Twelve Angry Men: A Legal Review and Recommendation

Anger has been believed to be an embellishing characteristic to a man for his manly entitlement ever since the women started menstruating. But relating twelve men with their common trait of being angry is not what this article is about. On the contrary, it talks about the captivating courtroom drama, portraying twelve angry men.

“It’s not easy to stand alone against the ridicule of others.”

Should an accused never stand alone, the judiciary upholds the principles of fair trial. That being said, this movie is a stepping stone towards a better understanding of various intricacies and dichotomies faced during a proceeding in a court of law.

Running for a stretch of ninety-six minutes, the movie showcases twelve incredible actors, an amazing directorship, an engrossing storyline, and excellent script; everything revolving around a criminal case of homicide. It also highlights the effect of decisions taken inside the courtroom on the elements outside it.

Set up in mid-twentieth century, Twelve Angry Men is a movie about a jury proceeding where 12 individuals, from dissimilar backgrounds and diverse psychologies, sit in a room to decide the fate of an 18-year-old boy, who was alleged to kill his own father. Seemingly an easy case, many jurors overlooked the crucial points the case was built on.

The movie begins with the end of a court trial, when the entire case is laid down for the jury members to decide. Amongst many, a remarkable aspect was that there were twelve jury members, apart from the sitting judge. This tradition of twelve jurors could be traced back to as far as the eleventh century, in England. In that era, the jury acted more like witnesses to a trial. They used to deliver their decisions based upon what they see in the court, rather than what they know[1].

Moreover, the jury in the movie had to decide on the case with a unanimous majority, which eliminated all possibilities of a dissenting opinion. It is a judicial mandate for jury decisions to be unanimous, because otherwise there could be a substantial gap or window for a reasonable doubt[2]. Had this not been the case, the said movie would have been much shorter than it actually is.

This 1957 English movie brings to light another aspect of an adversarial system of adjudication-the burden of proof always lies on the prosecution. Since, the onus is on the prosecution party to present evidence, which proves that the accused is guilty, there is less room for the defendant to prove that he is not. This poses a drawback of the whole system, and makes the defendant somewhat vulnerable in front of their opponent.

As the courtroom drama progresses, it highlights a quintessential quality and skill a lawyer should always possess. Strong persuasive and convincing skills, armed up with intellect and wisdom are the strongest weapons of any person in a courtroom. Being able to see beyond the clouds of misleading evidence and plausibly false testimonies saves them better than any law itself.

Human beings are believed to be the least and the most gullible creatures on this planet. This masterpiece can duly prove that with its varied range of characters, displaying their distinct psychological behaviors. A person is not just them, but the impact of all the people they meet on their lives, in comprehension. Therefore, the actions and the decisions might be taken by a person, but could never affect only them. A similar analogy could be traced in the movie as well.

Towards the end of the movie, it emphasized one of the biggest loopholes in the judicial system-personal bias of judges. In the concerned case, one jury member held it against the people who live in slums. He had this preconceived notion that such people keep engaging in violence. Another member on the jury related the case with his own life-how his own son left him in rage. He based his decision on his prejudice, initially.

Such predisposition often leads to misjudgment on the part of deciders of the case. And as the saying goes, a hundred guilty out, is better than one innocent in; a misjudgment like this is always a disaster in the neutral eyes of law.

Other members on the jury reflected different personality traits. For instance, one of them was far more interested in a game than this proceeding. Another was busy in spreading the word of mouth about his business. Yet, one was too naïve, even to state the reason behind his decision. This brings to notice the possibility of incompetent professionals, given powers and responsibilities much more than they could endure.

Yet, the most crucial issue addressed throughout the movie was the one supporting pillar of the adversarial system. Proving a defendant guilty, beyond all reasonable doubt, is indeed not an easy task for the prosecution. Eliminating all the doubt that could be there, approachable in the purview of prudent reasonability and rationality requires a thorough research, examination, analysis, and convincing. Apparently twelve angry men in the movie play their roles explaining this.

Made with exceptional accuracy, this movie has been nominated for academy awards thrice and has made it to the second most screened film in the United Kingdom[3]. However, it has also been scrutinized by several critics on the ground that it quite lacks the description of the crime scene that the whole movie is about.

It has been sixty-five years since the release of this movie. Yet, the issues deliberated in it will continue to be relevant in this society for another numerous years ahead, helping several generations to think more, to ponder more, and to wonder more!

The journey from an “open and shut case” to “we can’t decide in five minutes”, it is an enthralling and consuming ride, worth the hype and your time. All in all, Twelve Angry Men is a commendable movie, a must watch for everyone who takes an interest in law and its minutiae.




Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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