Veteran cartoonists have never seen a trial like Trump’s

Phil McCausland, reporting from New York,bbc news

Elizabeth Williams Sketch of the interior of the courtroom, includes standing guards and seated Republican lawmakers Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz, Eric Trump and Donald Trump.Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth Williams, the court artists, said this piece showed the number of obstacles she and other artists had in capturing the legal process.

Only through his skillful hands and sharp eyes can the world get a glimpse into the courtroom where Donald Trump’s secret trial is taking place.

With cameras banned during the proceedings, cartoonists have been essential in allowing the public to see footage of the first criminal trial of a former US president.

Set up in the third row each day, courtroom sketchers bring their supplies (oil pastels, pencils, charcoals, mixed media paper, and seat cushions) to watch hours of testimony and arguments in the courtroom.

“It’s Trump, so I’ve never had so much media coverage in my life. “I’ve covered high-profile cases – those are the only ones they hire cartoonists for – but every day (media organizations around the world) use my sketches,” said Jane Rosenberg, an artist covering the hush money trial.

BBC News spoke to Rosenberg and Elizabeth Williams, courtroom performers since the 1980s, who attended each day of the trial.

They have participated in all types of trials, including those of New York mobsters and those of Martha Stewart, throughout their long careers.

Rosenberg’s approach is to draw an amalgamation of moments, while Williams limits himself to drawing exact scenes.

“I really feel dedicated to drawing the actual scene, because it allows people to really see what’s happening,” said Williams, who worked as a fashion illustrator in Los Angeles before trying her hand at courtroom drama.

But this case, they said, is different.

Elizabeth Williams Sketch of adult film star Stormy Daniels on the witness standElizabeth Williams

Elizabeth Williams, who began her career as a fashion illustrator, said this piece depicting adult film star Stormy Daniels on the stand was her favorite from the trial.

Trump’s name and his time in the White House bring additional layers of security, rules and logistics to the proceedings.

“I have never had so many safety measures restricting my movements, even to go to the bathroom. “It’s really hard to get in, get a seat and get ready,” said Ms. Rosenberg, who studied fine art portraiture before working as a courtroom artist.

The women said they line up every morning at 7:00 local time (12:00 BST) carrying their supplies. When they are allowed into the courthouse, usually about two hours later, they quickly prepare before Trump and his entourage arrive.

In the past, they had a front-row seat, but prosecutors and the defense have reserved the first two rows for their own purposes.

Williams recalled how David Pecker, a former tabloid editor who testified, brought in a group of lawyers representing particular obstacles.

“They all had the biggest heads and were the tallest men,” he said, laughing. “It was like, really? You couldn’t sit in another row or something?”

Reuters Sketch of former Trump adviser Michael Cohen testifyingReuters

Two guards stand in the middle of this sketch, showing the challenge it is for artists to get the right angles to depict the process.

Relegated to the third row, the women said they craned their necks around court guards at the front and Trump’s frequent guests to get a good view of him, the witnesses, Judge Juan Merchán and the lawyers.

Trump has come to recognize Rosenberg, who has attended many of his legal proceedings, including several civil trials.

Some days he greets her. In the past, she has even given him her opinion.

“During Trump’s civil fraud trial, he had to walk past me, stopped, looked over his shoulder and said, ‘Oh, I need to lose some weight,’ or ‘Really amazing job.’”

Both artists said the fight to meet the deadline is a challenge. Telephone use is not permitted in the courtroom and those inside cannot leave whenever they wish.

That means they can only turn in their work during breaks.

The artists said they typically place their sketches in a trash can in a courthouse bathroom to get decent light and then photograph them with cellphones.

“It’s the strangest thing, but that’s what happens,” Williams said. “The need for speed and illumination is the key.”

“And we don’t have time to leave. “You could miss something and you can’t miss anything.”

Reuters Sketch of Robert Costello, a lawyer who provided legal advice to Michael Cohen, looking askance at Judge Juan MerchanReuters

Jane Rosenberg was in the middle of this sketch when Judge Merchan left the courtroom. She sent in an unfinished version of this piece over the break.

Turning in the work is important, they said, because their work is the only way for the public to gain access to a courtroom that requires an hours-long line to attend.

Rosenberg said he takes that responsibility very seriously.

“It’s a public service,” he said. “But I enjoy it. Instead of being an artist at home in my little cabin, having cabin fever and not having a soul in the world, I go out and it’s an adrenaline rush.”

Because of the intensity of this case and the shrinking space, Rosenberg said he invented new tools and gadgets to make life easier, including a shelf for his binoculars and a pencil holder made from a paper towel holder.

But neither woman is willing to predict the outcome, despite sitting every day.

Williams said he “can never predict the verdict.”

“I’m terrible and I always make mistakes,” he said. “Every jury is different.”

But both plan to attend what is expected to be the final week of the case and will be there until the final day of Trump’s trial.

“It’s funny and weird. I don’t know. I’m waiting for my invitation to Mar-a-Lago right now,” Ms. Rosenberg said, laughing.

Reuters Sketch of Trump's legal defense team speaking to judgeReuters

Jane Rosenberg, the courtroom artist behind this piece, said it is her favorite from the trial. She shows Trump’s legal defense team conversing with Judge Merchan.

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