Fun 12 Angry Men: The Wrong Verdict?

Was the Right Verdict Reached at the End of the Film?

  • Yes

    Votes: 6 85.7%
  • No

    Votes: 1 14.3%

  • Total voters
    7

Doctor Omega

Moderator
GAER.jpg





Twelve Angry Men is a very well respected drama.

Henry Fonda up against eleven other Jurors and making them question the "open and shut case" that they are being asked to sit in judgement on.

But do you actually agree with the verdict that the jurors reach at the end of the film, based on the evidence presented?

For, just because it is one man against the majority, doesn't make him right necessarily, surely?

And besides all of that, what do you think of it as a drama?




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Doctor Omega

Moderator
One of my favourite films of all time. It never ceases to be re-watchable in my opinion, with all of those high calibre actors going up against one another with acting ability that puts some of today's a-listers to shame.

I can see that there is a lot of evidence against the accused - but on the other hand, Henry Fonda makes some valid points - although I am not sure about the eye-glass bumps on the nose bit. That was maybe a bit weak as doubts go. Then again, I am not sure!

Ultimately - perhaps in this case leading to a judicial tragedy - I am one of those jurors that could be swayed either way with a bit of showmanship and legalistic trickery, so will have to abstain on this occasion. Gutless I know, but there you go! I just don't want the responsibility of sending a potentially innocent man to his death.

If he is innocent.

Oh, I don't know! :emoji_confused:
 

Hux

Member: Rank 6
I loved the film when I first saw it and completely bought the verdict at the time but I can't actually remember that much about the evidence (the train, the glasses, the uniqueness of the knife etc) I'd have to watch it again and pay closer attention (though I'd probably get sucked into the narrative again).

I do think there was some early and slightly simplistic psychology going on with the angry guy who had fallen out with his son but other than that, it stands up pretty well.

Though the boy might not be innocent, I think there's definitely some reasonable doubt.

I've always had a soft spot for the theory that Fonda's character was... God. He's come down to ensure the boy lives (an architect who wears all white? C'mon).
 

Carol

Member: Rank 5
I also love the CSI homage with the peanut buttery twist. (To say more would be a spoiler).
It's one of those Americans getting it spot on films like "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "Inherit the Wind" or "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" - decent people doing decent things, even if they are fictional.., quietly and effectively dramatic and thought-provoking.
Although Blues Brothers ticks most of those boxes without necessarily being quiet about it.
 

Doctor Omega

Moderator
Another theory I have read, which I think is beautiful in it's dramatic irony, is that Henry Fonda's character is destined to be the next victim of the same young man.
 

Doctor Omega

Moderator
I'm guessing a conservative came up with that one
LOL. :emoji_alien:


Lee J. Cobb's character reading a newspaper with Henry Fonda's picture on it.... Headline: Local Architect Murdered!

"Boy oh boy! You thought you were one smart cookie, dint'cha! Well look at you now!"
 

ant-mac

Administrator
Staff member
I've always had a soft spot for the theory that Fonda's character was... God. He's come down to ensure the boy lives (an architect who wears all white? C'mon).
Huh?

I think some people have a lot of time to spare and a very vivid imagination.

And as for HF wearing all white clothing, you can't accurately tell what colours he's wearing. In fact, you can't really tell what colours any of them are wearing. It's a black and white film. HF's shirt is probably white, but his trousers could be almost any light colour, such as cream, grey or tan.
 

ant-mac

Administrator
Staff member
Another theory I have read, which I think is beautiful in it's dramatic irony, is that Henry Fonda's character is destined to be the next victim of the same young man.
That would have made for an interesting sequel.

In fact, they could still make it now - with a different cast playing a different set of jurors. Just so long as it's set in a similar location and made in black and white. The trouble is it would probably have to be another heavily male orientated cast if you were going to set the film in 1957 or 1958 - and I'm not sure how popular that type of production is these days with the various film companies.
 

ant-mac

Administrator
Staff member
People aren't writing their masters dissertations on the subject so I think we should be fine.
I would expect so.
And he's definitely wearing white. There are colour pictures (and his character being sign posted as the good guy is not too subtle).
Being a good guy is one thing. Being a god is quite another.

For me, he simply came across as a compassionate, intelligent, reasoning member of society.
 

Doctor Omega

Moderator
In fact, they could still make it now - with a different cast playing a different set of jurors. Just so long as it's set in a similar location and made in black and white. The trouble is it would probably have to be another heavily male orientated cast if you were going to set the film in 1957 or 1958 - and I'm not sure how popular that type of production is these days with the various film companies.

That reminds me of the time that they did remake it in 1997.

As a tv movie.


I don't think that the original can ever be bettered though.
 
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Hux

Member: Rank 6
Being a good guy is one thing. Being a god is quite another.

For me, he simply came across as a compassionate, intelligent, reasoning member of society.
No-one's asking you to convert to the theory and start wearing white suits and studying architecture. Welcome to the internet - fun, throw-away theories are our thing.

The more I think about the evidence, the more I think the kid probably was guilty.

A few hours before the murder, The Kid was heard loudly arguing with his father, at one point shouting words to the effect of, “I’m gonna kill you!”
  • An elderly man in an adjacent apartment testified that he saw The Kid flee the murder site immediately after he heard the old man scream.
  • A woman who lives across the street from the murder site testified that she actually saw The Kid stab his father to death through the windows of a passing elevated train.
  • The Kid’s alibi for the time of the murder was that he was at the movies, but when questioned the very same night, he couldn’t remember any details of the pictures he saw—titles, stars, anything.
  • The murder weapon—a switchblade knife—was, by The Kid’s own admission, identical to one he owns, and had been seen in his possession. The Kid claimed to have lost his knife that very night.

This is a good read.

Rose (the writer), an expert at dramatic construction, has his hero, Juror No. 8 (Fonda in the movie), undermine each of these pieces of evidence individually, assisted along the way by those who’ve defected to the Not Guilty camp. Some items in this impromptu defense are more persuasive than others. The most satisfying, both for its deployment at the climax (it’s the argument that finally convinces E.G. Marshall, playing the most coldly rational juror) and in terms of an appeal to logic, is the observation that the female witness had marks on her nose indicating that she regularly wears eyeglasses, which she wouldn’t have had time to put on when awakened by the victim’s screams in the middle of the night. Far less impressive is the discussion of The Kid’s faulty alibi: Fonda challenges Marshall to account for his actions on each of the last several nights, going back further each time Marshall succeeds, then feels vindicated when Marshall finally gets the title of a film he saw four days earlier slightly wrong (The Remarkable Mrs. Bainbridge vs. The Amazing Mrs. Bainbridge) and stumbles over its no-name stars. It wasn’t even the film he’d actually gone to see (which he names without hesitation), but the second feature.

None of this ultimately matters, however, because determining whether a defendant should be convicted or acquitted isn’t—or at least shouldn’t be—a matter of examining each piece of evidence in a vacuum. “Well, there’s some bit of doubt attached to all of them, so I guess that adds up to reasonable doubt.” No. What ensures The Kid’s guilt for practical purposes, though neither the prosecutor nor any of the jurors ever mentions it (and Rose apparently never considered it), is the sheer improbability that all the evidence is erroneous. You’d have to be the jurisprudential inverse of a national lottery winner to face so many apparently damning coincidences and misidentifications. Or you’d have to be framed, which is what Johnnie Cochran was ultimately forced to argue—not just because of the DNA evidence, but because there’s no other plausible explanation for why every single detail points to O.J. Simpson’s guilt. But there’s no reason offered in 12 Angry Men for why, say, the police would be planting switchblades.

Here’s what has to be true in order for The Kid to be innocent of the murder:
  • He coincidentally yelled “I’m gonna kill you!” at his father a few hours before someone else killed him. How many times in your life have you screamed that at your own father? Is it a regular thing?
  • The elderly man down the hall, as suggested by Juror No. 9 (Joseph Sweeney), didn’t actually see The Kid, but claimed he had, or perhaps convinced himself he had, out of a desire to feel important.
  • The woman across the street saw only a blur without her glasses, yet positively identified The Kid, again, either deliberately lying or confabulating.
  • The Kid really did go to the movies, but was so upset by the death of his father and his arrest that all memory of what he saw vanished from his head. (Let’s say you go see Magic Mike tomorrow, then come home to find a parent murdered. However traumatized you are, do you consider it credible that you would be able to offer no description whatsoever of the movie? Not even “male strippers”?
  • Somebody else killed The Kid’s father, for reasons completely unknown, but left behind no trace of his presence whatsoever.
  • The actual murderer coincidentally used the same knife that The Kid owns.
  • The Kid coincidentally happened to lose his knife within hours of his father being stabbed to death with an identical knife.
The last one alone convicts him, frankly. That’s a million-to-one shot, conservatively. In the movie, Fonda dramatically produces a duplicate switchblade that he’d bought in The Kid’s neighborhood (which, by the way, would get him disqualified if the judge learned about it, as jurors aren’t allowed to conduct their own private investigations during a trial), by way of demonstrating that it’s hardly unique. But come on. I don’t own a switchblade, but I do own a wallet, which I think I bought at Target or Ross or some similar chain—I’m sure there are thousands of other guys walking around with the same wallet. But the odds that one of those people will happen to kill my father are minute, to put it mildly. And the odds that I’ll also happen to lose my wallet the same day that a stranger leaves his own, identical wallet behind at the scene of my father’s murder (emptied of all identification, I guess, for this analogy to work; cut me some slack, you get the idea) are essentially zero. Coincidences that wild do happen—there’s a recorded case of two brothers who were killed a year apart on the same street, each at age 17, each while riding the same bike, each run over by the same cab driver, carrying the same passenger—but they don’t happen frequently enough for us to seriously consider them as exculpatory evidence. If something that insanely freakish implicates you, you’re just screwed, really.

And that’s just one improbability. In order to vote for acquittal, you would need to accept everything outlined above. Some of these coincidences are individually believable—it’s quite possible that both eyewitnesses honestly convinced themselves they saw The Kid, when they actually just saw a vague figure. But as Bugliosi notes of both Simpson and Oswald, in the real world, you cannot have that much damning evidence pointing at your guilt and still be innocent, unless all of it was deliberately manufactured. (The one place where Bugliosi is shaky is that he won’t concede that some of the evidence in the Simpson case may have been planted by cops who genuinely believed O.J. was guilty, but wanted to seal the deal.) As stirring as it is to watch Fonda upend his fellow jurors’ assumptions and prejudices, their instincts were sound. The Kid is almost certainly guilty. What a hell of a downbeat, realistic twist ending that would be, eh? Had the movie been made during the Watergate era, maybe that’s how it would have turned out.
 

Gavin

Member: Rank 6
VIP
  • The Kid coincidentally happened to lose his knife within hours of his father being stabbed to death with an identical knife.
The last one alone convicts him, frankly. That’s a million-to-one shot, conservatively.
Unless his father was murdered by someone who was trying to throw suspicion on him. Waits until he has a fight with his father and goes out. Steals his knife (rather than him losing it) and commits the murder. And I can easily imagine someone watching a movie after a big fight with someone and not actually paying attention to it.
 

ant-mac

Administrator
Staff member
Unless his father was murdered by someone who was trying to throw suspicion on him. Waits until he has a fight with his father and goes out. Steals his knife (rather than him losing it) and commits the murder. And I can easily imagine someone watching a movie after a big fight with someone and not actually paying attention to it.
That all sounds plausible to me.

It simply takes the motive. opportunity and a little thoughtful planning. Especially if someone disliked both the father and son - or at least disliked the father and was indifferent about the son.

Stranger things have happened.
 

Janine The Barefoot

Wacky Norwegian Woman
One of my favourite films of all time. It never ceases to be re-watchable in my opinion, with all of those high calibre actors going up against one another with acting ability that puts some of today's a-listers to shame.

I can see that there is a lot of evidence against the accused - but on the other hand, Henry Fonda makes some valid points - although I am not sure about the eye-glass bumps on the nose bit. That was maybe a bit weak as doubts go. Then again, I am not sure!

Ultimately - perhaps in this case leading to a judicial tragedy - I am one of those jurors that could be swayed either way with a bit of showmanship and legalistic trickery, so will have to abstain on this occasion. Gutless I know, but there you go! I just don't want the responsibility of sending a potentially innocent man to his death.

If he is innocent.

Oh, I don't know! :emoji_confused:
Ironic perhaps but not making a decision is actually a decision of sorts although most may not see it that way.

And as it turns out, I'm one of those people whose had those nose indentations as I read a great deal and have needed glasses to do so for years now. I have also spent a great deal of time in sunglasses as I recognize that the sun can damage the eyes and there is glare present even on a cloudy day. So that point was never a question for me.
 

Janine The Barefoot

Wacky Norwegian Woman
No-one's asking you to convert to the theory and start wearing white suits and studying architecture. Welcome to the internet - fun, throw-away theories are our thing.

The more I think about the evidence, the more I think the kid probably was guilty.

A few hours before the murder, The Kid was heard loudly arguing with his father, at one point shouting words to the effect of, “I’m gonna kill you!”
  • An elderly man in an adjacent apartment testified that he saw The Kid flee the murder site immediately after he heard the old man scream.
  • A woman who lives across the street from the murder site testified that she actually saw The Kid stab his father to death through the windows of a passing elevated train.
  • The Kid’s alibi for the time of the murder was that he was at the movies, but when questioned the very same night, he couldn’t remember any details of the pictures he saw—titles, stars, anything.
  • The murder weapon—a switchblade knife—was, by The Kid’s own admission, identical to one he owns, and had been seen in his possession. The Kid claimed to have lost his knife that very night.
This is a good read.
The sad truth of this movie and our judicial system is that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. I had this point proven outright by a speech Prof. of mine who had a guy come into our class and talk to her for about 5 minutes or so and then turn around and leave. A bit of time afterwards, she asked the class to describe him and everyone gave a different description of his appearance. Not to toot my own horn but I have always been a person with almost perfect recall for things that are out of the ordinary (as was his appearance in our class) and so was able to describe any number of characteristics of his such as height, approx. weight, clothing and the color and type of briefcase he was carrying and set at his feet while they conversed. But even she said that this almost never happens and yet still convicts more people than hard data such as DNA, fingerprints and bloody clothing. Anais Nin once said that: "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." making the point that everything we view gets filtered by the lens of our own experiences. Which is ultimately what makes "reasonable doubt" so imperative.

As to the man who saw the kid fleeing the apt. after the argument and after the father screamed, I regularly leave the room after or even during a loud and angry shouting match with my husband and fleeing an argument does not make you guilty of anything more than not wanting to stay in a high tension situation where you feel both hostility and fear... it's called "fight or flight" and most people choose "flight". Since the old man wasn't in the apartment he had no way of knowing if "dad" was still alive when the boy left.

Furthermore, the kid and his father lived in a part of town where switchblades are common purchases and the fact that he bought one himself doesn't prove that he used it on his father. Neither does the "I'm going to kill you" comment as, really, how many teenagers haven't said that to a parent at one time or another? The only thing the loss of the knife proves is the kid might be guilty of carelessness and/or stupidity. People lose things all the time. Hell, haven't you ever locked yourself out of your own car because you forgot the keys were in it?

Also, honestly... I couldn't tell you what I watched last night on TV much less what I was wearing because the brain often discards information it deems irrelevant for long-term storage and this happens regularly to people of all ages in all kinds of circumstances. I too have forgotten a movie (any number of them in fact) I walked out of several hours later either because it wasn't any good or because something else of much greater importance presented itself to me and ended up leaving me unable to remember most of what happened before that life-changing information slapped me upside the head, turning my brain to mush.

As to the woman and her view through a passing train... it was dark, trains move quickly and she was across the street! Given the circumstances, she probably saw what she expected to see, accurate or not. TV and newspaper stories regularly cause people to form opinions based on what they are told, creating a picture in the mind that may not actually be true to what they saw or heard.

Finally, as a jury member in an assault and battery case I can say quite certainly that the police who testified against the defendant after arriving on the scene ended up inadvertently admitting that the one of them who was inside the house was still not in a position to see everything that took place while they were there. The other was outside during part of the incident and neither could testify to what actually happened before they arrived at the house. So, since both parties involved were obviously injured enough to warrant a 911 call, it came down to a case of "he said, she said" without any real physical evidence to support either claim and no witnesses who could state with complete authority that they saw. Certainly not enough to prove what actually took place. Since the prosecutor didn't ask the single cop who was in the house where he was and what his line of sight included we came to the conclusion that there wasn't enough evidence of any kind to prove who started what or why. When we asked the judge for a point of clarification, we were told that the only information we were allowed to use was what was presented during the trial. Information that was questionable enough that none of us felt comfortable turning in a guilty verdict.

And I'm not saying the kid was innocent. What I'm saying is the burden of proof is on the prosecution and reasonable doubt exists for exactly that reason. Because in the end, if you don't have enough hard evidence to convict then you are required to return a verdict of "not guilty". Which is in no way the same as saying "innocent". The institution of DNA evidence has cleared any number of men on death row who were put there based on eyewitness testimony that, while compelling, should never be enough to risk the life of any member of our society all by itself.... people see what they want to see and/or what they expected to have seen based on the circumstances of any given situation. It's one of the reasons that many police forces have mounted cameras on the dashboards of police cars. Hell, even football games occasionally rely on the "instant replay" because referees regularly make mistakes in their calls.

"Probably guilty" should never be the standard by which anyone is judged.
 
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