Essay Paper on Twelve Angry Men
Twelve Angry Men The American legal system, based on the ancient idea of “innocent, until proven guilty;” has its share of advantages and disadvantages. They all serve to build a system that has suffered years of trials and tribulations, having lost much of their usefulness in today’s world. The cornerstone of the American legal system is the “trial by jury,” in which a citizen who has been accused of a crime, has the right to be judged by a group of his fellow citizens, who will have the evidence presented to them, and will subsequently rule based on the evidence as to the accused’s guilt or innocence.
The assumption in this system is that the jurors will judge their fellow man fairly and without any personal bias. Humans will be humans, however, making this system less than perfect. An excellent illustration of this point is in Twelve Angry Men, which is a fine example of a story about the conflict when logic and emotion collide. Set against mid-century America, the book revolves around the murder trial involving a troubled boy and his father.
Twelve men, essentially strangers to each other, must decide the fate of this boy-did he let his rage take control in the murder of his father, or is he merely being taken in as the most convenient suspect. In the beginning of the book, the twelve jurors file out of the court room, giving last glances to the defendant. The scene shifts into the jury room, where they slowly settle into their seats under the direction of the over-organized foreman. At first, based on their conversation, it seems that it will be a unanimous conviction. But when they take a vote, a single man votes “not guilty.” In the furor that follows, the other jurors immediately begin questioning the man, not understanding how he could possibly think that way.
The man, an architect, responds by saying that he “merely wants to talk.” Finally, as they see that they cannot bully the architect into going along with the group, he is asked to “tell us what you’re thinking and we’ll tell you where you’re mixed up.” At this stage in the book, the assumption of the other jurors was that the single hold-out was confused. They spend the rest of the time trying to convince him, to get him to relent. But instead, this single man is able to sway each of them in turn, by using logic to examine every witness’ testimony. The opposing jurors are eventually won over, setting their personal emotion and bias aside, and instead letting the facts prevail.
The resolution of Twelve Angry Men, while ideal, is generally not the norm in today’s society, however. It is stated several times throughout the movie that any other jury would convict, and I believe this to be true. There are too many examples in modern trials where the jury members pay little attention to the facts of the trial, instead letting the highly-paid lawyers dazzle them with suspicion, conspiracy and innuendo. It becomes a big game, not of guilt or innocence, but of which lawyer is more appealing to the jury. In fact, in high-level trials, lawyers will even hire jury consultants, who will try to come up with the best jury for the lawyer’s cause. They look for things such as race, gender and past experiences to help determine what a person’s biases are, in order to use them to the lawyer’s advantage.
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