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July 27, 2014

The Case of the Cervical Spine in Sanford Florida


Jillian O'Connor and her daughters hired me to sketch Dennis O'Connor, their father and husband as a gift for his birthday. On the evening before the court date, Jill sent me an e-mail to let me know that the trial would be in courtroom G of the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford. Unfortunately I didn't read the e-mail until 1:30pm after I had written several articles. Court had started at 9am. Jill decided to sit in on the trial. This was the first time she had watched Dennis in a courtroom in 30 years. I called her in a panic and asked if the trial was still underway. She whispered that it was. I rushed to get dressed and quickly drove up to Sanford. I knew I was up against the clock since the trial would likely shut down for the day at 5pm.

I had to take my shoes off for security when I got to the courthouse but all my art supplies slipped through without a hitch.  Courtroom G is rather small with just 2 pews for spectators. There was a full jury but I knew better than to try and sketch them. Jill sat in the back pew wearing a red dress. I had seen Dennis in one photo and I spotted him as the lawyer on the far right with the yellow legal pad. I quickly sketched him in and then focused on everyone else. Judge Alan A. Dickey presided. For much of the time he seemed to focus on his computer the same was true of the court officer and the woman seated next to her. The most active person in the courtroom was the stenographer who often moved to get closed to anyone who was speaking.

The case involved a cervical spine injury of Samantha Stringer Bobbitt. Blame was implied again and again in the cross examination of a medical expert named Dr. Jones, who was paid $4000 for his time in court. Earlier in the day Dr. Scharfman had been examined as a medical expert. I actually used to go to Dr. Scharfman to try and handle constant headaches I suffer from due to a pinched nerve in my neck. The doctor prescribed a series of drugs, three of which I still take today so that I can function. Over time the drug cocktail seems to have lost it's effectiveness and I have stoically resigned myself to the fact that living is painful. However whenever I sketch, I forget about the pain as I wrestle with the creative process. So, I identified with Samantha's plight as they outlined six years in which she went to numerous specialists to try and control her pain. The human body is a frail and delicate structure with a nerve filled tent pole of a spine to defy gravity. Age and trauma either from daily chores or an accident can  cause those nerves if pinched to constantly send a signal of pain to the brain. It seems odd that so much expense went into finding a blame for the pain.

No expense was spared to create graphics to sway the juries opinions. Dennis's team of lawyers had a large dry mounted poster made up of a view of someone's back with hundreds of acupuncture needles protruding out of it. The opposing lawyer said that he didn't even object at the use of the image because of how creative Dennis's argument had been. Dennis knew Dr. Jones socially but on the stand he had to try and sway and challenge the doctors opposing opinion.

At 5pm the judge called for a recess. Dennis introduced his wife to the judge and he explained that this was her first time ever in the courtroom. After the jury left, the judge chastised the lawyers, saying the trial was taking much too long. He said if they didn't pick up the pace, then he would call a mistrial. After the judge left the lawyers justified their days work reassuring each other that it was hard to cover six years of medical treatment in a single day. The court officer noticed I was still sketching and she asked if I was actively involved with the defendant or the prosecution. I paused, not sure what to say, it was obvious she planned to kick me out of the courtroom. Dennis's assistant council covered for me saying I was involved in the presentation materials. If Dennis wasn't suspicious about what I was doing, he must have suspected after that little power play. In the end, I'm not sure of the outcome of the case of Samantha's spine, the backbone of truth was lost in a mountain of detail and grey innuendo. I do know a lot of money is involved. I was never paid for this assignment.

- Analog Artist Digital World

2 comments :

Julie said...

So you've outed them as deadbeats?

matthew_c said...

Interesting post Thomas. Your work easily bests the courtroom artwork I occasionally see in the newspapers etc.