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Truman Tale

Inside a courtroom drama playing at a theater near you.

The stark tableaux Clarkson captured are reproduced well in Capote, but based on his descriptions, the filmmakers may have taken a few liberties. The sequence in which Smith and Hickock are led through a crowd into the courthouse/jail following their extradition takes place at night, even though Clarkson says they actually arrived in the afternoon. Likewise, the verdict is delivered amid bursting flashbulbs of the sort Clarkson didn't use -- and besides, he was only there for the first day of the trial due to what he calls "fiscal restraints," and he's confident no one else got in after he headed back to Topeka.

If there are other flaws, Clarkson hasn't caught them, since he says he's been too busy to see the movie. He used the same excuse to beg out of attending next month's premiere of Glory Road, a film about the 1966 Texas Western squad that won the NCAA basketball championship with five African-American starters -- the first to do so. The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced opus, which opens nationally in January with a cast led by Josh Lucas and Derek Luke, uses Clarkson photos over the closing credits, and a portfolio of his work will be part of a DVD release down the line.

Clarkson can more than justify his claim of being swamped. After working for publications such as the Denver Post and National Geographic, he started Rich Clarkson and Associates, a company that currently handles photography for the Broncos and the Rockies, and is readying massive tomes about the NCAA and Arlington National Cemetery. The firm also puts on well-regarded photography workshops (former second lady Tipper Gore attended one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, earlier this year) and is looking for television tie-ins. A model for such projects is 50 Years of the Final Four: Behind the Lens of Rich Clarkson, a 2005 ESPN Classic documentary in which folks such as Bob Knight gush about Clarkson's work.

In Cold Blood killers Perry Smith, center, and 
Richard Hickock entering a Kansas courthouse, as 
photographed by Rich Clarkson.
Copyright Rich Clarkson
In Cold Blood killers Perry Smith, center, and Richard Hickock entering a Kansas courthouse, as photographed by Rich Clarkson.

Far fewer people have seen his images of Smith and Hickock, especially lately -- and he never expected that these two psychopaths would still command attention more than forty years after they were put to death. "We just thought it was a good local story," he says. "But it became a lot more."

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