Although Twelve Angry Men was shot in black and white and was an older movie, it still did an excellent job at showing just how biased and pre-determined a jury’s verdict can be. The movie showed how easy it is for people to bring in predisposed opinions based on their background, and jump to a verdict which may not be the right one. To start the movie there were essentially eleven juror members who felt as though they already knew the verdict of the case, and that their decision was correct and the best decision.
Some of the juror members’ racism played a part in their decision, as well as prior experiences with one juror member’s son. These men had their mind made up before even deliberating the case, but as we saw at the end of the movie they were wrong, and if it had not been for the first juror member to vote “not guilty” an innocent child would have been put to death for a crime in which he was not properly accused of committing. The first example of this we saw was with the juror member who had, had a bad relationship with his own son.
He made it clear that he did not like kids, and felt as though they were selfish and needed to be better put in line. He has gotten into a fist fight with his son several years ago, and had not talked to him since. This ate the man up inside, and he held a great deal of resentment towards himself and his son for the relationship that now did not exist between the two and for the fight they had had many years ago. Because of this relationship with his son, the man was quick to assume the kid was guilty, and saw his guilty vote as a way as getting back at his son.
This man was ready to put a kid to death for an event that had happened many years ago. He felt as though all kids were disrespectful and selfish, and because of this ideal, he was predisposed to a guilty verdict and was not willing to change his vote, or even hear evidence that showed the child was not guilty. In the film we also see a juror member who is more content on making it to the baseball game on time, then he is discussing the case and coming to a well-thought out verdict. This man was not interested in reviewing the facts of the case or hearing what other juror members had to say.
He voted guilty as the majority of the group did and we saw later on in the film that he only voted not guilty once it was too late for him to get to the game. This was a prime example of how people are sometimes selfish by nature and only think of their priorities and don’t think about the consequences of their actions. This happens every day in the real world, and this shows how easily it can happen within a court room. The boy on trial in the movie lived in the slums, and had been in and out of trouble his entire life.
This put him at an extreme disadvantage from the beginning of the trial as only one of the juror members had lived in the slums himself, and the majority of the rest had extreme negative views of people who lived in these areas. The other juror members saw where the boy had lived and saw the trouble he had been in before and automatically related that to a guilty verdict. These men thought for sure the kid had committed the act because of the place he lived, which he could not control, and the fact he had been in trouble before, which could be directly attributed to his surroundings and where he lived.
As the one juror member proved when he bought an identical knife to the one used in the murder, ones surroundings can lead them into trouble very easily, and in tough parts it is much easier to find trouble. Although it was easy to find trouble in the slums, that is in no way proof that someone committed any crime what so ever much less the murder of one’s own father. The one juror member who was also from the slums took great offense to these presumptions and spoke out defending where he was from.
The other jurors did not necessarily listen to his defense and I still feel as though they held their prejudices with them when deciding the verdict, but were ultimately able to see that these prejudices alone were not enough to convict someone of murder and have them put to death. At one point in the deliberation process one of the juror members made the statement that “their all liars by nature”, referring to people who were from the slums. This was in reference to the boys alibi that he was not home at the time of the murder, and that he had been at the movies.
The boy had not remembered the movie he saw or any of the actors/actresses in it, and the jury members could not understand how this was possible and simply assumed that because he had been from the slums he was lying. Once again this showed that because the boy was from the slums he was automatically looked at as a “bad” person, and because of this he must have committed the murder. Another excellent scene in the movie that showed the more than others the idea that jury members’ minds can already be made up or can make up their minds based on their backgrounds.
At one point during the deliberation one of the juror members had changed their decision and decided to vote not guilty. He had started to describe his reason for this change to the rest of the juror members when a juror member yelled out that his argument was irrelevant and didn’t matter because of the fact that “he barely speaks English! ” Once again prejudice had worked its way into the deliberation room and played an underlying factor in the juror member’s decision.
Lastly the oldest jury member provided us with the clearest example of how different people’s personalities and prior events in their life can affect their decisions in the court room. Originally having voted “guilty”, the old man would change his vote after having explained the rationale behind the old man that had testified. One of the main witnesses in the trial, the old man who lived below the boy, had testified that he was positive that it had been the boy in fact run past him as he knocked on the door after hearing arguing and a loud thump.
All of the juror members took this word and believed it without any doubt with the exception of the original member who voted not guilty, and the oldest juror member. However the oldest juror member explained how the old man could be lying and was in fact just looking for attention, because he might have been lonely now that he had become so old. Having been old himself the juror member expressed that it is lonely when you get old and sometimes people do crazy things in order to get that attention.
Twelve angry men demonstrates how people’s prejudices and backgrounds can influence their decision in the court room. This is a sad fact because a verdict should be based solely on facts from the case, and relevant information that has to do with the case directly. In the movie a boy was almost put to death without being properly convicted as the evidence did not thoroughly prove he was guilty. However because of the juror members backgrounds and prejudices they over looked this fact and were ready to put him to death.