Michael Astimow


12 Angry Men is the definitive film about the jury and has influenced generations of viewers to regard the jury system as fundamental to American justice. This article suggests a revisionist view of the film. It argues that the film should instead generate reservations about whether the jury system is likely to produce just results. Empirical studies indicate that it is quite unlikely that one holdout juror can persuade the other eleven to switch positions, so that the racist and classist views of the majority of the jurors would normally prevail. More important, the jury in 12 Angry Men got it wrong. The unchallenged circumstantial evidence against the defendant pointed overwhelmingly to his guilt, well beyond a reasonable doubt. Although Juror #8 successfully casts doubt on the eye-witness testimony against the defendant, these doubts do not reduce the overwhelming probability of guilt generated by the circumstantial evidence.

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