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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Library of Congress Adds|96 Courtroom Drawings

WASHINGTON (CN) - The hallowed halls of the Library of Congress are now filled with nearly 100 new illustrations by three artists renowned for their ability to capture poignant moments in courtroom history.

The Library announced on Friday the recent addition to the Prints and Photographs Division of its law library, which has been curated since 1965 to include "some of the most well-known trials, judges, lawyers and defendants" during that span, according to a press release on the collection.

Drawn by accomplished courtroom illustrators Aggie Kenny, Bill Robles and Elizabeth Williams, the 96 acquired illustrations reportedly depict "documentation of important cases that have shaped interpretations of legislation in the United States" and "pivotal moments in criminal history, the Library says.

The artists' past work, which may be a preview of what to expect in the collection, has immortalized highs and lows of criminal trials well-known in pop culture. One Robles sketch, for example, "captured Michael Jackson openly weeping as the not-guilty verdicts were read in the music star's child molestation trial," the press release states.

A Kenny drawing, meanwhile, depicts rows of alleged victims with blurred-out faces in the child sexual abuse trial of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, whose fate went the opposite way of Jackson's when he was found guilty.

Williams' sketches have brought high-profile defendants like John Gotti and Martha Stewart to life.

Not just celebrity sketch artists, the trio's previous paintings have also captured historical courtroom moments such as the Iran-Contra hearings, and the ceremony in which William Rehnquist was sworn in as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice.

All three artists are well-versed in the" reportage style" medium of drawings that decorate the Library, according to Friday's press release. The genre offers the public a bird's-eye view of high-profile celebrity trials, Supreme Court decisions and other noteworthy court decisions that news reports alone cannot convey.

"These drawings are important for documenting moments in history that were not captured photographically because news cameras were banned from courtrooms. The artists also capture individuals' emotions in a few vivid strokes," Library curator Sara Duke said in a statement.

The use of cameras in trial proceedings has been prohibited by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure since 1946, and other than a few pilot programs testing their use in federal and appellate courts, recording devices have remained banned.

In the absence of electronics, the work of artists like the trio who contributed to the Library's collection shows "how attitudes shifted over time in the courtroom," according to the press release.

"The [courtroom art] relates to the major issues that affect how Americans have perceived race and race relations, gender issues, political and corporate corruption, religion, international relations and celebrities since the 1970's," the release states.

Including the 96 recently-acquired drawings, the Library's Prints and Photographs Division features over 15 million photographs and drawings dating back to the 15th Century.

The new drawings were given to the Library by board member Thomas Girardi, a Los Angeles attorney who made his name trying a case that later inspired the hit movie "Erin Brokovich."

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