Saturday, December 15, 2007

Courtroom Artist

On Thursday, I got a call from our WLOS, our local ABC TV station, asking me if I could be their courtroom artist that afternoon. I've worked with them before as a courtroom artist and it has always been interesting. This time was no exception.

Bobby Medford, the former Sheriff of Buncombe County (where Asheville is located) was arrested that morning and indicted on multiple counts of extortion, involvement in illegal poker machine gambling, using law enforcement officers to collect protection money, and some other things. This is a really big deal around here - he was just defeated in his re-election bid last year and was a pretty popular sheriff. But he's also got some other investigations against him that are working their way along, such as a lot of missing stuff from the evidence locker. So he's facing a world of trouble.

Thursday afternoon was his first appearance in federal court. He and a number of co-defendents were basically told of the charges against them and then whisked off to jail for the weekend. The reporter and I were in the peanut gallery - she was listening to the proceedings and I was madly sketching away. Unfortunately for me, the judge wouldn't let me sit in the jury box this time and instead ordered me into the fourth row! Bummer. About all I got to see was the back of the defendents' heads. But I got some sketches done and, when the proceedings were over, went outside and sharpened them up with watercolor. They came out fairly reasonably well. Sorry I can't post any images right now as WLOS has the drawings, but I might be able to get some soon.

On Monday morning, we're back in court again. This time they'll do the formal "here's the charges, how do you plead?" "Innocent, your honor." "Fine. Court date is (fill in a date here). Next." He'll probably be there ten minutes.

It's an interesting feeling, being a courtroom artist. One part is the kinda gleeful voyeurism that we all experience watching Judge Judy or whatever. On the professional side, I've gotta draw like a madman to try to get some images that can be used for the upcoming news report, so I can't really listen to what's being said. The subjects are always moving around, people are getting in the way, and I can only see the backs of their heads. And then there's the "vulture" factor: here are all the reporters inside and cameramen outside who are scrambling to get something on the accused and their lawyers that they can use in a report. Get one of the principals in the case out on the street and he/she will have a crowd of cameramen and reporters moving right along with 'em. That part is very comical.

So on Monday, I'll be back in court. And then again sometime next year, I'll probably be there for the actual case. I'll try to post some of the drawings here when I can.

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