Twelve Angry Men Fair Trial
The 3rd Juror says that “everybody deserves a fair trial.” Does the defendant in this case get a fair trial?
Twelve Angry Men, a play by Reginald Rose, was written in 1955 at a time when America was involved in a cold war with communist countries. It shows the strength of a deliberative process that enables individuals, who have “nothing to gain or lose,” to reach a verdict. In the American jury system “everybody deserves a fair trial” and in Twelve Angry Men the defendant gets a very fair trial. All the jurors have their own opinions on the case but in the end a decision is made. The jury, and the audience, never discovers if in fact the defendant did murder his father. His guilt or innocence seems to be almost irrelevant. At the beginning of the play the vote was 11-1 in favour of guilty but the 8th Juror convinces the others to have another vote. As the play progresses more and more jurors being to change their vote and by the end of the play the vote was 11-1 in favour of ‘not guilty.’ The defendant does get a fair trial because throughout the play there was enough “reasonable doubt” for him to be guilty. The 10th juror had no intentions on giving the defendant a ‘fair trial’ and just wanted him to be sent to the “electric chair.” By the play’s end all twelve men had agreed to a “not guilty” vote. The 8th Juror had managed, by simply pointing out “sometimes the facts that are staring you in the face are wrong!” to convince even the strongest advocates of a “guilty” verdict that reasonable doubt exists and therefore the defendant gets a fair trial.
Throughout the play there is ‘reasonable doubt’ and this is what results in all the jurors being convinced that the ‘kid’ is “not guilty.” The 8th juror possesses a clear understanding of the law and he informs the other mean that “the burden of proof is on prosecution” and continually focuses on whether or not reasonable doubt exists as to the defendant’s guilt. The verdict would’ve been made straight away if it wasn’t for the 8th juror’s ability to stay strong and stick with his instincts. He appreciates reasonable doubt for what it is, “a safeguard which has enormous value in our system.” Initially the defendant wasn’t getting a fair trial but the jurors had another vote because “it’s not easy to send a boy off to die without talking about it first.” Despite hearing the old man’s testimony the 5th juror changed his mind because he believes “witnesses can make mistakes,” and the 2nd juror changed his vote as well because he believes that there is “a lot of details that never came out.” The 8th Juror can be held responsible for the final verdict being not guilty because he was never convinced over the boy’s guilt and this put doubt into other jurors’ minds as well. The 3rd Juror believes that “everybody deserves a fair trial” and he also eventually changes his vote to “not guilty.” In Reginald Rose’s play the defendant, also known as a ‘kid,’ can be considered fortunate because the jurors give him a very fair trial and despite it being “the hottest day of the year,” the jurors still take their time to come to a logical conclusion.
Many jurors show sympathy towards the defendant and change their votes from ‘guilty’ to ‘not guilty’ and this enhances the fact that the ‘kid’ gets a fair trial. The 2nd juror initially votes “guilty” but then he changes his vote because he has difficulty articulating the reasons that support his original vote and then ends up voting not guilty which is fair. The defendant is lucky because the jurors take a long time and go through lots of evidence before they come to a conclusion and the 2nd juror shows his sympathy when he recognises the problem with the evidence given about “the stab wound” and “how it was made.” The 9th juror realises that “it’s only one night. A boy may die,” and changes his vote to “not guilty” which is another instance where the boy gets a fair trial. The 12th and 7th juror find it difficult to decide on which way to vote and therefore vote “not guilty” so that the boy is not “sent off to die.” The 12th juror’s lack of a defined and consistent point of view reflects America’s post war materialism. The 4th juror believed that the defendant was guilty for most of the play but then was the 2nd last juror to change his vote and admitted that he had a “reasonable doubt.” Although the audience never finds out whether the defendant was “guilty” or “not guilty” the jurors give the “kid from the slums” an honest trial.
At times the defendant is treated very unfairly and is often discriminated due to his personal background. It is certainly the 10th juror who most vehemently represents the potential frightening power of racism and xenophobia. He is convinced that the defendant is guilty and he views the defendant “not as an individual, but as a representative of a larger group.” The 10th Juror does not want any further discussions and wants the boy to be sent to the electric chair. The 10th is very unfair on the defendant and expresses his hate towards people from the slums “it’s those people.” He believes that the defendant is guilty as all kids from slums are “trash” and that the witnesses are irrefutable. The 3rd juror was also unfair on the defendant and wanted to “put him into the chair where he belongs,” and his facts were mixed with personal prejudice, preconceived notions and assumptions. Due to the defendants background he is often treated unfairly by the 10th juror but by the end of the play he is left with no option but to withdraw his argument. If it wasn’t for the 8th juror sticking to his natural instinct then the defendant would’ve been sent to the “electric chair” which would’ve been very unfair because there is no actual evidence of him committing the crime.
In Reginald Rose’s play Twelve Angry Men the jury process is a controversial one but in the end the defendant gets a “fair trial.” Initially the defendant was treated unfairly because all the jurors voted for “guilty” barring the 8th juror. As the play progressed the 8th juror convinced the other jurors that the “kid” was “not guilty” and this resulted in an 11-1 vote in favour of not guilty. A fair trial was conducted because there was “enough reasonable doubt” to send the “boy off to die without talking about it first.”