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Prosecution attorney Julie Porter (right) questions Socrates (seated), played by Second City alum John Kapelos, at the National Hellenic Museum's The Trial of Socrates. (Photo: Courtesy of the National Hellenic Museum)
CHICAGO – Over 500 attendees gathered to cast their vote for or against renowned philosopher Socrates in the National Hellenic Museum Trial Series May 22nd at Chicago’s Harris Theater. Two thousand five hundred years after his original conviction of impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens, Socrates and his defense team faced his prosecutors before a panel of four judges and 13 jurors, who reached differing conclusions as to his guilt and innocence.
But when the votes of the audience were poured onto the scales of justice, Socrates was exonerated. Unlike the outcome of Socrates’ trial in 399 BC Athens, where the philosopher was sentenced to death at the age of 70, the mock trial’s outcome of overwhelmingly “not guilty” paid tribute to the promotion of free thought, questioning the imperfections of democracy.
The mock trial featured testimony from Socrates himself, played by Second City alum John Kapelos (‘The Shape of Water’, ‘The Umbrella Academy’, ‘The Breakfast Club’), and a successful defense led by attorneys Robert A. Clifford (Clifford Law Offices), Dan K. Webb (Winston & Strawn) and Sarah King (Clifford Law Offices). The People’s case against Socrates was presented by attorneys Patrick Collins (King & Spalding), Tinos Diamantatos (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP), and Julie Porter (Salvatore Prescott Porter & Porter, PLLC). The event was emceed by award-winning TV and radio personality Andrea Darlas
Guests at the Trial participated by exploring the arguments of each side and submitting their “guilty” or “not guilty” voting chips – a white chip for innocence and a blue chip for guilt – to literally tip the scale and make their verdict heard, in the style of the courts of ancient Athens.
In a convincing closing argument to the audience and jurors panel – comprised of civic leaders and media personalities – defense counsel Clifford told the group he grew up on “the south side of Athens,” and continued to say that “Socrates did not disrespect the gods. He engaged in a purposeful examination of his own life and he encouraged his allies and the young men that were around him to do the same… We all grow as a society by engaging in discourse with our friends.”
The four judges found Socrates guilty by a vote of three to one. U.S. Federal District Court Judge Jorge Alonso of the Northern District of Illinois was the sole jurist to find Socrates not guilty on the second charge of corrupting Athens’ youth. He found him guilty on the first charge of impiety, or disrespecting the Greek gods, as did the other three judges: Illinois Supreme Court Justice Joy V. Cunningham, and Cook County Circuit Court Judges Anthony C. Kyriakopoulos and Anna Demacopoulos. Judge Charles P. Kocoras of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois delivered an opening greeting for the audience, explaining the importance of the lessons still to be learned from ancient Greece, including the foundations of democracy and trial by jury. He ordered the re-trial because Socrates had not been allowed to testify in his defense when the National Hellenic Museum first tried him in 2013.
The 12-member jury on stage, and one alternate, however, found Socrates not guilty by a margin of 10-3. Jurors included Jim Sotos, Managing Partner at Sotos Law Firm; Georgia Tasiopoulou, Consul of Greece in Chicago; Young Richard Kim, Associate Professor and Head of Classics and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago; Eleni Katsoulis, Senior Counsel of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and President of the Hellenic Bar Association; John Howell, Host at 890 WLS AM; Andrea Hanis, Editor of Chicago Daily Law Bulletin; Tony Karman, President and Director of EXPO CHICAGO; Johnny Mars, DJ at 93 WXRT FM; Toby Eveland, Managing Partner at Saul Ewing; Monica Eng, Reporter at Axios Chicago; Monica Eng, Reporter at Axios Chicago; Louis G. Apostol, Public Administrator of Cook County; and alternate juror George Bellas, Partner at Bellas & Wachowski Attorneys at Law.
Support for NHM’s The Trial of Socrates was generously provided by lead sponsors The Jaharis Family Foundation, Calamos Investments, and Clifford Law Offices, together with numerous other sponsors and ticket buyers.
Socrates’ trial has fascinated and troubled generations who have struggled to comprehend the death of one of history’s greatest philosophers at the hands of a lawful jury. NHM’s The Trial of Socrates invited audiences to consider anew the fragility of democracy, the limits of freedom, and the imperfection of human justice.
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