IN THE DOCK

Celebrities in Court: 50 Years of Courtroom Illustrations

Even if TV cameras are present, the moments of highest drama, and sometimes even more private moments, are captured by the courtroom artist. In a new book, the dramatic moments when O.J, Martha and Jagger faced judge and jury are captured in still-life dramatic intensity

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

Charles Manson, 1970

In 1970, Charles Manson and several of his female followers were put on trial for the murder of actress Sharon Tate, then eight months pregnant, and six other women. The trial was one of the most sensational of its time. Manson, who had not murdered a single victim, had such a powerful influence over the beautiful women who had done the acts of violence for him that prosecutors made sure he received the same charges. At one point, Manson leaped over the defense table, lunging—pencil in hand—at presiding Judge Charles H. Older in the hopes of stabbing him. Sentenced to the death penalty, the four were spared California’s death penalty, which was briefly declared unconstitutional. Instead, they received life in prison. Illustrated by Bill Robles.

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

David Berkowitz, 1977

The trial of David Berkowitz, the infamous “Son of Sam,” wasn’t a traditional one. Berkowitz, who murdered, killed, or wounded 13 people throughout the New York area, was so unstable that he had to be kept under lock down in the psychiatric ward of Kings County Hospital throughout the duration of his trial. Unable to leave, a makeshift courtroom was created in a recreational room at the hospital. The judge, jury and witnesses (including the artists) entered lockdown with Berkowitz for the trial, coming mere feet from the serial killer. “As close as I was, I never spoke to him,” Richard Tomilson recounted. “No reporter did. In a situation like that, you keep your mouth shut and draw.” Illustrated by Aggie Kenny.

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

John DeLorean, 1984

When automobile executive John DeLorean was caught on film by an undercover agent discussing a drug deal worth $54 million, it should have sealed the deal and put him behind bars. But the defense council wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Claiming that the FBI and DEA had framed DeLorean, the trial lasted 22 weeks. His then-wife, model Christina Ferrare, was Elizabeth Williams’s favorite subject. Ferrare showed up daily to support her husband and to testify for both sides dressed in the latest high fashion. DeLorean was acquitted on all accounts. Illustration by Bill Robles.

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

Mick Jagger, 1988

In April of 1988, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger faced plagiarism charges for the singer’s hit solo song “Just Another Night” from his 1985 album “She’s the Boss.” Patrick Alley, a Jamaican reggae singer, claimed to have written a song of the same title and similar sound several years early. As a panel of experts picked apart every facet of the song, the judge eventually ruled that “accidental similarity is not actionable plagiarism,” exonerating Jagger. Illustration by Elizabeth Williams.

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

O.J. Simpson, 1996

The nine-month trial of former professional football player O.J. Simpson became the “trial of the century” for its highly publicized coverage and its momentous “not guilty” verdict—one still debated to this day. Simpson was arraigned in criminal court for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, but was let free due to technicalities in the evidence. However, Simpson was held liable for the murders during a second “civil” trial, amounting in almost $40 million worth of damages awarded to the families. Illustrated by Bill Robles. 

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

Martha Stewart, 2004

Martha Stewart seemed to have the picture-perfect life with an entire identity branded around cooking, decorating, and party hosting. But, as prim and proper as she was, the business mogul found herself in hot water with authorities when arrested on insider-trading charges in 2004 after she sold $232,000 worth of shares of a company whose stock plummeted the following day. Elizabeth Williams, who witnessed the trial, found Stewart to be an interesting subject with tightly controlled emotions. “Martha is quite stunning, but I found her quite tough to draw,” Williams remembered. “And because she didn’t show much emotion, I didn’t have much to work with.” Stewart received five months in white-collar prison, five months on house arrest, and a fine. Illustration by Elizabeth Williams.

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

Michael Jackson, 2005

One of the most fascinating trials for Bill Robles was the 2005 case against the late King of Pop, who was charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy, among other things. The case was an international sensation, and was covered in 34 countries. Fans from all over the world turned up to show support. While Jackson was accused of an inappropriate relationship with the young boy, testimonies were heard from others deeming the plaintiff’s family “cunning” and using their cancer-stricken child to gain money from celebrities. The intense 14-week trial led to Jackson’s acquittal of all charges on June 13, 2005. Illustrated by Bill Robles.

 

Courtesy CUNY Journalism Press

Anna Chapman, 2010

When 10 Russian spies were arrested in the United States, Anna Chapman—with her “Bond-girl bombshell looks”—quickly became the poster girl for the trial dubbed “the largest spy ring bust in the U.S. since the fall of communism.” At the arraignment on June 28, 2010, Elizabeth Williams managed to capture the first image of Chapman as she glanced around the courtroom, which was quickly designated a Yahoo! News “Most Recommended News Image.” Illustrated by Elizabeth Williams.