“Rembrandts,” muttered the electric-coiffed boxing promoter Don King as he entered the courtroom. He had just spotted Aggie Whelan Kenny and her fellow artists lined up with their pads and pencils, pens, crayons, oil sticks and watercolors at his 1984 arraignment on federal tax evasion charges.
Never mind jurors (who would acquit Mr. King but convict his longtime secretary). Famous or notorious defendants must also trust their fates to courtroom illustrators, their verdicts both suitable for framing and ineligible for appeal.
Otherwise, in the absence of cameras, how are we to remember trips to the bar of justice by the likes of the boss of bosses John Gotti; David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam”; John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman; the “preppy killer” Robert E. Chambers; the accused drug lord El Chapo; or, for that matter, Donald J. Trump on the witness stand for his New Jersey Generals in a 1986 civil suit against the National Football League? (Mr. Trump prevailed but won damages of just $3.)
These and other semi-willing subjects of Ms. Kenny and two colleagues, Richard Tomlinson and Elizabeth Williams, are on public display Thursday, Nov. 30, through Feb. 2, 2018 at the Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 860 11th Avenue.
The exhibit, “Rogue’s Gallery: A Forty Year Retrospective of Courtroom Art,” displays 78 works, from the Son of Sam trial in 1977 to a last-minute addition by Ms. Williams of the Nov. 1 court appearance of Sayfullo Saipov, accused of the terrorist truck rampage that killed eight and injured 12 on a Lower Manhattan bike path on Oct. 31. Mr. Tomlinson’s entire oeuvre, including his coverage of the bungled 1990 Central Park Jogger trial, was bequeathed to John Jay after his death in 2010, and over the years the college has added works by Ms. Kenny and Ms. Williams to its criminal-justice archive.
The New York-centered exhibit, arranged by the associate dean and chief librarian, Larry E. Sullivan, is organized by category — murder and mayhem, the mob, celebrity, white collar, race and terrorism — and includes anecdotal synopses of the cases. For instance, after a traffic ticket ended Berkowitz’s reign of terror, one police officer said, “You can get away with murder in New York as long as you don’t park near a fire hydrant.”