The defendant in Reginald Rose’s jury-room drama Twelve Angry Men doesn’t appear in the original 1954 teleplay or in the 1955 Broadway stage version. The playwright also doesn’t give the defendant a name. Many of the jurors repeatedly refer to the defendant as a “kid,” and he’s first described as having different ages in different adaptations.
There are a few references in the play to the defendant’s troubled home life and criminal background, but the playwright gives no other description of the defendant. The only descriptions of the defendant in the teleplay, Broadway, and film versions of Twelve Angry Men rely on the Jurors’ class biases and their racial, cultural, and ethnic prejudices:
Juror #3. I never saw a guiltier man in my life. You sat right in court and heard the same thing I did. The man's a dangerous killer. You could see it.
Juror #10. Look, we're all grownups here. 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.
Juror #7. Look at the kid's record. At fifteen he was in reform school. He stole a car. He's been arrested for mugging. He was picked up for knife-fighting. I think they said he stabbed somebody in the arm.
Juror #10. How can you believe this kid is innocent? Look, you know how those people lie. l don't have to tell you. They don't know what the truth is. And lemme tell you, 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. You know what I mean?
Juror #8 is the only juror who expresses any compassion for “the kid,” and at the same time provides some insight into the defendant’s background:
Juror #8. Look-this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know- living in a slum-his mother dead since he was nine. That's not a very good head start. He's a tough, angry kid. You know why slum kids get that way? Because we knock 'em over the head once a day, every day. I think maybe we owe him a few words.
Essentially, the description of the defendant is what the audience members see in their own mind, which might reveal their own biases and prejudices and their personal frame of reference.