Why is it so difficult for the jury in Twelve Angry Men to reach its final verdict?
This play is a dramatization of the struggle we all experience between reason and “experiential prejudice”, a term used to describe the human tendency to take personal experiences as strong evidence for our point-of-view. “I was in Seattle once, and it rained all day; therefore, Seattle is a rainy city where it rains all the time.” Contrast this with “In the past ten years, it has rained in Seattle on the average of 15 days per year.” Which is logic, and which is experiential prejudice? In Twelve Angry Men, the men have seen and heard the evidence against the accused, but they have also brought their experiences into the jury room. Those who have had negative experiences with a minority take those experiences with them as they go over the “logical” evidence. Juror #3 is particularly affected this way; Juror #8 is more logic, and does not let his experience weigh the evidence in one direction. The other jurors have all voted “guilty” before #8 votes “innocent.” Because all jurors must agree, the verdict is not unanimous; Juror #8 then starts to argue his view, by gradually pointing out both the flaws in the prosecutor’s case and the experiential prejudices the other jurors had used to affect their vote.