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12 Angry Men

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12 Angry Men

In a world where the jury is the voice of the people's justice, twelve men sit in a room poised to determine the fate of one boy's life. Did he do it? If he didn't, who did? Why would a young man kill his beloved father with a switchblade knife? The moment that the jury-comprised of twelve Caucasian men, abhorrent in today's society-entered the small, blank, bleak room, they had already come to the conclusion that the young man was guilty as charged without deliberation. One lone man stood his ground and had the guts to stand up to the others and profess that he believed the man could not be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt due to conflicting information. How could he prove it?

Through verbal and nonverbal communication, the one lonely juror convinced the other eleven men of the young man's innocence. One can never underestimate the power of persuasion; even in the face of extreme prejudice, bias, ignorance, and conflicting personalities the juror persevered. Juror number eight was clever, cunning, and persuasive in his arguments for a not guilty verdict. He was able to point out the inconsistencies of eyewitnesses and the lackadaisical representation of the court appointed attorney provided. The turning point for juror number eight’s argument came when he reenacted the scene of the murder to prove that the eyewitness could not have made the journey from his bedroom to the hallway in fifteen seconds. The jury came back with a not guilty verdict due to the unrelenting juror who believed in the innocence of one man.

One of the most profound scenes in the movie is the entrance of the jurors into the deliberation chambers of the courtroom and the initial vote. This scene shows the jurors in their glory as they begin to voice and discuss their thoughts and beliefs about the cases and the accused. The jurors’ perception of the boy was solid upon entering the jury room due to their stereotyping of the boy and his rearing. Many presumed him guilty based on previous interactions or “known facts” of people growing up in a low socioeconomic environment. The fact that he was Latino and young-eighteen to be exact-aided the jurors in their presumption of his guilt. The only man that wanted to look at the boy as an individual and give him the benefit of the doubt was juror number eight. Because the jurors had generalized their experiences of this group of people, they walked in, cast their vote, and were ready to walk out with the verdict without deliberating; but with the non guilty ballot cast, they were not able to get out that easily.

Stereotyping -"…means to cast a person in a preset mold -- to deny individuality. The word comes from a copying process invented in 1725." The Engines of Our Ingenuity, John H. Lienhard, University of Houston-is a major concept in the beginning of this movie. Each man had already preconceived notions of the Latino community and how “all of them are”. These men were using stereotyping as a shortcut to put the boy away, regardless of his guilt. There is no way of knowing how or why these men learned to stereotype, although it is believed that stereotyping is learned from the environment that one is reared in; but we do know that they were using this behavior to avoid the difficult and arduous task or deliberating the fate of the young man.

Many of the men were resistant to listening to juror number eight and his grandiose ideas of innocence for the young man. Many listed the fact that he had come from a bad home-one juror even said that “slums are breeding grounds for criminals”-, was in foster care, and had been arrested for several crimes. The men had narrowed their arguments to profiling-“a form of stereotyping in which a group of individuals is singled out, typically on the basis of race or ethnicity for intensive inquiry, scrutinizing, or investigation”(Judge, 155). One juror was able to sympathize with the boy on trial because of his past. The juror was also raised in the slums but had made his way out and became appalled with the other jurors accusations of the slums being a breeding ground for criminals. He became incredulous and demanded that the juror who made the statement to revise what he said and recognize that not all individuals from the slums are criminals. This is a prime example of profiling.

Oral communication has played a huge factor in the deliberations in the jury room. Up to this point each juror has conveyed his belief through speech. “A verbal message can be conveyed and a response received in a minimal amount of time. If the receiver is unsure of the message, rapid feedback allows for early detection by the sender and, hence, allows for early correction” (Judge, 371) Some jurors were eloquent in the way they relayed their reasonings to the others, and some were very loud and abrupt and had little evidence to support their beliefs but relied purely on prejudices, biases, and ignorance in an effort to get a quick response. These jurors also used this opportunity to elicit any responses or feedback or make corrections to others’ reasonings. Many of the jurors relied on the oral messages that they received through the testimony of eyewitnesses in the courtroom. When they regurgitated the information in the jury room, however, some of the messages could have been, and probably were, distorted. This is why many people prefer to hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth.” Others used the testimony to prove the beliefs of others wrong or to find a reasonable doubt to vote not guilty.

The jurors combined their verbal communication with nonverbal communication to emphasize their opinion to persuade them towards a unanimous guilty verdict. The jurors persuaded with simple gestures such as …a glance, a stare, a smile, a frown, and a provocative body movement that all



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