his need to feed a heroin addiction. When he told the stand, his comments to the courts were reflective.
He said he had previously left prison in 2010 with nowhere to live. He said he tried to get a job but that his “beautiful face” put off potential employers.
“I’m humbled by what the chief said. I was out there pretty much running crazy,” he told the court. “Everybody knows that I'm not the nicest guy. I understand that what I did was wrong. I can’t take none of it back.”
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack Smith said the blame for what had happened fell on Barnum, whether or not the system had failed. He said the drugs had made him act erratically. He said the sentence he was giving did include a chance for parole.
"It's going to be difficult, but hopefully it'll be easier than the last time," said Mr Smith.