The film 12 Angry Men presents an example of a jury going through the process of negotiation as they decide on the case of an 18-year old boy who allegedly killed his father. It also demonstrates the “joint problem solving” alternative of negotiation that Ury (1993, p. 5) refers to as “soft on people, hard on the problem.”
Negotiation, according to Ury (1993, p. 4) is “the process of back-and-forth communication aimed at reaching agreement with others when some of your interests are shared and some are opposed.” In the film, it started right after the twelve-man jury made a preliminary vote of 11 to 1 in favor of guilty. Juror No. 10 reacts to Juror No. 8s decision to which Juror No. 8 expresses his interest as he tells them his doubts on the boy’s guilt and suggests that they discuss the facts before making a final decisions Juror No. 7 insists that the boy is guilty and Juror No. 10 expresses his accusations and racist attitudes. This exemplifies the confrontational type. However, this is turned around to the joint problem solving type when Juror No. 12 suggests that each of them should try to convince Juror No. 8. The round table discussion gave everyone a chance to express their concerns, fears and desires. This allowed Juror No. 8 to pose questions which cause each of them to think over their positions.
The discussions about the murder weapon, the testimonies of the witnesses such as the lame old man, the old woman and the neighbors, the defendant’s alibi and the angle of the stab wound as well as the preliminary votes done are ways in which “different options for meeting” the different interests of the jurors were explored (Ury, 1993 p.6). In all the deliberations, Juror No. 8 is able to employ the breakthrough strategy cited by Ury (1993, pp.9-14). Although, there are violent reactions from Jurors No. 3 and No. 10, the jury members are able to see the point of Juror No. 8 and they begin to see the reasonable doubt of the boy’s guilt. Finally, the jury members except for Juror No. 3 “reach a mutually satisfactory agreement” during the last vote when they voted for “not guilty”.
The kind of interaction during the negotiation is obviously affected by the different personalities of each jury member. First, Juror No. 1 becomes easily discouraged and offended when his decisions as foreman of the jury are not followed. Second, Juror No. 2 is meek and is easily swayed by the arguments of the other jury members. He is observed to have a self-limiting behavior because he does not assert his opinions. Third, Juror No. 3 is considered rude, hot-tempered, judgmental, stubborn and vocal with his opinions and biases. He employs force and personal attacks on the jury members to have his own way. He does not change his decision probably because he has what we call “competing commitments”(Keagan & Lahey, 2001). Fourth, Juror No. 4 is somehow arrogant yet he is logical, practical, and even-tempered. Fifth, Juror No. 5 is filled with reservations, fears, and insecurities. He has a limiting behavior because he refuses to speak during the round table discussion though he is knowledgeable on some things. Sixth, Juror No. 6 is insensitive, indecisive and only follows the decision of the majority. Seventh, Juror No. 7 is an unconcerned human being who does not care about the lives of other people especially of the boy who is about to be sentenced to death. All he cares about are his own interests. Juror No. 8, on the other hand, is unlike all the other jurors. He has a kind heart and he has concern for others. He looks at the case and the person involved objectively. He uses calm and logical reasoning to persuade the other jury members of what he believes in. He has emotional intelligence because he is not easily swayed by emotions. Likewise, Juror No. 9 has emotional intelligence because he did not allow others’ display of anger to sway to making a harsh decision when he has already felt that there is “reasonable doubt”. Meanwhile, Juror No. 10 is a prejudiced, bitter, racist and nasty person. He is quick to react and accuse people. On one hand, Juror No. 11 is civil in his manners but mostly decides based on majority’s decision. Lastly, Juror No. 12 is a person who easily changes his mind. All these characteristics of the jury members come into play as they make a unanimous decision.
If I had been one of the jury members, my human development “lens” would probably affect my decision on the case. I would have also voted “not guilty” like Juror No. 8. It is really difficult to decide to sentence to death a person who is innocent or to decide to let a person go free when he is guilty. But a decision should be made only when the facts have been thoroughly discussed and all ambiguities have been clarified. Indeed, the negotiation between the jury members during the deliberations has been helpful for them to decide carefully.
Ury, W. (1993). Getting Past No: Negotiating Your Way from Confrontation to Cooperation Revised Ed. New York, USA: Bantam Books.
12 Angry Men. (1957). Dir. Sidney Lumet. Perf. Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cob, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Jack Klugman, et. al. USA: United Artists.