The movie “12 Angry Men” focuses on a jury’s deliberations in a capital murder case. The jury is sent to begin deliberations in the first-degree murder trial of an 18-year-old boy from the slums accused of stabbing and killing his father. If the boy is found guilty, he will be sentenced to death by electrocution. The case appears to be open and shut. The defendant has a weak alibi. A knife he claimed to have lost is the murder weapon found at the scene. Also, he claimed to be at the movies, but couldn’t recall what movies he’d seen or the actors who played in them.
There were several witnesses who either heard screaming, saw the boy fleeing the scene, or witnessed the killing. Eleven of the jurors immediately cast guilty in a preliminary vote; only Juror No. 8, Mr. Davis, casts a not guilty vote. At first Mr. Davis’ bases his vote on the need to simply discuss the case further. He feels that they should take their time and discuss the case since a young boy’s life is at stake. All jurors must believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty before hastily making a decision.
As the deliberations begin, the story quickly becomes a study of the jurors’ personalities, ranging from quiet and shy to arrogant and merciless. In the end, Mr. Davis provides enough reasonable doubt to all the evidence provided to convince the eleven jurors that a verdict of not guilty should be given to the defendant. One of the first concepts to be seen in the film was process loss in group decisions. The group of men was following the leadership of the head juror; although he was not the most qualified member of the group he was in charge of explaining the duties to the others.
His directions were not explicit. Instead of setting ground rules, he asked the group how they’d like to proceed. One of the jurors suggested that a preliminary vote was customary. As the head juror, it was his responsibility to have an idea of how to proceed in starting the deliberation. It could also be argued that the most active jurors for prosecution were less qualified leaders as well. As quickly as one man could say it was an open and shut case all the other jurors had followed his lead and agreed. Another cause of process loss seen in the movie was the failure to share relevant information.
For the opening stage of deliberations Mr. Davis says nothing of the doubts and theories he has on why the boy is innocent. The other jurors share the information that leads them to believe he is guilty and all come to the conclusion that he should be convicted. The jury is supposed to be 12 people who are peers of the defendant. This defendant grew up in the slums. His day to day life was rough. He was poor and socially unacceptable. He was never shown love during his childhood. His mother died when he was young and his father was an abusive felon who spent time in jail himself.
He was not privy to the same advantages of most of the jurors. Most of the members of the jury were middle to upper class professional working men. I consider peers to be friends. I don’t believe that most of these men would find themselves in a situation to be friends with this boy. They were not what I would consider a member of his peers. Some of the jurors immediately saw a misfit simply because of where he was brought up. They were biased in believing anyone who living in the slums were delinquents.
Juror #5 was the only person who could actually relate to what this boy was exposed to every day of his life. His normal was very different than what the average person considers to normal; therefore, his reactions to situations would be different than the average person. He lived in an area where you had to be prepared to defend yourself. Witnessing crime and poverty was a daily activity. It’s hard to get a fair trial from a group of men who already believe that you are guilty because of where you live. This film was thought provoking. It showed many facets of group dynamics.
When the film began, I never thought certain members could be convinced that the boy was not guilty. Juror #3 was the most the surprising turn. He had displaced anger from the abandonment of his son. It was refreshing to see him break down and accept responsibility for his actions, realizing that his son was not the guilty party in their separation. Mr. Davis kept his composure the entire time while challenging every piece of evidence. His determination to give this kid a fair trial was truly inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and its relationship to group communication.