12 Angry Men: Reaction Paper The film 12 Angry Men gives an inside look at the inner workings of a jury deliberation as twelve random strangers are called to do their civil duty. In a group of diverse people from different backgrounds, Henry Fonda’s character attempts to convince the rest of his fellow jurors not to easily convict a troubled young man just because it would be the simple solution to all of their problems. The jurors are placed in extreme circumstances in which heat and angst drive them to push for a guilty verdict, despite the clear evidence of reasonable doubt presented through the trials facts.
In the end, Henry Fonda’s character gets the other jurors to realize that all of the evidence is circumstantial and they present a not guilty verdict to the judge. This film presents a situation in which it becomes clear that previous prejudices can influence the verdict that certain jurors hand down. It is difficult for people to become unbiased, even in cases that require them to be. The backgrounds of the various jurors came to light throughout their deliberations. The one juror that took the most convincing was one that was carrying emotional baggage involving his own tumultuous relationship with his estranged son.
Another juror clearly looked down on the defendant’s impoverished background. One man could care less about the situation and just wanted to make a baseball game that night. The jurors had their reasons for voting the ways that they did, but this proves that everyone has bias based on their backgrounds and past life experiences. The only way that someone can form an opinion is because they have a moral compass that guides them as to what they accept to be right and wrong. This is what drives a person’s beliefs, and this is what influences them the most if they are placed on a jury.
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The deliberation room also caused an uncomfortable situation for the jurors. Most people dread the day that they will be called upon to serve on a jury. It seems like a tedious job that takes away from the important things in their personal lives. The extreme heat in the room, plus the eventual rain just heightened the tension, and may have caused the jurors to argue with one another. Most of the jurors just wanted to get out of there, but they were reminded that there was a person’s life at stake and they could not take that responsibility lightly. This is an important point o remember because most people do not care one way or another whether a person they do not know goes to jail or not. This is why everyone should take their civil duties seriously. The jurors treated the defendant as if he was the one who had to prove his innocence, as opposed to the commonly held notion of the prosecution being given the burden of proof. Everything in the case was his fault. Because the knife was unusual, he had to have been the one to stab his father. Because the lady said she saw him killing someone, then she must have been telling the truth.
To the jurors who presented a vote for guilt, all of the evidence was clear and they had no doubt that the man was guilty. Henry Fonda’s character presents to his peers that the defendant did not even have to open his mouth. He should not have to prove his innocence, it is implied in the Constitution. This helps show why evidence gathering is so important to cases. If evidence is gathered properly, then bias can show through in police work. The jurors assumed that the cops were diligent with their investigation, so the defendant must be guilty because the cops would not have arrested him if he were not.
The bias of the jurors in favor of law enforcement officers persuaded them to vote for a conviction while deliberating. The jurors also were presented with evidence that was circumstantial at best. Henry Fonda’s character attempts to prove that the facts of the case do not add up. Everything that the prosecution had laid out before them was based on multiple assumptions. They assumed that the lady across the street could see through a passing train. They assumed that the old man could walk to his front door in 15 seconds.
They assumed that the boy would stab his father downward in the chest. All of these assumptions would lead anyone to believe that the young man was guilty, but when taken as parts of a whole, the case starts to break down. The lady could not have seen the boy through the train from 60 feet away at night if she wore glasses. The old man could not get up from his bed and make it to his door if he was walking with a limp. The defendant could not have stabbed his father downward because his instincts with a switchblade would have told him to stab forward, not down.
It is surprising how poorly the case was thrown together, yet random strangers were so convinced that they were right to want to convict a seemingly troubled young man based on simple assumptions. Henry Fonda’s character was not trying to prove that the young man was innocent. He was trying to prove that there was reasonable doubt in the case. In the beginning of the votes, he insisted that he voted not guilty because he believed that the boy deserved better than a five-minute deliberation when a life is at stake. It is hard for common people to place themselves in others’ shoes because most people do not see themselves as criminals.
Anyone who has a previous history of delinquency is automatically assumed to be a repeat offender when it comes to crime. The beauty of the U. S. criminal justice system is the fact that innocence does not have to be proven. Everyone is assumed to be innocent, but this is hard for jurors to contemplate when they have been presented with what they believe to be facts by the prosecution. The bias of the various jurors was apparent throughout the deliberation. Only when the rest of the men refused to entertain foolishness did one juror give up his prejudice rant against people from the slums of town.
No matter how much a jury is supposed to be fair, everyone will have bias in their decisions because decisions are based on past experiences of others. The criminal justice system is not perfect, but it attempts to be fair to those who cannot defend themselves. This film shows a positive point of the trial system. One person stands up for the defendant and tries to prove that his life is worth at least a second look. This is why most people would rather have a jury of their peers determining their fate, as opposed to a single judge and executioner.
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