At the start of the play, the jurors are sitting in the courtroom and are addressed by the judge. The judge tells them one of the primary principles of the court : if any reasonable doubt exists, then they need to declare that the defendant is not guilty. However, they...
At the start of the play, the jurors are sitting in the courtroom and are addressed by the judge. The judge tells them one of the primary principles of the court : if any reasonable doubt exists, then they need to declare that the defendant is not guilty. However, they must also carefully consider the facts of the case before concluding. Specifically, the judge says,
Murder in the first degree—premeditated homicide—is the most serious charge tried in our criminal courts. You've heard a long and complex case, gentlemen, and it is now your duty to sit down to try and separate the facts from the fancy. One man is dead. The life of another is at stake. If there is a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused . . . then you must declare him not guilty. If, however, there is no reasonable doubt, then he must be found guilty. Whichever way you decide, the verdict must be unanimous. I urge you to deliberate honestly and thoughtfully. You are faced with a grave responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.
It is telling that this is the last thing said to the jurors before they are locked in the room for deliberation, because it spells out precisely what should happen during deliberation. However, if it were not for Juror Eight, there would have been no careful consideration of the evidence, and there would have been no consideration of the burden of proof in the case. The judge’s instructions help to justify the work of Juror Eight, because the judge reminds us, the audience, of the court's duty.
We, as an audience, are then able to remember the point of a jury and, in turn, judge the reactions and actions of the different jurors based on their adherence to carrying out their duties faithfully. The judge's words also let us know that all the jurors have to agree, so we know the stakes later on in the play. Without that bit of information, the audience might not realize what has to happen to stop the injustice of the trial.