In Twelve Angry Men, what is the last thing the jurors hear that might influence their thinking when deciding if the defendant is guilty or not?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The stage directions of Twelve Angry Men indicate that the jurors listen "intently" as the judge admonishes them before they leave the courtroom that they consider carefully and objectively the evidence and testimony that they have heard. Most importantly, he reminds them,

"....If there is a resonable 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...."

Here are the key words is the judge's admonition to the jurors: 

  • "reasonable doubt"

If there is any question in the mind of the jurors as to the veracity of any of the evidence or testimony, this doubt must be cleared in their minds before they can honestly vote "guilty." This condition is the one that induces Juror No. 8 to vote "not guilty" when the jurors take their initial vote. For, when he observes others summarily voting "guilty," he cannot in good conscience go along:

"There were eleven votes for guilty.  It's not so easy for me to raise my hand."

Juror 8 feels that they owe the defendant some discussion before condemning him to death. He tells the others, "I felt that the defense counsel never really conducted a thorough cross-examination" because he realizes that the lawyer was court appointed and somewhat disinterested in the case. "Too many questions were left unanswered."

  • "deliberate honestly and thoughtfully"

These words are key to Rose's themes of "Social Responsibility" and "Overcoming Prejudices."  Fortunately for the defendant, it is the honest and reasonable Juror No. 8 who leads the men into a discussion about the evidence and testimony.  For, some of the jurors are clearly biased against the defendant and have not truly considered what has transpired in the courtroom since they have previously made up their minds. However, with the discussion and re-examination of the facts and an objective analysis of the testimony of the witnesses, Juror No. 8 directs them to those questions that he has felt were left unanswered.

So, they ask the guard to bring in the knife to be examined by them. And, since the youth has testified that he lost this knife through a hole in his pocket, Juror No. 8 suggests that someone else could have picked it up and stabbed the boy's father. "It's possible," he mentions to the others in order to get them to entertain other possibilities.

  •  "responsibility" 

Gradually, then, some of the jurors begin to accept their responsibility toward the defendant and begin to examine objectively the evidence and testimony that they have seen and heard. For instance, they discuss the evidence of the old man who stated that she witnessed the killing through the windows of an elevated train. Juror No. 8 points out that the old man

"would have had to hear the boy say, 'I'm going to kill you,' while the front of the el was roaring past his nose. It's not possible...."

More now respond more responsibly to questions asked by No. 8. Previously intimidated by the others, Juror No. 5 becomes active and states, "It stands to reason" about the old man's inability to hear.

  • "unanimous"

In Act 3 Juror No. 11 states, "We have a responsibility," yet the opinionated Juror No. 3 resists, "You're not going to going to intimidate me" until he finally concedes his bias and agrees to the final verdict.  

Read the study guide:
Twelve Angry Men

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