What are the strengths and weak points of the assumptions made by jurors in Twleve Angry Men?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Twelve Angry Men, the jurors are all locked into the jury room in order to arrive at a verdict. Many of these men enter the room with assumptions before any discussion begins. For, when the foreman calls for an initial vote, all but one vote "Guilty." When some hear that one has not voted for the defendant's conviction, they are angered and express what they assume are foregone conclusions.

  • No. 3 then says, "Somebody's in left field....The man's a dangerous killer." When No.4 reminds the jurors that the defendant bought a switch-knife, suggesting that there is only one reason for this purchase. No.3 tells the others to listen to him, "he knows what he's talking about." Further, No.3 demonstrates that he is very opinionated, a flaw in being objective.
  • No. 10 is very biased, assuming that the defendant lied and is guilty. "You know what you're dealing with." Later, he angrily exclaims,

We don't owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? You know what that trial cost?....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....

  • No.3 is a bitter father, who has had conflicts with his son. These feelings he transfers to the defendant,

It's the kids. The way they are--you know? They don't listen. I've got a kid.... When he was fifteen, he hit me in the face. He's big, you know. I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid! You work your heart out...."

He, thus, assumes that the defendant is guilty because he is a youth, and as such has no respect. The negative assumptions against the defendant certainly hinder their logical reasoning in arriving at a verdict.

Among the other jurors, there are lesser assumptions, but they, too, are dangerous. For instance, No.4, a man of position and wealth, assumes that his judgments more than the others jurors. No. 7 is a selfish salesman who just wants to get his duty as juror finished. His thinking is shallow; for example, he asks,

"Look, supposing you answer me this. If the kid didn't kill him, who did?....Do me a favor. Wake me up when this is over....I've had enough."

Only No.8 makes a good assumption, that the boy may not be guilty of murder. His assumption is one which all must make in legal cases:  The defendant is not guilty until proven, and there must be no doubt involved. "It's not so easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first." 

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Twelve Angry Men

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