Reginald Rose’s play, Twelve Angry Men, is about a jury’s decision making process in a murder trial. The facts in this play become blinded by the prejudices that some Juror’s possess. A prejudice jury became formed due to a biased testimony and the facts became clouded as generalisations were formed by the Juror’s. Some Juror’s bigotry can be based on their past experiences and discrimination didn’t only happen to the defendant, but it was also experienced by Juror’s themselves
Biased testimony towards the defendant resulted in a prejudice jury.
Very frequently, statements like ‘We heard the facts, didn’t we?’ or ‘Pay attention to the facts’ are expressed in the jury room. The 4th Juror cited that the murder weapon was a knife so unique that ‘the storekeeper who sold it to him identified the knife in court and said it was the only one of its kind he ever had in stock.’ The 8th Juror argues that ‘It’s possible that the boy lost the knife and that someone else stabbed his father with a similar knife.
’ None of the Juror’s believes this possibility as they have already established their prejudices against the accused. The 10th Juror says ‘Let’s talk facts. These people are born to lie… They think different. They act different.’ These are not ‘facts’ but prejudice opinions made by the 10th Juror about the socio-economic status of the boy. It can assumed that the ‘facts’ presented in this case can be viewed as biased opinions and reports that impairs the true facts.
The generalisations established by certain Jurors, makes them oblivious to the facts before them. Characters rely on generalised stereotypes to support their prejudices against those of a lower-socio economic status. The 10th Juror says to other Jurors ‘the kids who crawl outta those places are real trash’ and the 4th Juror states ‘Children from slum backgrounds are potential menaces to society.’ Neither the 10th nor the 4th Jurors makes reference to specific details of the defendant’s situation, but rely on stereotypes to support their own prejudices. The 8th Juror is the only one to carefully review specific details of the case. He notes the ‘boys been kicked around all his life… his mother dead since he was nine.’ The 8th Juror is attempting to form his opinions based on the specific factors affecting the defendant while the 10th Juror has a simplistic and prejudice attitude toward the case. Twelve Angry Men endorses compassion and true facts and condemns prejudice and stereotyping.
Bigotry is often based on an individual’s past experiences and can influence their ability to perceive the facts. For some Juror’s, their outlook on the case became clouded by their personal ordeals. In the 3rd Jurors outburst about his son, a lot about their relationship is revealed. It appears that he feels his son is a representative of a contemporary generation who lacks respects for his elders. It seems likely that he views the defendant is this way too. At the very end of the play, the 8th Juror articulates this conflation between the 3rd Juror’s son and the defendant when he says ‘It’s not your boy. He’s somebody else’s’ and the 3rd Juror doesn’t argue. It is revealed that the 5th Juror has ‘lived in a slum all his life’ and works there ‘six nights a week.’ It is possible that the 5th Juror voted guilty, due to knowing what the boy is capable of, having grown up in the same area and possibly felt that he didn’t feel the need to question the facts. It is important to consider all available evidence when faced with an important decision and to not let previous experiences get in the way.
Discrimination didn’t only happen to the defendant, but was also experienced by the Juror’s themselves. A number of Jurors were prejudice against their fellow Jurors. When discussing the term ‘reasonable doubt’, the 7th Juror becomes quite racist to the 11th Juror telling him ‘I’ll knock [your] Middle European head off.’ By being rude and racist to the 11th Juror, it shows that the 7th Juror doesn’t like hearing opinions and makes him unaware of the facts being talked about. The 3rd Juror is discriminative against the younger generation as he tries to intimidate the 2nd Juror by stating that ‘we’d be better off if we took these tough kids and slapped ‘em down before they make more trouble’ The way the 3rd Juror talks to the 2nd Juror and the 2nd looking nervously at the 3rd indicates that the 3rd Juror doesn’t care for facts. The discrimination against the other Jurors made it hard for them to focus on the facts.
Twelve Angry Men demonstrates that unquestioning belief is a dangerous habit. We should never take things at face value, even when they appear to be facts. The Jurors are challenged to question their assumptions, opinions and faith, not just about the specific details of the case, but about their own lives
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