82 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 613 (2007)
12 Angry Men (and Women) in Federal Court

handle is hein.journals/chknt82 and id is 635 raw text is: 12 ANGR Y MEN (AND WOMEN) IN FEDERAL COURT

The movie 12 Angry Men reflected everything that is both extraordi-
nary and troubling about the American jury system. It portrayed twelve lay
people struggling with questions of guilt or innocence, of bias and fairness,
of racism and rationality. It was remarkable to see their interaction, to
watch the extent to which the system obliged them to confront each other in
an unparalleled example of direct democracy. It was the prototype of a
communal verdict based on the expertise and prejudices of twelve inde-
pendent people. Henry Fonda, portraying the lone dissenter at the outset of
the jury's deliberations, persuades the others to reverse their positions from
guilty to not guilty, by rationally examining the evidence and rejecting
racist appeals. (My favorite moment was when the oldest juror, whose ob-
servations were initially ignored, recalls the way an elderly witness walked
to the stand-limping, dragging one leg-and then notes the witness's
testimony-that he ran to the door moments after he heard the telltale
sound of a body hitting the floor above him.)
But the movie was troubling in equal measure. These important strug-
gles about guilt or innocence were played out in an all white, all male jury,
while the defendant was a minority. The social strata this jury represented
was relatively narrow-no apparent extremes of wealth and poverty. The
jurors spoke in different accents, reasoned in different ways, but they
hardly reflected the true diversity of the city they were in, New York.
The film's irony was that while the deliberations represented the best
of the jury system, the jury was wholly unrepresentative of the community.
In fact, let me update the scene, federalize it, if you will. Assume the
charge was prosecuted in federal court-murder in aid of racketeering un-
der 18 U.S.C.  1959(a)(1), or robbery under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C.
 1951. Assume that the same offense could have been prosecuted in state
court, perhaps the court just across the street, with substantially lower pen-
* Judge Nancy Gertner is a District Court judge of the District of Massachusetts. She also
teaches at Yale Law School.

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