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

Vote of 10 to 2:

As the votes are read by the foreman, the 10th (of 11 votes) is "Not guilty" - one juror has changed his vote. Juror # 10 is exasperated and angry: "Boy, how do ya like that?...All right, who was it? Come on! I wanna know." Baseball fan Juror # 7 is perturbed, and Juror # 3 excitably accuses # 5 of being persuaded by the emotional appeals and bleeding-heart oratory of # 8 (a "golden-voiced preacher (who) starts tearin' your poor heart out about some under-privileged kid just couldn't help becomin' a murderer - and you change your vote!"). Juror # 3 takes the floor and yells vehemently:

We're tryin' to put a guilty man in the chair where he belongs - and someone starts tellin' us fairy tales and we're listenin'.

And then old man Juror # 9 surprisingly admits that he changed his vote, and explains he did so because he respects # 8's independence of thought:

This gentleman [# 8] has been standing alone against us. Now, he doesn't say the boy is not guilty. He just isn't sure. Well, it's not easy to stand alone against the ridicule of others, so he gambled for support - and I gave it to him. I respect his motives. Now the boy in the trial is probably guilty, but uh, I want to hear more. Right now, the vote is ten to two.

Discussion of the Credibility of the Testimony of the Old Man and Old Woman:

After a short break, the discussion continues with a reexamination of the case. Juror # 3 asks about the testimony of the old man who heard the threat and the body hit the floor, and saw the kid running down the stairs and out of the house. And Juror # 12 and # 4 repeat the testimony of the old lady who "looked right in the open window and saw the boy stab his father" - and "saw the killing through the windows of a moving elevated train." There were six cars on the train and she saw the killing through the last two cars.

Counter-argument: Juror # 8 questions whether it would have been that easy to hear and identify the voice that issued the threat. He also speculates how long it would take a six-car el train going at medium speed to pass a given point (the open window of the room where the killing took place) - maybe ten seconds. He wonders about the contradictory timing of the testimony of the old man and woman: how could the old man in the apartment downstairs distinctly hear the threat and the body hit the floor a second later, while the woman across the street was viewing the killing through the last two cars, when an el train was making a deafening noise as it passed?

We can assume that the body hit the floor just as the train went by. Therefore, the train had been roaring by the old man's window a full ten seconds before the body hit the floor. The old man according to his own testimony ("I'm gonna kill you, body hitting the floor a split second later") would have had to hear the boy make this statement with the el roaring past his nose. It's not possible he could have heard it.

Juror # 3 asks what difference it makes how many seconds it took before the old man heard the screams - "nobody can be that accurate." That proves Juror # 8's point:

Well, I think testimony that could put a boy into the electric chair should be that accurate.

Identifying with the discredited elderly witness, the old man Juror # 9 - with a keen eye for detail - observantly explains why the testimony, under oath, was mistaken, inaccurate, and possibly unreliable. He speculates that the witness probably didn't lie deliberately - sometimes a witness will unconsciously twist the facts, or present unreliable testimony, or say things for appearance's sake:

Attention, maybe...The seam of his jacket was split under the come to court like that...He was a very old man in a torn jacket and he walked very slowly to the stand. He was dragging his left leg and trying to hide it because he was ashamed. I think I know this man better than anyone here. This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant old man who has been nothing all his life - who has never had recognition - or his name in the newspapers. Nobody knows him. Nobody quotes him. Nobody seeks his advice after seventy-five years. Gentlemen, that's a very sad thing to be nothing. A man like this needs to be quoted, to be listened to, to be quoted just once - very important to him...He wouldn't really lie. But perhaps he made himself believe that he heard those words and recognized the boy's face.

Juror # 8 also reminds everyone that the phrase: "I'm gonna kill you" is commonly used with lethal implications, and the boy was "much too bright" to yell out a homicidal threat for the whole neighborhood to hear. Juror # 10 raises an ironic objection that is corrected by the immigrant juror:

Juror # 10: Bright! He's a common ignorant slob. He don't even speak good English!
Juror # 11: He doesn't even speak good English.

Vote of 9 to 3:

At this point, Juror # 5 changes his vote to 'not guilty'. And Juror # 11 is definitely swayed by Juror # 8's independence of judgment and reasonable doubt. He brings up his own crucial questions: why did the boy return to the scene of the crime three hours after the stabbing murder ("Wouldn't he be afraid of being caught?")? And if the boy was returning to retrieve the knife that could be connected to him, why did he leave it there in the first place?

Vote of 8 to 4:

Another vote is tallied, with a show of hands of those voting not guilty - four vote not-guilty (the immigrant watch-maker # 11 changes his mind because of his "reasonable doubt"). Juror # 3 criticizes all those who have voted not guilty: "What is this? Love Your Under-privileged Brother Week or something?"

Discussion of the Lame Old Man's Walk to His Front Door:

The next major issue is the lameness of the old man - did he actually walk (or run) the long distance from his bedroom and down the hallway to his chain-locked front door and see the panicked boy run down the stairs from the apartment at 12:10 am, fifteen seconds after the killing? Or did he merely assume that it was the boy?

Juror # 8 requests a diagram of the apartment to investigate further:

I'd like to find out if an old man who drags one foot when he walks, 'cause he had a stroke last year, can get from his bedroom to his front door in fifteen seconds.

In the ensuing argument, Juror # 3 angrily blunders his way into another mis-statement - thereby affirming that the old man's testimony was probably suspect:

Juror # 3: How does he know how long fifteen seconds is? You can't judge a thing like that.
Juror # 9: He said fifteen seconds and he was very positive about it.
Juror # 3: He was an old man. Half the time he was confused. How could he be positive about anything?

A large cardboard diagram is brought into the room, illustrating both the layout of the old man's apartment below and the boy's apartment above, the 43 foot long hallway, and the door to the stairs. "It's 12 feet from the bed to the door, the hall is 43 feet" - a total of 55 feet to be traversed in only 15 seconds by the seventy-five year lame old man who recently had a stroke. Juror # 8 imitates the movements of the old man while Juror # 2 clocks them, demonstrating that it would have been impossible for the crippled witness to get to the door in 15 seconds - it would have taken him more like 41 seconds, almost three times longer. Juror # 8 summarizes the finding:

The old man heard the fight between the boy and his father a few hours earlier. Then when he's lying in his bed, he heard a body hit the floor in the boy's apartment, heard the woman scream from across the street, got to his front door as fast as he could, heard somebody racing down the stairs, and assumed it was the boy.

Juror # 3 castigates # 8 for twisting the testimony around to support the boy, and rails at everyone for being convinced of the boy's innocence. His threat to kill # 8 is recognized as a false one:

Juror # 3: Assumed? Brother, I've seen all kinds of dishonesty in my day, but this little display takes the cake. You all come in here with your hearts bleeding all over the floor about slum kids and injustice. You listen to some fairy tales. Suddenly, you start getting through to some of these old ladies. Well, you're not getting through to me. I've had enough. (To everyone) What's the matter with you guys? You all know he's guilty. He's got to burn. You're letting him slip through our fingers.
Juror # 8: Slip through our fingers? Are you his executioner?
Juror # 3: I'm one of 'em.
Juror # 8: Perhaps you'd like to pull the switch.
Juror # 3: For this kid? You bet I would.
Juror # 8: I feel sorry for you. What it must feel like to want to pull the switch! Ever since you walked into this room, you've been acting like a self-appointed public avenger. You want to see this boy die because you personally want it - not because of the facts. You're a sadist! (# 3 lunges at # 8 but is held back)
Juror # 3: Let me go! I'll kill him! I'll kill him!
Juror # 8: (softly and defiantly) You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?

The entire group has gathered around Juror # 8, and all of them silently stare back at the isolated Juror # 3. [Only ten of the other eleven jurors are visible.] Juror # 11 delivers a short speech to everyone about their awesome responsibility in a democracy to "decide on the guilt or innocence of a man we have never heard of before. We have nothing to gain or lose by our verdict. This is one of the reasons why we are strong. We should not make it a personal thing."

Vote of 6 - 6:

The next vote is an open ballot with the result tied - "even Steven." Juror # 2 and # 6 change their votes to not guilty. Now they're "into extra innings" according to Juror # 7. And Juror # 10 wonders if the vote changed because "you think too much - you get mixed up."

Thunder and a sudden downpour as dusk approaches bring a coolness and lessening of emotional tensions on the humid afternoon and early evening. Juror # 10, with Juror # 7's support, threatens to walk into court and declare "a hung jury" - but the idea is soon sidetracked with discussion of the defendant's alibi.

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