Lincoln case comes to trial after 146 years

Re-trial of Lincoln Assassination “conspirator” Mary Surratt to be held September 23 in Chicago, October 3 in Springfield
Chicago, IL – On July 7, 1865 a woman was among four people executed for conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.  Now, 146 years later, she will finally get a new trial – two of them, in fact – as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission team up to re-try the case of Mary Surratt.
The re-trial of Mary Surratt featuring well-known Illinois attorneys and a judge will be held Friday, September 23 at 5 p.m. in the Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library, 400 South State Street in Chicago; and Monday, October 3 at 5:30 p.m. in the Union Theater at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, 212 N. Sixth Street in Springfield.  Tickets are priced at $25 each and will be available starting August 1, and seating will be very limited.  Tickets for the Chicago dramatization may be purchased from the Chicago Bar Association by calling (312) 554-2057 and for the Springfield event by calling (217) 558-8934.  Funds raised at the events will be used for educational programs developed by the two sponsoring organizations.  Event information is available at
 Judge James B Zagel, United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, will preside over the September 23 re-trial of Mary Surratt in Chicago.  He will be joined by a prosecution team of attorneys Dan Webb and Jim Montgomery, and the defense team of Ed Genson and Karen Conti.  Broadcast journalist Bill Kurtis will set the scene with trial “coverage.”  The actress portraying Mary Surratt will be named soon.
 Appellate Court Judge Thomas Appleton will preside over the October 3 re-trial in Springfield, joined by Assistant Sangamon County State’s Attorney Bill Davis and local attorneys Carol Posegate, Steven Beckett and Greg Harris.  Springfield actress Aasne Vigessa will portray Mary Surratt.  Former WUIS Radio journalist Rich Bradley will provide “coverage” at the Springfield event.
 The case of Mary Surratt, unlike the dramatization in the recently released film The Conspirator, will be tried using modern rules of evidence as a dramatically presented court proceeding rather than the original 1865 military tribunal that used procedures that limited the scope of Mary Surratt’s defense.  At the end of the arguments by the prosecution and defense, audience members will determine her guilt or innocence.
The participating attorneys will use their own words and strategies to make their cases as they interact with the judges, who will rule on objections and give instructions to the jurors.
Surratt owned a boarding house in Washington, DC where John Wilkes Booth and other conspirators, including Surratt’s son, met to plot President Lincoln’s assassination.  Historians have long debated whether Mrs. Surratt was innocent or guilty, and if guilty, whether the death penalty was the appropriate punishment.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum ( is the nation’s largest and most visited presidential library complex, and immerses visitors in Lincoln’s life and times.  The Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission ( assists the Supreme Court in acquiring, collecting, documenting, preserving, and cataloging documents and artifacts important to the history of the Illinois judicial system.