Why we still need courtroom sketch artists

What do P Diddy, Donald Trump, and Martha
Stewart all have in common? Christine Cornell. She’s a courtroom artist who’s captured all
of them at their trials. I’ve been covering trials for the last 1,000
years, which is about 1975. I did Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. I’ve drawn Mick Jagger a couple of times. I’ve drawn Mike Tyson. I did just come off the Cosby trial recently,
but I drew him probably 20 years ago. We live in an age where people’s phones
have 4K cameras and every dips*** on a snowboard has a GoPro
attached to their head, so why do we still see old-school pastel sketches
of so many trials? Courtroom illustrations are part of an old
tradition that dates back to the infancy of the United
States. But to figure out why we’re still relying
on them, we need to turn to Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 53, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds. It’s a law that basically says you’re
not allowed to broadcast or take photographs of criminal proceedings
inside federal courtrooms. The ban on cameras was adopted in 1946, but its origin is often linked to the sensational
coverage of the 1935 trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the murder of the Lindbergh
baby. Most state courts have had a similar ban on
cameras as well, which is why news outlets relied heavily on
artists like Christine to document the trials. Courtroom photography has been a hotly debated
issue for a long time. There are many who believe having cameras
in all courtrooms will make for a more transparent judicial
process. On the other hand, some people point to the
O.J. Simpson trial as a prime example of why it might not be
a good idea: A lengthy, complicated judicial process
was turned into a primetime spectacle. It’s an unfair burden, I think to put on
a defendant. Because they are presumed innocent, for starts, and the camera is a brutal exposure, and the
artists are a filter. There’s just something that’s a little
more human. It’s a little bit softer. It mitigates a little bit on behalf of the
person. One great thing about drawing as opposed to
cameras in the court is you can shrink the space. You can put people in juxtaposition to each
other that dramatizes or allows the drama to come out. I asked Christine to do a drawing to show
me her process. I requested one of me in a prison jumpsuit
getting tased by guards, but she suggested we do it sitting instead. When I look very hard at someone that I’m
about to draw, then I look at my page, their face is actually glowing on the page. And it’s kind of like when you watch film
develop, except it’s the reverse. I watch that image fade. Studying anatomy is very useful because I
have to do an awful lot of recreating of things that
I just saw happen in front of me. But then they just happened, and now they’re
not there anymore. And you have to be able to do that from your
knowledge. If you think too much about what your feelings
are about somebody, it’s going to interfere
with your drawing. But what about all the awful people you’ve
had to draw over the years? I think you need to have a huge dollop of
compassion, because that’s the only way you’re going to
capture soul on the page. And that way, you’re going to get your most
true likenesses. You wanna make those portraits speak to you
on the page. When people cry, you gotta get it. It’s, like, part of the court artist’s
contract, you know, do not miss the tears. Unfortunately for Christine, I’m from Minnesota,
so I’m unable to express my emotions. Drawing this fast is just, it’s totally
insane. Sometimes you can churn out as many as six
drawings a day; I’ve churned out as many as eight drawings
a day. You’re always taking it all in as it comes,
but there’s always certain things that catch your eye and that you find particularly appealing. Like when Martin Shkreli was in court, he had a bunch of gestures where he would
take his hand and just sort of go like this, and it was sort of fun because you could see
the white around this part of his eye, you know. When Bernie Madoff was sentenced, he was taken,
remanded directly, and they cuffed his hands behind his back and led him through a door, and of course
I had to draw that. Christine’s captured a ton of memorable
moments. But the laws have changed her profession over
the years, and a number of bills have been introduced
to allow cameras inside federal and supreme courts. Once upon a time, there were so many artists
they had to give us the whole front of a courtroom, you know, front row on both sides. And now there’s just a few of us. They allowed cameras on an experimental basis
in New York State Court, and that sort of eviscerated the business, that took away the bread and butter, because
state court was where we did most of our work. The business has changed, but there’s still,
you know, there’s still crime.

Stephen Childs


  1. I think filming during a trial is not good. During a trial, there should nothing that can distract someone. Would you express yourself during a trail, when you know that this can be shown in the news? Victims might not tell everything and the defended might promote his actions.
    Cameras can be there before the trail, when everyone enters the room and maybe at the end, when the judge tells the penalty.

    What I found interesting and bad, is that you can search online for offenders and get their picture and everything. Here in germany nobody can publish a picture of a offender that easily. There is a strange situation, when police publish a uncensored picture of someone, because they need to find him and later newspapers need to censor him, when he was found.
    It still makes sense. Everyone has the right to live a normal life, after his sentence. It wouldn't be fun if everyone knows your criminal record, when it's not relevant. There are some jobs where you must show a criminal record but you must give it to them.

  2. Anyone else think courtroom sketches look similar to the loading screens in Grand Theft Auto?

  3. As an artist who struggles to draw still life or objects (not moving), I can't imagine what it's like to remember an emotion and draw it the next second.

  4. I’ve considered this career. I’m terrible at buildings and landscapes, but I can accurately draw your bones, flesh, and clothing. My process is like hers, watching it appear in front of me. But also… I spent so much time perfecting that (and cats) that I suck at everything else.

  5. Seems like a job that used to be Important but is clearly unnecessary now…

  6. This was interesting, but it didn’t really convince me that we still need courtroom sketch artists. All it did was provide me with a point of view, not with facts to support it.

  7. 2:24 oh my god I thought I was the only one who could see things like that??

  8. Pictures and cameras are better and more reliable like she said how you view a person personally can change how the sketch can come out sketchers are out dated 1000 pics can be made in the time it takes for one sketch

  9. I know Christine for many years. She is tops. Also a great gal…And I believe she was a young artist when Ida Libby Dengrove (the lady who wrote the book on courtroom artists) was still at work.

  10. Courtroom sketchea are a great example of artwork, but cameras are so much more efficient and typically can remain unbiased with ease as it only takes a second to capture the image.

    But, actually, just keep the media out of the courtroom — and everywhere else for that matter. Why do we need artistic pictures (drawn or itherwise) to hear about a courtcase??

  11. dude what the hell did the snowboarders with go pros do to piss you off

  12. Most of the courtroom illustrations I've seen are terrible. I guess if you're a horrible artist and refuse to do something else, you become a courtroom illustrator.

  13. i feel like she’s seen a lot of crazy s*** in them courtrooms…just by the way she speaks.

  14. "and every dipshit snowboarder has a go-pro attached to their head"
    The writer of that line has never been on the slopes before lmao, I personally have been to Mt Bachelor maybe 20 times and only seen one person with a go-pro, skiing

  15. I agree with the no cameras or media in the court room this is why court trials are open to the public, so that people can come up with their own conclusions on the defendant and the evidence presented against them. With the media there they would find a way to spin it to create propaganda and probably put an innocent person in jail/prison because the public was influenced by the media to believe something that wasnt true or the truth was spun in a way to make that person out to be guilty.

  16. She’s so good at her job. It’s not just drawing people. She’s capturing people’s soul, too.

  17. that actually means we don’t need courtroom artists anymore

  18. Then how are there still videos and pictures of court…. IN THIS VIDEO? LOLL. OH WAIT FEDERAL IS THAT DIFFERENT? Wait don’t they record the Supreme Court I’m so confused lol

    Judge Judy?

  19. Shes just defending her Job. A camera makes faar more sense than this archaic stylization. The stenographer is accurate to punctuation, so should the artist and this work is clearly her, more stylized than down to the punctuation.

  20. 10% of the comments: Interesting!



  22. Wasn't the woman who testified against Bill Cosby named "Andrea Constad" …..not "Gianna"?

  23. Drawings, depictions, illustrations, caricatures etc….nah! you still
    can't capture it better than a box brownie, still, neither can reveal
    guilt nor innocence.

  24. answer, because its illegal to film inside courtroom. then enjoy 5 minutes of interviewing some gypsie woman

  25. Its seems really ghetto to sketch them these days but its seems cool and it is the law

  26. I want a portrait done by her… but I don't want to go to court

  27. All the things she mentioned about the benefits of drawing, the drama and the softening and framing, is exactly why I think courtroom art should be ended. Justice shouldn’t be editorialized.

  28. TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP is literally what the next 4 years is gonna be about lol

  29. An obsolete profession and should be retired already. Rule 53 needs to go already.

  30. What do you have against snowboarding, did you always dream of being a pro but you were garbage or something

  31. Donald trumps been in court so many times that nearly every sketch artist has drawn him enough to where its almost muscle memory.

  32. This video did nothing to explain why we still need court room sketch artists 🤦‍♂️

  33. Cameras are a better illustration of the truth and always will be in comparison to artists. Keep the cameras. Ban the media. Simple! We do not need artists in courtrooms anymore. They even cut off when she was going to say “That’s where we make…our money”

  34. I remember the episode of the sopranos when uncle junior saw his court room sketch on tv

  35. The features are kind of off on darker people but she draws white people amazingly.

  36. They say cameras are banned yet again we get to see that kid that fainted when he was sentenced to death 😡

  37. Even if they dont antagonize him, they need him for the clicks even if he's irelevant to the topic.

  38. So they still do them because of (as always) governments inability to update and stay with the times

  39. Just because it's recorded on camera, there's no reason to broadcast it. Lol, why would that be the immediate assumption just because it can be recorded for documentation archiving purposes. Judicial systems are so archaic and broken. GG

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