The United States Jury System in “12 Angry Men”
How it works
In the story “12 Angry Men,” by Reginald Rose, a character is described as an honest but slow man. One who finds it difficult to form a positive opinion, and is often quiet and slowly tries to understand the opinions of others, rather than forming his own. Throughout the text of the play, we can find many examples of these traits in Juror Six, including some that were not explicitly detailed by the author.
The first and most obvious attribute of his personality is seen in the play but cannot be found in words: the act of not talking.
Juror Six does not say anything until about a third of the way into the first act. This illustrates his quiet nature and his preference to listen to the opinions of the other jurors first. Even when he starts talking, the same traits are evident. “Say, I don’t know. I started to be convinced, you know, with the testimony from those people across the hall” (12 Angry Men, p. 137). This statement clearly shows his slow pace in forming opinions and his tendency to take his time before making decisions. It appears that Juror Six does not fully understand the entire situation with the murder and he isn’t sure who he agrees with. However, he does consider all the jurors’ opinions and eventually makes the right choice to vote not guilty.
Another characteristic of Juror Six is his calm demeanor. He is one of the few jurors who wants to stay in the room and keep the debate going. Unlike almost all the other jurors in the room, Juror Six never loses his temper and often contributes encouraging or calming remarks. One such statement is, “How about settling down to think, that’s possible.”
Further examples of Juror Six’s personality are demonstrated during the third vote, when he votes not guilty. He is a good-hearted man but is hard to convince. He only believes in the opinions holding the boy not guilty after extensive proofs of the boy’s innocence, and only after he had ample time to digest these views. The third vote is the perfect time for him to change his vote because he is not hasty; however, he does not retain his initial vote once convinced of the boy’s innocence. His vote for not guilty also signifies his honesty. Many other jurors in the story, such as Juror Three, make decisions not entirely based on facts, but rather on personal problems within their own lives. Conversely, Juror Six is a man who does not let his personal life affect the case. Once there is enough proof of the boy’s innocence, he stands firm on his position of not guilty.
Finally, another quality of Juror Six is his ability to analyze the facts closely before jumping to a conclusion. He states, “Oh, I don’t know. Look, this may be a dumb thought, but you don’t wear your eyeglasses to bed.”
Two: Of course. No one wears eyeglasses to bed (12 Angry Men, p.154.) In this case, we see that “Six” has obviously been analyzing this idea for a while. The statement about the lady seeing the crime was brought up at the very beginning, and “Six” only makes this point near the end. However, it also shows his genius. Even though “Six” may be a dull-witted man, it is a man like this that will come up with the obvious evidence that was overlooked by the smarter jurors. His character is not so easily convinced by his own ideas, dismissing them as possible dumb thoughts. However, in fact, this is a very important piece of the puzzle that eventually settles the final vote to “not guilty” – one of the cons of the jury system.
However, the play “12 Angry Men” may be intended to show the glory of the United States jury system; the play also serves in showing many of its faults as well. One fault of the jury system is actually the main factor: twelve randomly chosen people being chosen to decide on the innocence of a man on trial. The fact that these people are randomly chosen makes it so that uneducated people may be chosen and thus may not be able to decide on a case that might be as great as the difference between life and death—as is the case in “12 Angry Men”. Another flaw in the jury system is that a man or a group of men may make decisions not solely based on the facts but on personal biases. Such is the case in “12 Angry Men” where Juror Ten votes guilty due to his racism and Juror Three votes guilty due to his strained relationship with his son. The final flaw in the jury system is the fact that all jurors must agree in order for the verdict to go either way. In the play, even when eleven of the men voted “not guilty”, Juror Three did not agree with them and wanted a hung jury. Even though Juror Three eventually decided to agree with the rest of the jury, it was a precarious situation. The boy’s innocence probably would have never have been discovered, and it would have resulted in a hung jury if the vote was split.