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INTRODUCTION

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American courtroom drama film. The film tells us the story of a jury
made up of 12 men, as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of
reasonable doubt. The main reason why I choose this movie as the topic for my project is that
this is the movie which had motivated me to pursue a career in law.

The project studies the various legal provisions involved in the movie. The project highlights the
themes of reasonable doubt and justice, and how it depends on person to person. The project
also tries to compare the issues in the movie to real life situations with reference to the same
issues.

It tries to explain that how the movie is related to the concept of group think that is, the more
homogenous a group is, the greater the pressure is to confirm the majority view.
GLOSSARY OF THE MOVIE

The play is set in a New York City Court of Law jury room in 1957. The play opens to the empty
jury room, and the Judge’s voice is heard, giving a set of final instructions to the jurors. We learn
that this is a murder case and that, if found guilty, the mandatory sentence for the accused is the
death penalty. After these instructions, the jurors enter.

The men file in and decide to take a short break before deliberating. They complain that
the room is hot and without air-conditioning; even the fan doesn’t work. All the jurors presume
the obvious guilt of the defendant, whom we learn has been accused of killing his father.
Eventually, the twelve sit down and a vote is taken. All of the jurors vote “guilty,” except for
the 8th Juror, who votes “not guilty,” which, due to the requirement of a unanimous jury, forces
them to discuss the case. The jurors react violently against this dissenting vote. Ultimately, they
decide to go around the table, explaining why they believe the boy to be guilty, in hopes of
convincing 8th Juror.

Through this discussion we learn the following facts about the case: an old man living
beneath the boy and his father testified that he heard upstairs a fight, the boy shouting, “I’m
gonna kill you,” a body hitting the ground, and then he saw the boy running down the stairs. The
boy claimed he had been at the movies while his father was murdered, but couldn’t remember
the name of the movies or who was in them. A woman living across the street testified that she
saw the boy kill his father through the windows of a passing elevated train. The boy had, that
night, had an argument with his father, which resulted in the boy’s father hitting him twice.
Finally, the boy has an extensive list of prior offenses, including trying to slash another teenager
with a knife.

There is a strong rallying against the defendant. 3rd Juror compares him to his own son,
with whom he was estranged, and 10th Juror reveals strong racist tendencies against the
defendant.
When a discussion about the murder weapon, which was identified as the knife purchased
by the defendant, a “one-of-a-kind” knife, begins, 8th Juror surprises the others by presenting an
identical knife he had purchased in a pawn shop two blocks from where the boy lived a few
nights prior, shattering the claim that the knife was so unique and identifiable.

8th Juror makes a proposition that the other eleven of them could vote, and if all of them
voted “not guilty,” he would not stand alone and would go along with their guilty verdict. They
agree to this and vote by secret ballot. The vote is 10 “guilty” votes and 1 “not guilty” vote, and
so the deliberation continues.

Immediately, the jurors turn on 5th Juror, accusing him of having changed his vote out of
sympathy for the boy. 9th Juror stands and admits to having changed his vote because he’d like to
hear the arguments out. 8th Juror calls into question the validity of the testimony of the old man
living downstairs. 9th Juror provides the possibility that the old man was only testifying to feel
important. 8th Juror concludes by saying that even if he did hear him say, “I’m gonna kill you,”
that very well could be taken out of context as just a figure of speech. With this 5th Juror
changes his vote to “not guilty,” and the vote is 9-3 in favor of guilty.After another heated
discussion which raises the question of why the boy would have returned home, after killing his
father, they take another vote. This time, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 11th vote “not guilty,” and the
deliberation continues.

After a brief argument, 8th Juror brings into question whether or not the downstairs
neighbor, an old man who had suffered a stroke and could only walk slowly, could have gotten
to the door to see the boy run down the stairs in fifteen seconds, as he had testified. 8th Juror
recreates the floor plan of the apartment, while 2nd Juror times him, and they conclude that he
would not have been able to reach his door in fifteen seconds.3rd Juror reacts violently to this
and ends up attacking 8th Juror, shouting, “God damn it! I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him.” 8th Juror
asks, “You don’t really mean you’ll kill me, do you?” proving his earlier point about how people
say, “I’ll kill you,” when they don’t really mean it.

Act II resumes in the same moment we left off with in Act I. After everything calms
down, the jurors resume deliberations. Another vote is taken, and the jury is now six to six. They
take a break. During this break, it begins to rain outside. Also, they are able to turn the fan on,
cooling off the room.

When deliberations resume, 8th Juror attempts to break apart the testimony of the
arresting police officer that the defendant was unable to name the movies that he had claimed to
have seen that evening. He asserts that possibly the defendant just forgot the names of the films
and who was in them “under great emotional distress.”

Upon further discussion about the switchblade, it becomes questionable whether or not
the defendant would have made the stab wound, “down and in,” which would be contrary to his
knowledge and experience with how to use such a knife.

The jurors take another vote, and it is now nine to three, all but 3rd, 4th, and 10th Juror are
in favor of ‘not guilty.’ This launches 10th Juror in a massive bigoted rant, which ends with 4th
Juror scolding him back into his seat.
9th Juror calls into question the eyewitness testimony of the woman living across the
street, as she wore glasses but chose not to wear them in court, calling into question whether or
not she would have been wearing them in bed, when she saw the murder through her window.

Now, the vote is 11 to 1, and 3rd Juror stands alone. At first, he stands firm, saying that he
will be the holdout to make this a hung jury. He launches himself into a final massive rant
against the boy that descends into nonsense. 8th and 4th Jurors make a short final plea, and 3rd
Juror finally concedes, saying “All right. Not guilty.” The Foreman informs the Guard that they
have reached a verdict, and the Jurors leave the courtroom.1

THEMES OF THE MOVIE

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Justice
At the onset of the play, we learn from the Judge's offstage opening instructions the given
circumstances of the play, that a man has been accused of murder and his fate is to be determined
by these jurors. Immediately, we are launched into a world where the ultimate objective is to
complete the "grave responsibility" of determining a man's innocence and guilt, the heart of the
American justice system.

Throughout the play, we see two opposing views of justice. From 8th Juror and others, as
they join, we see a perspective of justice that favors the accused and that wants most for him to
have a fair shot. To 8th Juror, the boy's poor and troubled upbringing, his shoddy state-appointed
defense attorney, and the jury's quick near-decisive decision to convict him are all gross forms of
injustice.

Conversely, we see another side of justice proposed by the other members of the jury,
who feel that the accused is clearly guilty, and anything other than conviction and execution is
short of justice. 6th Juror articulates this most clearly, saying, "Suppose you talk us outta this and
the kid really did knife his father?" This type of justice depends on retribution and vengeance.
Rose plays off the two-sided nature of justice to create tension and contrast the characters. Each
character wants "justice," but what justice becomes unclear and fluid throughout the course of
the play.
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Prejudice
Prejudice is observed on several levels throughout the course of the play. In the most obvious
sense, the play deals with racial prejudice. While, conspicuously, the race of the accused is never
certain, we do understand that he is a minority of some sort (in the 1957 film, the actor playing
the accused was Italian), and this quickly becomes a heated issue among the jurors, especially
for 9th Juror, who refers to the accused as "one of them."
Looking at prejudice in a larger sense, we find that, while maybe not racially driven,
many of the jurors enter the jury room with preconceived notions and irrational ideas. 3rd
Juror seems to be prejudiced against the accused simply because of his age, which seems to
remind him of his estranged son. An interesting example of "reverse prejudice" is 8th Juror, who
is initially sympathetic to the accused, not because of the evidence, but because he pitied his poor
and troubled upbringing.

Doubt
What's really interesting about the case within 12 Angry Men is that we never ultimately find out
for sure whether the accused is guilty or innocent. While much of the evidence is aptly
questioned and manipulated by 8th Juror, at the end of the case there remains a tremendous
amount of evidence built up against the accused. Still, it is "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the
jurors must find the accused guilty in order to convict him, and they all ultimately come to the
conclusion that they have at least some doubt. We leave the play with a sense that justice and
right has prevailed over irrationality and prejudice, but, pointedly so, we never actually find out
the truth. This doubt over who is on the "right" side pervades the psychologies of the characters
in the play and any audience watching.

One Against Many


The action of the play begins as 8th Juror votes 'not guilty' against 11 votes of 'guilty,' from the
other jurors. This creates an immediate antagonism from the other jurors (10th Juror shouts,
"Boy-oh-boy! There's always one"), and we quickly find that the task of our protagonist is to
convince these eleven other jurors, which he slowly but surely does. This is framed as an act of
bravery, standing up against the group to do what's right.
However, at the end of the play, there is a chilling reversal, as all of the jurors switch
their vote to "not guilty," except for 3rd Juror, at which point 8th Juror points out, "It's eleven to
one...you're alone." This moment is pointedly characterized contrarily as one stubborn man,
refusing to come over to the side of reason. Rose contrasts these moments to provide a strong
point of view for the play, as well as characterizing the two Juror.
Class
The play proudly presents a tremendous cross-section of American life. The play juxtaposes a
presumably wealthy stock broker (4th Juror) with someone who has admittedly lived in the slums
his entire life (5th Juror), and we seem to have every level of working man in between. For many
of the jurors, we have no more information than their occupation, which gives us an idea of
socioeconomic level. These people are defined by what they do for a living. 7th Juror is even so
tactless as to report his income of $28000, from selling marmalade, to the group.
Similarly, the idea of class in American society is brought to the forefront in the deliberation. 8th
Juror immediately cites the boy's poor upbringing as a possible explanation for his juvenile
criminal record and suggests that he has not been given adequate representation, due to his low
social status. It calls into immediate question whether the American justice system is fair across
classes.

Father/Son Relationships
It is very important to note that the defendant was accused of murdering his father. This
relationship becomes very important in how 3rd Juror and 8th Juror understand the accused. Both
identify over the play as fathers. 8th Juror exemplifies a somewhat paternal relationship with the
accused, even though he doesn't know him and they are never seen together. He stands up for
him in a very paternal way and empathizes with the plight of his life.

Conversely, 3rd Juror projects onto the accused his relationship with his own son, from whom he
has been estranged for two years. The result is that 3rd Juror is immediately prejudiced against
him. This play is in many ways a multi-generational play, featuring men of many different age
groups; this coupled with the fact that the play is all-male definitely embeds the patriarchy of the
times as well.2

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LEGAL PROVISIONS INVOLVED

1. Constitution of the United States : Article III Section 2 Paragraph 3

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial
shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not
committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may
by law have directed.3

2. Constitution of the United States : Bill of Rights – Fifth Amendment

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a
presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval
forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall
any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor
shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived
of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be
taken for public use without just compensation.

3. Constitution of the United States : Bill of Rights – Sixth Amendment

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In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial,
by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been
committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be
informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses
against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour, and to
have the assistance of counsel for his defense.4

4. Constitution of the United States : Fourteenth Amendment Paragraph 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction
thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State
shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens
of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law; nor to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws.5

5. United States Code : Title 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE


PART I – CRIMES CHAPTER 51 – HOMICIDE Sec. 1111 – Murder

(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every
murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate,
malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to
perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage,
aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery; or perpetrated
as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or
perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of
any human being other than him who is killed, is murder in the first degree.

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Any other murder is murder in the second degree.
(b) Within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,
Whoever is guilty of murder in the first degree shall be punished by death or by
imprisonment for life;
Whoever is guilty of murder in the second degree, shall be imprisoned for any term of
years or for life.
(c) For purposes of this section—
(1) the term “assault” has the same meaning as given that term in section 113;
(2) the term “child” means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years and is—
(A) under the perpetrator's care or control; or
(B) at least six years younger than the perpetrator;
(3) the term “child abuse” means intentionally or knowingly causing death or serious
bodily injury to a child;
(4) the term “pattern or practice of assault or torture” means assault or torture engaged in
on at least two occasions;
(5) the term “serious bodily injury” has the meaning set forth in section 1365; and
(6) the term “torture” means conduct, whether or not committed under the color of law,
that otherwise satisfies the definition set forth in section 2340(1).6

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RESEARCH ON THE PROBLEM

Problem 1: Whether the jury clearly examines the facts of the case?

Research on this problem can be divided in two stages. One is the initial stage of discussion and
the other is the final stage.

Initially it has been observed that the jurors except the 8th one presume that the case is quite clear
and the accused is guilty without properly going through the facts and discussing on the case.
They assume that statements given by the lady and the old man are correct which might me
wrong. It has been shown that the 7th juror is in a hurry to finish of the case since he got tickets
of an evening show. For him the show is more important than the case. This has been proved by
his dialogue, “Let's vote now. Who knows, maybe we can all go home.” Moreover the 10th juror
calls the accused a liar just because he was a slum kid. The 10th juror said that, “We don't owe
him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? You know what that trial cost? He's lucky he got it.
Look, we're all grownups here. You're not going to tell us that we're supposed to believe him,
knowing what he is. I've lived among them all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You
know that.” According to him slum kids are liars since he has lived among them and observed
them. This observation by the 10th juror is an absurd one because one cannot observe someone
on the basis of others.
As stated above that the jurors also accept the statements of the old man and the lady who
were the witnesses to be true which might be wrong or false. This point was put up by the 8th
juror. He replied to the 10th juror by saying that, “I'd like to ask you something. How come you
believed her? She's one of "them" too, isn't she?” The 10th juror gets angry on the 8th one after he
said that. The 7th juror in consonance with the 10th juror takes the boy’s past records to decide on
this case. He said, “We can talk all day about this thing, but I think we’re wasting our time. Look
at the kid's record. At fifteen he was in reform school. He stole a car. He's been arrested for
mugging. He was picked up for knife-fighting. I think they said he stabbed somebody in the arm.
This is a very fine boy.” This was a vague statement since a person’s past records do not make
him guilty.
But in the final stages of discussion it is seen that the jurors after proper discussion can
find some ambiguity in the facts and there is a scope of reasonable doubt. Be it the statement of
the old man who said that he saw the boy running down the stairs, which might be false since he
was an old man and used to drag his feet while walking therefore he could have reached the
stairs to see the boy running, or be the statement of the lady who said that she saw the boy killing
his father, which was also under doubt since she in bed at that time and when she just casually
looked out of the window the murder took place and the 9th juror proved otherwise that she wore
spects ad since no one wears spects while going to bed what she saw might be a blurr. One more
important evidence within the ambit of reasonable doubt was that the knife was pierced upside
down which should have been opposite since that was the proper way to use it as proved by the
5th juror. If he would have used it upside down then his father would have got time to defend
himself.
Therefore it can be concluded that in the end the jurors clearly observed the facts and
found some scope of reasonable doubt and therefore gave the verdict of “not guilty”.

Problem 2: Is some emotional content of the jurors reflected while discussing the case?

Yes, it has been observed that emotional feelings have been conveyed in the discussion be it in
the boy’s favour (as by the 8th juror) or against him (as by the 3rd juror).

The 8th juror expresses some feelings in favour of the boy. This has been observed in the
lines, “Look, this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know, living in a slum, his mother
dead since he was nine. That's not a very good head start. He's a tough, angry kid. You know
why slum kids get that way? Because we knock them on the head once a day, every day. I think
maybe we owe him a few words. That's all.” Which have been said by the 8th juror himself.
On the other hand, the 3rd juror has some feelings against him whom he compares to his
own son with whom he did not have had a good relationship. He said, “It's the kids. The way
they are—you know? They don't listen. I've got a kid. When he was eight years old, he ran away
from a fight. I saw him. I was so ashamed, I told him right out, "I'm gonna make a man out of
you or I'm gonna bust you up into little pieces trying." When he was fifteen he hit me in the face.
He's big, you know. I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid! You work your heart out. All
right, let's get on with it.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 20th October 2015.< http://www.gradesaver.com/12-angry-men/study-guide/summary>


 20th October 2015.< http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/>
 20th October 2015.< http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-
title18/html/USCODE-2011-title18-partI-chap51-sec1111.htm>