Wikipedia 10K Redux by Reagle from Starling archive. Bugs abound!!!
Athenian trials did not have judges, merely juries. At the time Athens had been going through some difficult stuff, notably the thirty tyrants which included several of Socrates' friends, though he himself refused to condone it. Even so, the jury was not nearly as pitiless as the above suggests - the vote on the guilt came out very close to 50-50, and they had not chosen the sentence yet. In Athenian trials, the sentence was chosen between suggestions from the two parties. The prosecution of course chose execution. The reason this was taken was that Socrates' suggestion was, rather than the expected exile, a fine so small it may as well have not been there. Now the verdict was nearly unanimous, but this time on a matter of principle: guilty men must be punished. All in all: it seems now that the jury chose wrong and executed an innocent man as a result. But it also seems wrong to cast them as a bunch of pitiless judges, or imply that they cared nothing for justice, as neither is true. Part of the tragedy of Socrates' death is that neither he nor the jury was really at fault.