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Justice Anthony Kennedy, of the US Supreme Court, staged (and presided over) the trial of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark once again. The issue: was it madness that drove him to kill Polonius and avenge his father’s death, or were they the acts of a sane man?
The trial was held in Kennedy Center on March 15. The program for the evening opened with a clipping from the fictitious Elsinore Times, explaining that the citizens of Denmark are still reeling from the deaths of King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, and Laertes. Hamlet, it appears, survived the lethal event, and has lived to go on trial.
The prosecutor, Miles Erlich, is a federal prosecutor turned defense lawyer, and once clerked for Justice Kennedy. The defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, has a client list that includes former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Lowell’s co-counsel was Catherine Crier, Court TV host and former Texas state judge. Each side had one expert witness: for the defense, Dr Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University’s medical school and director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The prosecution called Dr Alan Stone, a professor of law and psychiatry at Harvard.
The jury consisted of three high school students, three college students, and a collection of local DC arts patrons.
Hamlet was to be present, but was not expected to testify. Says his lawyer, Mr Lowell, “He is one of the easiest clients I have dealt with. He refrains from making unauthorized statements to the press.”
Justice Kennedy first staged the Hamlet trial in 1994. He has since taken the trial to Boston and Chicago. This year’s event is part of a six-month “Shakespeare in Washington” festival and had to be moved from a 500-seat auditorium to the 1100 seat Eisenhower Theater in the building. It immediately sold out anyway.
Says the Justice: “It is clear to me that Shakespeare meant for this to be a puzzle. Each time I hear the trial, I see something new in the play and gain new insight into the way the law of criminal responsibility works.” source: NYTimes article by Lynette Clemetson on 3/10/07
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