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A Study of How Reginald Rose's Play Twelve Angry Men Depicts an Angry Jury

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The Game of Justice

How can anyone be safe in the United States with criminals on the streets and innocent people being incarcerated? The level of justice in America has been getting lower and lower every year. There is only one reason: the jury system in the United States. In Reginald Rose’s play, Twelve Angry Men, the jury system is proven ineffective by the means of bias and ignorance of the jurors, and jurors jumping to conclusions.

To begin, some people who don’t think they’re biased secretly are, and they have no clue. For example, after telling a story about how he and his son got into a fight, the third juror says, “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.’” (2.72) This shows that because of his feelings for his son, he thinks all young men are menaces. This also shows that there may be some bias lurking inside of every jury room across the globe. Juror Ten shows another example of bias earlier in the play. After saying that he had lived in slums all his life, he says, “That kid on trial, his type, they’re multiplying five times as fast as we are. That’s the statistic. Five times. And they are—wild animals. They’re against us, they hate us, and they want to destroy us.” (2.65) This shows that he thinks that all people that lived in slums are menaces to mankind. This also shows that Juror 10 might be voting “guilty” because of his vision of the defendant. Throughout the play, bias played a big job in deciding whether or not the defendant was “guilty”.

Second, jurors jumping to conclusions is another problem that we have in the jury system. For example, five minutes after walking into the room, the jurors have their first vote and “[…] eleven to one for ‘guilty’”. (1.11) This shows that eleven of the jurors voted for this man to be killed without even discussing the matter. If the man that voted “not guilty” was someone else, a man would be chosen to be killed without any discussion. During the trial, the prosecution stated that the storekeeper said that the knife that was used in the killing was “the only one like it that he ever had in stock.” (1.21) From jumping to conclusions, all the jurors believe that this is true, with little thought about it. The eighth juror proceeds to take out a knife that is identical to the knife used in the killing. Jumping to conclusions was a big part in the very beginning of the debate, but the amount of it tapered down into nothing by the end of the play.

Some people might say that the jury system is effective because it gives power to the right people. This is not true, however, as sometimes the power is given to the wrong people. There are many people that are racist that get onto a jury and influence the other jurors from their biased opinion. For example, when talking about the killer, juror ten says, “He’s a common, ignorant slob. He don’t even speak good English.” (1.37) This shows that wrong people sometimes have the power to end someone’s life, and their biased thoughts make them believe what might be wrong. This also shows that juror ten is not a very good juror. People who say that the jury system is effective because of this reason are obviously wrong.

In this play, the jury system is proven ineffective from problems ranging from the selection of the jurors to the ignorance of the jurors. However, the most noticed problems are biased jurors, and jurors jumping to conclusions. Many people that are biased aren’t aware about it, however it shows when the time is right. The jury system of America needs to refine its juror selection process and we will not have these problems.

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