Hear from the courtroom sketch artist capturing Donald Trump's criminal trial

New York does not allow cameras in its courtrooms, which means it's up to sketch artists like Christine Cornell to capture the pivotal moments of Trump's trial.
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Posted at 4:05 PM, May 15, 2024

The courtroom sketches of Christine Cornell are giving Americans their first visuals of the historic criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

New York does not allow cameras in its courtrooms, which means it's up to artists like Cornell to capture the pivotal moments of a trial.

Cornell took time on Wednesday, the day of the week that Trump's trial is not in session, to speak with Scripps News about her work.

"They let us into the building at 8 a.m. and then we're cooling our heels for another hour and a half," Cornell said. "It's a little bit like a ballet the way it plays out. The characters arrive in groups: The court stenographers, the electronics people come after that, prosecutors come after that carrying boxes, and then ultimately in comes Trump with his entourage. It is like a choreographed dance."

"It's very regulated. There are a lot of marshals in the room. Whenever there's a break the entire building practically goes on lockdown so that Trump can move around," Cornell said. "We all have to stay in our seats. There's a kind of an excessive restrained quality about this whole thing. But other than that, it's really just a regular trial."

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This is not the first time Cornell has captured Trump in the courtroom.

"I drew him back in the early '80s at the USFL/NFL trial," Cornell said. "It was an antitrust lawsuit. He was a young man, I was a young woman. He called me his personal courtroom artist. I drew him as handsome as he was back then. He still has handsome features, but he has a different quality about them now that is not just bravado and all that youthful stuff, but a kind of an anger — an intense, deep-seated fury, right now, frankly."

The work must be done quickly, Cornell says.

"You are working constantly, grabbing what you can, information on the structure of somebody's face, and then you have to flesh it out really quickly. You're also thinking compositionally, you're thinking who else goes into this picture? The proximity that you can squeeze them onto the page so that they're both there."