Vicki Behringer has been sketching courtroom trials for 27 years. She sketched the Scott Peterson trial (800 sketches in all), Michael Jackson’s molestation trial in 2005, the 1996-98 trial for Ted Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber), and the Barry Bonds perjury trial in 2007. For the last several weeks, she has been sketching the Kate Steinle murder trial, which cast a national spotlight on San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy.
On trial is Mexican immigrant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who has been deported five times. Zarate was released by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department weeks before 32-year-old Steinle was shot and killed, despite a request from federal authorities to detain him. The sheriff at the time had cited the city’s “sanctuary” policy as a reason for his discharge. During the 2016 campaign, Pres. Trump cited the case in his calls to toughen US immigration policies.
Immigration laws, however, did not play a role during the trial. Charges against Garcia Zarate are murder in the second-degree, assault with a semi-automatic weapon and possession of a firearm. The jury can also find Garcia Zarate guilty of first-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter or hand out a not guilty verdict.
Behringer has already made more than 50 sketches of the trial. Since cameras are forbidden inside the courtroom, her sketches are our only “eyes” inside it. When asked what she looks for while picking her themes, Behringer said: “Emotions, likeness, reactions, evidence – guns, knives, bullets, etc.” Witty and sharp, she's quick to pick up on details others usually miss: What's the jury wearing today, where is their lunch from, the judge's mood, etc.
Behringer said she always wanted to be an artist, but that it was a “set of magical coincidences” that led her to become a courtroom sketch artist: “I trained on the job." In her spare time, Behringer still does illustrations. You can check out her work on her website on her website.