Historic courtroom illustrations acquired by Library of Congress

Keywords Courts / neglect / Trials

Ninety-six original courtroom drawings from high-profile trials over the past four decades have been acquired by the Library of Congress.

The drawings by Aggie Kenny, Bill Robles and Elizabeth Williams depict well-known trials and include poignant portrayals of some of the most famous people in the past 45 years at their most vulnerable moments. Their work also relates to the major issues that have affected how Americans perceive race and race relations, gender issues, political and corporate corruption, religion, international relations and celebrities since the 1970s.

“These drawings are important for documenting moments in history that were not captured photographically because news cameras were banned from courtrooms,” Sara Duke, curator of popular and applied graphic art in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division said in a press release. “The artists also capture individuals’ emotions in a few vivid strokes. For scholars who want to look at how attitudes shifted over time in the courtroom, here is a good place to start.”

The Library acquired the drawings through the generosity of Thomas V. Girardi, founding partner of Girardi Keese in Los Angeles and member of the Madison Council, the Library’s private-sector advisory board. The drawings will be called the Thomas V. Girardi Collection of Courtroom Illustration Drawings.

Kenny’s drawings have included many metropolitan New York trials, in addition to the James Earl Ray trial for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, the Iran-Contra hearings in Washington, D.C., and the trial of Penn State University coach Jerry Sandusky on child-molestation charges. She has illustrated several U.S. Supreme Court events, including the swearing-in ceremony of the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 1986.

Robles is a Los Angeles-based courtroom artist. He drew the West Coast trials, during the 1970s, of Charles Manson and Patty Hearst. He covered the civil and criminal trials of O. J. Simpson. He was able to draw Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh after the Oklahoma City bombing, before their trials were separated. He captured Michael Jackson openly weeping as the not-guilty verdicts were read in the music star’s child-molestation trial. In addition, Robles illustrated such celebrities as Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola and Johnnie Cochran.

Williams has worked in New York for more than three decades and has drawn such high-profile cases as that of European diplomat Dominique Strauss-Kahn, John DeLorean, John Gotti, the “preppy murderer” Robert Chambers, Martha Stewart, Bernard Madoff, Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, and convicted terrorist Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri.

The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division collects courtroom illustrations to support the work of the Law Library of Congress in its effort to document the cases that have shaped interpretations of legislation or pivotal moments in history.  


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