Twelve Angry Men Essay, Research Paper
May 20, 1999
Twelve Angry Men
In the film Twelve Angry Men, I believe justice was served. Without juror number eight, however, the outcome most assuredly would have been different. The subtle force and confidence that he displayed allowed the narrow minds of the other eleven jurors to be broadened.
From the beginning of the film, juror number eight displayed his interest in the case, not his personal engagements. His opening part by the window foreshadowed his deep concern for the defendant, an eighteen year-old Hispanic gentleman accused of stabbing his father in a fit of rage. While most of the jurors were ready to leave so as not to further interrupt their schedules, Henry Fonda was willing to give as much time as it would take to analyze this seemingly simple decision.
The jurors took a vote and saw the ratio at eleven for guilty and only one for not guilty. When they repeatedly attacked his point of view, his starting defense was that the boy was innocent until proven guilty, not the opposite as the others had seen it. After Henry Fonda instilled doubt in the mind of another juror, the two worked together to weaken the barriers of hatred and prejudice that prevented them from seeing the truth. The jurors changed their minds one at a time until the ratio stood again at eleven to one, this time in favor of acquittal. At this point, the jurors who believed the defendant was not guilty worked together to prove to the one opposing man that justice would only be found if they returned a verdict of not guilty. They proved this man wrong by using his personal experiences in life to draw him into a series of deadly contradictions.
I do not believe that most juries today are as concerned with the fate of the accused. Most people today lack a sense of concern for people and things that do not directly affect them. This, compounded by a breakdown in the religious and moral code that should be present, is the primary reason for the failure of the criminal justice system. Juries today fail to adequately assess the case, instead focusing on racial prejudices much like the one juror in the movie. The line “They can’t help it, it is just who they are,” describing the entire Hispanic population, shows striking resemblance to the inequality issues we face today. It seems extremely difficult for any person with the strong convictions that Henry Fonda carried to hold their ground against a group. The feeling of becoming an outcast scares too many people into conforming to an easy decision made not on truth, but on apathy. I think that in today’s society people are much less likely to be concerned for the welfare of people that they do not know. The truth is often masked in a web of unimportant statements that are used in a courtroom to distract jurors. The councils make the assumption that the jurors are not competent, and cannot see what really happened. Although this is wrong, the aforementioned apathy is why nothing is done about this issue.