Popular culture thrives on a portrayal of evil as murder, mayhem, and violence, rather than as a result of small actions taken by ordinary citizens. The movie 12 Angry Men explores the evil of indifference that is far more pervasive and powerful than the evil of monsters common in film, but rare in life. With the exception of Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda, the jurors summoned to decide a boy's fate are willing to sentence him to death in their indifference to their role as jurors and in their haste to complete their jury service. Fonda, through his lone vote of not guilty, manages to slow down the proceedings so that the jurors must deliberate. The process of deliberating leads the jurors to reexamine the evidence, contribute their insights, and reach a new understanding of the case that they had not had as individuals, particularly when blinded by haste, bias, and the disinterest of key actors such as the judge and defense attorney. The process of deliberation transforms these individuals from indifferent men willing to commit evil in the name of the state to responsible citizens willing to take seriously their roles as jurors.
Nancy S. Marder,
The Banality of Evil: A Portrayal in 12 Angry Men,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol82/iss2/21