Abbie Hoffman’s Viet Cong flag tug-of-war with deputy marshal Ronald Dobroski during the Chicago Eight trial as depicted by Howard Brodie.
Courtroom sketches in the United States date back to the 17th Century Salem Witch Trials, and were a necessary staple of reporting on court cases up until recent years when the courtroom was off-limits to photographers and television cameras. It wasn’t until 2014 that all 50 states allowed cameras in the courtroom, though by the late ‘80s most states already had.
As portraits that exist solely out of the necessity for historically documenting legal proceedings, such sketches have never been considered high art, but a current exhibition of sketches housed at the Library of Congress shines a spotlight on some of the talents behind these documents.
The Library of Congress’ exhibition, “Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustrations,” features a selection of the Library’s collection of more than 10,000 courtroom drawings, many of which were donated to the library by the estates of the artists themselves.
From the Library of Congress’ website:
The exhibition begins with the work of Howard Brodie, who popularized reportage-style courtroom illustrations with his documentation of the Jack Ruby trial in 1964 for CBS Evening News. Brodie supported and encouraged the first generation of artists who created the artwork for television and print media. Brodie donated his trial drawings to the Library of Congress, which spurred the development of the courtroom-illustration collections.
In addition to Brodie, the artists represented in the exhibition include Marilyn Church, Aggie Kenny, Pat Lopez, Arnold Mesches, Gary Myrick, Joseph Papin, David Rose, Freda Reiter, Bill Robles, Jane Rosenberg and Elizabeth Williams.
The exhibition is being held in the South Gallery on the second floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building and runs through Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. It is free to the public.
Enjoy, below, a gallery of some of the more interesting pieces in the collection:
The New York Black Panther trial as depicted by Howard Brodie. Twenty-one members of the New York Black Panther Party faced charges of conspiracy to bomb several sites in New York City. They were acquitted of all 156 charges on May 12, 1971.
Bobby Seale, sketched by Howard Brodie, taking notes while bound and gagged at the Chicago Eight trial.
John Hinckley, failed assassin of Ronald Reagan, shown by artist Freda Reiter in front of a television broadcasting his obsession, Jodie Foster.
Larry Flynt, as depicted by Aggie Kenny, defending satire as free speech in 1988.
Charles Manson on the witness stand by Bill Robles.
Charles Manson, sketched by Bill Robles, leaping at Judge Charles H. Older.
Michael Jackson, on trial in 2005 for charges of molesting a teenager, sketched by Bill Robles.
Mick Jagger during a 1988 copyright infringement trial, as sketched by Elizabeth Williams. Reggae singer Patrick Alley sued Jagger for seven million dollars over the song “Just Another Night,” claiming the chorus’s lyrics were similar to his own song. A six-person jury found Jagger innocent.
O.J. Simpson during his 1996 civil trial, sketched by Bill Robles. Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the families of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.