Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jealousy and Murder in Easton, PA.

In my forty five years of being a Courtroom Artist, never have I covered such a gruesome trial.

Two weeks ago I was asked by the Allentown Morning Call newspaper to cover a murder trial, in Easton, PA.

The man on the right is the defendant, Michael Ballard, seated with his lawyers. At the time of the slayings, a year ago, he had just been paroled on a 15-to 30-year sentence for stabbing and slitting the throat of an
Allentown man, in 1991.

Ballard admitted he had very meticulously planned the murders of his girlfriend, her father, grandfather, and an
unfortunate neighbor, who heard screams, as "punishment" because he felt she was cheating on him. His
girlfriend's mother is on the left.

In the darkened courtroom, members of the jury view the bloody crime scene and autopsy photos on a big screen. Ballard stabbed his girlfriend 43 times.

This young woman is lucky to be alive. She found her friend's body in the kitchen, then ran screaming from the house when she heard Ballard in another room. It took Ballard approximately 12 to 15 minutes to complete his slaughter of four people that Saturday morning.

Ballard's lawyers presented testimony  via Skype from a County Sheriff and childhood friends in Arkansas, to imply an abusive childhood and head injuries contributed to Ballard's murderous mental state.

The jury didn't buy it. After deliberating for a bit more than two hours, they unanimously agreed Ballard deserved the sentence of death, on each of the four counts of murder in the first degree.

An unemotional Ballard was then led away by Sheriff's Deputies. Under the law, he has the right to appeal his sentences.

The general feeling among the citizens of Easton were summed up by this night security guard I met early on my first day in the courthouse. In this instance, it's very tempting to agree with him.


  1. Love yr courtroom sketches here...
    I don't think I've ever been inside a courtroom and I prefer to live viacariously through yr sketches any day of the week!

  2. Thank you PB.
    Maybe one day you and I can to Paris,
    and we'll spend a day drawing in a French courthouse.

  3. By coincidence I attended a lecture this weekend by Ethne Clark, editor of Organic Gardening Magazine in Allentown! Must refer to a map since it appears to be close to Philadelphia....if not for the internet, I would know NO geography at all!