Bias In Twelve Angry Men (Film)

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‘It's very hard to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And no matter where you run into it, prejudice obscures the truth.' [Juror 8, page 53] Perhaps this best sums up the basis of ‘Twelve Angry Men' by Reginald Rose. This play is about a young delinquent on trial for the murder of his abusive father. The jury must find him guilty if there is no reasonable doubt, and in turn, sentence him to death. ‘I don't envy your job. You are faced with a grave responsibility.' [Judge, page 1]

People's bias and predispositions can affect their opinion of different circumstances and different people. This is very evident throughout the play. After the first group vote and juror 8 votes not guilty, a discussion ensues. It is there that the jurors' personal prejudices come out and we the readers/viewers are able to see how this has influenced and shaped what they think.

There are many examples of this. Juror 3 is perhaps the most prejudiced of all the jurors, fighting every argument that didn't go his way and refusing to accept that the accused may be innocent. His own reasons for this are a prodigal son, who punched him in the face and he hasn't seen in two years. Things come to a head when he goes into a tirade after the other 11 jurors have voted not guilty. The phrase was "I'm gonna kill you." That's what he said. To his own father. I don't care what kind of man that was. It was his father. That goddamn rotten kid. I know him. What they're like. What they do to you. How they kill you every day. My God, don't you see? How come I'm the only one who sees? Jeez, I can feel that knife goin' in.' [Juror 3, page 59]

Also heavily biased, Juror 10 is a racist bigot, intolerant and accusative.

‘I don't understand you people! I m...

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...at the truth is. No one ever will, I suppose. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we're just gambling on probabilities. We may be wrong. We may be trying to return a guilty ma to the community. No one can really know. But we have a reasonable doubt, and this is a safeguard which has enormous value in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's sure. We nine can't understand how you three are still so sure.' [Juror 8, page 53] The most prejudiced Juror of them all, number 3, has seen himself as the father and the boy as his estranged son.

Juror 8: It's not you boy. He's somebody else.

Juror 4: Let him live.

Juror 3: All right. Not guilty.

[page 59]

It is through the long afternoon conversation that these 12 Jurors are able to let go of their prejudices, if only for a moment, to let one young man have the chance to live.
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