Judge: “premeditated homicide” is the “most serious charge tried in our criminal court”
- The jurors must “separate the facts from the fancy”
- If there is “reasonable doubt then you must bring me a verdict of ‘not guilty’”
- The death sentence is “mandatory in this case”.
The jurors automatically typecast the defendant as a criminal. Because the father was a “compulsive gambler” and a “tough, cruel, primitive kind of man” who often got into “fist fights”, it seems understandable that a boy, growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks” would seek revenge on his father. Additionally, because the boy is possibly Hispanic or black, the majority of the jurors, who are all white males of around middle age, assume that he is therefore a “dangerous killer”. The boy has a record and was in the Children’s Court and then went to Reform School. Therefore, many assume that he is guilty “from the word go”.
- Therefore, they automatically believe the “circumstantial evidence” presented by the eye-witnesses because it confirms their bigoted attitudes. They trust the prosecution case.
- AS the 8th juror suggests, the “facts may be coloured by the personalities of the people who present them”.
The 8th juror
The 8th juror is fair-minded, civil and respectful. He is a principled man who has the courage to withstand the vociferous (loud and aggressive) views of the majority. He is determined to follow the principles of justice and he worries about doing something “wrong”.
- The 8th juror follows the Judge’s order: “if there is a reasonable doubt – then you must bring me a verdict of “not guilty”.
- After nine jurors believe there is doubt, the 8th juror concedes (admits) that they may be returning a “guilty man to the community”. “We may be wrong”.
- “But we have reasonable doubt and this is a safeguard which has enormous value in our system.”
- “There was a lot of circumstantial evidence, but actually those two witnesses were the entire case for the prosecution. Supposing they were wrong?” (14)
- He is wary of the fact that everyone “sounded so positive”. (13)., This gives him a “peculiar feeling about the trial. I mean, nothing is that positive”. (13)
- “It’s very hard to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this.” “And no matter where you run into it, prejudice obscures the truth”.
- The 8th juror states that he cannot send a boy to die without “talking about it first”. (7/12) He questions whether or not the boy is automatically guilty just because the “slums are breeding grounds for criminals”.
- He prioritises the concept of reasonable doubt and reminds the jurors that the “burden of proof is on the prosecution”.
- The 8th juror remains steadfast in his pursuit of ‘doubt’ and this is reflected in his body language as he “stands alone for a few moments” and “does not move”. He cannot deal with the thought of sending a boy to “the electric chair” without “being accurate”.
- Of the defence counsel, the 8th juror says, “I started to feel that the defence counsel wasn’t doing his job. He let too many things go. Little things.” (13).
The 3rd and the 10th jurors
Both these jurors appear as the loudest and most vociferous among the jurors. They are antagonistic, hostile, aggressive and seek to intimidate those who try to understand and analyse the “facts” of the case.
- They present their case as “facts’. The 3rd juror is adamant that “I have no personal feelings about this. I’m talking facts.” (9)
- The 3rd juror believes that “we would be better off if we “took these tough kids and slapped ‘em down before they make trouble. Save us a lot of time and money.” (3/7) 8/13). Accordingly, his tough approach to law and order appears to stem from his own difficult relationship with his son. Rose notes in the stage directions that “he has said more than he intended. He is embarrassed.” His shame surfaces in an aggressive and threatening manner with the other jurors.
- The 3rd juror seeks to intimidate those who start to change their minds. He believes such a change is “sickening”. He believes that those who follow the views of the “golden-voiced preacher” and who tries to “tear” their “hearts out” with “stories about a poor little kid” (19), are weak-minded and capricious (to change a lot)
Prejudice (3rd, 10th, 4th, 7th , 6th )
- Many believe that the young boy looks and acts like a “dangerous killer” because the “slums are a breeding ground for criminals” (12)
- The 6th states that he is obviously guilty “from the word go”. Because of his poor background, one “can’t believe a word they say… They’re born liars” )8).
- The 3rd juror believes that “we would be better off if we “took these tough kids and slapped ‘em down before they make trouble. Save us a lot of time and money.” (3/7)
- The 10th criticizes the children who “run wild up there” . He believes that the “kids who crawl outa those places are real trash” (12.)
- The 7th too shows signs of prejudice and pre-conceived hatred towards the defendant as he “points” at the jurors whilst stating “I’ll knock his goddamn middle European head off”.
- The 4th juror states that the “slums are breeding grounds for criminals.” Such children are “potential menaces to society” (12)
- Rose suggests that they are quick to believe the “legal” experts. As for the prosecutor, he “hammered home his points”. As the one of the jurors states, “it takes a good brain to do that. I was very impressed.”
- According to the 8th juror, the man had a stroke so it would have taken a minimum of 42 seconds to get to the door. This proves that he simply “assumed it was the boy” (36). Evidently, he believes that the old man sought attention. “That’s a very sad thing, to be nothing”. (27)
- The 9th recognises that “this is a quiet, frightened, insignificant old man who has been nothing all his life, who has never had recognition”. He believes that “a man like this needs to be recognized, to be listened to, to be quoted just once. This is very important”. .. Whilst he could not have heard the boy’s screams, “I’m going to kill you”, because of the loud noise of the train, he believed that this was information that would be welcome to the legal discussion. “it’s a sad thing to want to be noticed”. (27). The old man had a torn jacket and appeared very “insignificant”
- Juror 4 explains, “no-one wears eyeglasses to bed”. The glasses represents the idea that all of us can suffer from “blurred vision”
- Alibi: In discussions with the 4th juror about his recollection of the second feature, “The Remarkable Mrs Something Mrs – uh – Mainbridge”, it becomes clear that even when one is not suffering “emotional strain” it can be difficult to remember minute details. As the 8th reminds the jurors, “being accused of murder isn’t necessarily supposed to give him an infallible memory”.
Return to 12 Angry Men: Article by English Works