Filmsite Movie Review
12 Angry Men (1957)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Start of Jury Deliberations:

A few of the men light up cigarettes and remove their jackets, or wipe the sweat from their faces on "the hottest day of the year." The guard (James Kelly) exits and locks the jury room door from the outside - startling a few of the men. Juror # 3 casually mentions to Juror # 2 his belief that the case is "open-and-shut" against the youngster - and he reveals his hidden biases: "If you ask me, I'd slap those tough kids down before they start any trouble." # 12 expresses how "lucky" they were to get an exciting murder case. # 7 is impatient to leave to attend the evening ball game between the Yanks and Cleveland. # 11 concurs that the prosecuting attorney did an expert job, while # 10 reveals his biases:

It's pretty tough to figure, isn't it? A kid kills his father. Bing! Just like that...It's the element...I'm telling ya, they let those kids run wild up there. Well, maybe it serves 'em right.

Juror # 8 is deep in his own thoughts at the window, until he is called to join everyone at the table.

Vote of 11 to 1:

The foreman presents two alternatives: should they discuss things first and then vote, or "take a preliminary vote" immediately to "see who's where"? The latter alternative is chosen, and the vote is accomplished by the simple raising of hands. Six of the jurors (# 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, and 12) quickly put their hands up. After a slight pause - and because of peer pressure, jurors # 2, 5, 6, 11 and 9 hesitantly join them - with one lone dissenter, Juror # 8. Juror # 10 shakes his head, clearly disbelieving and upset by the lone dissenter: "Boy, oh boy, there's always one." # 8 votes not guilty, not because he is sure of the boy's innocence, but because he wishes to talk about the serious case without emotionally pre-judging the eighteen-year old boy, as # 3 does:

The kid's a dangerous killer, you could see it...He stabbed his own father, four inches into the chest. They proved it a dozen different ways in court, would you like me to list them for ya?

Juror # 8 admits that he doesn't necessarily believe the boy's story, but he feels that the accused is entitled to a thoughtful weighing of the facts - the legal standard that they were given by the judge:

It's not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first...We're talking about somebody's life here. We can't decide in five minutes. Supposin' we're wrong.

But Juror # 7 is firmly convinced of the boy's guilt: "You couldn't change my mind if you talked for a hundred years." # 8 suggests not voting guilty in a hasty fashion, and proposes that they discuss things for at least an hour. He reviews the sociological background of the boy's childhood, while # 10 is accusatory and filled with racial prejudice:

# 8: Look, this kid's been kicked around all of his life. You know, born in a slum. Mother dead since he was nine. He lived for a year and a half in an orphanage when his father was serving a jail term for forgery. That's not a very happy beginning. He's a wild, angry kid, and that's all he's ever been. And you know why, because he's been hit on the head by somebody once a day, every day. He's had a pretty miserable eighteen years. I just think we owe him a few words, that's all.
# 10: I don't mind telling you this, mister. We don't owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? What do you think that trial cost? He's lucky he got it. You know what I mean? Now look, we're all grown-ups in here. We heard the facts, didn't we? You're not gonna tell me that we're supposed to believe this kid, knowing what he is. Listen, I've lived among them all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You know that. I mean, they're born liars.
# 9: Only an ignorant man can believe that...Do you think you were born with a monopoly on the truth?

Round-the-Table Explanation of Each Juror's Vote:

Juror # 12 suggests that the other jurors should attempt to "convince" Juror # 8 of the defendant's guilt - "that he's wrong and we're right." Going around the table, each of the jurors is given a minute or two. With common-sense questions, Juror # 8 often responds with influential arguments and questions for the others to consider:

Juror # 2 - Very meekly, the flustered Juror # 2 struggles to put his opinions into words: "I just think he's guilty. I thought it was obvious from the word 'go.' I mean, nobody proved otherwise."
Counter-argument: Juror # 8 reminds the bank teller that "the burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant doesn't even have to open his mouth. That's in the Constitution."

Juror # 3 - Juror # 3 first asserts that he has "no personal feelings," and just wants to discuss the "facts," about how at ten minutes after twelve on the night of the killing, the old man who lived under the room where the murder occurred heard loud noises of a fight, and also heard the kid yell out at his father: "I'm gonna kill ya." A second later, he heard a body hit the floor. The old man ran to his door, opened it up, and saw the kid running down the stairs and out of the house. The coroner fixed the time of death around midnight. According to # 3, "these are facts - you can't refute facts," and the boy is definitely guilty.
Counter-argument: The eyewitness account of the old man is examined later in the deliberations.

Juror # 4 - Juror # 4 states that the boy's entire alibi was 'flimsy." He claimed that he was at the movies at the time of the killing, yet one hour later, he couldn't remember the names of the films he saw or who played in them. And no one saw him going in or out of the theatre.
Counter-argument: Later on, Juror # 8 attacks this juror's own ability to recollect small details.

(Interrupting the Order)

Juror # 10
- Juror # 10 believes that the testimony of the woman across the street who witnessed the killing is conclusive. The woman was lying in bed and couldn't sleep because of the heat. She looked out her window and "right across the street," ("his window is right opposite hers - across the el tracks") she saw the kid "stick the knife" into his father at precisely 12:10 am. # 10 claims that "Everything fits." The woman witnessed the killing through the windows of a passing, empty el train with its lights out.
Counter-argument: # 8 disputes # 10's trust in the ethnic woman's testimony: "How come you believed the woman's (story)? She's one of them, too, isn't she?"

Juror # 5 - Juror # 5 passes.

Juror # 6 - Juror # 6 admits being "convinced very early in the case." He searched the case for a motive, and the testimony of the people across the hall from the kid's apartment was "very powerful" and was "part of the picture" that helped him make up his mind. They testified that they heard a fight or argument between the father and boy around 8 o'clock that evening - the father hit the boy twice and they saw the boy run angrily out of the house.
# 8 denies that the testimony provided a "strong motive. This boy's been hit so many times in his life that violence is practically a normal state of affairs with him...I can't see two slaps in the face provoking him into committing murder."

Juror # 7 - Nonchalantly, Juror # 7 stubbornly states that the defendant's background doomed him to lead a criminal life: "It's all been said. We could talk here forever, it's still the same thing. This kid is 5 for 0. Well, look at his record. When he was ten, he was in children's court. He threw a rock at a teacher. When he was fifteen, he was in reform school. He stole a car. He's been arrested for mugging. He was picked up twice for knife fighting...They say he's real handy with a knife." [The Juror mis-spoke - he should have used his baseball terminology to imply that the kid was a loser by saying: 'this kid is 0 for 5.']
Counter-argument: # 8 points out that ever since the boy was five years old, his father beat him up regularly.
Juror # 3: Reminded of his own family's personal crisis, Juror # 3 tells the jurors of his own disrespectful, teenaged boy who hit him on the jaw when he was 16. Now 22 years old, the boy hasn't been seen for two years, and the juror is embittered: "Kids! Ya work your heart out."
Support for # 7: Juror # 4 cites a study about how slum conditions breed criminals: "This boy...a product of a broken home and a filthy neighborhood. We can't help that. We're here to decide whether he's innocent or guilty, not to go into the reasons why he grew up the way he did. He was born in a slum. Slums are breeding grounds for criminals...Children from slum backgrounds are potential menaces to society."
Counter-argument: # 7's confident statement - with reinforcement from # 10 ("the kids who crawl out of these places are real trash") cause # 5, a man with slum-dwelling experience, to become very uneasy and defend himself: "I've lived in a slum all my life...I've played in backyards that were filled with garbage. Maybe you can still smell it on me?"

Juror # 8 - After many days of listening to evidence in the case, Juror # 8 evaluates the poorly-argued cross-examination by the "just plain stupid" defense lawyer: "Everybody sounded so positive. I began to get a pecular feeling about this trial. I mean, nothing is that positive...I began to get the feeling that the defense counsel wasn't conducting a thorough enough cross-examination." He also reminds everyone that there was only one "alleged eye-witness" to the killing, although there were others who heard the killing and the flight of the boy, and there was also a lot of "circumstantial evidence." He tries to instill doubt in the others regarding the witnesses who testified under oath. Through a clever thought process, he causes Juror # 12 to contradict himself and admit that the whole case "isn't an exact science":

# 8: Supposing they're wrong...Could they be wrong?...They're only people. People make mistakes. Could they be wrong?
# 12: Well no, I don't think so.
# 8: You know so.
# 12: Oh come on, nobody can know a thing like that. This isn't an exact science.
# 8: That's right, it isn't.

Discussion of the Knife, the Murder Weapon:

The rotational order is broken when a discussion of the knife that the defendant recently purchased interferes. Juror # 8 requests that the very-unusual knife "in evidence" be brought in for another look. The sequence of events related to the knife are reviewed again:

  • The boy went out of the house at 8 o'clock after being 'punched' several times by his father
  • He went to a neighborhood "junk shop" and bought a switch-blade knife with a "very unusual carved handle and blade"
  • He met some friends in front of a tavern about 8:45 pm, and talked with them for about an hour
  • The boy's friends identified the "death weapon" in court as the "very same knife" that the boy had with him
  • The boy arrived home at around 10 o'clock, and claimed he went to a movie about 11:30 pm, returning home at 3:10 am "to find his father dead and himself arrested."
  • The boy claimed that the knife fell through a hole in his pocket on the way to the movies and that he never saw it again

However, no witnesses saw the boy go out of the house, or at the theatre, and the boy couldn't recall the names of the films he saw. Juror # 4 doubts the boy's claims, believing that the boy stayed home instead of going to the movies, had another fight with his father and stabbed him to death with the "very unusual knife," and then left the house at 12:10 pm.

Counter-argument: One of the film's most dramatic moments is when Juror # 8 argues: "...It's possible the boy lost his knife and somebody else stabbed his father with a similar knife. It's just possible...I'm just saying a coincidence is possible." He confounds the other jurors by introducing a new piece of evidence that he has acquired. From his pocket, he produces a knife identical to the one with which the boy allegedly stabbed his father, and sticks it in the wooden table next to the other switchblade. He tells the incredulous jurors that someone else could have bought an identical $6 knife, like he did the night before, at a little pawn shop in the boy's neighborhood just two blocks from the boy's house, and used it to kill the boy's father. He exclaims: "IT'S POSSIBLE," as the perfunctory Juror # 4 responds: "BUT NOT VERY PROBABLE."

Unconvinced, impatient - and increasingly hostile, Juror # 10 accuses Juror # 8 of trying to stubbornly "hang" the jury: "You're not gonna change anybody's mind." And Juror # 7 is concerned that he'll miss his ball-game if they have a prolonged stale-mate. Since # 8 realizes that he is the "only one" holding up the others, he makes a risky gamble - he proposes another vote with secret ballots (with himself abstaining):

I'm gonna call for another vote. I want you eleven men to vote by secret written ballot. I'll abstain. If there are eleven votes for guilty, I won't stand alone. We'll take in a guilty verdict to the judge right now. But if anyone votes not guilty, we stay here and talk it out.

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