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Prejudice Essay

1118 words - 5 pages

10th Juror is the most obvious example, immediately against the defendant just because he was "one of them." Similarly, 3rd Juror is prejudiced against the defendant because he reminds him of his own son, from whom he is estranged. On the other extreme, 8th Juror is prejudiced to give the defendant special consideration because he had a hard upbringing and comes from a poor background.
 recently auditioned for a local theater production of Twelve Angry Men. As a jury researcher, how could I resist? Although I did not get a part, I still went to a performance, and I was struck by how powerful and instructive the play still is, more than 50 years after its premiere. TAM was ...view middle of the document...

A young man has been charged with first-degree murder, for killing his father. His alibi is weak, and considerable circumstantial evidence links him to the crime. The jurors are referred to by number, not by name, which adds to the play's power and intensity. Initially all but one juror vote guilty. Over the course of the play [SPOILER ALERT!], the lone holdout convinces the others there is reasonable doubt, and they acquit.
One reason for TAM's continuing resonance, and relevance, is that so many people can relate to it. Millions of Americans serve on juries each year; by some estimates, as many as one-third of U.S. citizens will serve on a jury during their lives. Despite-or perhaps because of-this personal experience, TAM has become something of an archetype for jury service in America. As with all archetypes, this one contains much truth, but also some exaggerations and inaccuracies. In the half century that has passed since TAM's premiere, many things about jury service have changed. This is most evident just in looking at the title.
Twelve. Although a 12-person jury would still be typical for a first-degree murder trial, juries in both civil and criminal cases, in federal and state courts, can have as few as six jurors. Twelve-person civil juries are now the exception rather than the rule. And speaking of rules, the "decision rule" in TAM is unanimity; nowadays many jury verdicts need not be unanimous, especially in civil cases. The rule that a death sentence is mandatory, as depicted in the play, is also unrealistic, at least under current U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence.
Angry. This is a misnomer, even for the play itself. Only one, maybe two, of the jurors are genuinely angry, though most of them are at times frustrated, passionate, or troubled. Studies of actual jurors show that the two most common emotions are probably engagement and boredom. These seem like polar opposites, but of course cases vary widely, as do the interests and personalities of individual jurors. As in the play, the overwhelming majority of actual jurors take their job seriously and strive to beconscientious and fair.
Men. In the original play, all the jurors are White men. Current productions often add minorities and/or women to the cast, which is...

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