Casefile Clues

10 April 2013

Can A Picture Prejudice the Jury?

An Indiana judge ruled in 1905 that the publication of an artist's sketch of an adult defendant in an ongoing court case could not be published. Part of the reasoning stemmed from the fact that the case had received a significant amount of coverage in the local newspaper before the trial.

On 10 January 1905, Judge Rasch approved a restraining order forbidding the Evansville Courier and Press from publishing a likeness of Gustave Trautvetter.

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 1905  


Paper: Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, IN)

from  Genealogybank.com

The judge's order:

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 1905  


Paper: Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, IN) 

from  Genealogybank.com

Genealogy note: There is always the chance that this order was transcribed incorrectly and, if this were a case I was researching the newspaper account would not substitute for the actual court records. Note that the order is supposedly dated January of 1904 according to the paper. Was that the newspaper's error or the clerk's?

The artist's self-portrait sufficed.


The Evansville Courier and Press printed instead this sketch the artist made of himself with his hands tied behind his back and his sketch book tied shut:

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 1905  


Paper: Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, IN)

from  Genealogybank.com


The argument made by Trautvetter's lawyers was essentially that Trautvetter had already received enough notoriety regarding the case and that the picture would only add to that and that it would unduly influence the jury. Trautvetter was accused of assaulting a 12-year old child that was living with him and his wife. 

The paper was allowed to print the picture on 14 January 1905 because the jury, deadlocked by one juror, declared they could not reach a verdict and the judge ordered a new trial.

This is the picture that caused all the fuss. Trautvetter and his wife are shown in the foreground in the picture below.

Date: Saturday, January 14, 1905  


Paper: Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, IN) from  Genealogybank.com 


How prejudicial is the picture? Only one juror in the trial that ended on 13 January 1905 thought Trautvetter was guilty.

We'll have an update on the actual result second trial. My interest in Gustave is extremely peripheral as he is not a known member of my Trautvetter family and I only came across this reference on Genealogybank.com while searching for references to my own family.