Criminal Justice

Assignment: In this assignment, students will hone their skills as they examine how a playwright (movie) makes deliberate decisions to manipulate the characters and mood through dialogue and stage directions. One important focus is getting students in the habit of reading at home, tying their ability to participate in the daily actions of the play to their homework completion.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to:

  • Explain the principles of “reasonable doubt” and “innocent until proven guilty,”
  • Explain the strengths and weaknesses of the American jury system,
  • Describe the different types of persuasion—rational and emotional—as used by different jurors and explain which proves to be most effective, and
  • Explain how personal prejudices obscure the truth in a jury room.
  • Evaluate the extent to which a trial by jury ensures equal justice under the law.

Directions: On a separate piece of paper answer the following questions as completely as possible by using complete sentences and paragraphs. Answer question number one before viewing this movie and THEN parts 1-IV after watching this video.


  1. Should all criminal trials be decided by a unanimous vote by the jury? Some states (Oregon and Louisiana) only require a supreme majority vote of 10 to 2 to convict somebody. Should the vote have to be unanimous or should somebody be convicted to prison or death by a majority vote of something like 7 to 5?
  2. In your opinion, what is the value of watching the movie 12 Angry Men? Did this movie teach you anything about trial by jury?
  3. The defendant, in this case, was a kid who is approximately your age. Are the men represented in this jury really your peers? Explain and defend your answer.
  4. Would the accused young man, in this case, have been better off if his case was decided by a judge? Why or why not? Make sure that you explain and defend your answer.


  1. If you were the person on trial. Which two members of the jury would you want to have eliminated from this jury? Explain and defend your answer.
  2. In your opinion, who would you rank as the two best members of the jury in this case? Why were these people the best members of the jury in your opinion? Explain and defend your answer.
  3. After watching the movie 12 Angry Men has your answer to question number one changed? Why or why not?
  4. What is the task of the jury?


  1. In the justice system, what is the meaning and significance of the concept of reasonable doubt?
  2. How does prejudice interfere in the course of justice?
  3. What strengths and weaknesses of the jury system does the play bring to light? What do you think the playwright’s opinion about the system is?
  4. One juror was prejudiced. Another juror wanted to get to a baseball game. Yet another juror was angry at his own son and, at first, wanted to take that anger out on the young defendant. How do the requirements of a unanimous verdict and proof beyond a reasonable doubt relate to the personal concerns that some jurors will bring to the jury room?


  1. After watching this movie, do you agree that verdicts in criminal trials should be unanimous and that jurors should vote for guilt only if they are convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?
  2. Do you think that the dissenting juror planned all along to try to convince the others? What were his methods of persuasion?
  3. Do you think that the jurors thought that the boy probably had killed his father? Should they have voted to convict if they had that belief?
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