Two “dream teams” of lawyers were pitted against one another last night (Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014) at the UIC Forum in The Trial of Orestes, a mock trial that tried the Greek mythological figure for matricide.
Robert A. Clifford, senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, with Dan Webb of Winston & Strawn, defended Orestes, the son of Agamemnon charged with killing his mother and later admitting it with no remorse, according to myth. Counsel for the prosecution was Patrick J. Fitzgerald of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Patrick M. Collins of Perkins Coie and a former U.S. Assistant Attorney in Chicago. These are the same sides that were drawn in last year’s popular Retrial of Socrates hosted by the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago.
In last night’s “Trial of Orestes,” a packed audience of about 1,000 overwhelmingly voted in favor of acquittal of Orestes, which involves the tale from Greek mythology of a father who kills his daughter, his wife kills him and then their son, Orestes, kills his mother. An all-star jury of lawyers, academics and judges who participated on stage were hung in a tie.
Judges Richard A. Posner and William J. Bauer of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Court Judge Charles P. Kocoras served on the judicial panel of this Greek tragedy based on the play by Aeschylus, with Judge Posner presiding.
Clifford and Webb based their arguments on Greek law of 5 B.C., which held that the gods ordered Orestes to avenge justice. “Orestes followed the rules of the gods,” Clifford told the audience, and if he did not, his life would be forever doomed. “Context matters,” Clifford argued. Webb spoke of how Orestes’ motive was not greed or revenge but was based on the orders of Apollo through Zeus to commit the act. “It is the principle of divine law,” Webb said. “It is a justifiable killing, not a murder.”
The prosecution repeated the argument of murder being wrong, morally and legally, but it did not ring with the audience.
The National Hellenic Museum of Chicago sponsored the popular event.