The Triumph and the Fragility of Justice
The play is, in one sense, a celebration of justice, showing the workings of the American judicial system in a favorable light. Although initially the jury is inclined to wrongly convict a man without any discussion of the case, the persistence of Juror Eight ensures that the right verdict is reached in the end.
Three key elements of the judicial system are demonstrated in the play. The first is one that almost everyone knows, although Juror Eight has to remind Juror Two of it: According to the law, the defendant does not have to demonstrate his innocence. He is innocent until proved guilty. The second element is that the verdict must be unanimous, since unanimity guards against a miscarriage of justice. Third, the defendant can be convicted only in the absence of reasonable doubt on the part of the jury. If there is reasonable doubt, he must be acquitted. The underlying principle is that it is better that a guilty man be set free than an innocent man be convicted. In the film versions and at least one revival of the play, Juror Six, speaking to Juror Eight in the washroom, shows that he does not understand this principle, since he asks Juror Eight how he would feel if he managed to get the defendant acquitted and later found out that he was guilty (which he may be, since nothing that happens in the jury room proves his innocence). The system is as much about protecting the innocent as it...
(The entire section is 1192 words.)
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