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12 Angry Men: Reasonable Doubt

Updated on September 19, 2015

12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men is a story which involves 12 men from different walks of life called for jury duty in a murder trial where an 18-year-old boy is accused of killing his own father.

The jury’s duty is to separate the facts from the fancy. If there is a reasonable doubt in their minds as to the guilt of the accused, they must bring the judge a verdict of not guilty. But if there is no reasonable doubt, then they should bring a verdict of guilty.

Whatever they decide, the verdict must be unanimous. Death is mandatory for that particular case. When they find the accused guilty, the bench will not entertain any recommendation for mercy.

The 12 men piles into the jury room and the guard locks them in. Throughout the movie, we get to know each juror who is identified only by their number.

Juror 1 is a high school assistant head coach. He is the foreman.

Juror 2 is a bank teller who is easily intimidated but towards the end, begins to find confidence to speak his mind.

Juror 3 is an excitable businessman with a strained relationship with his son. He runs a messenger service called the “Beck and Call” Company.

Juror 4 is a rigid stockbroker who only looks at facts.

Juror 5 is a quiet man who has grown up from the slums.

Juror 6 is a house painter, burly but respects the elderly.

Juror 7 is a salesman who wants to get to a ball game that evening.

Juror 8 is a soft-spoken architect who has a reasonable doubt.

Juror 9 is a perceptive and amiable old man.

Juror 10 is a garage owner who is prejudiced and a bigot.

Juror 11 is a watchmaker immigrant.

Juror 12 works in an ad agency.

Most of the jurors believe they have an open-and-shut case. It is a first-degree murder case with strong evidence against the accused. They believe they can arrive at a unanimous guilty verdict in no time, but the preliminary vote results in 11 to 1 in favor of guilty.

Juror 8 says he does not know whether the accused is innocent or guilty but since the boy had a very difficult 18 years behind him, he wants them to talk more and not decide to send him to the “chair” in 5 minutes.

The eleven jurors review the evidence to convince Juror 8 that he is wrong, and that the boy is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

The Evidence

They review the testimony of the old man who lives down the apartment where the killing has taken place. According to the old man, at ten minutes after midnight, through his open window, he hears some kind of a fight. He hears the boy yell, “I’m gonna kill you!” Seconds later, he hears a body hit the floor. He runs to the door in time to see the kid running down the stairs and out of the apartment. He calls the police and they find the boy’s father dead with a knife on his chest.

The woman across the street testifies that she’s been lying in bed, trying to sleep, and when she looks out her window, right across the street through a passing empty el train, she sees the kid stab his father. The time is 12:10.

The kid claims he is at the movies at the time of killing but an hour later, when the police interrogate him, he cannot remember details about the movie. No one sees him go in and out of the theater.

The motive is also discussed. Earlier that night, the father hit the boy twice which could be a motive for killing the father at 12:10.

The boy goes out after the argument and buys a switchblade knife and the storekeeper says he has sold the boy a knife that is one of a kind. It is the same switchblade knife used to kill his father.

The boy has a record of being arrested for mugging and involvement in knife fights. He is real handy with the switchblade.

Some jurors are prejudiced against slum-dwellers like the accused, claiming that they are menace to society and are real trash.

It is at this point that Juror 5 speaks out that he has lived in a slum. He finds all the bigotry and prejudice offensive.

Juror 3 also remembers his own son who at the age of 16 hit him on the jaw when they had a fight. He hasn’t seen him for 2 years.

Juror 8 believes that an earlier fight with his father and 2 slaps in the face which is normal in the boy’s life is not enough to provoke him to commit murder.

The knife sold to the boy is not one of a kind, and he produces a knife exactly like the murder weapon.

Juror 8 claims that the old man and the woman are the entire case for the prosecution but what if they are wrong? He feels that the defense counsel has not made enough effort. The kid is in trial for his life, defense should have torn apart the prosecution witnesses.

After much deliberation, they tell Juror 8 that 11 of them think the boy is guilty and he is holding them up from delivering a verdict.

Juror 8 suggests that they all vote by secret ballot while he abstains. If eleven vote for guilty, they can bring a guilty vote to the judge but if anyone votes not guilty, they stay and talk it out.

The secret ballots reveal ten guilty votes and one "not guilty" vote. Juror 9 votes not guilty because he also wants to hear more. The vote is now 10 to 2 in favor of guilty.

Reasonable Doubt

The woman across the street claims to have seen the actual killing through the window of the empty el train passing by at the precise time of the murder. Juror 6 describes the sound that an el train makes as murderous. The old man could not have heard anything from above his apartment while the el train roars by.

Juror 5 changes his guilty vote to not guilty. The vote is now 9 to 3 in favor of guilty.

They talk it out and when votes are called again, Juror 11 votes not guilty. The vote is now 8 to 4 in favor of guilty.

Juror 9 also has observed that the old man drags his left foot when walking, making it impossible for him to run to the door from his bedroom in 15 seconds as he claims. Also when someone yells, “I’ll kill you” he does not really mean it. Juror 8 proves his point when he gets into a heated argument with Juror 3 who screams “I’ll kill him” while being restrained. Juror 8 asks, “You don’t really want to kill me, do you?”

They take another vote and the result is 6 to 6. The votes are even.

Juror 4 insists the boy is lying but when Juror 8 questions him about some movies he saw recently, he falters at some point and he is not under stress whereas the boy is under a lot of stress when questioned by the police.

Juror 2 asks how a 5’7” boy can stab his father who is 6’2” with a downward motion. Juror 5 who has seen many knife fights in the slums demonstrates how a switchblade knife is used. In one swift motion, you switch the knife on and push the blade up your opponent. No time to change the grip for a downward motion. There is no other way to use a switchblade.

Juror 7 changes his vote to not guilty just to get it over with and gets into an altercation with Juror 11 who treats jury duty seriously.

When they vote again, nine hands come up for not guilty. And those who vote for guilty are Juror 3, Juror 4, and Juror 10. The vote is now 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal.

Juror 10 delivers a hate speech so full of bigotry which shocks everyone. One by one they leave their seats until he realizes that no one wants to listen to his prejudiced opinions.

Thanks to Juror 9, they realize that the woman across the street hides the fact that she wears eyeglasses and without them, she cannot identify someone clearly 60 feet away in the night.

Juror 12 who has changed his vote 3 times votes not guilty again. Juror 10 finally agrees the boy is not guilty. Juror 4 has now a reasonable doubt and votes not guilty.

Juror 3 screams his arguments for the boy’s guilt. His feelings about his son come pouring out and he loses it. He sobs and says, “Not guilty.” He has been voting based on his personal feelings.

The vote is now 12 to 0 in favor of acquittal.

The end shows Juror 8 walking out of the courthouse when Juror 9 calls out to him to ask for his name. He replies, “Davis.” Juror 9 says, “My name is McCArdle.” They shake hands and go their separate ways.

The Votes

In the preliminary votes, Juror 8 votes not guilty. The vote is 11 to 1 in favor of guilty.

During the secret balloting where Juror 8 has abstained, Juror 9 votes not guilty. The vote is 10 to 2 in favor of guilty.

Even before someone calls for a vote, Juror 5 changes his guilty vote to not guilty. The vote is now 9 to 3 in favor of guilty.

After another discussion, they take a vote again. Juror 11 votes not guilty. The vote is now 8 to 4 in favor of guilty.

When they vote again, the result is 6 to 6.

The next time they vote, nine hands come up for not guilty, leaving Juror 3, Juror 4, and Juror 10 voting for guilty. The vote is now 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal.

Juror 10 and Juror 4 vote not guilty. Juror 3 says not guilty after his high strung display of emotions. The vote is now 12 to 0 in favor of acquittal.

*****

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American film which is adapted from a teleplay by Reginald Rose, and directed by Sidney Lumet.

It shows how the fate of one man is decided by a group of people who come together with their own personal beliefs, experiences, and prejudices which may affect their decision.

Reasonable doubt may be the saving grace of an innocent man accused of a crime, but it can also give a guilty man a chance to escape punishment. This movie is all about reasonable doubt, not whether the accused is guilty or innocent.

I thought this movie would be boring, given that it is black and white and that almost 90% of the movie is shot in one set, the jury room. But the movie is far from boring, in fact, it is exciting! The dialogue is everything in this movie. You listen to what the characters’ say and you see a court room drama in your mind.

Here’s a nice exchange between the immigrant and the prejudiced garage owner.

Juror 11: “I beg pardon.”

Juror 10: “I beg pardon. What are you so polite about?”

Juror 11: For the same reason you’re not. That’s the way I was brought up.”

Comments

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    • profile image

      Nikhil 

      3 years ago from India

      This is one of my favourite films. It is an excellent character study.

    • Virgo908 profile imageAUTHOR

      Norma Padilla 

      4 years ago

      You are so right, Johanna...

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 

      4 years ago

      This is one of my favorite movies. The writing is outstanding and the acting is excellent.

      Old? Yes.

      Black and white? Yes.

      Boring? Never.

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