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Analysis of 12 Angry Men and the Jury System

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Jurors in America make some of the most important decisions, some of which include whether a criminal will live or not, as depicted in the movie 12 Angry Men. In the movie a young Spanish boy is being tried for killing his father, and if guilty will be sent to the electric chair. When the first vote is made among the jurors, all but Juror 8 votes guilty, and all twelve jurors must vote unanimously to send their vote to the judge. Juror 8 continues to explain that he doesn't know if the boy is guilty but he refuses to sentence someone to death in 5 minutes without talking it through. The jurors argue and try to convince Juror 8 of why the boy is guilty, but slowly through thorough investigation of each piece of evidence, Juror 8 turns the votes around. After hours of deliberation, they almost called it a hung jury, but with time, the jurors all changed their minds to not guilty as a final vote.

Jurors are meant to be people on the outside of the case who can help make an unbiased decision of whether a person is guilty or not guilty. "We have juries in the criminal and civil cases to ensure that the defendant in the case gets a fair trial and is free of people with any bias," said Samantha Romano, a criminal justice major at Quinnipiac University. But is there always no bias? It may be possible to find 12 jurors that have no particular feeling for the situation of the case if they have no previous knowledge of the subject matter. Unfortunately with the media today and highly publicized cases, it is very hard to form your own opinion when the media in a way already forms it for you, thus the importance of the selection process. Here they have a chance to weed out anyone who may side more with a particular stand.

The sources of information that the attorneys and judicial system gather from the jurors is long and tedious. According to the book, Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection: Gain an Edge in Questioning and Selecting a Jury, there are many sources of information that need to be overlooked before selected for a particular case; the first being background information which includes your name, age, gender, occupation, education, as well as information about your marital status, spouse's information, bumper stickers that may portray a particular view, and relationships with particular people. Within your background information they can find out how you identify with particular parties or events that may lead to favor one side over the other as well as what groups you reference with that may cause you to trust one side over the other. The second source is your experiences in which the potential jurors are questioned about personal traumas, work- and home-related experiences, encounters with discrimination and prejudice, and relationships with family members. They also record whether your experience is direct or indirect because something that happened to you rather than to someone you know will have different effects on you. To go even further into how much you are examined among selection, each side that questions you is looking at your body language, the way you make eye contact, your tone of voice, and your word choice.

After this long process, one can only hope they have chosen the right jury. For example, in the movie, Juror 10 was basing his results off of personal prejudices that he had brought into the case, and Juror 3 was taking his anger towards his son out on the boy being prosecuted. Without Juror 8 who broke down the pieces for these two gentlemen, the boy may have been sentenced to death based off personal experience rather than the situation being addressed in the case, in which the jury isn't helping the legal system provide justice. This was also in the 1950s. Now, with the proper selection justice can be provided because "it allows the person on trial the opportunity to be heard from peers instead of people who are educated to know the right answers based on common or written law," says Denise Rackoff, a business major at Quinnipiac University.

Because the selection is such an important factor of the case, not every citizen should be required to

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