Tom Brady Drawing A Fumble, But Courtroom Artists Usually Score

Tom Brady’s ongoing lawsuit against the National Football League recently cast courtroom artists—arguably the rarest species of journalist—in a harsh light. Veteran artist Jane Rosenberg’s sketch depicted the pretty-boy quarterback as if he had taken too many blows to the face from defensive tackles. The image went viral, prompting many unflattering reviews and a “Zombie Brady” hashtag.

“Tom Brady’s face,” argued the sports website SB Nation, “melted at the DeflateGate hearing, according to this courtroom sketch.” (Don’t feel too bad for Ms. Rosenberg; she’s asking $1 million for the original).

In the edited remarks that follow, Elizabeth Williams, co-author of The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art, discussed her profession—which she likened to “walking on a tightrope.”
GOTTI IN COURT 1985

Once working in an empty courtroom on a drawing of John Gotti during his 1985 trial, I felt a presence behind me. Then I saw a finger point to my illustration. I looked up. It was Gotti. He said sternly, ‘Why aren’t I smiling?’

Madoff_cuffed

When Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009, two events encapsulated the day. First, seeing Mr. Madoff handcuffed in courtroom. White-collar criminals generally don’t go to prison straight from the courtroom. Second, a victim’s reaction to my drawing outside court: She kissed her fingers, touched the illustration and said, ‘That’s just what I wanted to see!’ I replied, ‘Yes, and that’s why I drew it.’

CANNIBAL COP WIFE ON STAND (1)

During the 2013 trial of Cannibal Cop Gilberto Valle, his wife, Kathleen Mangan Valle, took the stand. Her testimony was graphic, bizarre and gripping. She was a mess, describing when she found notes on his computer stating how he wanted to kill and eat her.

TOM BRADY IN COURT NFL HEARING 8_12_15

I said to Jane [Rosenberg] it’s all going to be about Tom Brady in court. She did this scene that was journalistically accurate, but I knew it was going to take me too long. I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to … just zero in on him.’ You have to be I was struck by Brady’s reaction to his attorney’s statements. He looked contrite; his head was bowed and his eyes downcast, which I felt was important to capture.