“If there’s a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused, a reasonable doubt, then you must bring me a verdict of not guilty…however you decide, your verdict must be unanimous.” The movie, The Twelve Angry Men, was a fascinating movie. Surprisingly, it was very interesting and engaging even though it was in black and white and made in 1950. This movie was a perfect demonstration of how individuals who meet in a goal orientated group fulfill roles, create norms, have status, acquire power, and become leaders, and how a group decides on a unanimous outcome. Each of the twelve jury members fulfilled a role at some point within the movie. They fulfilled task roles, maintenance roles, and self-centered roles. They had to learn to work together despite the roles they played to come to a unanimous decision. The Forman (Juror #1) fulfilled one group maintenance role (tension reliever) and two group task roles (procedural technician and initiator). As a tension reliever, the Forman told Cobb to calm down when Cobb started on his rant. He often tried to relieve tension in situations with conflict. As a procedural technician, Forman emphasized teamwork by asking the group to vote a couple of times in a couple different ways, vocal ballots and silent ballots. This helped the group stay on track. He also ran errands for the group, like retrieving the knife and the apartment blueprint.
As an initiator, the Forman initiated the discussions after the jurors would break in the beginning of the movie. Whimpy (juror #2) fulfilled a group maintenance role as a supporter. Once Whimpy changed his vote to not guilty, he supported Fonda’s ideas. When Fonda was conversing with Cobb about the glasses, Whimpy supported Fonda’s point of view and told Cobb, “You can’t send someone off to die on evidence like that!” Lee J. Cobb (juror #3) played three individual roles (blocker, dominator, and confessor) and one group task role (opinion giver). Cobb played the role of the blocker most often. From the beginning to the end of the movie, he disagreed and ignored any of the jurors’ statements that are different from his opinion. At one point, Cobb shut down Whimpy who wanted to speak up. As a dominator, Cobb belligerently yelled at anyone who voted non guilty. He often started on a rant of his opinions and refused to let any of the other jurors speak. Cobb played the role as a confessor towards the beginning of the movie when he shared the picture of his son.
As an opinion Giver, Cobb said over and over that he was positive the boy was guilty and deserved the death penalty. He repeatedly stated through out the movie, “he (the boy) has to pay for what he did.” E. G. Marshall (juror #4) played a group task role. As an opinion giver, Marshall was loyal to his vote. His opinion towards the end of the movie was still not guilty because of the eyewitness testimony from the women across the street. He was firm in this belief until the eyeglasses fact was brought up. Jack Klugman (juror #5) fulfilled a group task role. As an elaborator, he often compared and contrasted the case to his own life on the street. Specifically, he brought valuable information to the case when talking about the proper way to use a switch knife and how this information compared to the father’s stab wound. The painter (juror #6) was an information seeker, a group task role. It seemed as if the painter was unsure of where he stood for the majority of the movie. At one point he said to Fonda, “Supposin’ you talk us all out of this and, uh, the kid really did knife his father.” He was seeking information that would make him sure of his decision. Jack Warden (juror #7) played a group-building and maintenance role (follower) and an individual role (Joker).
He wanted the jurors to reach a conclusion as soon as possible. He had tickets to see a baseball game, and did not want to miss it. He followed and switched his vote to whatever the popular vote was, so that he could leave as soon as possible to get to the baseball game. As a joker, he said nothing that contributed to making a decision. He mostly joked or complained that the process was taking too long. Henry Fonda (juror #8) fulfilled many group task roles in this film including informational seeker, informational giver, and initiator. As an informational seeker, Fonda asked for important facts that could help convince the jurors that it was possible the boy was not guilty. For example, when the elderly man pointed out that the witness had dents on the sides of her nose, Fonda asked for an explanation and clarification on what the elderly man meant by pointing this out. As an informational giver, Fonda demonstrated this role when he reenacted how long it would take the crippled old man to get across his bedroom, down the hall to unlock the door, and to see the boy run down the stairs. As the initiator, Fonda proposed new ideas and suggestions that there was a possibility that the boy was not guilty. He was the first person to suggest that the boy was not guilty. He initiated most of the conversations that lead to their verdict of not guilty.
The elderly man (juror #9) fulfilled a group task role and a group-building and maintenance role. As an information giver, the elderly man was the one to notice that the witness had notches on the side of her nose where typically eyeglasses usually sit. He was the one to point this out to the group. As an encourager, the elderly man was the first to understand and accept the not guilty vote that Fonda made. He agreed with Fonda’s ideas and suggestions that there is reasonable doubt that the boy may not be guilty. Archie (juror #10) played an individual role of special-interest pleader. At the end of the film, Archie had a melt down. He yelled and offended many of the jurors with his unnecessary crude insults and racist remarks. He was trying to sway the group based on his own personal biased opinions instead of the facts of the case. The watchmaker (juror #11) fulfilled one group task role as a recorder. At one point in the movie, the watch maker stood up and told the group that he had been listening and taking notes of what the other group members have been saying. Slick (juror #12) played a group building and maintenance role as a follower. He did not speak up much about the case. When he did speak, it was about his ad agency. He thought very highly of himself and his job. He changed his vote back and forth several times. Additionally to roles, there were many social norms that developed through out this movie.
All of them were violated by at least one person at some point. Sometimes, the jurors who violated the norms were punished and other times they were not. The first social norm that was created was to vote guilty. Fonda was the first to violate this norm by voting not guilty. Eventually the rest of the group slowly changes their vote, and the group created a new norm of voting not guilty instead of guilty. Another social norm that was created by the legal system was that the jurors’ decision had to be unanimous. Fonda violated this norm by voting against the group. As punishment for violating the norm, the group verbally attacked him before they gave him a chance to explain his reasoning. Because of this, a norm developed that it was okay for the jurors to harass and belittle Fonda for his not guilty vote. The elderly man violated this norm. He was subjected to harassment and belittlement as well as his punishment. After time went on, more people started to agree with Fonda’s ideas, and the group did not follow this norm any more. An additional social norm was to make a decision based on facts, not prejudice or stereotypes. Those who obeyed the norm, like Fonda and Marshall, were looked to as leaders. The juror that made arguments based on stereotypes, Archie, was eventually ignored. From this, a norm that no racial prejudices would be tolerated was created. Archie violated this norm when he said that he knew people of these kinds very well.
As punishment, one by one group members left the table and turned their backs on him. In every group, there are members of high status and of low status. In this movie, there was almost an equal balance of high status jurors and low status jurors. The status of the jurors developed when they assumed a role within the group. The high status members included, the Foreman, Cobb, Marshall, Fonda, the Elderly Man, and Archie. The Foreman assumed a high status role because he organized where everyone would sit, passed out the ballots, and was able to rein the jurors back in to vote when needed. Cobb would be considered high status because he dominated a lot of the conversations. He communicated more than other group members, and other jurors listened to him in the beginning of the movie. Marshall is a stockbroker and was viewed as high status because of his education. Fonda was definitely a high status member. Over the course of the movie, he convinced the other eleven jurors to change their vote by pointing out new ideas and suggestions. The elderly man proved his high status when he pointed out the information about the witness wearing eyeglasses.
That swayed the rest of the jurors. The low status members included, Whimpy, Klugman, the painter, Warden, Archie, the watchmaker, and Slick. Whimpy tried to voice his opinion, but was rarely listened too. Klugman was viewed as low status because of his life on the streets. The painter, Warden, the watchmaker, and Slick were all considered low status, because they barely contributed to the group’s decision. Archie is considered low status because of his racial insults. None of the jurors listened to him because they were all offended by his speech. In addition to status, power is also a big part of the movie. Every powerful individual was considered to be high status. Some people used their power for the good, others for the bad, and one person completely gave up his power.
As the jurors begin their deliberation, the foreman was selected to be the leader of the group. He had legitimate power. He told the jurors that the vote has to be unanimous, that they have to sit in juror number order, and he tried to keep the group on task.
After the foreman stopped using his power, Fonda and Cobb became more powerful. Fonda had an expert power. He suggested ideas and facts that the other jurors listened to. He influenced the group through their knowledge, thus an expert power. Cobb, however, had a coercive power. Cobb thought he could he could “punish” the other jurors into thinking his way. He would “punish” the other jurors by manipulating and belittling them.Also, Klugman had expert power for a couple minutes in the movie. His street knowledge about the knife and how it was used gains him this power. Although he had an expert power, he was not viewed in the same regard as Fonda.
Most of the low status member did not have any power at all. Whimpy, the painter, Warden, Archie, the watchmaker, and Slick lacked the status to gain power. However, they did play an important role in power, because in a way, they gave the power to the people who had it. In a way, leadership and power go hand in hand. In this movie, the powerful individuals had at least a few leadership characteristics. The foreman had a chance at leadership, but he gave it up. Cobb had some negative leadership qualities that were eventually rejected.
Fonda was the most important leader in this movie. He took over as a leader after foreman stepped down. He attended to maintenance needs, he proposed valid information, and was passionate toward swaying the group not to condemn the boy to death. As a leader, Fonda listened to the low status people when they had information to give. For example, Klugman had information about the knife that might have been overlooked if Fonda was not respectful of him.
In the end, the group did arrive at a high quality decision. Although the case in the courtroom seems crystal clear that the boy was guilty, there were some misleading facts that were given. The jurors unanimously voted not guilty; however, they were not positive the boy was not guilty. There was not enough substantial evidence to prove if the boy did or did not stab his father.
If the jury had voted guilty, the boy would have been condemned to death. This was a life or death decision, not just a guilty or not guilty. When the Fonda and some of the other jurors started to break down the evidence and the facts, they found the evidence to be misleading to the point were it might not be factual.
Although the boy could have killed his father, there was reasonable doubt in the evidence to make the jurors believe the boy may be innocent. Even the possibility of condemning an innocent boy to death is horrifying. The group made the right high quality decision.