12 Angry Men

I chose to watch 12 Angry Men for this blog post. Besides reading the synopsis, I had no idea what I was about to watch. However, I am very happy with my decision to watch this. I was able to draw two connections from this movie to readings from class. One is to Death and the Maiden and the other is To Kill A Mockingbird.

The first connections I made happened right after the preliminary vote of whether the boy was guilty or not. I made this connection to Death and the Maiden. When the jurors were asked if the boy was guilty, 11 of the men raised their hands before moving to the not guilty vote. But, not all 11 men immediately raised their hands. A few of them were hesitant, as if they were looking to see how many other people voted guilty, or like they didn’t believe he was guilty, before they decided to vote. This reminded me of the scene in Death and the Maiden when the Gerardo was asking Paulina if Roberto is really the person, she thinks he is. Was he really the person responsible or was he just someone that she could place the blame on, that just so happened to fit the description she remembered?

This is the same question that juror 8 was asking, especially when it came to the witness that was an old man. The witness said he heard the boy yelling at his father right before the father’s body dropped to the ground, dead. Then after a few moments, he saw the boy running down the stairs. This is when juror 8 began to question the man’s recount of events. As I mentioned earlier the witness is an old man, who also happens to have a limp that makes it hard for him to walk. After a quick recreation of the man’s account to get to his door to see the boy run down, he questions whether the witness saw the boy run down the stairs or, at this point, if he even saw anyone run down the stairs. Which goes back to the question Gerardo has. Did the boy do it or is he someone that the blame has fallen on? As the men began to change their votes, this possibility gets stronger.

I found a couple connections between this movie and To Kill A Mockingbird. The first is the idea that one group of people is worse than another. In To Kill A Mockingbird, the trial was between a white family and a black man. In the book, the Tom Robinson, the black man, had a white man to vouch for him and say that he was not like what people thought of black men, even though he was not on trial or called as a witness. In 12 Angry Men, the trial was between two people in the slums. While deliberating, one of the jurors was trying to say that because he was from the slums, killing was something “those people” always did. However, one of the jurors also lived in the slums at one point in time, and he vouched for the boy saying that just because he was from the slums doesn’t necessarily mean he is a bad child and a killer. This juror was explaining that even though most of the time it was usually someone from the slums committing similar crimes, it is not always someone from the slums. It could very well be someone from what society would call “good people”, and that he should look at the facts of the case and base his vote on that and not on where the boy is from.

The second connection between these two happens during the cross-examination by Atticus of Mayella in To Kill A Mockingbird and during the discussion of the old male witness between juror 8 and juror 3. During the cross-examination of Mayella, Atticus started asking her questions that evoked answers that pointed away from Tom Robinson, and more towards her father as the real perpetrator. In other words, she almost let the truth out, that Tom was not guilty of raping her, but her father was guilty of it. The same thing happened right after juror 8 made is point about the old witness being an unreliable when it comes to him having seen the boy running down the stairs. Even though no question was asked, and I don’t remember exactly what was said, but it caused juror 3 to respond, “half the time, the old man was confused” or something of that nature. Juror 3 almost let his true feelings out, that he didn’t believe the boy was guilty.

Determining guilt is very important when someone’s life is on the line. All three of these works shows different ways guilt could be determined. One by witness, one by prejudice, and one by refusing to be truthful. All of which could lead to a false verdict of guilt. Luckily, in the end of this film, one juror was able to convince the other 11 that the boy was not guilty.

One thought on “12 Angry Men”

  1. Great connections here. Your observations about Henry Fonda’s “cross-examination” led me to be able to articulate that Fonda really kind of stands in as a lawyer in this film, even though we know he’s an architect whose role as juror is supposed to be distinct. Building on your second point about how the film connects to TKAM, the fact that the defendant did not have good representation seems to create space for a juror to take on this role.

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