This week the sixth-month Shakespearian Festival ongoing in Washington D.C. included a (non-speedy) jury trial of Hamlet. The age-old question — Was Hamlet criminally responsible for mistakenly killing his ex-girlfriend’s father, Polonius? — was argued by lawyers Abbe Lowell for the defense and prosecutor Miles Ehrlich before 12 jurors. Sane, pre-meditated, and guilty? Or psychotic, impulsive, and innocent? Depends on who you ask.
Lowell was no less confident about how this courtroom drama would play out. “The cry for justice, as sincere as it is, should not have us try those with mental illness as serious criminals. . . . There are an abundance of demonstrations of the actuality and sincerity of my client’s mental disorder.”
The trial was presided over by none other than U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who conceived of the idea and has presided over the trial in other venues and jurisdictions. Beforehand, Justice Kennedy made no predictions about how this week’s trial would turn out and added: “Each time I hear this trial, I see something new in the play and gain new insight into the way the law of criminal responsibility works.”
To learn the outcome, listen to the All Things Considered report here.