Anthony Kennedy

The Supreme Court Hears the Trial of Hamlet (Part 1)

Anthony Kennedy Justice Anthony M Kennedy Above the Law blog.jpgWe thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at last night’s Kennedy Center event, The Trial of Hamlet, presided over by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. It was highly entertaining and quite educational, on a number of subjects: Hamlet, literary criticism, psychiatry, and the art of advocacy, among others.
We’re planning to write more about the evening later. For now, we’ll give you the bottom line: Who won?
The prosecution team consisted of Miles Ehrlich, a former federal prosecutor (and law clerk to Justice Kennedy), and Cristina Arguedas, a California criminal defense attorney. Hamlet was represented by Abbe Lowell, the prominent D.C. defense lawyer, and Catherine Crier, a Court TV host and former Texas state judge. The defense argued that Hamlet should not be held criminally responsible for the killing of Polonius by reason of insanity.
After testimony from psychiatric experts and arguments from counsel, the jury of 12 retired to deliberate. In the end, they emerged deadlocked, voting 6-6 in the case. After receiving the jury’s verdict, Justice Kennedy, without missing a beat, said something like, “Hamlet, please rise. I hereby remand you to the pages of literature, where you will continue to intrigue us for centuries to come….”
Justice Kennedy’s “remand” speech was so eloquent that it sounded scripted. Many audience members were left wondering whether the outcome was rigged — whether the jury was going to be a hung jury no matter what, in order to demonstrate the complexity, ambiguity, and richness of Hamlet as a literary text.
As it turns out, however, the jury vote was NOT rigged. They truly were deadlocked, by the end of their deliberation time (which, due to the schedule for the evening, was admittedly not that long).
And don’t blame Justice Kennedy for their indecision! While the jury was deliberating, AMK was moderating a discussion about the play with the participants in the trial, in front of the Kennedy Center audience.
Despite the frustratingly ambiguous verdict — we must admit, we like our entertainment with closure — we had a good time. More discussion will follow later. If you attended and have thoughts to share, please feel free to email us.
Sane or not, Hamlet a hit in Washington trial [Reuters]
Earlier: Justice Kennedy and The Trial of Hamlet

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