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82 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 579 (2007)
Deliberation and Dissent: 12 Angry Men versus the Empirical Reality of Juries

handle is hein.journals/chknt82 and id is 601 raw text is: DELIBERATION AND DISSENT: 12 ANGRY MEN VERSUS THE
12 Angry Men is one of my favorite films, a movie I've seen many
times and have enjoyed sharing with family, friends, and students. I
watched it again recently with my thirteen-year-old son. Despite the
movie's melodramatic dialogue, dated stereotypes, and Freudian allusions,
my son thought it was pretty good. What, I ask, was most interesting
about it? In the beginning almost all of them thought he was guilty, but in
the end he was found not guilty. And he could have done it, you don't
know. But if you don't know, you've got to vote not guilty.
The dramatic turnaround in the jury room is also part of its great ap-
peal to me, as is the whodunit question that is left dangling at the end. The
lonely dissenter played by Henry Fonda, who insists that the jury talk about
the evidence before he will agree to convict, produces heated exchange and
debate. In the process of their collective reasoning about the evidence, al-
ternative accounts emerge, ones that individual jurors had not considered
earlier. Jurors who were initially certain become uncertain, then switch to
the other side. The movie's dramatic enactment of the jury's discussion
shows the power of the dissenter and illustrates the great promise of group
deliberation. It also emphasizes the point that in our system of justice, un-
certainty about guilt means acquittal.
Fifty years later, the movie still appeals, as evidenced by this anniver-
sary issue of the Chicago-Kent Law Review. It is used in classrooms to help
* This article had its origins in a fantastic panel celebrating the 50th anniversary of the movie 12
Angry Men, organized by Nancy Marder for the American Association of Law Schools conference,
January 5, 2007. 1 thank Nancy Marder for encouraging me and other colleagues to reflect on this iconic
representation of the American jury. I also thank Zachary Hans Bend for sharing his insights about the
movie with me. Data collection for the hung jury project discussed in this article was supported by
Grant No. 98-IJ-CX-0048, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of
Justice. Any opinions expressed or conclusions drawn from these data in the current article are mine
and do not express the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or the National Center for
State Courts.
** Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, Myron Taylor Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14853. Email: val-

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