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Good Film, Bad Jury


12 Angry Men is a wonderful movie. Acting in one of the most acclaimed film roles of all time, Henry Fonda, as Juror #8, turns around a jury bent on conviction. Fonda begins as the lone holdout and one by one the other jurors change their views. Over the last half century, the jury in 12 Angry Men has come to symbolize an independent and vital American institution, the petit jury. But, as the Article explains, Fonda and his fellow jurors commit clear misconduct, eventually deciding to acquit the accused using evidence that was not introduced at trial. We cannot excuse the jurors' misconduct, even though they tried to fill gaps in the evidence and make up for defense counsel's failings. We may admire 12 Angry Men as a movie. It is terrific theatre. But we should not praise the jury in the film. The jurors in 12 Angry Men do not have the qualities we want for those who sit in judgment in our criminal justice system.

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