What are the positive and the negatives of the jury system?

rmhope | Student

Many themes can be appreciated in Twelve Angry Men, a drama about the deliberations of a jury during a murder trial. An obvious theme is the American jury system--its inherent wisdom but also its potential pitfalls. One potential pitfall of the jury system is that one juror motivated by prejudice (Juror 10) or projection of personal relational problems onto the case (Juror 3) could result in a hung jury, or might be successful in persuading others to condemn an innocent person. Another pitfall is that certain jurors do not have the wisdom, intelligence, or temperament to carefully consider all the facts before making a decision (Jurors 7 and 12), or may be easily swayed by peer pressure, as is shown when 11 jurors originally vote guilty. A third drawback is that lay people with little technical knowledge of law are tasked with deciding a case for which all the evidence has already been presented; they can ask no questions of their own but must make a decision based upon the information the trial provided, some of which may be uncertain or misleading. While the drama does an excellent job of presenting these pitfalls, overall it celebrates the positive aspects of the jury system. One of those is stated by Juror 11, a naturalized citizen, who points out that the jurors themselves have nothing to personally gain or lose by the verdict they bring, making them impartial and unable to be influenced by corruption. Another is the process of deliberations, which is the focus of the drama. Requiring a unanimous verdict means that jury members must argue their beliefs about the case, and in so doing, the issues are likely to be examined from a variety of angles so as to arrive at the best verdict. Probably the most emphasized strength of the jury system is the standard of "reasonable doubt," as voiced by Juror 8. The person on trial is presumed innocent and must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Since the "truth" may be unknowable, jurors focus on a standard that is more quantifiable. They only need to have a reasonable doubt of the plaintiff's guilt in order to deliver a verdict of not guilty. This was what allowed Juror 4, a logical thinker, one of the last hold-outs, to cast his vote as not guilty. 

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Twelve Angry Men

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