12 Angry Men

The movie Twelve Angry Men begins with an eighteen year old boy from the ghetto who is on trial for the murder of his abusive father. A jury of twelve men are locked in the deliberation room to decide the fate of the young boy. All evidence is against the boy and a guilty verdict would send him to die in the electric chair. The judge informs the jurors that they are faced with a grave decision and that the court would not entertain any acts of mercy for the boy if found guilty.

Even before the deliberation talks begin it is apparent most of the men are certain the boy is guilty. However, when the initial poll is taken Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) registers a shocking not guilty vote. Immediately the room is in uproar. The rest of the jury resents the inconvenient of his decision. After questioning his sanity they hastily decide to humor the juror #8 (Henry Fonda) by agreeing to discuss the trial for one hour. Eventually, as the talks proceed juror #8 slowly undermines their confidence by saying that the murder weapon is widely available to anyone, and that the testimony of the key witness is suspect. Gradually they are won over by his arguments and even the most narrow minded of his fellow jurors hesitantly agrees with him. Their verdict is now a solid not guilty.

Arriving at a unanimous not guilty verdict does not come easily. The jury encounters many difficulties in learning to communicate and deal with each other. What seems to be a decisive guilty verdict as deliberations begin slowly becomes a questionable not sure. Although the movie deals with issues relating to the process of effective communication this paper will focus of two reasons why they encounter difficulties and how they overcome them. First, we will apply the Johari grid theory and see how it applies to their situation. Then, we will see how each individual’s frame of reference and prejudices effect their perception which cause difficulties in the communication process.

If we analyze the Johari grid of each juror we see a large hidden area in the case of all of the men. Take into consideration, referred to by juror numbers only they do not even have the benefit of knowing their names. These men have never talked before. Each of them come from different situations with individual and unique experiences. The public area consists solely of the shared information provided during the trial. Their hidden area is immense resulting in an equally large blind area. The public, hidden and blind areas are relatively the same for each juror before beginning the deliberation. It is the size of the unconscious area that will differ more among the men. We will see how the contents of the unconscious area will largely effect the decision making process of some of the jurors. Because the information contained in the unconscious area is unrecognized it is often the most difficult to overcome.

Henry Fonda’s (Juror #8) interpersonal style would be classified as open-receptive. He levels with the others by openly admitting that he does not know if the boy killed his father and solicits feedback in order to make an accurate decision. He says “I just don’t think we should send a boy off to die without at least talking about it first.” The example he set encourages the others to level and be open to receive feedback. The movie illustrates the process of leveling and soliciting feedback which can make all the difference.

The character with the largest hidden window is the boy on trial. Realizing this, Henry Fonda (Juror #8) tries to put himself in the boys shoes to gain a better understanding of his situation. “The poor boy has been beaten on the head once a day every day since he was five years old!” and “I think if I were the boy I’d get myself a better lawyer... He didn’t stand a chance in there.” In this case one can only speculate as to the contents of the boys hidden area. The important factor is his desire to comprehend the boys feelings.

One man in particular, Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb) has a sizable unconscious area. He