The Twelve Angry Men Essay, Research Paper
12 Angry Men
A nineteen-year-old boy has just stood trial for the fatal stabbing of his father. “He doesn’t stand a chance,” mutters the guard as the twelve jurors are taken into the bleak jury room. It looks like an open-and-shut case until one of the jurors begins opening the others’ eyes to the facts. This drama explores the lives of a dozen American men from very diverse backgrounds as they are forced to decide whether a young man accused of homicide is innocent or guilty. For several of them, thoughtful discourse is unfamiliar and the jurors find their greatest challenge in confronting each other. But, by this single man s reasonable hesitation to condemn a man for life imprisonment, caused the rest of the jurors to betray their own prejudices and re-examine the facts in this thoughtful drama.
Jury panels are generally supposed to be a panel of twelve people that are representatives of the community. The jurors are really the most important participants in a criminal trial. The sole purpose of a jury is to come to a relevant verdict in regards to the facts presented in a case. In reaching a verdict, the jury must be unanimous. That is, every juror must agree with the verdict because, it is not reached through what we generally think of as the democratic process, in which the outcome is decided by the majority. Where there are differences of opinion amongst the jurors, each juror should listen carefully and with an open mind to all other points of view. When this is done, a unanimous decision is often possible; but if any juror, after complete deliberation, still does not agree with the majority, he or she should not change position just to allow a unanimous verdict to be reached. This is the way a jury should go about reaching a verdict; the right way. In this case as in many others, the jurors that make up the jury panels have different attitudes toward society. They have distinct demeanors and prejudices that they blatantly express to each other within the course of five hours. Although some display arrogance, impulsiveness, prejudice, bias, and immorality, fortunately, one pragmatic juror offered a more open-minded view or perspective on the facts of this trial. For example, the only purpose of the character played by Tony Danza during a significant part of this trial was to go see a Yankee game. He didn t care whether or not this young man was condemned or not. His sole purpose was to get in and out of the jury room having wasted as little amount of time as possible. Fortunately, after revealing the facts and proving his convictions as thoroughly as possible Jack Lemmons character succeeded in bringing Tony Danza to a logical conclusion. Another example was the role played by another juror who wanted only to see the defendant die because he didn t like kids. He had an abundant amount of emotion boiled up inside of him towards youth that effected the way he viewed the trial. Also, his motives were selfish and unjust, with little regards to the revealing of the truth in this case. It took Lemmon s character the most arduous time and effort to help this juror come to realization. A third example is that of an African American male that had very adamant views on society itself and in particular, Caucasians. He speculates that the white man is out to get him. For him this case is a way for him to get back at the white man for all the pain and bitterness they have caused. He speculates that the white man is to blame for all the problems and adversities and the him and the rest of his people have suffered. Thankfully, he gradually listened to the declarations of the others and in the end put his prejudices aside to conclude at a fair decision.
During this course of time the jurors spent an abounding amount of time discussing the trial at hand. They made a good effort to discuss all aspects of the case and the murder itself. Opportunely, the jury discussion involved was a logical and advantageous one. It allowed all twelve jurors to mentally and verbally debate their beliefs, and pursue onward from the other jurors responses to a reasonable conclusion. Although in this case the jurors were able to discuss the beliefs and ideas amongst themselves, in many other cases it is more than likely that a jury will not sit down and logically argue all aspects of a case. Not because they lack the knowledge and ability to do so, but more because they are not willing to. Many people fit the description of the jurors on the panel for this trial. They have similar prejudices, emotions, personalities and conflicts with society that can affect their purpose and opinion of a trial they are involved in.
Society and the government would like to be able to trust that jurors will go about a trial fairly and appropriately, but the likelihood of that is very prone. Their personal characteristics, emotions, beliefs and prejudices can and will affect the decisions they conform. It is a normal performance in the mind of man. It s completely natural for man to act upon beliefs and emotions as well as prejudices that emanate from a case, and not take in the facts and evidence that has been dispensed to him/her.
Is he guilty or innocent? This is the enigma that the jury must deduce. It is a diligent assignment that they are obliged to render. In this case the life of a young man rests within the palm of their hands. They have the power to declare him innocent and let him walk free and they have the power to declare him guilty and place to possibly face capital punishment. In this case, for the jury to find the defendant guilty, they must unanimously believe where no comparable body of evidence contradicts them and with complete certainty that the defendant is guilty. For the jury to find the defendant innocent of all charges or not guilty, they must have a least a reasonable doubt not just a doubt in their minds that the defendant did not and could not commit the crime. Reasonable doubt differs from ordinary doubt because reasonable doubt is based on circumstantial evidence that leads one to believe or disbelieve one is innocent or guilty. Doubt is simply an undecided state of mind. In a trial, a juror merely having doubts is not as significant to a juror having a reasonable doubt, because with doubts he/she cannot base it any evidence of facts. It is merely an opinion, which are worthless in a case of any sort.
If convicted of this crime, the defendant would possibly have to face the death penalty. In a death penalty case, all aspects must be considered. All evidence and facts must be administered in a death penalty case. This procedure should be taken, because of the result of a jury s verdict: death. The jury cannot take it back; it is irrevocable. If I was called for jury duty in a death penalty case, I could not sentence one to death. To me it is a cruel and unusual punishment that is beyond the extreme. It is a duplication of the earliest days of penology, when slavery, branding, and other corporal punishments were commonplace. Like those other barbaric practices, I feel that executions have no place in a civilized society. My opposition to the death penalty does not arise from misplaced sympathy for convicted murderers. On the contrary, I believe that murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. For this very reason, murder is in my eyes abhorrent, and any policy of state-authorized killings is immoral. Execution to me in general is a dramatic, public spectacle of official, violent homicide that in my opinion teaches the permissibility of killing people to solve social problems; the worst possible example to set for society. It epitomizes the tragic impotency and brutality of the resort to violence rather than reason for the solution of difficult social problems. My view is that a decent and humane society does not deliberately kill human beings no matter what the cause and Capital punishment does not prevent crime, and the death penalty is uncivilized in theory and unfair and inequitable in practice.
This case portrayed in Twelve Angry Men provides its audience with a realistic view and reflection of the issues and concerns faced by juries. It gives us an idea with a basic outline of the process that the jury panels must go through and it also raises questions that stir controversy and uncertainty in the audience s mind. This case could happen today, because the personalities of the people that the jury in this case are real and evident in many people of today s society.