The Influence of Past Experience in 12 Angry Men

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The film 12 Angry Men and the Impact of Prejudice and Misconceptions

The film 12 Angry Men, which was originally produced by Reginald Rose and later adapted by William Friedkin questions a young man who is accused of stabbing his father. The film 12 Angry Men is about 12 juries who originate from contrasting backgrounds and hence have divergent opinions concerning the case of the boy based on their prejudice and misconceptions. It is the personalities of the jurors that make them make their initial vote of guilty. Jurors 3, 10, and 11, for instance, are typical examples of how past experiences and misconceptions affect the outcomes of justice in the legal system. From the viewpoints of the majority of the jurors in 12 Angry Men, it is apparent that past experience builds prejudice which eventually impacts the legal system and hinders jurors from making fair decisions.

The Attitudes of Jurors towards the Accused

The movie 12 Angry Men deliberately begins by setting the mood of a trial but later goes on to highlight the attitudes of the jurors towards the accused (Rose & Price 2016). As the jury goes into a discussion, it is evident that most of them have personal opinions about the Hispanic community and hence are eager to wind up the case and make an impaired judgment. Juror 3, for instance, has a formed opinion against the teenager from the experiences that he had with his son. Juror 3's son who hit him on the jaw and ran away further brought a form of resentment and hatred for all tough teenage boys as the juror later admits (Rose & Price 2016). The juror further has a strong feeling that the accused should be tried simply because he grew up in the slums. According to juror 3, all slum dwellers have the same tendencies from his experience and hence that is the more reason as to why the boy should be tried.

Juror 10, on the other hand, is an outright racist as he has categorized the world into classes of the rich and those living around the rich. In his initial references, he uses terms such as "us" and "them" which is a direct use of prejudice. In one instance juror 10 tells juror 7 that the Hispanics who are the slum dwellers are dangerous and hence their children tend to run around and adopt the violent tendencies from a first-hand perspective (Rose & Price 2016). It is the prejudice that juror 10 has that further prevents him from being objective on the case of the accused. He generalizes the lives of the slum dwellers and, in the process, misses out the point of justice which is coated by prejudice and hatred for a certain people and race. Juror 5, on the other hand, was a previous slum dweller and hence is quick to defend the teenager because he could relate to the perceptions and prejudice that the slum dwellers had to go through. Although juror 5 was quick to defend the accused on the basis of his backgrounds he was also being prejudiced. Juror 5 chose to defend the boy because of the other negativities vested in him (Bergman & Asimow 2006). However, juror 5 could be wrong as he approached the case from a defensive stance. However, it is juror 5's knowledge of knives and their usage that further brought strong evidence in favor of the accused.

Prejudice and Misconceptions in a Democratic Society

The movie "12 Angry Men" deliberates on the difficulties of making a rational decision in a democratic society. Democratic societies are marred with prejudices and perceptions which hinder the prescription of justice (Augoustinos & Reynolds 2001). It is apparent that the judicial system in a democratic society is opinionated and hence most people end up suffering or even in other times benefiting due to their racial, social, or even political affiliation (Augoustinos & Reynolds 2001). The jurors in the film, with the exception of the 8th juror, allowed their opinions to shape their decision-making process and hence were almost convicting an innocent person. Although some jurors such as the 10th and 3rd jurors knew the truth about the matter, they still chose to judge the accused due to their personal reasons.

Prejudice and Bias in the American Legal System

The current American legal system is filled with prejudice based on racial grounds, social status, and even classes. From the movie "12 Angry Men," it is correct to insinuate that prejudice and misconceptions play a pivotal role in the judicial system. Through the decision of the 5th juror, it is apparent that eradicating all forms of prejudices and bias makes one see a case from a different perspective. The 8th juror is the epitome of equality, fairness, justice, and democracy in the otherwise opinionated and biased society. The 3rd and 10th jurors, for instance, are filled to the brink with prejudice to the extent of waving away the case of the teenager before they even had substantial evidence to back up their claims. It follows that we are all bound by our prejudices in society. Through the case of the 5th juror, it is apparent that despite one's status and level in life, people still choose to be prejudiced and opinionated, which impairs the execution of justice and equality.


Augoustinos, M., & Reynolds, K. J. (2001). Understanding prejudice, racism, and social conflict. London: SAGE.

Bergman, P., & Asimow, M. (2006). Reel justice: The courtroom goes to the movies. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Pub.

Rose, R., & Price, S. (2016). Twelve Angry Men. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.

September 18, 2023




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