The movie 12 Angry Men focuses on Jury deliberations regarding a case involving a boy accused of stabbing his father to death. Over the course of the movie one dissenting juror convinces the others that the case is not as obvious or clear cut as it seemed in court. He ultimately manages to change the minds of the other jurors until they find the boy not guilty due to reasonable doubt.
1. Legal and Factual Problems
In the movie 12 Angry Men, there were several legal and factual issues. One involved the credibility of the witnesses. One of the witnesses, an old man who lived on the second floor beneath the murder scene said he heard the boy say to his father, “I’m gonna kill you.” Once juror pointed out that the building was right next to the el train which was passing when the alleged comment was made and so the father couldn’t have heard what his son said. Second another juror pointed out that saying, “I’m going to kill you” has no validity since so many people say without really meaning it each day.
The woman who lives across the street testified that on that night she looked out her window and to the window of the boy and his father. Although the train passed between the two apartments at this time, it was shown that it is possible to see through the windows of the train and still see the opposite apartment. She stated she wore glasses but as she was in bed at the time she wouldn’t have had the bifocals on and may not have been able to see clearly.
The only testimony from nearby neighbors was that they heard the father and son arguing.
The merchant who sold the murder weapon to the boy testified that it was unique and one of a kind, although Juror #8 bought an identical knife he purchased during their lunch break. The boy had testified he’d lost his knife yet this testimony from juror #8 speaks to the boys credibility since his knife didn’t have to be the one with which the murder was committed.
Regarding the viability of the evidence, it was shown that due to the height of the boy compared to the height of the father and the angle of the slash that killed the father, it was unlikely if not impossible that the boy could have done it.
2. Legal Subjects Relevant to the Movie
The legal subject relevant to the movie 12 Angry Men is Criminal Law.
3. Handling of the Case as a Juror
As a juror in this case, I would have listened to the evidence and likely been swayed in much the same way as the jurors who thought the boy guilty at the beginning of deliberations. I would have held off making a final judgement until deliberations were finished. However, my first vote would have been not guilty due to reasonable doubt raised by the problems listed in section 1 that occurred during the trial. I think it would have been hard for me to remain totally objective instead wanting to find the boy not guilty due to the death penalty that would be imposed if we found him guilty. So I would have been very influenced by what Juror #8 had to say. When he brought back the exact knife as the one used in the murder and told how easy it was to find one I think that would have been the last piece I needed to conclude there was reasonable doubt and to vote not guilty for my final vote. One other important application from this movie for business involves conformity. In business settings some degree of conformity is important to ensure everyone has the same goals and outlook, follows the rules of business, and adheres to what are considered acceptable ways of doing business and familiar processes. At the same time 100% conformity can hurt a business since it would limit creativity and other benefits that come from individualization and diversity.
4. End Result of Movie
At the end of the movie the boy was acquitted by a unanimous vote.
5. Applications for Class
I think one of the most relevant applications the movie 12 Angry Men has for class relates to the issue of eye-witness testimony. The accuracy of eye witness testimony has been shown to be over-estimated. In fact, people have been shown to be more likely to remember what they expect to member seeing rather than what they truly see. In business if you can create an atmosphere where business associates or consumers expect to see something a certain way you will have a better chance of convincing them of your point of view.
- Grossi, Davide, and Fernando R. Velázquez-Quesada. “Twelve angry men: a dynamic-epistemic
study of awareness, implicit and explicit information.” Logic and Interactive Rationality (2010): 34.