Juror Seven and Juror Three insist that they want to know who changed his vote. Juror Eleven interrupts, reminding them that this was a vote by secret ballot. Three says that “there are no secrets here” and that Juror Eight has come in to the jury room and been "tearing out your hearts" with stories of a poor kid who couldn't have acted differently. He says that they're just listening to Eight’s fairytales.
Seven and Three feel entitled to know who changed his vote because they are used to getting their ways. They appear to be more upset at being thwarted than anything else. Three characterizes Eight’s actions as pleas of sympathy for the kid, not rational argument.
Eleven says he thought that in America a man was entitled to have an unpopular opinion. He thinks this right should be protected because it was not protected in the country that he came from. Ten interrupts saying sarcastically that now they have to listen to Eleven talk about his country again.
Seven assumes that it was Five who changed his vote, and asks what it was that made him change. As Three and Seven insist that Five tell them, Nine interrupts that he was the one who changed his vote. Nine explains that he recognized Eight’s courage in being willing to stand alone and gamble for support, and, because of that, Nine changed his vote and wants to hear more from Eight.
Seven and Three target Five because he is a vulnerable target, as a young man similar to the accused in the case. Nine reveals that he changed his vote in order to protect Five from these attacks. Nine shows a generosity of spirit, and a particular interest in anyone who stands alone.
The foreman removes the switch knife from the wall and returns it to the guard at the door. Four and Two chat apart from the others at the water cooler. Four says that he would vote “not guilty” if he could see any evidence in the accused kid’s favor. Two agrees that the kid is clearly guilty. Four wonders what "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" really means. Four points out that two men believe there is a reason for doubt and he wonders why.
The topic of “reasonable doubt” reappears in the play as Two and Four question the meaning of the phrase. Four hopes for evidence in favor of the kid, which shows an inclination to treat the debate as one between guilt and innocence, rather than (as it should be by law) seeing the accused as innocent until proven guilty.
Four and Two reflect that sometimes a guilty man is released and sometimes an innocent man is accused. Three apologizes to Five saying that he didn't mean anything personal by his accusation that Five was the one who changed his vote.
Calm is restored with Three’s apology. Larger philosophical questions of justice are raised by Four and Two’s discussion. The debate moves away from emotional drama.
Seven asks Eight who killed the father if the kid was not the murderer. He wonders who else could have had a motive for doing so. Eight says perhaps someone with an old grudge. Nine says it's not easy to explain his doubt, and that it's only a feeling that he has. Ten complains that they're going to spend the night talking about feelings to the exclusion of facts.
Seven provides another misconception about justice: that someone must be blamed for a crime. If not the kid, then who? Eight’s reminder that they must focus on the kid is unsatisfying to Seven. Ten, hypocritically, accuses Nine of prioritizing feeling over facts.
Three says the old man heard the kid yell at his father, “I'm going to kill you,” and then heard a body hit the floor before seeing the kid running down the stairs. Twelve says the woman across the street looked into the open window and saw the murder occur. Three says this ought to be enough evidence to convince anyone. But Eight says it's not enough for him.
Three and Twelve feel that the two testimonies provide sufficient evidence to convince anyone beyond a reasonable doubt, but Eight disagrees. Eight shows that testimonies can be believed or not on the basis of their consistency (not on character judgments).
Four points out that the woman across the street remembers the most insignificant details in her testimony, including that she saw the murder occur through the last two car windows of a passing elevated train. Three starts a game of tic-tac-toe, but Eight says this isn't the time for games and snatches the paper away. A man's life is at stake, Eight reminds them. Three is angry, but Seven calms him down, while the Foreman says he doesn't want any fights in the jury room.
Four, on the other hand, is persuaded by a character judgment of the woman across the street: she, like himself, is detail-oriented. Three has grown increasingly angry, as Eight has thwarted his goals. When Three seems no longer able to immediately convince Eight, he tries to ignore and belittle him by playing a game instead of listening.
When quiet is restored, Eight asks the other jurors how long they think it takes an elevated train to pass a given point. Five guesses 10 or 12 seconds and Two agrees. Eight asks if anyone in the jury room has ever lived near el tracks. Five says he has and acknowledges that the sound as a train passes is incredibly loud. Eight then points out that the old man swore he heard the kid’s scream and the body fall. The woman across the street saw the murder through the final two cars of the elevated train. Therefore, the train had been passing for at least six seconds when the old man might have heard the noises upstairs.
Eight’s argument that the old man downstairs could not have heard the kid yell or the body fall over the sounds of the passing elevated train continues to tackle the theme of certainty and doubt. Until this point, the other jurors have been certain of the kid’s guilt. Nine changed his vote to give Eight a chance. Eight concern introduces the first real doubt. Eight’s convincing rhetoric involves first asking for opinions of the time it takes a train to pass a given point.
Eight says it's not possible that the old man could have heard what he claims to have heard. Two agrees and Three asks whether they are calling the old man a liar. He asks why the old man would lie. Nine replies that he looked at the old man for a long time and he noticed the seam of his jacket was split under the arm. He recognized that the old man would have lived a quiet and insignificant life and that he may have wanted to be recognized and listened to in his old age.
Three and Nine are interested in the old man’s character and his reasons for lying, demonstrating a common feeling among the jurors that one’s character and motives should be examined. It is enough for Eight that the old man seems to have been wrong, but Nine interprets his motives by identifying with him.
Nine says that the old man wouldn't lie, but he might make himself believe something that wasn't actually true. Nine says he's not making this up and that he knows about this feeling this from experience. Three says Nine is admitting that he's a liar, but Eight argues he's only explaining the old man's possible motives.
The idea of convincing oneself of a falsehood adds complexity to the theme of certainty and doubt. To what extent can one be certain about any experience? Does one need to lie in order to be wrong? Eight defends Nine’s actions in identifying with the old man.
The Foreman encourages the jurors to refocus on their job. Two offers a cough drop and Eight accepts one. Then he raises another point. He says that even if the old man could have heard the kid yell, “I'm going to kill you,” the boy probably wasn't using this phrase to indicate a literal desire to kill. He points out that all of them have at times yelled, “I'm going to kill you” in every day settings, when they didn't really intend to kill someone.
Eight’s acceptance of the cough drop shows that he is receptive to the thoughts and kindnesses of others. Two perhaps could tell that Eight had been speaking a lot and is tacitly offering his support. Eight’s argument about the non-literal meanings of “I’m going to kill you” shows language can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
Three disagrees and says that the way the kid said it indicates that he meant it. He screamed it at the top of his lungs. Eight asks him if he thinks the boy would shout out his intentions for the whole neighborhood to hear moments before killing his father. Ten says that the kid is not bright enough to consider such a risk. Five says that he would like to change his vote to “not guilty.”
Three argues that emotion behind words, rather than the words themselves, is more important. Ten stays true to character. Five’s vote change marks the first additional character beginning to doubt. Five is predisposed to do so by his awareness of the kid’s similarities to himself.
Four asks Five to explain why he's changed his vote. Five says that he thinks there is a reasonable doubt. Ten says that Eight has talked Five into believing a fairytale. Five says maybe the old man didn't lie, but maybe he did. Seven says that Eight ought to write for Amazing Detective Monthly because he's great at making up stories.
Four, Ten, and Seven see Five’s vote change as the product of emotional persuasion rather than reason. Eight’s ability to bring other possible explanations to life does seem to be key in Five allowing himself to support the kid.
Seven wants to know why the kid’s lawyer wouldn't have brought up the points that Eight has raised. Five says that lawyers can't think of everything. Seven, exasperated, asks whether, because of Eight, they are supposed to believe the old man didn't get up and run to the door to see the kid after the murder? Five asks if the old man said he ran to the door. Four says that the old man said that he “went” to the door.
The quality of the defense lawyers is again called into question. In restating the old man’s testimony, Seven states something (the old man “ran”) that logically contradicts his appearance and abilities (walks with two canes). Five picks up on this discrepancy.
Eight asks the jurors where the old man's bedroom was in his apartment because he doesn't remember. Ten says that he thought Eight remembered everything. The Foreman requests the floor plan of the apartments from the Guard at the door. Three asks, why it is that Eight is the one who always wants to see exhibits from the trial. Five and Nine quickly add that they want to see this exhibit as well.
Eight has introduced reasonable doubt by pointing out discrepancies in the old man’s testimony and Five picks up this approach as well. The request for the floor plan is therefore second by Five and Nine because they can see where Eight is headed with his line of reasoning. The jurors who earlier just wanted to get this trial over with are now starting to engage in earnest with the evidence – they are treating the trial and its process and their responsibility with respect. And as they do so the personal differences that separate these jurors seem a little less important, a little less divisive.
Eight wonders whether an old man who has had two strokes in the past three years and who uses a pair of canes to walk could get to the door in the 15 seconds that he said it took him to do so. Nine reminds them that the old man was very positive about the length of time. Three says that the witness is an old man, and half the time he was confused, so how could he be positive about anything? As he speaks, he quickly realizes his error and looks around embarrassed.
Nine’s support of Eight as he questions the old man’s testimony is similar to the way Three supported Four while the latter laid out a logical argument. Three traps himself in his fervor to discount the old man and uphold his testimony at the same time. Three makes numerous errors in judgment and changes his approach many times.
Seven and Ten are not thrilled to look at the diagram of the apartments again. Four says that others are interested, and invites Eight to go ahead. Eight reviews the testimony: the old man was in bed, he got up, went down the hall, opened the front door and saw the kid running down the stairs. All this, he said, took 15 seconds.
Seven and Ten express their characteristic distaste and disinterest. Four, though opposed to Eight’s ideas, is always moderate and willing to listen. Eight reviews the old man’s testimony, which provides these details to the audience, as well.
Eight calculates the distance from the bed to the bedroom door plus the length of the hallway. Eleven points out that the old man had to be helped into the witness chair and could only move very slowly. Nine says, “it's a long walk for a man who uses canes.” Eight paces off the distance on the floor of the jury room.
As Eight calculates the distance the old man had to move, Eleven joins the approach of pointing out discrepancies by reminding the other jurors of the slow pace of the old man. It’s clear that Eleven and Nine can see where Eight’s argument is headed.
Ten says that Eight’s plan is insane and that he can't recreate the old man's movements. Eight asks to have the chance to try because, according to Ten, it ought to take only 15 seconds. Two says he has a watch with a second hand. He stamps his foot to indicate the body falling to the ground, and Eight starts to walk slowly.
Ten’s objection to Eight’s reenactment is reasonable compared to his previous prejudiced objections. There are many unknowns about the old man’s movements, but this only further raises a sense of doubt about the true events of the night of the murder.
Ten tells Eight to speed up to match the old man's pace. Eight speeds up slightly. He devotes time to retrieving invisible canes and opening the doors. When he reaches the end of the distance, Two says that his movements took 39 seconds. Four points out that the old man swore under oath that it took 15 seconds. Eleven, the Foreman, and Four acknowledge that there is a dramatic difference between 15 and 39 seconds. Eight guesses that the old man was moving toward the door and heard someone on the stairs, but didn't see the person and assumed it was the kid.
This second part of Eight’s argument (creating a story of what happened) seems to reinforce Ten and Three’s accusations. Eight is, in many ways, a persuasive storyteller. At the same time, his story is based on a more thorough examination of the evidence than the “stories” the other jurors believed initially.
Three says that Eight is making up wild stories because he feels sorry for slum kids. He says the kid is guilty and he must pay. Eight asks if Three is the kid’s executioner. Three responds that he is one of them. Eight says he feels sorry for Three because Three would happily let the kid die. He says Three wants this for personal reasons and not because of facts. Three angrily lunges at Eight, but is restrained by other jurors as he yells, “let me go! I'll kill him.” Eight asks, “you don't really mean you'll kill me do you?”
Three and Eight’s clash finally becomes personal as Eight pries at the heart of Three’s reasons for feeling strongly about the case. Three personally wants the kid to die, and when this is exposed he reacts with anger, only confirming the truth of the accusation. Three proves Eight was right: “I’ll kill you” may be shouted in a variety of contexts, with a variety of meanings. “Obvious” interpretations are not always so obvious. One must test them with doubt.