Set in 1950s America, a court jury is faced with sending a young man to face the death penalty for murder accused of killing his father. The film starts in a court room with the judge explaining the processes of what must happen to reach a verdict. The group of 12 men head into a jury room to decide on a guilty or not guilty verdict. This trial is a difficult case as stated by the judge in the movie and the jury has lots of details to uncover in the discussion that takes place. The judge reminds them that the decision must be unanimous; this sentence had to be either not guilty and life or guilty and the electric chair.
The jury room is small, very hot and stuffy. These conditions make the negotiation difficult for success, especially when 12 jurors have to decide on a man’s life on a hot and humid summer day while being in a small room with no air conditioning. First, the jurors decided to take a short break before discussing the trial. The jury Forman gathers everyone at the table to start meeting the people. The men are uncomfortable and irritated because of the heat and are trying to rush a verdict so they can leave. The Forman assigns each man a number which is the order that they will cast their vote. All the jurors presume that the defendant is guilty except for one, the 8th Juror. Not reaching a unanimous vote means they must discuss the trial and causes an aggressive reaction from other jurors. This is where the conflict of the film starts.
The Majority of the jury decided that the prosecution had given them what they needed to decide the defendant guilty. They had an eye witness, neighbor’s testimony, the murder weapon, and defendant’s criminal record stacked against him. By choosing to vote not guilty, the 8th juror is not the most popular person in the room.
The 8th juror now has to try to convince the others to have reasonable doubt that the boy might be innocent. He starts by addressing every point in the prosecution’s case and analyzing it for weaknesses. Prosecution believed they had a one-of-a kind murder weapon until juror 8 pulls out the exact copy of the knife that he had purchased the day before. Having the “circumstantial evidence” turn into a cheap knife made the jurors question the credibility of evidence. Some of the men that voted guilty based on majority realize that they could be wrong and switch their verdicts to not guilty.
Juror 8 continues to use the same evidence to produce and test theories with different results that slowly dissolve the credibility of the evidence against the defendant. He continues to break apart the case winning over more and more jurors until he has convinced everyone that the defendant is not guilty, and that in a case facing the death penalty you should always revise the case until every detail is taken into account.
This negotiation was unique in the fact that there were no established relationships between any of the jurors before the case. The jurors have no need for maintaining relationships with one another, therefor they won’t hold back while engaging in conflict or maintaining professional behavior.
Description of the jurors:
Forman of the jury. While leading the jury we can see that he is uncomfortable in his position of power. Even offering to give up his title when ridiculed. He is very well mannered and tries to control the temperament of the room.
This character seems eager to discuss the evidence but shows his lack in self-confidence by waiting to watch what the other jurors vote for before he cast in his agreement. He is smart and realizes many details as they are brought up.
This man is the classic antagonist in this plot he has been against everything juror 8 has had to say. His estranged relationship with his son has made him hateful and wanting any vengeance he feels that he can get. Juror three is very loud and aggressive, he expresses this verbally as well as in his body language by pointing, arm crossing, and clear gestures of rage until the end of the film.
Stock broker that is very controlled and confident. He believes that the kid is guilty until Juror 9 noticed and analyzed his paralanguage. After negotiating for an extended period of time he removes his glasses and two marks are left on the bridge of the nose. Juror 9 realizes that he saw the same marks on the witness who said she saw the boy stab his father when she woke up in the middle of the night. Juror 4 realized that she had those marks as well (you don’t wear eyeglasses to bed), which made her into a false witness.
He grew up in a slum so he can relate to the circumstances that the boy is in. He provides unique insight from being around knife fights while younger showing that to use a switch blade you stab upwards not down. The boy has experience with these blades and wouldn’t make such an amateur move. This helps juror 8 in trying to prove the boy didn’t stab his father.
He is a hardworking man. Raised with values that elders deserve immense respect offers older gentleman a chair. Defends older man even offering to fight if other jurors tried to disrespect him.
This juror is treating this case as a joke making his priorities to make it to the baseball game over deciding whether the boy lives or dies. He is selfish and shows no respect to the other jurors or to the trial in any way. Sways his vote in order to try to get out for the game. His body language clearly read as impatient, disengaged and nervous.
The 8th juror is the main character of the film; first to vote not guilty and almost single handedly convinced the other 11 jurors to change their votes. He is the first to consider that a life is more important than an easy verdict and encourages the dialogue along. Juror 8 is an example of a great negotiator is he was engaged, listening, confident and precise on what he had to say. His body language showed clear interest to the people who were speaking, always giving them his full attention with his body towards them. He seems to have planned out every correct action knowing when to listen and when to command the room.
This juror is the oldest member on the jury. He voted guilty at first and not guilty the second round because he wanted to see what could come out of the discussion if it continued. He is extremely attentive to detail trough out the negotiation even uncovering a fault in the prosecution’s case on his own.
This type of juror is someone you do not want on a trail or on a negotiation. He is a loud stereotypical racist white man from the suburbs who thinks he is above not only the suspect but some of his juror members as well.
Juror 11 is an immigrant and only minority on the jury he is aware of the racism the boy is encountering while trying to defend himself at the same time. Seems very great full for the opportunity to be on the jury and paying very close attention to details. He is being very formal and treating the process with great respect.
Very professional man proposing the idea of supporting ones vote with their reasoning of why they made the decision to vote guilty. After listening to the details and reviewing evidence he changes his vote to not guilty.
Every good negotiator knows having a Best Alternative to a Negotiation Agreement (BATNA) is essential. In this case the BATNA was developed by the 8th juror. The 8th juror had a choice to conform to what the rest of the jury decided on or stand up for what he thought the evidence really proved. He was down 11 to 1 and faced the tough task of trying to convince the 11 others opposing him that he was right. When originally asked to explain why he thought the boy was innocent he said that he had reasonable doubt when regarding to the case. He used this time to develop some ideas about the case that could change the minds of others and open the discussion a little more.
As the movie progresses, the 8th juror starts interacting more with the other jurors trying to get them involved in scenarios while using his own skills to start unfolding a totally different story, changing their minds to vote not guilty.
This case was solely built on supporting the guilt of the suspect and considering all testimonies and evidence to be true. The alternative verdict of innocence is not an option for the suspect. His defense attorney was not prepared or didn’t seem to work very hard to dispute the prosecution’s evidence. Matching the story that was told in the court room to the story that the jury has come up with can result in a different alternative and, therefore a different verdict.
Obstacles to Agreement
When in a negotiation involving a court case, there are many disadvantages. One of those would be the reliability of the information received. Often opposing sides could give evidence to prove or disprove each other’s points. In this agreement, the jurors acted out the murder scene in multiple scenarios until they found an alternative possibility. Testimonials can be heard in the court room but once in the jury room there is no way to find out anything else from them. The decision is also based on if you deem the witness as a credible source. By creating the source of “reasonable doubt” they are acknowledging that what they are saying may not be true but they feel more confident using their knowledge and clear facts to make a decision.
Power vs. Reason
The definition of power can be described as an individual’s ability to attain objectives irrespective of resistance (dictionary.com, 2016). This definition in the film eleven jurors decide that the defendant is guilty, while the one juror remains alone. The majority holds more power over the l juror alone. The 8th juror stands by his decision and uses reasoning and analysis to break through to conclusions. The problem with power in a jury means that it can sometimes be seen as control and having loss of control from one side to the other can divide the jury. The 8th juror realizes that he must try to regain the power to argue his point, but uses only reasoning to support his claims. Reasoning is defined as the act or process of thinking about something in a logical, sensible way (dictionary.com, 2016). “Any method of negotiation may be fairly judged by three criteria: It should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible. It should be efficient. And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.” (William ury, 1981) .
I think this case had a great start to achieve justice. The jury was made of 12 individuals with one common goal. Having the jury reach a non-unanimous vote allows room for open dialogue to happen to try and find a solution. 12 people with different opinions can be very effective because no individual solutions are effective when compared to the cooperation of 12 minds takes place. Negotiations should work in the sense that when a positive relationship has been created a good agreement can be reached.
In order for the case to rest there must be a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty. Every possible alternative must be considered. In the movie, we see how every possible detail and aspect must be considered before reaching an agreement.
Initially the first vote was 11 to 1 guilty; it was in the interest of the jurors to analyze if the suspect was really guilty or not. By juror 8 withholding and educating the members he was able to then deviate all 11 men to switching to a not guilty verdict. (12 angry men, 1957)
After knowing the best ways of negotiating during a conflict, it gives a valuable chance on how to weigh different alternatives and come up with the best solution. When effective and principled negation skills are known, it leads to quick and effective decision-making. The importance of reasoning shows how you can turn an 11 to 1 vote into a 0 to 12 (not guilty).