Sunday, March 4, 2018

Day 2 of the Noor Salman trial.

Courtroom sketches are available to purchase for use by the media. No phones allowed in court. Text or call (407) four five zero - 0807. I will get in touch ASAP after court lets out. 

I woke up bright and early at 6 AM for day 2 of the Noor Slaman Trial. Walking towards the courthouse at 7 AM the rainbow band shell was illuminated a warm orange from the rising sun. I met a reporter from CNN at the front entrance since the courthouse wasn't open yet. The reporter joked that folks in the courthouse thought he was best friends with Wolf Blitzer. He talked about the media circus for the O.J. Simpson trail and the Boston bombing trial. He seems to feel that this trial will not generate as much interest from national media. Since Noor is the wife of the Pulse Nightclub attacker who was shot and killed, that makes her a secondary character in their eyes. However, being from Orlando myself, this trial is very important.

On day 2 I had my press badge ready and figured I would sketch in courtroom 4B where Judge Paul G. Byron was presiding over jury selection. There are 12 seats reserved for media in that courtroom and one of those seats is reserved for a courtroom artist. I was slated to take that seat but at the last minute, I was replaced by a caricature artist who low balled the price on his sketches. I learned from the CNN guy that on day one the courtroom was fairly empty. There was plenty of seating besides the 12 press seats. I could probably just sit in as a member of the public. If the place got full, I would gladly step out to the press room.

There was a tech issue at the front entry, so getting into the courthouse would take some time. Since I was the second in line, I wasn't too concerned. Taking off all metal was becoming routine. Right beyond the entry  there was a line of ladies at a table that seemed to be in charge of handing out temporary passes. I asked if I needed to stop there, and I was fine with the pass I already had. I decided however to ask about sketching in the main courtroom. I was told that there was only 1 seat reserved for an artist. I asked if I could just enter as a member of the public. She told me that if I entered the room with art supplies, I would have my press badge revoked and would be evicted from the court house. I don't get this Machiavellian idea that only one artist can observe a trail. Her in Orlando, there can only be one cowboy at the rodeo. I have seen court cases where close to a dozen Courtroom Sketch Artists sat in a row sketching trials in the past. Oh well. I seem to be the only citizen in Orlando who is not permitted to observe the case from  inside the courtroom because I carry a pencil and paper. I feel a civic responsibility to document this moment in Orlando's History.

I would have to observe the trail from the media overflow room for a second day. There was a solid hour and a half before the doors opened. I decided I would sketch the entrance to the court house since it would illustrate this article well as a secondary sketch. I was finished with the pencil composition and starting to ink in the sketch when a security guard stopped me. I was told I shouldn't sketch outside any of the courtrooms. I apologized and put it away. At the security for the press overflow room I was asked to rip the sketch out of my book. I jokingly signed it for him. He had to run it up the chain of command. Later a US Marshall approached me and said the sketch would have to be confiscated. The problem was that I showed the security at the entrance. If someone wanted to, they could use that sketch to possibly find a weakness in the buildings security. I hadn't though of that as I was happily sketching away. I hope they frame the sketch and keep it. It might be worth something someday. I took all this in good humor. The guard joked with me, "Haven't you ever heard of 'don't treat it like a Federal Case?' This is where that phrase come from." I laughed.

I was the first person in the press room. The projection screen showed 3 views of the courtroom. One view was new. It was of the defense table. I was excited. When Noor Salman entered she would sit in the center seat. I immediately started sketching the rough layout of the furniture in pencil so I would be ready when she entered. She entered wearing a black jump suit and she smiled as she talked with her attorney Lisa Moreno. I  mentioned her outfit since it was the first thing that the reporters talked about when they entered the room I was excitedly sketching in. I sketched Noor quickly as she talked animatedly to Lisa. Sketching allows me to crawl inside her head. For the first time she came alive for me. From my comfy jury box seat, I could watch Noor's every expression. Come Monday, I will continue to focus my attention strictly on her. She tends to spend a lot of time with her head down seeming to draw or take notes.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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