Murder in the first degree—premeditated homicide—is the most serious charge tried in our criminal courts. You've heard a long and complex case, gentlemen, and it is now your duty to sit down to try and separate the facts from the fancy. One man is dead. The life of another is at stake. If there is a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused . . . then you must declare him not guilty. If, however, there is no reasonable doubt, then he must be found guilty. Whichever way you decide, the verdict must be unanimous. I urge you to deliberate honestly and thoughtfully. You are faced with a grave responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.
Ten: It's tough to figure, isn't it? A kid kills his father. Bing! Just like that. Well, it's the element. They let the kids run wild. Maybe it serves ‘em right.
Three: I never saw a guiltier man in my life... You sat right in court and heard the same thing I did. The man's a dangerous killer. You could see it.
Eight: He's nineteen years old.
Eight: There were eleven votes for guilty. It's not so easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.
Eight: I don't want to change your mind.... I want to talk for a while. Look – this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know – living in a slum – his mother dead since he was nine. That's not a very good head start. He's a tough, angry kid. You know why slum kids get that way? Because we knock 'em on the head once a day, every day. I think maybe we owe him a few words. That's all.
Ten: I don't mind telling you this, mister. We don't owe the kid a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? You know what that trial cost? He's lucky he got it. Look, we're all grownups here. You're not going to tell us that we're supposed to believe him, knowing what he is. I've lived among 'em all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You know that.
Nine: (to Ten very slowly). I don't know that. What a terrible thing for a man to believe! Since when is dishonesty a group characteristic? You have no monopoly on the truth.
Three: You’re right. It's the kids. The way they are—you know? They don't listen. I've got a kid. When he was eight years old, he ran away from a fight. I saw him. I was so ashamed. I told him right out, "I'm gonna make a man out of you or I'm gonna bust you up into little pieces trying." When he was fifteen he hit me in the face. He's big, you know. I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid! You work your heart out....
Five: I've lived in a slum all my life.
Ten: Oh, now wait a second!
Five: I used to play in a back yard that was filled with garbage. Maybe it still smells on me.
Foreman: Now let's be reasonable. There's nothing personal.
[Five stands up.]
Five: There is something personal!
Four: Take a look at that knife. It's a very strange knife. I've never seen one like it before in my life and neither had the storekeeper who sold it to him.
[Eight reaches casually into his pocket and withdraws an object. No one notices this. He stands up quietly.]
Four: Aren't you trying to make us accept a pretty incredible coincidence?
Eight: I'm not trying to make anyone accept it. I'm just saying it's possible.
Three: (shouting). And I'm saying it's not possible.
[Eight swiftly flicks open the blade of a switch knife and jams it into the table next to the first one. They are exactly alike. There are several gasps and everyone stares at the knife. There is a long silence.]
Seven: Now wait a second. What are you, the guy's lawyer? Listen, there are still eleven of us who think he's guilty. You're alone. What do you think you're gonna accomplish? If you want to be stubborn and hang this jury, he'll be tried again and found guilty, sure as he's born.
Eight: You're probably right.
Seven: So what are you gonna do about it? We can be here all night.
Nine: It's only one night. A man may die.
Eight: I've got a proposition to make. I want to call for a vote. I want eleven men to vote by secret ballot. I'll abstain. If there are still eleven votes for guilty, I won't stand alone. We'll take in a guilty verdict right now.
Eleven: Please. I would like to say something here. I have always thought that a man was entitled to have unpopular opinions in this country. This is the reason I came here. I wanted to have the right to disagree. In my own country, I am ashamed to say that.
Nine: [Pointing at Eight] This gentleman chose to stand alone against us. That's his right. It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly. He left the verdict up to us. He gambled for support, and I gave it to him. I want to hear more. The vote is ten to two.
Eight: An el train takes ten seconds to pass a given point, or two seconds per car. That el had been going by the old man's window for at least six seconds and maybe more, before the body fell, according to the woman. The old man would have had to hear the boy say, "I'm going to kill you," while the front of the el was roaring past his nose. It's not possible that he could have heard it.
Nine: It's just that I looked at him for a very long time. The seam of his jacket was split under the arm. Did you notice that? He was a very old man with a torn jacket, and he carried two canes. I think I know him better than anyone here. This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant man who has been nothing all his life, who has never had recognition—his name in the newspapers. Nobody knows him after seventy-five years. That's a very sad thing. A man like this needs to be recognized. To be questioned, and listened to, and quoted just once. This is very important.
Twelve: And you're trying to tell us he lied about a thing like this just so that he could be important?
Nine: No. He wouldn't really lie. But perhaps he'd make himself believe that he heard those words and recognized the boy's face.
Three: (angrily). He's an old man. You saw him. Half the time he was confused. How could he be positive about anything? [Looks around sheepishly, unable to cover up his blunder.]
Eight: You want to see this boy die because you personally want it—not because of the facts.
Three: Shut up!
[He lunges at Eight, but is caught by two of the jurors and held. He struggles as Eight watches calmly.]
Three: Let me go. I'll kill him. I’ll kill him!
Eight: You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?
Eleven: We have a responsibility. This is a remarkable thing about democracy. That we are...ummmm... what is the word...Ah, notified! That we are notified by mail to come down to this place and decide on the guilt or innocence of a man we have not known before. We have nothing to gain or lose by our verdict. This is one of the reasons why we are strong. We should not make it a personal thing.
Eleven: I beg your pardon, but maybe you don’t understand the term, “reasonable doubt.”
Seven: [angrily] What do you mean, I don’t understand it? Who do you think you are to talk to me like that? [To all] How do you like this guy? He comes over here running for his life, and before he can even take a big breath he’s telling us how to run the show. The arrogance of him!
Four: No one here is asking where anyone came from.
Seven: I was born right here.
Four: Or where your father came from. [Looks at Seven, who looks away.]
Five: …Anyone who’s ever used a switch knife would never have stabbed downward. You don’t handle a switch knife that way. You use it underhanded. [Illustrates.]
Eight: Then he couldn’t have made the kind of wound that killed his father.
Five: I suppose it’s conceivable that he could have made the wound, but it’s not likely, not if he had any experience with switch knives, and we know that the kid had a lot of experience with switch knives.
Ten: …You know, they get drunk, and bang, someone’s lying in the gutter. Nobody’s blaming them. That’s how they are. You know what I mean? Violent!…Most of them, it’s like they have no feelings…They’re no good. There’s not one of ‘em who’s any good. We better watch out. Take it from me.
Three: …You made all the arguments. You can’t turn now. A guilty man’s going to be walking the streets. A murderer! He’s got to die! Stay with me!...
Four: I’m sorry. I’m convinced. I don’t think I’m wrong often, but I guess I was this once. There is a reasonable doubt in my mind.
Eight: [to Three] They’re waiting. [Three sees that he is alone. He moves to table and pulls switch knife out of table and walks over to Eight with it. Three is holding knife in approved knife-fighter fashion. Three looks long and hard at juror Eight and weaves a bit from side to side as he holds knife with point of it in direction of Eight’s belly. Eight speaks quietly, firmly.] Not guilty. [Three turns knife around and Eight takes it by handle. Eight closes knife and puts it away.]
Three: Not guilty!