12 Angry Men was first written as a play by Reginald Rose then made into a movie in 1957 starring Henry Fonda. This riveting story begins in the midst of a jury deciding on a first degree murder charge. The setting is New York City. A teenage Puerto Rican boy from the inner city is charged with murdering his father. The judge has instructed the jury that they must come to unanimous decision. And if they all vote guilty, there will be a mandatory death sentence and the defendant will go to the electric chair.
Twelve jurors, all male spend the next several, painstaking hours deciding on the case before them. As their names and identities are kept hidden from each other, the jurors refer to each other by their jury number. Names are never used. This is symbolic of the prejudice that exists in man and how as a society we access individuals based on race, class and other outward identifiers.
The jurors spend several uncomfortable hours arguing over the facts of the case. Most of them are content with a guilty verdict. But for one juror, the stakes are too grave to rush into a verdict of convenience. Juror number 8 decides to dissent from the popular opinion and persuade his fellow jurors to see past their particular views. And in doing so, reasonable doubt settles into the minds of these men.
These 12 men all hold on to certain points of view that may damage the outcome of the case. One of the jurors is an out right racist while others contend with their own biases and cultural indifference. They argue over their varying positions but the majority just want to give a guilty vote and go about their lives without giving much thought to what is at stake.
The thought provoking plot has the audience examine the prejudices, fear and ignorance we hold against one another as a society. These men represent a microcosm of our greater society. The American justice system as well as the defendant is on trial in this riveting story.
When you look deeper into the plot, we come to realize this story is a commentary on the American judicial system. Through these jurors, we learn to examine how racial and cultural differences separate us on such a critical level that it can affect a life or death situation. The jurors must decide whether this Puerto Rican teenager from the slums lives or dies. But there particular biases may in fact lead to a miscarriage of justice.
The first vote among the jurors does not have a favorable result for the defendant. Eleven vote guilty. But juror number 8 stands his ground that the evidence is not strong enough to lead to a guilty verdict. And slowly he convinces the others to change their vote.
Juror number 8 is also included in the mindset of 12 Angry Men. He also has issues he must address in order to make a fair and just decision. Juror 8 helps the others to see past their misguided views and see that this is a young man deserving of a fair verdict. Originally the first vote was eleven for guilty and juror number eight being the only dissenting vote. Through his careful analysis and sound arguments with the other jurors, he is able to convince them to change their vote. His persistence for justice saved a life.
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