Tag Archives: 1990s Minnesota

Courtroom art documenting a Minneapolis police misconduct trial, as Derek Chauvin’s trial begins.

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum summer 1994 Lt Mike SauroMike Sauro.

Lt. Mike Sauro’s 1994 police misconduct civil trial was a big deal in Minneapolis. I was a courtroom artist for the CBS affiliate, WCCO-TV, in the ’90s, and I was there for much of it.

I strongly encourage those are interested in the Minneapolis police department and its history of misconduct and brutality trials to read this report by Human Rights Watch. It details events in Sauro’s tenure as well as other cases brought against the department. Sauro was involved in multiple cases; I only covered the police misconduct civil lawsuit filed by Craig Mische. The drawing of Sauro above is from that.

The jury found the city liable for “maintaining a custom of deliberate indifference to complaints about excessive force in the department.”

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum June 17 1994Above, Craig Mische, seated with his attorney.

Mische was awarded 750K in compensatory and punitive damages for the battering he received. He looked a little like Robert Chambers, which bothered me as he was clearly the victim in this case. I think I captured his emotions well despite it.

I also recommend this recent article in Minnesota Reformer about how Minneapolis has historically protected its cops who are involved in police brutality cases.

I logged thousands of hours in the Hennepin County courthouse, listening to testimony, attorneys and expert witnesses.

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum ca 1992 McKenzie trialThe juries, judges and courtroom officers in the Minneapolis courts were virtually all white, in the ’90s.

It was obviously a terrifying and grossly injust place to be for BIPOC and particularly Black people. Even the stenographers and us four courtroom artists for the tv stations were all white.

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum ca 1992 1993 witness in red attorney with boxI tried to draw the way the atmosphere of white supremacy in the courtroom harmed and othered Black people.

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum ca 1992I was always aware of the “Minnesota Whiteness” in my drawings; I didn’t know enough to do anything except try to represent it, then.

Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes courtroom drawing for WCCO TV 1990sI think this drawing of a teenager the state wanted to try as an adult is probably the truest thing I ever made in the courtroom.

I wasn’t supposed to be editorial, or political, but of course I was, where I could be. The reporter I was working with on a given day sometimes asked me to draw particular people, so my editorial powers were limited.

Win or lose, defense attorneys wanted to buy my drawings of them, as did expert witnesses and police forensic specialists and out-of-town Federal prosecutors and NFL players called to the stand in an anti-trust trial. But not Sauro.

I have never been good at concealing dislike, which is probably why Mike Sauro wasn’t interested in buying his drawing!

So I still have it, and was able to find it, at this moment when it is part of the throughline of police brutality in Minneapolis and a cop culture that doesn’t seem to have ever changed. But maybe it’s time, and maybe there can be a reckoning, finally.

I desperately hope there will be justice for George Floyd.

Unicorn Riot has very good on-the-ground Minneapolis police coverage and is where I will be following the events in the Twin Cities over the next weeks.

I’ll try and get some more of these courtroom drawings photographed soon. I didn’t have a camera in those days, and of course there were no camera phones. So until this moment, the only documentation of these drawings that existed was the footage the WCCO-TV cameraperson shot for the night’s news. And the station kept all that footage on BETAMAX tape.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

 

Portraits of my friend Tom, 1990.

June 12 1990 Tom at Dunn Bros by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesJune 12 1990 Tom at Dunn Bros by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesA big part of the praxis of portraiture is drawing the same people over and over.

You have to do it over and over, so you start to understand what characteristics make a face distinctive, what features identify someone. I had a teacher at Parsons who taught us that ear placement is critical, too!

Tom June 12 1990 at Dunn Bros by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesTom at Dunn Bros Coffee, June 1990.

Tom was one of my closet friends in early sobriety, during a year where I carried a sketchbook everywhere I went. He is a fellow New Yorker; we met at the halfway house after I finished my four months and while he was doing his. We become instant sobriety buddies and confidantes. Eventually he moved in for a while with me and my roommate Anita.

tom1990 Tom at Dunn Bros by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesTom at Dunn Bros. Coffee, summer 1990.

We went to recovery meetings almost every night, and went for coffee before or after.

Tom April 17 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesTom, outside Dunn Bros.

We spent a lot of time at the coffee shop!

Tom and Evan summer 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesTom, right, and Evan, a guy I briefly dated. Summer 1990.

1990 sketchbook with Tom by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesA sketchbook page from 1990 with a collection of heads, including two quick sketches of Tom.

I used to scribble and doodle and sketch in my notebooks, something I gave up completely after I became a courtroom artist and then a comic artist.

My pencil doesn’t move unless it’s work, since about 1992.

That’s ok, because I have delightful mixed media crafts and projects to play with!

None of these drawings had ever been photographed; until now, no record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

I am so grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.