By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - Former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez's tattoos may be shown as evidence at his upcoming double-murder trial because they appear to refer to the killings at issue, a Massachusetts judge ruled.
Two of the heavily inked Hernandez's tattoos depict recently fired guns, one of which prosecutors contend is a reference to the 2012 double murder of two men outside a Boston nightclub, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke said in a ruling dated Monday and released on Tuesday.
Hernandez, 27, who was one of the NFL's top tight ends while playing for the New England Patriots from 2010 to 2012, already is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for murdering an acquaintance in June 2013.
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He is due to face trial next month on charges that he shot and killed two other men, Cape Verde nationals Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, in May 2012 outside a Boston nightclub after one of them unwittingly spilled a drink on him.
One of his tattoos depicts a six-shot revolver with one empty chamber and the words "God Forgives" written in reverse, so that they can be read with a mirror. Hernandez is charged with firing five shots in the double slaying.
A second tattoo shows a smoking semi-automatic pistol and a spent shell casing. Hernandez is charged with the non-fatal shooting of a former friend in a separate incident that occurred on a trip to Florida.
Locke wrote that Hernandez getting the tattoos "could be viewed as constituting an implied admission."
It will not be the first time the tattoos have been visible in court. Even when wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt and jacket his tattoos can be seen on his hands and reporters at a 2015 court appearance noticed a new tattoo depicting a star and the word "lifetime" on his neck, high enough to be visible over the collar of a dress shirt.
Hernandez was a rising star in the league with a $41 million contract when he was arrested at his North Attleboro, Massachusetts, home in June 2013 and charged with murdering Odin Lloyd at an industrial park. He has said he is innocent of all charges.
(This version of the story has been filed to correct reference to length of Hernandez' NFL career in third paragraph)
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott)