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12 Angry Men

1. In the opening of the movie, the camera shows the building of the courthouse from below, which, in my opinion, symbolizes the perception of the court as the embodiment of justice. This opening shows the grandeur of the court in the eyes of public and enormous responsibility placed on all participants of the court process. Further on, the camera moves from bottom to top of the building, and shows the busy live of the court from inside. In this case, the camera adds more detail, starting with the look on overall people’s activity in the courthouse, ending with particular participants of the process and their behavior. These scenes show that justice is dispensed by ordinary human beings, and each of them has own advantages and disadvantages, which might have a significant effect on the lives of other people.

In room 228, the camera follows the jurors and alternate jurors as the judge describes the circumstances of the case as well as the rights and responsibilities of the jurors. It strikes the eye how different the jurors are: some of them are evidently bored and/or tired, despite the fact that they are about to decide questions of life and death, some of them are listening attentively, some jurors seem impatient, and it is evident that they will do anything to end this process as quickly as possible. Diverse reactions, facial expressions and poses of the jurors clearly show that they have a very different attitude to their responsibilities. I believe that the opening is the film is meant to convey that the whole court system is strongly based on subjective factors, for example, mood, character, origin or intentions of the jurors, thus bringing many random elements into the existing court order.

2. Henry Fonda’s character (Davis) says he voted not guilty at the preliminary vote first of all because it is a decision which might lead to death sentence, and it is not reasonable to make such decisions quickly. He also mentions that the defendant had a very unhappy beginning of his life, as he was born in a slum, his mother died when he was nine, and he lived for 1.5 years in an orphanage. According to Davis, the jurors at least own some attention to this person.

In my opinion, the second set of reasons (unhappy life of the defendant) is fairly subjective, and I do not believe these are supportable reasons to affect the juror’s vote, because the very essence of the justice is to treat everyone equally. However, I think that the first set of reasons (considering decisions leading to death sentence seriously) is highly supportable. One of the basic principles of the law states that by default, any person should not be considered guilty of anything. Voting guilty should be necessarily supposed by facts, and should never be done without considering the case information using as much details as possible. However, voting not guilty at the preliminary voting is quite acceptable, because in the absence of information (or additional consideration), voting not guilty should have an advantage against voting not guilty, especially when the person can be sentenced to death.

3. In the first part of the film, all 11 jurors give their reasons for voting guilty. They had different explanations for this, and some of them could not even give a decent explanation of their vote. In my opinion, there were two jurors who had more or less logical reasons to support voting guilty. Juror #1 gave fact-based reasons, which at least seemed to be logical (although there was no clear logic behind the conclusions). Juror #4 based his vote on the testimony of the woman who stated she had witnessed the murder and had identified the defendant as the killer. However, both of these statements were doubted later in the process of the discussion, which shows that the jurors did not bother to gather detailed information about the case. Therefore, their reasons can be considered logical only partly, and I cannot say that there really were jurors with truly good reasons to support their votes.

4. After the discussion, Henry Fonda’s character changes his reasons to vote not guilty. First of all, he explains that defense did not approach the case with proper attention. For example, the rarity of the knife used as the main evidence was refuted by Juror #8. He also emphasized that the prosecution was built on only two witnesses, and due to the lack of attention to details, these witnesses were rather doubtful. It is possible to see that the reasons of this juror have changed during the discussion. In my opinion, new reasons mentioned by Henry Fonda’s character are more reasonable and logical than the reasons described in the opening of the film.

5. This movie has strongly affected my opinion about the trial system and about the effectiveness of such system. It is difficult to say whether the movie reflects reality with regard to jury trials, or whether it is the vision of the movie creators. However, it is evident that the decisions which can ruin or save someone’s life can be made in a very random manner, and the outcome of the process strongly depends on the personalities of the jurors. As a result, innocent people can be sentenced to death, or vise versa, criminals can return back to the society to continue their crimes. In addition to the fact that random decisions can easily be made using such system, enormous amounts of time and funds are spent on this system. Unfortunately, I cannot easily suggest a better solution for the justice system, but I believe that this system should be reformed and a more reasonable and responsible approach to justice should be implemented.