Courtroom Sketch

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.

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

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. 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. 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. Other collections of courtroom art include the works of Howard Brodie held in the Library of Congress and the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, which holds selected court artwork from artist Aggie Kenny.

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.

The sketch of audience is a drawing of nature realized during a trial and published in the media following the judicial news. It allows to illustrate a case without breaking the laws of countries that prohibit any photographic or cinematographic shooting during court hearings.

When drawing and engraving were the only way to report images, the audience sketch was an already common practice. The legislation allowed him to continue.

A draftsman takes place in the public and makes sketches of magistrates, lawyers, defendants, witnesses, etc. A good portraitist technique, a good reactivity to capture postures and facial games, are therefore required, especially since the subjects are not always in the optimal situation and the draftsman sometimes has to wait for the person to turn to “grasp it”. ” very quickly.

The sketches made during the hearings can then be possibly reworked, put in color, to be published in a newspaper written or televised. The techniques used can be very variable but we favor those that allow the speed of execution and drying: pencil, black markers and color, sometimes watercolor.

The designer usually holds a press card. Many are press and news illustrators, or practice other artistic activities, others are more specialized in audience sketching.

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 Johnson. 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.

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 banned by Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Additionally, the American Bar Association adopted Judicial Canon 35, which prohibited the use of motion or still cameras in the courtroom and was codified into law by the majority of states. On the other hand, no state or federal court prohibited the publication of courtroom sketches and courtroom sketch artistry continued.

Television networks began using sketches to illustrate courtroom events during news broadcasts in the 1960s. 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. In jurisdictions where artists were restricted from sketching inside the courtroom, they created sketches from memory. 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.

The reintroduction of camera into courtrooms has been credited with a decline in courtroom sketch artists. By 1987, courtroom photography was allowed in 44 states. 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, all 50 states allowed the use of courtroom photography by 2014.