In Twelve Angry Men, how does Reginald Rose demonstrate the value of the American jury system? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his son, 

"A jury's vote supposed to be secret:  serving on a jury forces a man to make up his mind and declare himself about something.  Men don't like to do that. Sometimes it's unpleasant."

This observation of Atticus is certainly true in Rose's Twelve Angry Men as the jurors held in the locked room become uncomfortable when Juror No. 8 causes them to become obligated to explain their initial decisions of "guilty." However, thanks to this one open-minded man who is not comfortable with such rash judgment without deliberation and discussion, the other jurors examine their consciences along with the evidence and objectify their reasoning so that they arrive at a decision without bias and assumptions. 

With an assortment of men of differing socio-economic backgrounds and personalities, there are certain biases that surface during the deliberations of the jury; moreover, these biases cloud the thinking of those who possess them. For instance, Juror No. 3 acts as an impediment to justice because he is sadistic and extremely narrow-minded. Furthermore, he is accustomed to imposing his views on others. First of all, he wants to vote right away; then, he reports the "facts" to the others as he perceives them. When Juror No. 8 wants to have the switch-blade brought into the juror's room for them to examine again, Juror No. 3 counters,

No. 3 We all know what it looks like, I don't see why we have to look at it again.

It is not until all the others have become convinced that there is "a reasonable doubt" that No. 3 is alone in his obstinacy until he angrily concurs with them.

Another juror who interferes with objectivity and re-examination of the evidence is Juror No. 10, whose bigotry clouds his judgment; he believes the boy is guilty of killing his father because he is part of "the element. They let the kids run wild."

No. 10 ...[they] --don't need any real big reason to kill someone either. You know, they get drunk, and bang, someone's lying in the gutter. Nobody's blaming them. That's how they are...Violent!

But, because he resorts to his prejudices as answers, the other jurors eventually reject his attempts at credibility by rising from their seats and going to the window.

After the emotional outbursts of Jurors No. 3 and No. 10, Juror No. 4 seeks to restore rationality to the deliberations:  

No. 4 I don't see why we have to behave like children here.

Having exerted his rationality to the deliberations, No. 4 enters the discussion more. He states his belief that the boy is guilty because there was an eye witness. However, No. 8 points out that the witness was not wearing her glasses at the time that she claimed to have seen the boy stabbing his father. As doubt is raised in his mind, No. 4 quietly announces that he is no longer convinced that the boy is guilty.

Clearly, it is because of the willingness of No. 8 to more closely examine the facts of the case and the testimony, along with his sense of doubt, that the other men, too, reconsider the testimony and the facts of the trial. In addition, because of the bravery of No. 8, others are encouraged to voice their opinions, thus engaging the jurors, who were at first reluctant to voice their observations and deductions. It is this interchange of information that eventually leads the jurors to the decision that there is "reasonable doubt" and they cannot hand the foreman a charge of guilty. 

crcauthorn | Student

Rose shows that the jury system prevents hasty, and sometimes incorrect, decisions on a person's guilt or innocence.  When the juror's enter, most are certain of the defendant's guilt.  However, when they are forced by Juror 8 to slow down and examine the case more closely, they realize that they were not as sure as they thought. Rose shows how easily innocent people could be convicted if not for the jury system. 

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Twelve Angry Men

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