You are a court reporter You have attended the trial described in Reginald Rose's "Twelve Angry Men" and have also conducted very short interviews with some of the jurors after the verdict was given. How could you write a newspaper article about the verdict, including qoutes from at least three jurors?
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A newspaper reporter observing the trial depicted in “Twelve Angry Men” would have no first-hand knowledge of the jury’s deliberations. Juries are sequestered so that they are not influenced by any outside comments or observations. Very little is said regarding what transpired in the courtroom prior to the jury’s seclusion. The little that can be ascertained from juror comments during the course of the play involves the nature of the crime, the broad identity of the defendant, and smatterings of testimonies regarding the crime. Witness testimony is considered and ultimately rejected as unreliable. The racial prejudices of Juror 10 and overt hostility of Juror 3 are fully-aired, while the rational, deliberative(!) thought process of Juror 8 begins gradually to erode the certainty of all but Juror 3 that reasonable doubt exists. A newspaper reporter, however, knows none of this. Consequently, the first juror to be interviewed would presumably be the jury foreman, who played little role in the deliberations other than to maintain calm. Nevertheless, questions of the foreman could be:
“Were the jury deliberations contentious? What were the main issues discussed during the deliberations?”
To the extent the personalities and proclivities of individual jurors can be ascertained, the following questions could be posed to individual jurors:
To Juror 8: “Sir, you have been identified as a leader in arguing for acquittal of the defendant. Why were you so certain that the prosecution failed to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt?
Juror 8: [I didn’t set out to change anyone’s mind. What I said to the other jurors was] “I don't want to change your mind. I just want to talk for a while. Look, this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know, living in a slum, his mother dead since he was nine. That's not a very good head start. He's a tough, angry kid. . . I think maybe we owe him a few words. That's all.”
To Juror 10: It is my [the reporter] understanding that you were one of the last holdouts for a guilty verdict. Can you explain your initial feelings or beliefs:
NO. 10: [What I said to the other jurors at the outset was, look] “I don't mind telling you this . . . We don't owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? You know what that trial cost? He's lucky he got it. Look, we're all grownups here. You're not going to tell us that we're supposed to believe him, knowing what he is. I've lived among 'em all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You know that.”
To Juror 9: Sir, you initially voted guilty. Why did you change your mind? What convinced you that there was reasonable doubt?
NO. 9: [I was taken by the decency and commitment to justice on the part of Juror 8. That is why I said to the others] “This gentleman (Juror 8) chose to stand alone against us. That's his right. It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly. He left the verdict up to us. He gambled for support, and I gave it to him. I want to hear more.” [The more we talked, the more doubt I had about the defendant’s guilt].
The interviews conducted with jurors and the editor's own notes will be the information from which the news article is written. Remembering that newspaper articles are composed in the pyramid structure, the reporter will create a headline and a lead line that provide the most important facts.
- The headline could be something like this: Youth Found Not Guilty in Murder Trial.
- The lead line, or hook which follows can, then, be something like this: In what seemed to be a trial with substantial evidence, against the defendant, eighteen-year old Luis Rodriquez, a jury deliberated for several hours until returning a verdict of "not guilty."
- The body of the article, then, is written in pyramid style; that is, the most important facts come first, and these are followed by minor details since some details can be eliminated when there is not room in the newspaper column (space is a major consideration.) Some facts that can be contained in the body are as follows:
- The murder weapon was a knife that resembles many others from stores in the youth's neighborhood.
- The testimony of some of the witnesses was disputable.
- The prosecutor seemed disengaged and did not ask some pertinent information. As certain points, one juror shook his head often. (Do not use emotional words like "disengaged," but convey the idea in another way.)
- At the end of the article, transcribe some of the "interviews" that you have had with the jurors as it is always good to have quotations from people. In this way, yoiu can inject such opinions which are not facts, but do contribute to the interest level.
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