Topic: Robert Bales sentencing hearing
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August 29, 2013 at 10:36 PM
A personal highlight of sketching the Bales sentencing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord last week was meeting Peter Millett. To most news outlets covering the story, he was the go-to courtroom artist. But Millett is also an accomplished sculptor, painter and art teacher. Courtroom sketching is something he does on the side when the opportunity presents itself.
Viewers who see the courtroom sketches on TV or in the newspaper may not realize how difficult a job this is, if I may say so myself. Though not every courtroom is laid out the same way, you can pretty much count on the witness stand, the judge and the rest of the characters you are supposed to draw being farther away than you wish. It’s also likely that they’ll have their back to you, which makes sketching them even harder. The sketch below gives you an idea of the real context inside the military courtroom where Millett and I sketched.
To make the sketches work, you have to compress the scene, bringing the characters closer together than they are in real life. You also have to be able to draw face close-ups despite the distance that separates you from the people you are drawing. If only they let the sketch artist move around!
I learned a great deal from Millett, who’s done this type of sketching for years, and hope we’ll cross paths again, inside or outside the courtroom.
Millett would rush out of the courtroom during breaks and tape his sketches to the back of a TV truck so the crews could photograph them for broadcast via satellite. Times reporter Christine Clarridge took this photo after the sentencing ended Friday.
August 23, 2013 at 6:31 PM
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole, a military jury decided Friday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Here are the moments I was able to draw in the courtroom:
Staff Sgt. Walden, the court bailiff, handed the jury’s decision to judge Col. Jeffery Nance, who read it and gave it back to him to take to the jury for the final announcement.
Lt. Col. Jay Morse presented the prosecution’s closing arguments to the jury of six high-ranking U.S. Army soldiers. Among the slides he showed, I was left with the impression of an image that showed one of Bales’ victims, a young girl with her head all covered in blood.
Morse also showed a slide with the names of 48 people who died or were wounded by Bales.
Defense attorney Emma Scanlan tried to convince the jury that her client, who already pleaded guilty for his crimes in June, deserved a chance at parole based on his military record.
Afterward, the group of Afghans flown to JBML for the sentencing appeared before the media. Since we were outside the courtroom, cameras were allowed and recorded the moment. For a minute I thought I’d just listen, but then I started to sketch. That’s what I came to do, after all. It’s a scene that I will remember for a long time.
August 22, 2013 at 8:55 PM
Thursday was my second day sketching at the sentencing hearing of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.
One of the most anticipated moments of the week happened during Bales’ unsworn testimony. As expected, he apologized for killing 16 Afghan men, women and children in Afghanistan last year. Defense attorney Emma Scanlan asked Bales: “Who’s responsible for what happened?” Then Bales replied: “I am. I am responsible,” and then continued expressing deep regret for his actions. “I’m sorry. I’m truly, truly sorry.”
Earlier the defense team called Marc Edwards to testify. Edwards is a former professional football player and knew Bales from high school.
SFC Timothy Farris served with Bales in Afghanistan. He described situations where Bales and other fellow soldiers wore themselves out helping wounded civilians.
CSM (Retired) Alan Bjerke said he remembered Bales as always upbeat and with a smile on his face.
A serious trial is not without a lighthearted moment, I guess. Judge Col. Jeffery Nance got impatient when the witness on the stand, Major Brent Clemmer, didn’t have a laser pointer for his presentation. A member of the prosecution team said he could use his, but not before informing the judge that it was his “personal pointer.”
After nearly five hours, the sentencing wrapped up for the day. Though I spent most of the time concentrating on the witnesses, the judge and the defense team, the moment that stood out the most for me happened during a break after Bales’ testimony. Members of his family cried on his shoulder as he hugged them one by one. I did the sketch above as he embraced his wife, Kari.
August 21, 2013 at 6:39 PM
When cameras aren’t allowed in a court of law, old-fashioned sketching can do the job of capturing the visual information we are accustomed to seeing in photos. That’s been the case with this week’s Robert Bales’ sentencing hearing, which started Monday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma. Bales is the U.S. soldier who pleaded guilty of killing 16 Afghan villagers in Kandahar in 2012.
I was able to be in the courtroom today as witnesses for the prosecution and defense teams took the stand. Below are my sketches and here is the story filed by Times reporter Lewis Kamb.
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