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12 Angry Men

Essay by   •  December 5, 2012  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,975 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,154 Views

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The movie 12 Angry Men gives us an inside look at our system of justice at work. It portrays the roles of our peers in deciding our fate after a trial. In the movie, we see twelve men from very different backgrounds and occupations come together to decide on the guilt or innocence of an eighteen-year-old boy. If he is found guilty, he will be sentenced to the electric chair. Each of the individual jurors can be compared in some way to the subjects we studied in class.

For starters, I noticed one thing in the very beginning of the movie that interested me. The very first vote was taken by a show of hands. Being an avid watcher of Criminal Justice television shows, I know that the first vote is usually taken by secret ballot, to reduce bias and to increase the chances of honest answers. Nevertheless, the first vote was by an anything but secret show of hands. The part that interested me the most was the vote for guilty. When asked to raise their hands for guilty, some jurors raised theirs right away. However, I began to see some hands that were going up slowly, only after their owners had looked at the other jury members.

This seems to have a resemblance to Asch's line experiment, in which Asch tested levels of conformity. In Asch's experiment, subjects were more likely to give the same answer that everyone else gave, even if it was obviously wrong. This seems to explain the behavior of the first vote in the movie. As more and more hands went up for guilty, jurors who had not yet voted observed those who had, and timidly raised their hands to conform.

The foreman starts off trying his best to do his job. He tries to do what he thinks is right and always asks if the others agree with him. He also seems to be in good spirits. However, at one point in the movie someone remarks on the order in which they were supposed to go, and said it was not important. This seems to upset him, and he suggests that somebody else try running things if they don't like the way he is doing it. At the end of the ensuing argument, he sits down and looks away. When Henry Fonda asks to explain something, he says "Brother I don't care what you do."

One thing worth noting about the foreman is that he says that he is a football coach. Coaches aren't usually used to having their methods questioned. They give out instructions to their players, and expect them to be followed. The idea is that he is the expert, and he knows what's best for the "team" in the long run. But I've learned that experts should sometimes be challenged.

Juror number two, the bank teller, is just the opposite. He is one of the conformists in the original vote. He is a soft-spoken man, and he gets picked on and pushed around a lot. At one point he discusses an incident he had with a coworker, and says he got "really mad and almost said something". In the jury room too, he has an altercation with somebody when he tries to stand up for himself, the other participant walks away. His response is to mumble "loudmouth" very softly, as if to make sure the other man does not hear. Juror two doesn't seem to have much self-esteem either, and in our text we find that people who have low self-esteem are more likely to conform, because they fear rejection or punishment from the group.

Lee J. Cobb plays the third juror, who is interested in the "facts". He seems to be more susceptible to the central, or factual, route to persuasion, rather than the peripheral, or emotional, route. He is unconvinced by the discussion of the others, but does not give a reason why. He begins to talk about kids, and how you can't teach them

anything. We then find out that he has not spoken to his son in 2 years because of a fight they had.

Cobb's character exhibits how situational factors can influence one's opinion on matters. He appears to be stereotyping the youth of his time. The case of the boy's life actually resembles his own, as the boy on trial had been beaten by his father. It is as if by punishing the boy, he can in some way get back at his son.

E.G. Marshall plays the stockbroker with glasses, juror number four. His profession seems to find its way into his dealings with the trial. He is also, like Cobb's character, more persuaded by the central route. His main argument at first is that the boy said he was at the movies but couldn't remember what movie he saw or who starred in it. He failed to understand the effects that the situational factors had played. He did not believe that the fact that the boy's father was lying dead in the next room while he was being questioned had anything to do with it.

However, when juror nine asked him about a movie he saw just three nights earlier, he was unable to accurately recall it. This would seem to suggest the "that could never happen to me" attitude. This idea is popular, but when the situation arises, most people find that they react much differently than they thought they would. The fact that he had never been in that situation before gave him no empathy for the way the boy was feeling.

Juror number five, played by Jack Klugman, grew up in the ghetto. He is extremely offended by the comments of juror number ten about people who grew up in his neighborhood. He suggests that not all people who grow up in the ghetto are bad, and that social status means nothing. He is the combatant to stereotypical thinking. When the discussion of the knife comes into play, he uses his personal knowledge

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