Courtroom Sketching 11-4-15


I was hired by KSTP-TV to do some courtroom sketching today in St. Paul. Quick background: In 1989 eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted by a masked gunman and has never been seen since. Whatever became of Jacob remains a mystery. Since then Wetterling has become something of a poster child for abducted children and his parents have become high-profile advocates for children’s safety. Everyone Minnesotan who was old enough to be paying attention to the news in 1989 is very familiar with the Wetterling story.

Recently the police have named a “person of interest” in the Wetterling case. Daniel Heinrich was arrested on child pornography charges. DNA evidence has linked him to another child abduction and it is strongly suspected that he may also be the one who abducted Jacob. However Heinrich denies any involvement and as of yet there is no proof that he took Wetterling.

Today was Heinrich’s preliminary hearing on the child pornography charges. I was hired by KSTP-5 to sketch the proceedings. The entire thing only took 90 minutes so I did the best I could in that brief time. Heinrich is on the far right wearing yellow.

The Wetterling family has endured decades of pain and grief not knowing what ever happened to their son. It would be so great to see the curtain of mystery finally lifted so they can get some closure. While that hasn’t happened yet, it’s encouraging to know that we may be one big step closer.

“I’ve Been Framed!” Claims Courtroom Sketch Artist

Denny Hecker Sentencing

My apologies for the horrible pun in the title of this post.

In addition to my normal illustration work, every once in a while I get requests from the local media to do a little courtroom sketching. My courtroom sketches have been purchased for broadcast by MSNBC, ESPN, 20/20, Good Morning America, the NFL Network, and the NNS. I’ve worked on court cases involving murder, kidnapping, wire fraud, drug trafficking, union battles, even a high school shooting.

Waseca, MN is a small town in southern Minnesota near where I grew up. A few months ago the Waseca Art Council contacted me and asked if they could host an exhibit of my courtroom sketches. I was very flattered and naturally said “yes”.

The exhibit is called “Artwork On Trial” and will run from Sept. 6 – Oct. 19, with an opening reception on Friday, Sept. 6 from 7:00-9:00pm. If you find yourself in Waseca sometime in the next few weeks with nothing better to do, feel free to stop in and have a look.

You can also view a few samples over at my courtroom sketch website,  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a courtroom sketch artist, here’s a blog post I wrote on the subject.

Courtroom Sketching: Amy Senser Trial, Day 7

Today was the final day of the trail. Both sides made their closing arguments and fate of Amy Senser is now in the hands of a jury. I was making my final trek down to the camera crew by lunch.  I knew this would be a short day so I drew extra fast.

Good Morning America has been including my sketches in some daily updates they’ve been running on the trials. So this story has officially gone national.

First, a sketch I forgot to include in yesterday’s upload…

courtroom sketch
The defense questions an expert on issues related to driving and night vision.

Today’s sketches:

courtroom sketch
The defense attorney asks permission to include some evidence that the court has ruled inadmissable.
courtroom sketch
The prosecuting attorney uses powerpoint to summarize her closing arguements for the jury.
courtroom sketch
The defense attorney summarizes his closing arguments for the jury.

Courtroom Sketching: Amy Senser Trial, Day 5

Today the prosecution wrapped up their case against Amy Senser in her hit-and-run trial. All along Mrs. Senser has insisted she thought she had struck a construction barrel with her car instead of a human being. The state is attempting to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she must have known she had hit someone instead of something.

To do that they brought in some road construction equipment and a highway patrolman with a background in reconstructing auto accidents. He explained that a construction barrel is much lighter than a grown human being and reacts much differently when struck by a car. To demonstrate the prosecuting attorney asked the patrolman to kick over the barrel in front of the jury, which he did with relative ease. It may not prove much – the average person probably thinks the barrels are much heavier than they really are, and perception is what matters in this trial – but after four days of drawing the same people sitting in the same chairs in the same room, it was fun to change it up. It’s not often I get to draw an “action shot” in court.

The trial will likely end on Monday with Mrs. Senser herself taking the stand, and then I’ll be getting back to regular client work. This has been such a tragic case on so many levels. A man is dead and another family has to watch their mother face a very public trial, and since her husband is a local celebrity much of their personal family dramas and conflicts (both real and implied) have been paraded in front of the media. At the same time the media is all but ignoring the victim’s family.

No matter what the jury decides, there will be no winners.

courtroom sketch
The prosecuting attorney questions a state patrolman who is an expert in reconstructing auto accidents.
courtroom sketch
The patrol officer wheeled in some construction equipment for a demonstration.
courtroom sketch
The prosecuting attorney asked the patrol officer to kick over one of the construction barrels to demonstrate how lightweight they are.

Courtroom Sketching: Amy Senser Trial, Day 4

Today two of the three key witnesses were teenagers. Because they were minors the judge instructed all of courtroom sketch artists to not sketch them. At all. We asked if we could just draw outlines or even genderless mannequin-like “ghost” shapes and even that request was denied. The judge was very nice about it but he wasn’t taking any chances. It made for a challenging day of sketching.

On a side note, I’m told that some of my sketches from the trial wound up on ‘Good Morning America’ this morning. A relative DVR’d it for me and I plan to check it out.

courtroom sketch
The defendant's husband, former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser, takes the stand for his second day of questioning.
courtroom sketch - judge
Since I wasn't allowed to sketch the teenage witnesses on the stand, I worked on a close-up of the judge instead.
courtroom sketch
Since we weren't allowed to sketch the minors who were testifying, or even sustitute a blank outline or silhouette, I was forced to leave the witness stand empty. Naturally the news station wasn't able to do much with this one.

Courtroom Sketching: Amy Senser Trial, Day 2

Today was Day 2 of the Amy Senser hit-and-run trial, and once again I was hired by local station KSTP-5 to do some courtroom sketches. Several witnesses took the stand so I was drawing fast and furious. Courtroom sketching is always a balancing act. Do I focus on quantity or quality? A couple of really good sketches or several hurried ones? Here’s what I was able to bang out today.

While I have your attention, don’t forget about my Amazon book sale and the autographed Disney maquette-and-sketch combo I’m auctioning off on ebay. Only two days left to bid.

Amy Senser and her attorney
Amy Senser, seated next to her attorney, bows her head as she listens to 911 calls from the accident scene.
Amy Senser cries
Amy Senser dabs tears from her eyes as the medical examiner discusses the victim's injuries.
The courtroom
A witness dabs tears from her eyes as she listens to a tape of her 911 call from the crime scene.
courtroom sketch of victim's family member
A relative of the victim gives her testimony.
medical examiner
The medical examiner describes the damage to the victim's body.
Brittani Sensor
Amy Senser's stepdaughter Brittani Sensor testifies.