Ethics and Angry Men

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Critical Analysis:
12 ANGRY MEN

Patrick L. Milligan
ORGL 502 – Organizational Ethics
February 22, 2013

12 ANGRY MEN

Introduction

12 Angry Men is one of the most lauded films in education and for good reason. The subject is timeless; the characters are so real and are easy to relate to. The story line is both touching and thought-provoking. I tend to appreciate detail in movies and this one was no different. The film opens with a long, ascending shot of the court house (giving us a sense of its foreboding nature). As we enter, we see a man coming out of a courtroom, obviously distressed. Although he is not a part of the narrative later, it puts us in the right mood for a courthouse and the serious nature of what goes on there. We see someone quite happy and seemingly celebrating a victory with friends. The first was a man who probably lost his case and was desperate and alone. The second is quite the opposite. The audience is informed, through this quick opening scene, that cases can go either way yet and that there can be severe consequences for the parties involved. A bailiff tells the celebrating group to quiet down whereupon we, as an audience, enter the court room.

Context for Discussion

It’s here; in this setting that we see the judge, the jurors, the accused and the lawyers for the first time. The judge then introduces the serious nature of the case before them, reminding them that the decision must be unanimous and that the litmus test is “reasonable doubt”. As the

alternate jurors are excused, you can almost feel their sense of relief as they realize that they will not have to endure any more of this terrible story nor be obligated to decide the fate of someone so young possibly going to the electric chair. The remaining jurors are told to retire to the jury room and we see “the stage” for the first time that we will be watching for the next few hours. It’s a rather long shot that quickly conveys that premise. One by one, each of the jurors arrive on the scene. Their personalities are presented quickly. On parade for us is arrogance, shyness, playfulness, shallowness, introspection, simple mindedness, anger, discomfort and ignorance.

Process Drives Outcome

This temporary “organization” is a bit atypical as it was a very short duration, there were conflicting agendas. The final expectation of the outcome was in question. Sandra Christensen and John Kohls (19 shed some light on what this group was facing and perhaps the best way to handle the issue. They state that “An ethical decision is defined as a decision in which all stakeholders have been accorded intrinsic value by the decision maker. This is a process definition of ethics. There are some advantages to using this definition: (a) When it is extremely difficult to get consensus on specific outcomes required by ethics …..it is easier to get consensus on process…..(b) There will be controversy here as well, but it is more manageable (Ethical Decision Making in Times of Organizational Crisis, p. 332).

If you consider 12 Angry Men, juror #8, realizing he was alone in his conviction that there could be more to consider in the case and he decided to focus on the process rather than just

fighting to get his point across. By so doing, he was able (by working the process over and over again) to change the tide of thought and the rest of the group (organization) began to have “reasonable doubt”. He convinced the group that the boy had a tough upbringing, that he had no breaks in life, had been abused and that with no one on his side, he deserved consideration from this body. He persisted until he was heard. This was not easy and the leadership he displayed was quite remarkable.

Juror #8 was not looking for a specific a outcome but was seeking an ethical decision in the case and he felt strongly that they owed the boy, at the very least, to follow legal procedure and devote some time to the case prior to...
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