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All-Star Lawyers To Re-Try 2,400-Year-Old Socrates Case

A statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates in the center of Athens (Photo credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/GettyImages)

A statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates in the center of Athens (Photo credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/GettyImages)

John Cody. John Cody
John Cody is a veteran reporter for Newsradio 780.
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A pair of former federal prosecutors will be re-trying a 2,400-year-old case, and they won’t just be trying to convict one of the world’s most beloved philosophers, but they’ll be going up against two prominent Chicago attorneys.

Patrick Collins, who led the successful prosecution of former Gov. George Ryan, will be back at the prosecution table with his old boss, former U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald, as they retry Socrates for impiety and corrupting Athenian youth.

WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports the retrial of Socrates is part of a fundraiser Thursday night for the National Hellenic Museum.

Collins, now a partner at Perkins Coie, acknowledged he and Fitzgerald are going against more than two millennia of sympathy for Socrates, and a much different way of thinking than in 400 B.C., when a jury convicted Socrates.

“In 21st Century America, this prosecution would have been dismissed based on constitutional rights such as freedom of speech, and separation of church and state,” he said.

Collins joked about what he admits will be a virtually impossible case to win for him and Fitzgerald.

“This may be the first case Fitzgerald loses. And I’m sick of him getting so much credit for everything. It’s about time he went down in flames,” he said.

Collins and Fitzgerald will face off against defense attorney Dan Webb – like Fitzgerald, also a former U.S. Attorney – and Robert Clifford, a prominent personal injury lawyer.

Socrates was tried and executed for charges that he was corrupting the youth of Athens and blaspheming the Greek gods with his philosophical teachings. He was seen as the driving force behind political unrest in Athens at the time.

Collins said he sees a parallel in Socrates’ trial to U.S. behavior since 9/11.

“Some would argue things like the Patriot Act and what goes on at airports these days was improper and over-reaction to an event,” Collins said.

He said the case demonstrates the difficulties democracies can have making good decisions in times of crisis.