The story begins after closing arguments have been presented in a homicide case, as the judge is giving his instructions to the jury. The twelve men must determine, unanimously, whether the accused is innocent or guilty of the charge of murder. These twelve then move to the jury room, where they begin to become acquainted with the personalities of their peers. Throughout their deliberation, not a single juror knows another by his name. In a preliminary vote they are startled to find that one juror has voted "not guilty." Many of the jurors are amazed and disturbed because Juror #8 (played by Fonda), the lone dissenter, does not see the "open and shut" nature of the case. Juror #8 maintains that he has a reasonable doubt, and it is morally wrong and illegal to condemn a man to death if any jury member has a reasonable doubt. Although Juror #9 (played by Joseph Sweeney) believes that the young man is probably guilty, he is nonetheless impressed by Juror #8's conviction and shares his belief that the evidence should be reviewed thoroughly, and thus changes his vote to 'not guilty' in order to continue the discussion.
The ensuing arguments and sifting of the evidence unveil the flaws of the prosecution's case, the questionable representation by the defendant's court-appointed attorney, and the true character of each of the jury members. For example, there is a scene in which the uniqueness of the murder weapon, a switchblade, is argued as proof of the boy's guilt. In reply, Juror #8 produces an exact copy of the weapon and tells the jury that it is, in reality, a cheap and easily purchased knife that he found in a local store. Although it is only inferred, it soon becomes apparent that the accused boy is a member of an ethnic minority, and that a measure of prejudice exists in the jury room. Gradually, Juror #8 and those jurors who become convinced by the soundness of his reasoning prove to every man on the jury that the defendant's guilt is not "beyond a...
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