12 Angry Men

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  • Topic: Jury, Jury nullification, Sidney Lumet
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  • Published : May 1, 2013
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12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men
 12 Angry Men, by the American playwright Reginald Rose, was originally written for television, and it was broadcast live on CBS's in 1954 (12 Angry Men, n.d.). In 1957, Rose wrote the screenplay, which he co-produced with the actor Henry Fonda (12 Angry Men, n.d.). The play was originally inspired by Rose’s own experience on a jury for a murder case in New York, New York. Rose did not want to serve as a juror for the case, however he said “the moment I walked into the courtroom … and found myself facing a strange man whose fate was suddenly more or less in my hands, my entire attitude changed" (12 Angry Men, n.d.). Rose wrote the drama based on his own experience and what was produced was an exciting and interesting play that investigates human nature and the relationships of group dynamics.

The movie sets up a conflict by giving the group of 12 men a task, which was to determine the fate of a young man, who had supposedly killed his father. The task is important and the life of a person is dependent on their decision. The members of the group had two opposing views; guilty or not guilty. Eleven members of the group initially voted “guilty,” while juror 8 voted “not-guilty.” There is immediate response and pressure from some of the other jury members for Juror 8 to change his mind, due to him being the only one to vote differently. Juror 10 immediately shouted, "Boy-oh-boy! There's always one"(Lumet, 1957). At this point in the movie the members start to develop their own roles in group dynamics; by being open to seeking information, giving opinions, criticizing the other members, attempting to mediate, dominating the group by using aggression or by refusing to participate until pressured by the other group members. The preconceived notions and irrational ideas of the group members become apparent, showing that it is impossible to bring your own issues to a group and how that can affect the group dynamic. The most apparent being beliefs of prejudice. “While, conspicuously, the race of the accused is never certain, we do understand that he is a minority of some sort (in the 1957 film, the actor playing the accused was Italian), and this quickly becomes a heated issue among the jurors, especially for 9th Juror, who refers to the accused as ‘one of them’ "(12 Angry Men, n.d.).There was also evidence of prejudice due to the age of the defendant for Juror 3, due to the issues that that man had with his estranged son. There was also an example of reverse prejudice when Juror 8 sympathized with the defendant due to his upbringing (12 Angry Men, n.d.).

Juror 8, slowly but surely convinces every juror to change his vote, when he analyzes the information that is talked about concerning the trial. Not every vote changed due actual facts concerning the trial, but when their own belief system was challenged. The audience has a sense that what is happening is the right thing to do and justice prevails, however nobody is ever sure of this fact. “At the end of the play, there is a chilling reversal, as all of the jurors switch their vote to "not guilty," except for 3rd Juror. At which point 8th Juror points out, "It's eleven to one...you're alone" (12 Angry Men, n.d.). The movie shows how group dynamics can be affected by race, socioeconomic standing, age, and cultural aspects. The movie does not explore the dynamics of different sexes in a group dynamic, however the “all-male embeds the patriarchy of the times” (12 Angry Men, n.d.).

Bruce Tuckman discusses the formation of groups in four steps; forming, storming, norming and performing (Beebe, 2012). The jury was not a self-directed group, because they were chosen by another group of people and even though they had already spent a great deal of time together, their group dynamics did not form until they went to the jury room to deliberate. Upon the first entry into the jury room, the members seemed nervous and unsure of how to proceed. Juror one...
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