The American legal system, based on the ancient idea of “innocent, until proven guilty;” has its share of advantages and disadvantages. They all serve to build a system that has suffered years of trials and tribulations, having lost much of their usefulness in today’s world. The cornerstone of the American legal system is the “trial by jury,” in which a citizen who has been accused of a crime, has the right to be judged by a group of his fellow citizens, who will have the evidence presented to them, and will subsequently rule based on the evidence as to the accused’s guilt or innocence. The assumption in this system is that the jurors will judge their fellow man fairly and without any personal bias. Humans will be humans, however, making this system less than perfect.
An excellent illustration of this point is in Twelve Angry Men, which is a fine example of a story about the conflict when logic and emotion collide. Set against mid-century America, the book revolves around the murder trial involving a troubled boy and his father. Twelve men, essentially strangers to each other, must decide the fate of this boy-did he let his rage take control in the murder of his father, or is he merely being taken in as the most convenient suspect.
In the beginning of the book, the twelve jurors file out of the court room, giving last glances to the defendant. The scene shifts into the jury room, where they slowly settle into their seats under the direction of the over-organized foreman. At first, based on their conversation, it seems that it will be a unanimous conviction. But when they take a vote, a single man votes “not guilty.”
The film twelve angry men is a quaint film which takes us into a jury chamber during the deliberation faze. Juror # 8 (Harry Fonda) is the only juror out of the twelve who believes that the case they are deciding is not open and shut. His argument was that it was not the defendants that had to prove innocence but the prosecution which had to prove guilt which he did not feel was done. The film ...
In the furor that follows, the other jurors immediately begin questioning the man, not understanding how he could possibly think that way. The man, an architect, responds by saying that he “merely wants to talk.” Finally, as they see that they cannot bully the architect into going along with the group, he is asked to “tell us what you’re thinking and we’ll tell you where you’re mixed up.”
At this stage in the book, the assumption of the other jurors was that the single hold-out was confused. They spend the rest of the time trying to convince him, to get him to relent. But instead, this single man is able to sway each of them in turn, by using logic to examine every witness’ testimony. The opposing jurors are eventually won over, setting their personal emotion and bias aside, and instead letting the facts prevail.
The resolution of Twelve Angry Men, while ideal, is generally not the norm in today’s society, however. It is stated several times throughout the movie that any other jury would convict, and I believe this to be true. There are too many examples in modern trials where the jury members pay little attention to the facts of the trial, instead letting the highly-paid lawyers dazzle them with suspicion, conspiracy and innuendo. It becomes a big game, not of guilt or innocence, but of which lawyer is more appealing to the jury. In fact, in high-level trials, lawyers will even hire jury consultants, who will try to come up with the best jury for the lawyer’s cause. They look for things such as race, gender and past experiences to help determine what a person’s biases are, in order to use them to the lawyer’s advantage.
Today’s judicial system is based on the imperfect thoughts and whims of normal, everyday people. Often, the trial “game” becomes more important than the fact that someone is being judged for what may be a serious crime, which is a terrible shame. So the question that this society must ask itself is, “are we willing to continue using a system which is prone to such biases?” Are there alternatives? Some trial situations are in the hands of a single judge. But even judges have biases. And while judges might be better at putting aside their prejudices, a defendant must wonder if he would fare better with the impartial judge, or the partial jury. Indeed, with the jury system, defendants can often try to express their humanity, in admitting their wrong but hoping that the jury can see themselves in a similar situation and sympathize. The human aspect of the jury has its advantages. But such advantages are often outweighed by verdicts that overlook too much fact in deference to sympathy and understanding. It is difficult to know where to draw the line.
... of single or a panel of judges who have a lot of bias. Every party in a jury trial is mandated to enjoy the ... There is cross-examination of his witnesses by the defensive lawyers. After the prosecution is done with his presentation, the defense ... the first step of professing witnesses and presenting various physical facts such as weapons and documents to evidence the defendant’s guilt. ...