Courtroom sketch

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A courtroom sketch of an accused person flanked by two attorneys, drawn in about eight minutes.

A courtroom sketch is an artistic depiction of the proceedings in a court of law. In many jurisdictions, cameras are not allowed in courtrooms in order to prevent distractions and preserve privacy. This requires news media to rely on sketch artists for illustrations of the proceedings.

Creating courtroom sketches[edit]

Courtroom sketch artists attend judicial proceedings as members of the public or as credentialed media depending on the venue and jurisdiction. Judges may require artists to sit in a designated area or they may sit in general public seating. In some jurisdictions, including United Kingdom[1][2] and Hong Kong,[3] courtroom artists are not permitted to sketch proceedings while in court and must create sketches from memory or notes after leaving the courtroom.[2]

Courtroom artists can quickly capture a moment on paper and then sell their work to media outlets who would otherwise be denied a visual record of the trial. They may be paid per sketch or on a per diem commission. Sketches are often sold to television stations, newswire services, newspapers, or the subjects of a sketch.[4] Courtroom sketches may also be acquired by institutional archives. The entire set of courtroom sketches related to the Lindy Chamberlain trial were purchased by the National Museum of Australia from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.[5] Selected works of American court artists Richard Tomlinson and Elizabeth Williams are held at the Lloyd Sealy Library at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.[6] Other collections of courtroom art include the works of Howard Brodie held in the Library of Congress[7] and the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, which holds selected court artwork from artist Aggie Kenny.[8]

A courtroom artist must work quickly, particularly during arraignment hearings where a witness may appear in court for only a few minutes. A television-ready illustration can be produced in that time, and viewed on television after a court proceeding is finished.[9] Courtroom artists can be barred from drawing alleged victims of sexual abuse, minors, and jurors or some witnesses in high-profile trials.[8]

In the United States[edit]

An 1889 courtroom sketch from the trial of ex-Alderman Thomas Cleary, which was published in the New York Times.

Courtroom sketches in the United States date back as far as the Salem Witch Trials during the 17th century. Courtroom sketch artists were present for the trial of abolitionist John Brown and the impeachment of Andrew Jackson.[10][11] By the mid-19th century, there were well-known court artists and printmakers such as George Caleb Bingham and David G. Blyth. Sketches during this era were reproduced as engravings in print publications, because photography was not a practical option for courtroom news coverage.[10]

As mass media technology advanced in the early twentieth century, courts began experimenting with allowing photography and radio broadcasts of court proceedings. Following the media "circus" surrounding the trial of Richard Bruno Hauptmann for the Lindbergh kidnapping, broadcasts from federal courtrooms were were banned by Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.[12] Additionally, the American Bar Association adopted Judicial Cannon 35, which prohibited the use of motion or still cameras in the courtroom and was codified into law by the majority of states.[12] On the other hand, no state or federal court prohibited the publication of courtroom sketches and courtroom sketch artistry continued.[13]

In 1973, courtroom artist Aggie Whelan (Kenny) was hired by CBS to illustrate the Gainesville Eight trial.[13] The judge presiding over the trial, Winston E. Arnow, ordered that no sketches were to be made in the courtroom and that no sketches of the trial be published, even if those sketches were made outside of the court from memory.[13] In the United States v. Columbia Broadcasting System (1974), the Fifth Circuit of Appeals overrulled the trail judge's order and protected Aggie Whelan's right to create sketches and CBS's right to broadcast courtroom sketches.[14] The restrictions were too broad and violated both CBS and Whelan's First Amendment rights.[13]

Television networks began using sketches to illustrate courtroom events during news broadcasts in the 1960s.[8][14] As long as the artist arrived on time, and did not disturb the proceedings by making unnecessary noise, their presence was rarely challenged in most jurisdictions.[14] In jurisdictions where artists were restricted from sketching inside the courtroom, they created sketches from memory.[10] Courtroom artists including Ida Libby Dengrove protested these restrictions, and gradually courtrooms began allowing sketch artists to work during trials whilst seated in the public gallery.[10]

The reintroduction of camera into courtrooms has been credited with a decline in courtroom sketch artists.[15][16] By 1987, courtroom photography was allowed in 44 states.[15] While the creation of Court TV and the O. J. Simpson murder case did cause renewed debate on whether or not courtroom photography should be allowed,[17][18] all 50 states allowed the use of courtroom photography by 2014.[8]

Notable American courtroom artists[edit]

Notable American courtroom artists include Howard Brodie, Bill Robles, Aggie Whelan Kenny, and Elizabeth Williams.

Howard Brodie was a courtroom artist whose work included covering the trials of Jack Ruby, Sirhan Sirhan, William Calley, Charles Manson, Patty Hearst, and the Chicago Seven.[19] He primarily worked for the CBS Evening News and anchor Walter Cronkite coined the term "artist-correspondent" to describe his work.[8][19] Prior to becoming a courtroom artist, Brodie was a combat artist during World War II and a staff artist for the San Francisco Chronicle.[19] Brodie's work is held in the Library of Congress and he was inducted into to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2001.[7][20]

Bill Robles is an Emmy Award-nominated[8] courtroom artist whose work includes covering the trials of Charles Manson, O.J. Simpson, Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Richard Ramirez, Rodney King, and Michael Jackson.[21][22] The first trial Robles covered as a television news courtroom artist was the trial of Manson.[21]

Aggie Whelan Kenny is a courtroom artist known for her work on covering the Supreme Court of the United States and trials including James Earl Ray, David Berkowitz, and Jerry Sandusky.[23][24][25] Kenny received an Emmy for her work for the CBS Evening News on the trials of John N. Mitchell and Maurice Stans.[26] Her work is included in the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.[8] Kenny's sketches of Gainesville Eight trail led to the court case United States v. Columbia Broadcasting System (1974), which established the right of courtroom artists to create sketches and for those sketches to be broadcast on television.[14]

Elizabeth Williams has covered the trials John DeLorean, Martha Stewart, John Gotti, Michael Milken, Bernard Madoff, Dominique Strauss-Khan, and the Times Square Bomber.[27][28] She is best known for her coverage of white-collar criminals tried in New York City.[29] Her sketches depicting the Sean Bell trail are held by the Lloyd Sealy Library at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Contempt of Court". Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Guy Dammann (November 14, 2006). "A sketchy future for courtroom artists". The Guardian. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Chapter 228, Section 7 – Summary Offences Ordinance". Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  4. ^ "As courtroom sketch artist, she's the people's witness". New York Daily News. February 23, 2009. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  5. ^ Anna Morozow (July 25, 2011). "Courtroom drawings sketch Chamberlain's history". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Classified Information the Lloyd Sealy Library Newsletter". Spring 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Search Results: "Brodie, Howard 1915-2010"". Library of Congress. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Russell, Sue; Williams, Elizabeth (2014). The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art. CUNY Journalism Press. ISBN 1939293529. 
  9. ^ Sakai, Mike (January 16, 2011). "Courtroom sketch artist in Loughner case says eyes tell the story". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d Giles, Robert H.; Robert W (1999). Covering the courts: free press, fair trials & journalistic performance. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7658-0462-4. 
  11. ^ "Contemporary Courtroom Artists". Syracuse University. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Sarner, Joshua (Summer 2000). "Comment: Justice, Take Two: The Continuing Debate over Cameras in the Courtroom". Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal (Seton Hall University) 10: 1053–1083. 
  13. ^ a b c d United States of America v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 497 F.2d 102 (United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit July 11, 1974).
  14. ^ a b c d Cohen, Mark C. (1974). "United States v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.: Courtroom Sketching and the Right to Fair Trial". New England Law Review (New England School of Law) 10: 541–559. 
  15. ^ a b "Artists Brace for Entry Of Cameras Into Courts". New York Times. November 29, 1987. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  16. ^ Michael Tarm (January 28, 2012). "Need for courtroom artists fade as cameras move in". Associated Press. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  17. ^ Paul, Angelique M. (1997). "Turning the Camera on TV: Does Televising Trials Teach Us". Ohio State Law Journal (Ohio State University) 58: 655–694. 
  18. ^ Pugsley, Robert A. "This Courtroom is not a Television Studio: Why Judge Fujisaki Made the Correct Call in Gagging the Lawyers and Parties, and Banning the Cameras from the O.J. Simpson Civil Case". Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Journal (Loyola Marymount University) 17: 269–381. 
  19. ^ a b c William Grimes (September 25, 2010). "Howard Brodie, 94, Combat and Courtroom Artist, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Society of Illustrators: Howard Brodie". Society of Illustrators. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b César G. Soriano (March 8, 2005). "Michael Jackson trial raises artist's profile". USA Today. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  22. ^ Daniel Grant (August 10, 2010). "The Fine Art of Crime". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  23. ^ Justin Jones (May 29, 2014). "O.J., Martha, Jagger, and Manson: Capturing Celebrities in the Dock". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  24. ^ Adriana Rambay Fernández (February 7, 2013). "Sketching the scene". Hudson Reporter. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  25. ^ Charles Hack (February 8, 2013). "See drawings of famous courtroom scenes at Hoboken gallery". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  26. ^ Fred Graham (November 17, 1974). "Gagging the Press in the Courtroom". Washington Post. 
  27. ^ Daniel Fitzsimmons (November 6, 2013). "Reporting By Drawing". New York Press. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  28. ^ John W. Miller (December 13, 2011). "Live Blog: Sandusky Waives Right to Hearing". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  29. ^ Alexandra Stevenson (April 14, 2014). "Capturing on Canvas the Downfall of Wall Street’s Criminals". The New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 

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