Washington Post Q&A

Perry Stein, a writer for the Washington Post, reached out to me with a question from a reader: “Who hires courtroom sketch artists? How many attend trials?” I emailed back an answer and they used it in a Q&A blurb at the end of a recent article about the Trump trials.

I have not drawn Trump in court (yet), though I did sketch the arraignment of Trump associate Waltine Nauta in the confidential documents case. (The arraignment lasted about five minutes so I only did one sketch). The primary artists for the current New York Trump trials are Jane Rosenberg and Elizabeth Williams. But the Washington Post reached out to me via email with their question.

You can read the answer here (scroll down to the bottom).

Tony Lazzarro Sentencing

Anton “Tony” Lazzaro was a wealthy political donor found guilty of seven counts of sex trafficking with five minors between the ages of 15 and 16. Lazarro had paid a female friend to recruit underage girls for him to party and have sex with. In return he showered the girls with money and gifts. The government said that since he was paying money for underage sex, it qualifies as sex trafficking. The defense argued that it was not sex trafficking because the sex was consensual and the money and gifts were not connected to the sex.

View my sketches of the trial here.

A jury found Lazarro guilty on all counts. He was sentenced in Minneapolis on August 9 2023 to 21 years in prison.

Tony Lazarro smirked as a parent of one of the victims read an impact statement.
Tony Lazarro being sentenced in Minneapolis on August 9, 2023.
Tony Lazarro being sentenced in Minneapolis on August 9, 2023.
Tony Lazarro defiantly expressing frustration to the Judge before being sentenced in Minneapolis on August 9, 2023.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz sentenced Tony Lazarro two 21 years in prison.

Arraignment of Trump Associate Waltine Nauta

Waltine Nauta, while serving in the Navy, became President Trump’s valet in the White House. After Trump left office Nauta continued working for Trump at Mar-a-Lago. It is alleged that Nauta, following orders from his boss, moved boxes containing classified information from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago to Trump’s residence; that Nauta assisted Trump in concealing the documents from a grand jury, the FBI, and Trump’s own lawyers; that Nauta took a photo of spilled contents from one of the boxes with classified markings clearly labelled, and then texted the photo to a co-worker proving he knew the contents were classified; and that Nauta then lied to FBI investigators by falsely claiming that he was not aware of the boxes being moved.

On July 6 Nauta was arraigned in Miami, Florida. He pled not guilty.

This was a bit of a challenge to draw. Arraignments are often brief but this was one of the briefest I have ever seen, lasting maybe five minutes total. The court would not allow anyone to use an electronic device in the courtroom which meant no iPad. I had to draw on paper, which I haven’t done in years. And I was experimenting a bit by using pastels instead of colored pencils which I have favored in the past. I definitely felt a little rusty. After I got back home I purchased some new and improved art supplies so I can brush up on my traditional media technique.

Casey White Sentencing

In April of 2022 Alabama felon Casey White escaped from the Lauderdale County Detention Center with the help of a Vicky White (no relation), a corrections officer who worked at the jail. Authorities believe the pair met at the jail and developed a romantic relationship. The couple were on the run for 11 days. When the authorities finally caught up with them, Vicky committed suicide by shooting herself in the head.

Casey was originally charged with murder under the reasoning that he was responsible for Vicky’s suicide since the whole thing came about because she was trying to help him escape. In a plea deal Casey White pled guilt to an escape charge in exchange for the murder charge being dropped.

I traveled to Florence, Alabama to sketch the sentencing on June 8, 2023.

Casey White stood to address the court and the family. He said, “I feel like the most hated man in the world. I loved Vicky and I wouldn’t drag her name through the mud for anyone in this courtroom…Vicky took me out because she said, ‘Right as right. Wrong is wrong.’ She was the first person to show me affection. The first person to give me a hug in six years….I apologize to her family because she said that’s the only thing she regretted, leaving her family.”

White was sentenced by Judge Benjamin Graves to life in prison.

Casey White is already serving a 75-year sentence for a crime spree in 2015, and is also awaiting an upcoming trial for the murder of Connie Ridgeway in 2015. He is pleading not guilty by way of insanity.

The above sketches are protected by copyright but are available for licensing. Contact me if interested.

Lazarro Sex Trafficking Trial

Anton Lazarro was a wealthy political donor who was charged in St. Paul, MN with sex trafficking. The trial took place in March, 2023. It was alleged that Lazarro paid a female friend to recruit underage girls for him to party and have sex with. In return he showered the girls with money and gifts. The government said that since he was paying money for underage sex, it qualifies as sex trafficking. The defense argued that it was not sex trafficking because the sex was consensual and the money and gifts were not connected to the sex.

Lazarro was charged with seven counts involving “commercial sex acts” with five minors in 2020. The minors were between ages 15 and 16. Lazarro was 30 years old. It only took the jury three hours to find Lazarro guilty on all counts. That might be the fastest verdict for any trial I have ever sketched. If not, its up there.

Because this case involved minors, I did not sketch any of the victims. As usual I also could not draw the jury, to protect their anonymity.

Pre-trial hearing
Prosecution opening statements to the jury.
Defense attorney making opening statements to the jury. He kept kept referring to the “quote-unquote victims” so I tried to capture that gesture.
Prosecutor questions Gisela Castro Medina, who recruited teenage girls for Lazarro.
Close up crop of Gisela Castro Medina.
Lazarro (far left) and his attorneys watch the prosecutors question Gisela Castro Medina.
Defense attorney questions Gisela Castro Medina, who recruited teenage girls for Lazarro.
Lazarro’s girlfriend took the stand in his defense.
Defense attorney questions Lazarro.
Prosecutor questions Lazarro.
Prosecutor makes closing arguments to the jury.
Defense makes closing arguments to the jury.

Firkus Murder Trial

Back in 2010 Nick Firkus’s wife Heidi was shot and killed during a reported home invasion in St. Paul, MN. Firkus himself was also shot in the leg. Firkus claimed an intruder broke into his home, that he had approached the intruder with a rifle, and in the struggle the shots were fired accidentally killing his wife and injuring him.

That was the official story until May 2021 when authorities charged Firkus with shooting his wife, faking the home invasion, and shooting himself in the leg to make it look good.

I was not in court for the whole trial. I was there for opening statements, one day of testimony, and closing statements. The jury ultimately found Firkus guilty after deliberating for only a few hours.

Prosecution opening statements.
Defense opening statements.
Defense attorney Robert Richman questioned St Paul Police Sgt. Nichole Sipes.
Family friend Hillary Autry was questioned as to whether or not Heidi was aware of the family’s upcoming foreclosure and plans to move.
Neighbor Brandon O’Conner overheard some commotion at the Firkus home around the time of the shooting.
Defendant Nick Firkus (center) observes the trial seated next to attorney Robert Richman (left).
Prosecutor making closing statements.
Defense attorney Robert Richman making closing statements.
During final rebuttal the prosecuting attorney started a timer, grabbed a rifle, and reenacted the alleged murder scenario to demonstrate that it could have been done within the short time allowed between two phone calls made by the defendant. In this sketch she is miming bracing herself against a wall about to shoot.
Crop of Nick Firkus observing closing arguments.

Cody Fohrenkam Trial For Murder Of Deshaun Hill

On January 23, 2023 I sketched opening statements in the trial of Cody Fohrenkam, accused of murdering high school student Deshaun Hill, Jr.

The prosecuting attorney makes opening statements to the jury outlining why he believes Fohrenkam is guilty.

Defense attorney Lisa Skrzeczkoski-Bzdusek makes opening statements as to why she believes her client is innocent.

Testimony opened with Tuesday Sheppard, mother of the victim, testifying about the death of her son.

Witness Ashley McNamara called 911 after the murder. She was one of the first witnesses to testify, and held a Kleenex to wipe away tears.

I was only in court for opening statements on Day 1 of the trial. However, on January 26 the jury found Fohrenkam guilty.

George Floyd State Trial: Kueng Takes Plea Deal, Thao Agrees To Let Judge Decide Case

On October 24, 2022 former Minnesota police officer J. Alexander Kueng (represented by attorney Thomas Plunkett) accepted a plea deal in the charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter in the state case against him in his role in the death of George Floyd. Kueng will serve 3-1/2 years in prison for not attempting to to stop officer Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd.

That same afternoon former officer Tou Thao (represented by attorney Robert Paule) opted to forgo another jury trial and instead chose to let Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill decide his guilt or innocence in the death of George Floyd using stipulated evidence. Thao insists he did nothing wrong as he attempted to stand by managing the crowd instead of intervening while his colleagues restrained a dying George Floyd. Judge Cahill has until May 1, 2023 to issue his ruling.

Thao and Kueng have already been convicted of charges in Federal court and are currently serving those sentences. These sketches were for separate state charges.

Jerry Westrom Cold Case Murder Trial

In 1993 a 35-year-old prostitute named Jeanie Ann Childs was stabbed 65 times in a south Minneapolis apartment. Her murder was a cold case for decades until DNA evidence led investigators to Jerry Westrom. Westrom’s DNA was found on bloody items in the apartment and he matched a bloody footprint from the crime scene.

Westrom’s attorney said the footprint evidence was subjective and pointed the finger at an alternate suspect, her pimp who lived in the apartment and who’s hairs were found in the victim’s hand. (That man died in 2017).

After deliberating just a few hours the jury found Westrom guilty.

I didn’t attend the entire trial. I was only there for opening and closing statements. Here is some of what I sketched:

Preparing to give opening statements in Minneapolis on August 16, 2022. Defendant Jerry Westrom is in the dark suit on the right.
Prosecution closing statements, August 25, 2022.
Crop of defendant Jerry Westrom listening to closing statements.
Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher gives closing statements in Minneapolis on August 25, 2022.