Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

12 Angry Men

 What About It?

"Twelve Angry Men" is a film that many consider one of the greatest films of all time and was Oscar nominated for best picture, director and writing. This was also Director Sidney Lumet's first feature film, a fact which strikes me as astounding, given the complexity involved. To make such a powerful movie the first time out is miraculous. The idea of keeping an audience's attention on twelve men stuck in a room together talking is also a daunting task, (which was helped by some truly fine acting talent.) Lumet's technique is subtle and very effective, lowering the camera in each act and varying the lighting, to increase the sense of claustrophobia.

This is as good an example of a top notch ensemble cast as exists anywhere, although the magnetism of Henry Fonda, played against Lee J. Cobb's bitter stubbornness is the centerpiece that everyone gathers around. That being said, every juror in the room is notable in one respect or another and each man believes he is doing the right thing by his own reasoning. Each man has his own prejudices and quirks, and it's easy to see why at first glance they would all assume a guilty verdict.

While the film possibly presents a victory of the legal system, the implication is a lot less uplifting. If Henry Fonda's Juror #8 hadn't been in the room with his amazingly stubborn refusal to cave in when every other person in the room believed he was way off base, then what would have happened? Is it reasonable to expect that every jury have a Henry Fonda? I don't think so. On the other hand we can't assume that every jury will have a Juror #3, intent on a guilty verdict no matter what the facts may be. The reality is likely somewhere in between, and better represented by the jurors between the two polar opposites. Yet, if we look at the in between in this film we would definitely reach an almost instant guilty verdict.

Most of us have known people like each of the jurors and their traits are diverse enough that anyone could even find parts of themselves in each of them.
Juror #1, who tries hard to be fair, but needs to feel a sense of his own authority, which is easily threatened. Juror #2, timid and completely insecure in his own opinion. He instinctively goes along with the group.
Juror #3, so bitter, that he can't even see his own agenda, skilled at deflection and denial, so steeped in masking his real issues that he would send a man to death to take out his anger at his own son.
Juror #4, unemotional but fair, accepting only what he perceives as fact.
Juror #5, insecure and defensive about his own upbringing, and the closet thing to a "peer" the accused kid has. He's mostly reasonable, and makes up his own mind.
Juror #6, blue collar, somewhat cynical about anyone's innocence, but not maliciously so.
Juror #7, supremely self interested, seeing jury duty as an inconvenience keeping him from a ball game. Even knowing they're discussing a boy's life doesn't change his lack of concern.
Juror #8, the architect, determined that an innocent boy won't go to the chair without a thorough examination of every area with room for doubt. Self confident and stubborn, unfazed by the prospect of being the only dissenter.
Juror #9, the elderly man, pays close attention to detail, genuinely interested in doing the right thing.
Juror #10, his most prominent feature is the way his racism affects his every opinion about the case.
Juror #11, wants to follow the system properly, appreciating it differently than the others by virtue of coming from another country which didn't offer the freedoms and safeties he finds in the American legal system. Juror #12, similar to #7 in his extreme self interest. While he's a bit more polished than #7, he would rather talk about advertising than deliberate the points of the case.

These characters are all exaggerations, designed to highlight the different viewpoints that can be present in such a gathering. Each presents a piece of the group dynamic. One shared characteristic of most of them is that they are content to follow another's lead, whether Juror #8 of Juror #3. In this case Juror #8, knew how to present himself and presented his doubts better than #3 presented his certainty. No one wanted to side with Juror #8 against the other 11 jurors. Only Juror #9, the old man, who was unconcerned with social standing was willing to make that leap, and even he only did so out of respect for Juror #8's guts in standing alone.

Despite their knowledge that they were dealing with a young man's life, they were still concerned with the group's approval. Juror #8 wisely worked with the group dynamic to allow each Juror to change his mind in a way that felt acceptable to him. It's telling that the "outsiders" came around to his viewpoint first, the elderly Juror #9, the "raised in the slums #5, and the immigrant #11. Once there was a respectable number of "Not Guilty" votes, Juror #2 felt comfortable switching his vote, being himself an outsider, but also easily intimidated. Juror #6, the "average" guy now has the ability to entertain the facts, without a huge majority leaning either way, and considering the doubts presented changes his vote. With the numbers even at that point, and unable to deny the momentum of going from one Not guilty vote to six, the self interested are the next to change votes, partly to get what they see as the inevitable process over with. This leaves the three Jurors requiring extra persuasion. Juror #10, is persuaded by the room's unanimous rejection of his racist reasoning, which is only possible on the level that it occurs due to the growing majority. Juror #4, is all about the facts, and considers himself the smartest man in the room, only by appealing to knowledge about eyeglasses that only he himself has is he able to be swayed. This leaves only Juror #3, who is "peer pressured" into coming to grips with his own baggage. Certainly the facts and lack of them, is important, but as shown, the facts themselves would not have changed the Guilty verdict to Not Guilty.

In my opinion, this is the biggest danger of the jury system, the fact that group dynamics, can overpower the facts. I think that most jurors, have a suspicion that a man who is on trial is not on trial for no reason. We trust authority figures more than the average citizen. A policeman's testimony on the stand carries more weight than that of the man he arrested. The jurors here come to recognize Juror #8 as an authority figure, giving in to his determination and self confidence. While it's fortunate that he's working to give the accused a chance, making him just a little dumber and less charismatic, and making Juror #8 a touch more stable and objective would have changed the whole equation.

"12 Angry Men" is just a movie, but the issues it raises are as relevant now as they were then. Our jury system has not changed.Many people view the courts as a place where people, win by hiring the better lawyer. Do we really observe "innocent until proven guilty." to the point of "beyond a reasonable doubt?" I would speculate that the answer is "sometimes." I'm sure that some juries are as diligent as they can possibly be, but I'm just as sure that some are not. Some would answer such an assertion with the challenge to stop complaining if you don't have a better solution, but I don't accept that. The point of this movie to me is to ask some difficult questions, and take a look at where what we have can go wrong. It's wonderful that this movie is shown to schoolchildren to expose them to the danger's inherent in our system. This is a film I think we can all benefit from watching now and then, because someone's life or liberty could be at stake, and while we can't help the fact that the system isn't perfect, we can at least take it seriously enough to try to be aware of where it fails.

Fittingly I think, we don't know any more than the jurors do if the accused kid killed his father. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't. That's what Juror #8's battle is really about, the fact that they can't know that. They are presented evidence that makes it appear that he did, and the Jury's response is to accept the evidence, arriving at the conclusion that he must have done it, and it needs to be proven that he didn't, the opposite of the law's requirement, yet a natural reaction, drawing guilt from the accusation.  To shift the burden of proof to the accuser, is a monumental undertaking which is only done by him accepting that their understanding in reversed and proving to them "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the case has a lot of holes in it. He points out this fact many times, but none of them understand it until the "proof" is scrutinized.  Rather than assume innocence, they assume guilt, and Juror #8 is forced to examine the case through this standard rather than the one prescribed by law.While Henry Fonda, might make it look like a walk in the park, I fear this task would be too much for most of us.

Sidney Lumet has said that the screenwriter Reginald Rose, believed that people were essentially good, a fact which Lumet himself doesn't agree with, but all the same, he loved the story. Personally, I can see the story serving both points of view. We can take it totally at face value and point to it as an example of the system working, but the difficulty and uncertainty in reaching this point suggest that next time it likely won't.  If we had 12 men itching like Juror #7 to see a ball game, this would have been a much different and much shorter movie. It's also notable, and a sign of the times, that the boys jury of "peers" was twelve white men who, except for Juror #5, had nothing in common with the accused at all. The problems the jury faces however are anything but outdated, as "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "innocent until proven guilty" are principles that our system still wrestles with today, and the stakes are exactly the same.

Justice prevails here perhaps, but I don't see any choice but to view it as anecdotal evidence. A brilliant film, which I think serves us better as a warning to how easy it is for the system to fail, than as a shining example of how well it works.

What Happens?

It's understandable that the idea of being tangled in the American court system is a less than comforting thought. The jury system is ideally designed to have your fate decided by your peers. Peers is a relative term though, meaning people chosen by random selection of any possible background, personalities, and outlooks. The idea of a jury systemoffers the potential for justice, but a terrifying possibility for justice being diverted.

"12 Angry Men" starts out after the case has concluded, the case being one of first degree murder, a Puerto Rican boy accused of killing his father. The Judge instructs the jurors:
"You've listened to a long and complex case, murder in the first degree. Premeditated murder is the most serious charge tried in our criminal courts. You've listened to the testimony, you've had the law read to you and interpreted as it applies in this case, it's now your duty to sit down and try to separate the facts from the fancy. One man is dead, another man's life is at stake, if there's a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused, uh a reasonable doubt, then you must bring me a verdict of "Not Guilty". If, however, there's no reasonable doubt, then you must, in good conscience, find the accused "Guilty". However you decide, your verdict must be unanimous. In the event that you find the accused "Guilty", the bench will not entertain a recommendation for mercy. The death sentence is mandatory in this case. You're faced with a grave responsibility, thank you, gentlemen."

The Jury settles into the jury room to discuss the verdict. They start to get acquainted, making conversation. Juror #6 (Edward Binns) struggles to open one of the windows, getting some help from Juror #7 (Jack Warden) who informs them that this will be "the hottest day of the year." A guard checks them off and tells them he'll be outside if they need anything. They all take notice when he locks them in. The foreman, Juror #1 (Martin Balsam)starts making ballots so they can vote, as the rest of them discuss the case amongst each other. Juror #2 (John Fiedler) mentions that he found it interesting as he's never served in a jury before, prompting Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb) to tell him that he's served on many of them, adding: "What gets me is the way those lawyers talk and talk and talk, even when it's an open and shut case like this one. I mean, did you ever hear so much talk about nothing?"
Juror #2: Well, I guess they're entitled.
Juror #3: They're entitled. It's the system, but if you ask me, I'd slap those tough kids down before they start any trouble.

Juror #1 calls them to the table and hands out ballots. Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) stands alone at the window, until he's joined by Juror #12, (Robert Webber) who tells him that "they were lucky to get a murder case." remarking that minor cases can be "the dullest."  Juror #7 and Juror #10 (Ed Begley)  talk about some points of the case at the table, attracting 8 and 10's attention. Juror #7 starts getting impatient, demanding the foreman get things going. They have to wait for a juror who is in the bathroom. Juror #3 asks Juror #4 (E.G. Marshall) about the newspaper he's reading. Juror 4 reveals that he's a broker, checking the stock market, this prompts Juror 3 to brag about the courier business he owns that he "started with nothing."

Juror #1 calls everyone to the table, prompting Juror #7 to remark that he'd like to get out quickly, as he has tickets to a ball game tonight. They agree to sit around the table in order of their jury numbers. Juror #12 tells Juror #11 (George Voskovec) enthusiastically that he was impressed with the prosecutor. Eleven answers, having some difficulty with English, that he thought he "did an expert job." Juror #8 is the last to sit down, having to be called away from his thoughts at the window. As he sits down, Juror #10 is already talking as if the kid is guilty. They still have to knock on the door to get the last and eldest juror, Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney) out of the bathroom. While they wait, Juror #7 asks Juror #5 (Jack Klugman) if he's a Yankees fan, giving him a hard time when he reveals he actually likes Baltimore.

Juror #1 tells them that they can handle it how they like, but suggests taking a vote as an idea. They agree to take a preliminary vote. Juror #7 adds, "Who knows, maybe we can all get out of here." still anxious to catch his game. Juror #1 reminds them that a guilty vote sends the kid to the chair. Juror #1 asks for a show of hands for those voting guilty, which results in eleven votes, with only Juror #8 voting Not Guilty. Juror #10 remarks smugly, "Boy oh boy, there's always one!" When Juror #7 asks what they do next, Juror #8 suggests that they talk. Juror #3 asks Juror #8, "Do you really think he's innocent?" Juror 8 says he doesn't know.
Juror#3: You sat in court with the rest of us. You heard what we did. The kid's a dangerous killer. You could see it.
Juror #8: He's eighteen years old!
Juror #3: Well that's old enough. He stabbed his own father four inches into the chest. They proved it a dozen different ways in court. Would you like me to list them for you?
Juror#8: No.
Juror #10 Then what do you want?
Juror #8: I just want to talk.
Juror #7: Well what's there to talk about? Eleven men in here think he's guilty. No one had to think twice about it, except you.
Juror#7 questions him about voting not guilty, when he reveals that he doesn't necessarily believe the kid's story himself. Juror #8 tells him that there were already eleven guilty votes, and it wasn't easy to add his hand knowing it would send the kid off to die. Juror #7 assures him that it wasn't easy for him either, and he only voted guilty so quickly because he's convinced of the kid's guilt. Juror # 8 says "We're talking about somebody's life here.  We can't decide in five minutes. Supposing we're wrong?" Juror #8 suggests that they take an hour to discuss it, smartly pointing out that Juror #7 could still make his ball game.They agree to sit for an hour, and #10, offers to tell them "a great story he heard last night." This angers Juror #8 who says "That's not why we're sitting here!"
Juror #10: All right, then you tell me. What are we sitting here for?
Juror #8: Look this kid's been kicked around all of his life. You know, born in a slum, mother dead since he was nine. He lived for a year and a half in an orphanage when his father was serving a jail term for forgery. That's not a very happy beginning. He's a wild angry kid, that's all he's ever been. And, you know why? Because he's been hit on the head by somebody, once a day, every day. He's had a pretty miserable 18 years. I just think we owe him a few words, that's all.
Juror#10: I don't mind telling you this mister. We don't owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? What do you think that trial cost? He's lucky he got it. Know what I mean?
He launches into a tirade about Puerto Ricans, calling them born liars. This prompts Juror #9 to stand up and tell Juror #10 that "only an ignorant man can believe that." and asking Juror #10 "Do you think you were born with a monopoly on the truth?"Juror #1 interrupts, calming them down. He asks Juror #8 to explain his reasoning, so that they can help find why "he's all mixed up."

Juror #12 suggests that it's up to the 11 of them to convince him that they're right. Juror 1 likes the idea and proposes that they go around the table to do that. Juror #2, "just thinks he's guilty" and nobody proved otherwise. Juror #8 reminds him that they shouldn't have to as the burden of proof goes the other way. Juror #3 recounts the "facts" of the case, leaning on a neighbor's testimony as presented in court. Juror #4 doesn't believe the kid's story that he was at the movies during the killing because he couldn't remember the name of the movie he saw. Jurors 10 and 11 chime in at that, talking about an eyewitness. Juror #10, gets out of his seat, recounting her story and the circumstances. Juror # 8 asks him why he believes her story and not the kid's considering that the woman was "one of them too." Juror #10 gets angry at the smart rebuttal.

Juror #5 looks nervous and elects to pass on his turn. Juror #6 explains that he was looking for a motive, and that eyewitness accounts of an argument between the boy and his father helped provide it for him.Juror #8, doesn't buy a couple slaps in the face as enough of a motive, considering the boy got slapped every day. Juror #7 brings up the boy's criminal history. This causes Juror #3 to start talking about "kids today" which leads him into a story about his own kid, and a fight they had, and the fact that they haven't spoken in years. Juror #4 assets that kids from slum backgrounds are menaces to society, which Juror #10 is quick to agree with. Juror #5 decides to speak up at this point, telling them that he's lived in a slum all his life and played in "the backyards filled with garbage." He challenges Juror #10 by saying "Maybe you can still smell it on me." Juror #1 mistakenly calls on Juror #8, although they had agreed that it was only the rest of them trying to convince him. Juror #1 gets offended when they stop him from correcting his mistake, offering the foreman position to Juror #10 and Juror #12, before they calm him down. Juror #8 gives his take:
Juror# 8: According to the testimony, the boy looks guilty... maybe he is. I sat there in court for six days listening while the evidence built up. Everybody sounded so positive, you know, I... I began to get a peculiar feeling about this trial. I mean nothing is that positive. There're a lot of questions I'd have liked to ask. I don't know, maybe they wouldn't have meant anything, but... I began to get the feeling that the defense counsel wasn't conducting a thorough enough cross-examination. I mean he... he let too many things go by... little things that...
Juror #10: What little things? Listen, when these fellas don't ask questions it's because they know the answers already and they figure they'll be hurt.
Juror #8: Maybe. It's also possible for a lawyer to be just plain stupid, isn't it? I mean it's possible.
Juror #7: You sound like you met my brother-in-law.
Juror #8 also point out that the eyewitnesses could possibly be mistaken, and then they start discussing the knife that was considered the murder weapon. Juror: 4 attempts to point out the impossibility of the boy dropping the knife as he claimed on the stand and then having it picked up by the killer. Juror #4 points out that it's an unusual knife, dramatically sticking it into the table, claiming someone having a similar knife isn't possible. Juror #3 agrees that it isn't possible. Juror #8 then produces his own identical knife, telling them that he went for a walk in the boy's neighborhood and bought it for $6.00.

Juror #7 starts getting bothered by the time they're spending, and Juror #10 gets agitated as well, but it's clear that the the knife has caused some doubts among the rest of them. Juror #8 offers to let them take a new vote by secret ballot, which he'll abstain from. If they all still vote guilty, he'll side with them rather than stand alone, but if anyone else votes not guilty, they stay and discuss it. The vote turns up another not guilty vote. Juror #3 attacks Juror #5 claiming that he knows it was him who voted not guilty. They nearly get into a fight, and Juror #3 is angry that Juror #8 is keeping them from "sending a guilty man to the chair where he belongs." He asks Juror #5 what made him change his vote when Juror #9 reveals that it was he who changed his vote. Juror's   and 10 don't want to hear what changed his mind, but he insists on telling them anyway. He reveals that he voted not guilty out of respect to Juror #8, and the difficulty he must have had standing alone against them. He states that he still thinks that the boy is probably guilty, but wants to hear more. Juror #7 is disgusted, and leaves the room. When Juror #9 yells that he can't leave, Juror #8 stops him, saying "He can't hear you, and probably never will." Juror #1 suggests a break until Juror #7 returns from the bathroom. Juror #12 starts talking about himself and the advertising business, to Juror #11 who reveals that he is a watchmaker.

Juror #3 apologizes to Juror #5, and tells him he's glad that he's not "one of those who lets these emotional appeals influence him." Juror #5 doesn't acknowledge this. Juror #8, joins Juror #7 in the bathroom. Juror #7 asks if he's a salesman, (Juror #8 responds that he's an architect) telling him that he really has the "soft sell" down. He urges Juror #8 to come around and decide he's guilty. Juror # 6 also visits the bathroom, taking the opportunity to try to convince Juror #8 as well. Juror #8 asks him to suppose it was him on trial.
Juror #6: Well, I'm not used to supposin'. I'm just a workin' man. My boss does all the supposin' - but I'll try one. Supposin' you talk us all out of this and, uh, the kid really did knife his father?

They reconvene at the table. This time they start focusing on the witnesses. Juror #4 points out the facts and Juror #8 starts discussing them, interrupting himself when he sees Jurors 3 and 12 playing tic tac toe across the table. He grabs their paper off the table and declares "this isn't a game!" He points out that combining the witnesses accounts, a woman who saw the murder through a passing El train and a downstairs neighbor who only overheard the commotion, it's unlikely that both are reliable, because being that close to the El train, would've made it too noisy to hear a body hit the floor. Juror #3 has another outburst saying "you're talking about a matter of seconds! Nobody can be that accurate." Juror #8 responds "Well, I think testimony that could put a boy in the electric chair should be that accurate." Jurors 5 and 6 start considering this. Juror #3 gets upset when Juror #9 suggests that the witness could have lied to get attention. Juror #6 gets angry with Juror #3 for his tome talking to the old man, and threatens to "lay him out" if he does it again. Juror #9 goes on about the witnesses motives describing him:
 "The seam of his jacket was split under the shoulder...to come to court like that...He was a very old man in a torn jacket and he walked very slowly to the stand. He was dragging his left leg and trying to hide it because he was ashamed. I think I know this man better than anyone here. This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant old man who has been nothing all his life - who has never had recognition - or his name in the newspapers. Nobody knows him. Nobody quotes him. Nobody seeks his advice after seventy-five years. Gentlemen, that's a very sad thing to be nothing. A man like this needs to be quoted, to be listened to, to be quoted just once - very important to him...He wouldn't really lie. But perhaps he made himself believe that he heard those words and recognized the boy's face."

Juror #8 then talks about the phrase "I'm gonna kill you!" claiming the kid was too bright to yell this out in front of the whole neighborhood if he was planning to do that. Juror #10 interjects "Bright? He's a common ignorant slob. He don't even speak good English!"
Juror #11 (The European immigrant) corrects him "He doesn't even speak good English."
Juror #5 then tells the foreman he'd like to change his vote to not guilty. Juror #3 acts shocked, but he sticks to his guns, leaving the vote at 9 to 3. Juror #7 isn't pleased, likening Juror #8's story to a detective novel, pointing out that the kid's own lawyer looked like he thought the kid was guilty, which Juror #8 points out as a problem for the case, not any indicator of guilt.
Juror # 11 asks to read his notes, stating that he sees some of Juror #8's points. Juror 11 points out that the boy returning to the scene three hours later doesn't make sense.  Other jurors suggest that he wanted to recover the knife. Juror #10 has an outburst and Juror #11 changes his vote making it 8 to 4. Juror #3 starts demanding that people defend why they changed their vote, which they refuse to acknowledge. Juror #7 starts attacking Juror #8's stories again. They start questioning the old man's testimony about seeing the kid leaving the building. Juror #8 asks to see the building's floor plan to establish whether the old man with a bad leg could've run to the door in fifteen seconds, to see the boy fleeing, as he claimed he did. Juror #3 gets agitated about it, trying to diminish the importance of the old man's testimony, he says "He was an old man. Half the time he was confused! How could he be positive about anything?" We see the look on his face as what he said dawns on him. Juror #8 demonstrates with the floor plan that the old man making it to the door in that time is unlikely. Juror #8 walks the same distance that the old man would have, while being timed showing that he couldn't have done it. Juror #8 speculates that the old man didn't see the person running away but assumed it was the boy.The display seems convincing and prompts another outburst from Juror #3.

Juror # 3: Assumed? Brother, I've seen all kinds of dishonesty in my day, but this little display takes the cake. You all come in here with your hearts bleeding all over the floor about slum kids and injustice. You listen to some fairy tales. Suddenly, you start getting through to some of these old ladies. Well, you're not getting through to me. I've had enough.What's the matter with you guys? You all know he's guilty. He's got to burn. You're letting him slip through our fingers.
Juror # 8: Slip through our fingers? Are you his executioner?
Juror # 3: I'm one of 'em.
Juror # 8: Perhaps you'd like to pull the switch.
Juror # 3: For this kid? You bet I would.
Juror # 8: I feel sorry for you. What it must feel like to want to pull the switch! Ever since you walked into this room, you've been acting like a self-appointed public avenger. You want to see this boy die because you personally want it - not because of the facts. You're a sadist! (He then attempts to reach Juror #8, but they hold him back.)
Juror # 3: Let me go! I'll kill him! I'll kill him!
Juror # 8: You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?

The guard checks in on the noise, but the foreman assures him they're fine. Everyone sits down quietly. Juror #11 makes a comment that they need to stop fighting. Telling them that they're not appreciating the sense of democracy, as he does, coming from a country that doesn't have it. Juror #6 suggests another vote. Juror #10 suggests an open vote, calling each juror to announce their vote. Jurors #2 and 6 change their votes, making it 6 to 6. Juror # 10 tells the "not guilty" jurors that there's something wrong with them, changing their votes for "a kid like that." Juror #9 calls him on the statement, reminding him that it's supposed to be about facts, to which Juror #10 says "I'm sick and tired of facts! You can twist them any way you want them!" Juror #9 points out that's what Juror #8 has been saying all along.
Juror #2 starts sticking up for himself when Jurors 7 and 10 give him a hard time about his vote. He explains that he sees room for doubt. A storm starts up outside, breaking up the heat a bit. The tension breaks in the room a bit and everyone is calmer. Juror #3 defends himself to Juror #4 saying he had no right to call him a sadist, and he lost his temper because he's "an excitable person." and #8 was "trying to bait him" Juror #4 remarks "He did an excellent job." Juror # 10 then announces that he's going to go into court and declare a hung jury, which Juror #7 agrees with. Juror #8 doesn't think the judge will accept that, but Juror #7 thinks they should try it anyway, pointing out that "this kid wouldn't stand a chance with another jury." Juror #7 declares when asked that he doesn't think there's room for reasonable doubt. Juror #11 suggests that maybe #7 doesn't understand the definition of reasonable doubt, which prompts Juror #7 to comment on #11's immigrant status, saying that "they're all alike. They come over here running for their life, and before they can take a deep breath, they're telling us how to run the show."
The foreman quiets them down, and Juror #8 starts discussing the boy's movie alibi, suggesting that he remembered what he saw in court, but could've forgotten at the scene of the crime because of the stress of his arrest and having his dead father in the room. Juror #8 then tests Juror #4's memory, asking about the details of the past week. Juror #4 recalls a movie he saw incorrectly. Juror #8 points out that Juror #4 wasn't under any emotional stress. Juror #2 brings up a point that's been bothering him about the angle of the stab wound. It doesn't make sense to him that the wound was a downward stroke high on the father's chest, which would have been difficult, since the father was much taller than his son.Juror # 3 offers to demonstrate with the knife, but no one volunteers to assist him. He approaches Juror #8, intending to use him as his subject, which is an interesting moment given the great tension between them. Juror #8 stands still but the other jurors all jump to their feet when he pulls back with the knife. Juror #5 reveals that he's seen knife fights and tells them that anyone who has ever used a switchblade would use it underhanded. Going around the room for opinions on the stabbing, Juror #7 says he's changing his vote to not guilty. His reasoning infuriates Juror #3 as well as Juror #11
Juror #7: I don't know about the rest of 'em but I'm gettin' a little tired of this yakity-yack and back-and-forth, it's gettin' us nowhere. So I guess I'll have to break it up; I change my vote to not guilty.
Juror #3: You what?
Juror #7: You heard me, I... had enough.
Juror #3: What do you mean you've had enough? That's no answer!
Juror #7: Hey listen, you just uh... take care of yourself, huh? You know?
Juror #11: He's right. That's not an answer. What kind of a man are you? You have sat here and voted "guilty" with everyone else because there are some baseball tickets burning a hole in your pocket? And now you've changed your vote because you say you're sick of all the talking here?
Juror #7: Now listen buddy!
Juror #11: Who tells you that you have the right like this to play with a man's life? Don't you care...
Juror #7: Now wait a minute! You can't talk like that to me!
Juror #11: I can talk like that to you! If you want to vote not guilty then do it because you are convinced the man is not guilty, not because you've had enough. And if you think he is guilty then vote that way! But don't you have the guts to do what you think is right?
Juror #7: Now listen...
Juror #11: Guilty or not guilty?
Juror #7: I told ya! Not guilty!
Juror #11: Why?
Juror #7: ...Look, I don't have to...
Juror #11: You do have to! Say it! Why?
Juror #7: Uhh... I don't uh... think he's guilty!
They take another vote by show of hands, jurors 12 and 1 both change their minds, making the vote 9 to 3. Juror #10 gives another outburst on "how they are."
Juror #10:I don't understand you people! I mean all these picky little points you keep bringing up. They don't mean nothing. You saw this kid just like I did. You're not gonna tell me you believe that phony story about losing the knife, and that business about being at the movies. Look, you know how these people lie! It's born in them! I mean what the heck? I don't have to tell you. They don't know what the truth is! And lemme tell you, they don't need any real big reason to kill someone, either! No sir!
[Juror #5 leaves the table]]
Juror #10: They get drunk... oh, they're real big drinkers, all of 'em - you know that - and bang: someone's lyin' in the gutter. Oh, nobody's blaming them for it. That's the way they are! By nature! You know what I mean? Violent!
[Juror #9 leaves the table]
Juror #10: Where're you going?
Juror #10: Human life don't mean as much to them as it does to us!
[Juror #11 leaves the table]
Juror #10: Look, they're lushing it up and fighting all the time and if somebody gets killed, so somebody gets killed! They don't care! Oh, sure, there are some good things about 'em, too. Look, I'm the first one to say that.
[Juror #8 leaves the table]
Juror #10: I've known a couple who were OK, but that's the exception, y'know what I mean?
[Jurors#2 and 6 leave the table]
Juror #10: Most of 'em, it's like they have no feelings! They can do anything! What's goin' on here? I'm trying to tell you... you're makin' a big mistake, you people! This kid is a liar! I know it. I know all about them! Listen to me! They're no good! There's not a one of 'em who is any good! I mean, what's happening in here? I'm speaking my piece, and you...
[Jurors #1 and 12 leave the table]
Juror #10: Listen to me. We're... This kid on trial here... his type, well, don't you know about them? There's a, there's a danger here. These people are dangerous. They're wild. Listen to me. Listen.
Juror #4: I have. Now sit down and don't open your mouth again.

Juror #8 then discusses the difficulty of what they're doing, taking the edge off the tirade they just endured:
"It's always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don't really know what the truth is. I don't suppose anybody will ever really know. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we're just gambling on probabilities - we may be wrong. We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don't know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that's something that's very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's sure. We nine can't understand how you three are still so sure. Maybe you can tell us."

Juror #4 acknowledges that he's made good points but his certainty is due to the woman across the street who was an eyewitness, and of her evidence, the fact that she said she saw the boy stab down with his hand over his head, which matches how the wound appeared. Juror #3 enthusiastically backs him up. Juror #4 recounts the woman's testimony and puts it back to the rest of them, giving them all pause. Juror #12 says he's going back to a guilty vote, making it 8 to 4. Juror #3 then stands up as if to take charge. Juror #11 asks him why this one vote is such a victory to him, to which Juror #3 doesn't respond, suggesting instead that he take it to the judge as a hung jury. He presents the idea to Juror #8 as "the leader of the cause" Juror #8 suggests they go over it again. Juror #3 gets upset about this saying "We've been over this again!" Juror #4 criticizes Juror #3 for trying to "turn this into a contest." This quiets Juror #3 and Juror #4 proposes setting a time limit, which Juror #7 quickly agrees with. Juror #9 notices that Juror #4 is rubbing his nose, and questions him about it. Juror #4 reveals that his nose bothers him because of his eyeglasses, and tells them that the eyewitness had the same marks from glasses on her nose, and rubbed her nose the same way, although she didn't have glasses in court.

Many of the other jurors agree with this, and Juror #4 admits that he saw the glasses marks on her nose as well. When asked by Juror #8, Juror #4 also admits that no one wears eyeglasses to bed (which is where she was when she saw the murder) Juror #8 points out that she said the murder happened "just as she looked out the window, making it unlikely that she had time to put her glasses on. Juror #3 loudly protests, stating they can't know that. Juror #8 responds that they don't have to know, but there is a doubt, as the woman would have had to see clearly without her glasses sixty feet away. Juror #3 goes so far as to claim it's not possible the woman made a mistake. Juror #8 gets up from the table and approaches Juror #12, who changes his vote back to Not Guilty. He approaches Juror #10, who is sitting in a corner away from them and asks if he thinks the boy is guilty. Juror #10 shakes his head to indicate "No." Juror #3 then says "I think he's guilty and then asks Juror #4 if he does. Juror #4 says :No. I'm convinced. Not Guilty." leaving only Juror #3. Juror #8 confronts him.
Juror #8: You're alone.
Juror #3: I don't care whether I'm alone or not! It's my right.
Juror #8: It's your right.
Juror #3: Well, what do you want? I say he's guilty.
Juror #8: We want to hear your arguments.
Juror #3: I gave you my arguments!
Juror #8: We're not convinced. We want to hear them again. We have as much time as it takes.
Juror #3: Everything... every single thing that took place in that courtroom, but I mean everything... says he's guilty. What d'ya think? I'm an idiot or somethin'? Why don'tcha take that stuff about the old man; the old man who lived there and heard every thing? Or this business about the knife! What, 'cause we found one exactly like it? The old man saw him. Right there on the stairs. What's the difference how many seconds it was? Every single thing. The knife falling through a hole in his pocket... you can't prove he didn't get to the door! Sure, you can take all the time hobblin' around the room, but you can't prove it! And what about this business with the El? And the movies! There's a phony deal if I ever heard one. I betcha five thousand dollars I'd remember the movies I saw! I'm tellin' ya: every thing that's gone on has been twisted... and turned. This business with the glasses. How do you know she didn't have 'em on? This woman testified in open court! And what about hearin' the kid yell... huh? I'm tellin' ya, I've got all the facts here...
Juror #3: [He struggles with his notebook, throws it on the table. The photo of him with his son is on top] Here... Ah. Well, that's it - that's the whole case!
[He turns towards the window. The other jurors stare at him]
Juror #3: Well... say something! You lousy bunch of bleedin' hearts. You're not goin' to intimidate me. I'm entitled to my opinion!
[He looks at the picture of his son on the table]
Juror #3: Rotten kids... you work your life out!
[He grabs the picture and tears it to pieces, realizing what he's doing]
Juror #3: No. Not guilty. Not guilty.
He completely breaks down, and Juror #1 knocks on the door to let them know the jury is ready to deliver their verdict. Juror #8 stays behind and helps Juror #3 put on his jacket. As the jurors leave the courtroom, Juror #8 is stopped by Juror #9 calling out "Hey!" He stops and Juror #9 asks "What's your name?"
Juror #8: Davis
Juror #9: My names Mcardle. Well, so long.
Juror #8: So long.


Jeffrey Scott said...

Great movie!

Paul S said...

I've never seen this film but after reading your review it's going on my "must see" list.

Widow_Lady302 said...

Other than making me scared to death to ever have to be tried by a "jury of my peers" I always saw this story as one of apathy and the labels we carry that slap on people, that are lazy and convient. It is an important movie, I think, and if you take the time (like you did) to really look at 12 Angry, it speaks to a condition of society that exists now, as it did then.

Probably one of the best reviews you've ever done. Kudos and thank you.

Brent said...

@ Jeffrey, yes it is! a truly significant piece of work.

@Paul, Terrific, See this one if you can, rather than the remake. THe remake isn't bad, but it doesn't compete with Henry Fonda!

@Lisa, any sane person should be scared to death to be judged by a jury of their "peers" The labels you mention are certainly at work here, and sadly, I'm sure they haven't gone anywhere.

Anahid said...

One of my favorite films!

Brent said...

Mine too Anahid! Glad you enjoyed it!

Bridget LeRoy said...

One of my all-time favorite scripts, and a brilliant Lumet turn. A few years ago, I got to play Juror 2 (John Fiedler, better known as the voice of Piglet)in a local production.
Anybody want a cough drop?

Brent said...

How cool Bridget! That must have been a blast! I agree it is a terrific script and the beginning of many Lumet high points! He's still putting out great stuff today!