12 Angry Men was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of its time, even gaining several Oscar nominations. The movie tugged into strings that in the course of watching the movie, or even after, continuously made me think. How will one person convince eleven other jurors of reasonable doubt and change their votes from guilty to not guilty? Twelve jurors have individual stands and differences that may have been affected by their experiences and upbringing. Every person in the movie represents current ethical and moral dilemmas that plague even individuals of today.
Each character also represents values and personal growth that we already have or hope to achieve. There were jurors that represented trustworthiness. Juror #8 stood by his beliefs of reasonable doubt and innocence of the defendant. Several jurors changed their votes accordingly and gained the courage to do the right thing. In spite of their previous stand, they swallowed their prides and changed their votes, not because of their personal beliefs but because of what were the doubts in the evidences presented. Some jurors exhibited respect.
These jurors tolerated other’s differences and attitudes as far as they could, carried out with good manners and proper language, dealt with disagreements and other’s brash behavior with forbearance and respect. There were jurors that also showed responsibility. These jurors persevered for what they knew was right, proved the innocence of a kid and persuaded those that are set in their votes; convinced them with facts and not by prejudices. Lastly, all of these jurors demonstrated citizenship by serving the country in becoming jurors for this trial.
Even Juror #2 was quite excited to be a member of the jury and be a part in the legal and judicial system. Some jurors have come with a set decision that seemed to be set in stone, some came to vote quickly just so they could go home, and some have come with no sense of purpose. In the course of this service, they have proven a sense of ownership and involvement by thoroughly discussing the guilt or innocence of the defendant. These jurors have learned to forget their pre-determined stands, their outside life, and have overcome their ethical dilemmas by growing accordingly and morally.
Although, these characteristics were not immediately apparent; some were obtained through a course of arguments, rationalizations, and realizations that made this deliberation a difficult journey for some of these jurors. Two characters that exhibited the most ethical and moral growth were Jurors #3 and #10. Juror #10 came into the room with determined notions of people that grew up in the slums, including the defendant in trial. A generalization of people that grew up in the slums, bigotry, hatemongering, and ignorance convinced himself of the guiltiness of the defendant.
He pointed out that everyone in the slums were poor, uneducated and violent, with no sense of ambition and purpose. He went on through most of the movie with comments that did not even have anything to do with the facts and the evidence, but more of his personal opinions and biases. The most compelling realization for Juror #10 was when he, out of anger, expressed his hatred and bigotry through a monologue that engaged such embarrassment, hatred, and disgust from most of the jurors that they all started moving away and turned their backs while he was still talking.
This event provided a realization for Juror #3 and triggered a change of mind and heart. He began to open his ears and listened to what was presented as facts and not his pre-determined feelings and opinions. The most gripping moral and ethical growth was that of Juror #3. Because of his experiences with his own son, he learned to hate the defendant and made him a direct reflection of his own son. Juror #3 believed that one bad apple made the rest rotten as well. He built such anger and intolerance for his own son that he carried the same pre-conceived feelings and opinions as soon as he entered the courtroom.
Juror #3 was the hardest to convince as he was the most irate and easily agitated of all twelve jurors. Faced with eleven others that were certain of the defendant’s innocence, he proceeded to stand his ground and disputed every single fact thrown his way, regardless if his argument made sense or not. In the end, after he saw the picture of him and his son, he realized that his enemy was not the defendant but his own son. Juror #3 recognized that his vendetta was for a cause driven towards the wrong person. After battling with his moral and ethical dilemma, he swallowed his pride and eventually voted not guilty.
There were also other barriers or reasons that have affected some of the jurors in their decision-making. Juror #3 thinks that because of what happened to him and his son that the defendant deserved to be beaten up and battered by his father. Because of Juror #3’s past he felt he deserved to have the defendant sent to the chair; that the defendant dying was retribution for what happened to him and his son. Juror #10 believed that the defendant had it coming. Because of where the defendant grew up, he deserved to have been beaten up and be surrounded violence.
Juror #10 was convinced by his prejudices for people that live in the slums that he believed that the defendant had it coming; that it was right and just to have him die, regardless of whether there is reasonable doubt or not. Juror #12 kept changing his vote because he was going with the bandwagon; he was voting with the majority and not by his own rationalizations. Juror #12 “was bouncing back and forth” as Juror #3 described. Juror #12 had no personal stand and went with whoever had the most votes because it seemed to be what was right for most at that moment, not because he personally knew that the vote was right.
Juror #8 said “prejudice always obscures the truth”. There are many moral and ethical dilemmas in this film for each of the twelve jurors that they had to each overcome; some more subtle than others. Regardless, these jurors provided compelling drama and realizations that proved the innocence of a defendant that started out as obviously guilty to eleven and not guilty to one. At the end of the day this movie was more than just the innocence of the defendant, but more of the moral stand and ethical growth of each juror.