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The Illustrated Courtroom: 50+ Years of Court Art

The Illustrated Courtroom: 50+ Years of Court Art

By: Elizabeth Williams and Sue Russell
Publisher: Redwood Publishing
Publication Date: June 3, 2022
ISBN: 978-1956470154
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: January 26, 2023

Co-authors and artists Elizabeth Williams and Sue Russell have gathered artwork from within a most unusual setting – the American courtroom and present said artwork in their book, The Illustrated Courtroom: 50+ Years of Court Art.

Williams, Russell and court artists Bill Robles, Howard Brodie, Aggie Kenny and Richard Tomlinson, have worked within intense, highly structured boundaries, accomplishing what for the most part the camera is not invited to do. Their hand-drawn works in black and white or vibrant, realistic color, tell more than mere words can convey. The opening chapter cites some of the most “Famous Faces” seen in the restricted world of official judgment: Mick Jagger, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and a keenly envisaged young Donald Trump, testifying in a case involving the National Football League. Williams’ portrait of the wide-eyed future president gives support for her observation of him as someone who “didn’t mind being drawn.” The sensational trial of Charles Manson, enhanced by Robles’ on-the-scene works, include the rather charming faces of the young women whom Manson – posing as a modern messiah - inveigled into savagely murdering seven people including an unborn child.

Sometimes courtroom drawings must be made quickly, as when Manson leapt up to attack the presiding judge, or when the aforementioned young women appeared in court one day with shaved heads in imitation of their murderous guru. Emotions, or lack of them, are captured by the skilled sketching: the faces of the accused, such as that of Jack Ruby, who murdered the murderer of President Kennedy, waiting tremulously for the jury’s verdict; the visages of family of those killed or tormented, fraught with feeling; and the professional stance of attorneys and judges presenting and weighing the mountains of evidence presented in each stirring scenario.

Entwining the artists’ sketches with some of the most famous cases seen in press and television in the past fifty years, Williams and Russell reveal a unique realm of jurisprudence that most readers will not have known about heretofore. They explore the courtroom as a “stage” where practiced professionals and alleged criminals obey, or sometimes skew, legal stipulations, hoping for findings in their favor. On site, in haste, under great pressure but with notable care and expertise, the illustrators cited have devised lasting impressions of defendants, jurors, family and prosecutors as they speak and act in a context in which the result can be a life-or-death matter. This is a large book offering highly readable, engagingly visual material for readers across a wide spectrum of interests.

Quill says: This dynamic, brilliantly illustrated treatment by artists/authors Williams and Russell satisfies the eye and opens the mind, offering new perspectives on courtroom drama and legal complexities both behind the scenes and within the headlines.

For more information on The Illustrated Courtroom: 50+ Years of Court Art, please visit the book's website at:

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