Pastel Witnesses

Courtroom artists Shirley, right, and Andrea Shepard in New York. Of anxious defendant Martha Stewart, Andrea says
Courtroom artists Shirley, right, and Andrea Shepard in New York. Of anxious defendant Martha Stewart, Andrea says "there really wasn't time" to make her look prettier. (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)
By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 17, 2005

NEW YORK

Abandon all hope, ye who enter the halls of justice here, especially if ye are famous and under indictment. For the Shepards -- a mother-daughter courtroom sketch team with a wicked eye for unflattering details -- will memorialize the moment in vivid pastels. You might luck into a lenient judge, but these ladies are not inclined to mercy.

"Michael Eisner turned around and said, 'Can you give me more hair?' " says Shirley Shepard, the mom in this duo, referring to the former Disney CEO, who testified last year in a civil suit in Delaware. She is talking in the pressroom at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse in downtown Manhattan, her hands covered with chalky streaks of color, a smudge of mauve across her forehead.

"I said to him, 'What should I do about your chin?' "

Martha Stewart pleaded in vain with the Shepards at her 2003 arraignment, a hurried affair that took barely a quarter of an hour.

"Can you make me look prettier?" she begged the artists.

"There really wasn't time," chuckles Andrea, the daughter.

"I said, 'Martha, in 17 minutes ?' " Shirley says.

Andrea and Shirley Shepard team-sketched at the trial of Martha Stewart.
Andrea and Shirley Shepard team-sketched at the trial of Martha Stewart.
Get it straight, perps: The Shepards are not paid to beautify the busted. No, they are paid to go where cameras can't and for 14 years, that is what they have done, carting their tools into front-row seats at the city's headliner trials and drawing as fast as they can -- four hands working one sheet of paper, finishing it with one signature. Errant celebrities, felonious CEOs, wiretapped mobsters -- if they face the music, they face the Shepards, too.

On any given day, the pair are scurrying somewhere through the New York City judicial system, or taking a field trip to courts in other states if the case has a high enough profile. (They were in Alexandria for the trial of Zacharias Moussaoui.) You'll know them by their binoculars, which they train on everyone they sketch, and by their fluorescent hair -- "We're no longer natural blondes," chirps Andrea -- and by their matching black-leather pants, a fashion gambit you don't encounter often in state and federal court.

"They're a little bit strange but very wonderful," says Murray Richman, who has represented rappers such as Jay-Z and Ja Rule. His clients love them, he says. Sean "Diddy" Combs "is a big fan. DMX hugged and kissed Shirley once. That guy has had so many cases he knows them by name."

Today, Shirley sports a T-shirt that reads "Celebrity has its price!" It's a souvenir from a rare honor for the world of court art: an exhibit of the Shepards' work, which was on display last year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The opening of the show was crawling with lawyers, which makes sense since appearing in a Shepard is a sign that as an attorney, you've arrived.


CONTINUED     1           >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company