Dershowitz’s Principles in Twelve Angry Men
“Jurors, like most people, are not good at thinking statistically or probabilistically. They are much more comfortable thinking literarily, teleologically, religiously, narratively” (Dershowitz 104). Alan Dershowitz opposes juries that view life as a narrative. But what if the jury is part of a narrative? Twelve Angry Men, a play by Reginald Rose, is very confusing in that the characters frequently use the ideas expressed in Dershowitz’s essay, “Life is Not a Dramatic Narrative” and yet in many ways, the play itself follows Chekhov’s theory of narratives. Twelve Angry Men is definitely a dramatic narrative in that every action has meaning and it is not difficult to predict the major conflicts and outcome of the play. However, the men in this play argue with each other using the same logic expressed by Dershowitz. The story in Twelve Angry Men focuses heavily on the claims made by Dershowitz but happens to be more artificial than lifelike.
In Twelve Angry Men, a deliberating jury must use Dershowitz’s ideas in order to determine the guilt of innocence of a young man being tried for his father’s murder. Juror 8 in the play defends the boy in the same way that Abe defends Hamilton in Dershowitz’s essay. The boy in this play grew up in a rough neighborhood and saw people getting stabbed all the time. He had been in trouble for stabbing someone previously and had no alibi for the time of the murder. He had even been in a fight with his father the day before his murder and had been heard screaming, “I’m going to kill you.” The jury in the play responds to these facts in the same way the jury does in the Hamilton case; they immediately think he is guilty and that it couldn’t be a coincidence. However, Juror 8 manages to show that none of those facts prove anything. Plenty of people grow up in poor and violent neighborhoods, and it doesn’t make them killers. He also is able to prove that saying “I’m going to kill you”...
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