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Exhibition Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration

Howard Brodie. N.Y. Panther Trial, 1970. Color crayon on white paper. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (043.00.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-51107 © Estate of Howard Brodie
Gift of Howard Brodie

Black Panthers on Trial

In 1970, twenty-one members of the New York Black Panther Party faced charges of conspiracy to bomb several sites in New York City. Their lawyers found it difficult to prepare for their trial before the New York Supreme Court because the defendants were purposefully separated and placed into solitary confinement in seven different jails. Their lead lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, sued to have them brought together in Queens and ultimately thirteen defendants faced trial together. Justice John M. Murtagh, having knowledge of the Chicago Seven trial, intended to avoid Judge Hoffman's handling of that politically charged courtroom. The jury ultimately acquitted the Panthers of all 156 charges on May 12, 1971.