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Judgment Day: Vicki Behringer Sketches People About to Go to Jail

Not all artists spend their days smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and getting hammered down at the Rusty Toe while wondering what to do with the next few weeks of their lives.
2.11.08

INTERVIEW BY BRUNO BAYLEY

Not all artists spend their days smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and getting hammered down at the Rusty Toe while wondering what to do with the next few weeks of their lives as they wait for a “gallerist” to decide that they want to pay $140,000 for a cube covered in chewing gum and cat hair.

Some of them actually get paid by the state to do their job, and we’re not just talking about being on the dole. Vicki Behringer, 48, from near Sacramento, is one of the most successful courtroom artists in the world. We thought we would ask a real professional about drawing murderers and lawyers really quickly.

Annons

Vice: First off, how did you get into courtroom art?

Vicki Behringer:

So who are your main clients?

Right. What would you say are the specific attractions and difficulties of the job?

How long does it take you to do an accurate sketch of a murderer that you are happy with?

What big cases have you worked on?

Wow, with the Michael Jackson case, was that really strange? How did he seem during the trial?

Are you the overlord of courtroom art? You seem to get a lot of the big cases. Is there a lot of competition?

Do you ever find yourself getting caught up in the case?

What was the Scott Dyleski trial about?

Why do people still bother with drawings when there is so much technology available?

Do people ever ask you to make them look better? Do lawyers or judges ever slip you $10 to remove double chins?

“Ted Kaczynski was charged with manufacturing explosive devices that were specifically targeted at individuals whom he thought were a threat to his ideologies. He was arrested after his manifesto was published 20 years later. This painting was done during the jury selection in the Federal Court in Sacramento, California. His attorney, Judy Clarke, is consoling him. Ted Kaczynski is second from the right. He pleaded guilty before the actual trial started, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.”

“Scott Dyleski was found guilty of the brutal murder of Pamela Vitale in her home in the hills of the East San Francisco bay area in California. I actually don’t remember much about this testimony, except that the witness was a professor at California State University. I chose this picture because it was a good representation of the parties in the trial, especially the young defendant.”  

“Michael Jackson was accused but found not guilty of molesting a young man who had cancer that he had befriended. In this painting, Jay Leno, host of The Tonight Show, is on the stand testifying that the young man who was the victim in this case called him and asked for help. Jay Leno never did actually testify in open court, just in this hearing.”