February 17, 2008

12 Angry Men

I have finally seen the 1957 movie 12 Angry Men. It wasn't the most exciting thing to watch these jurors sit around in a room deliberating over a verdict in a murder trial for the whole movie, but it had enough highs and lows to keep my attention. At first, eleven of the twelve voted for a guilty verdict, but the one doubting juror started a series of questions and discussions that resulted in a unanimous verdict of not guilty. There were all the dramatic moments of fiery discussion in which those who were sure of guilt inadvertently argued their way into expressing doubts, and some of the jurors had to face their own prejudices and personal demons in front of the group.

I don't know what real jury deliberations are like because I haven't served on a petit jury and probably never will. That's something special about a jury: it operates in a black box that cannot be penetrated by an inquiring court unless there is some kind of improper outside influence. Juries even have the power to ignore the law and render a not guilty verdict for someone they actually think is guilty (jury nullification). Our institution of the jury is 800 years old but is kept a somewhat mysterious invocation of humanity and values.

1 comment:

Adrian Pritchett said...

Update: I served on a jury in 2014 for a civil case, and we deadlocked, so a mistrial was declared.