Ethics Hero: The “Lone Juror,” Adam Sirois

Juror 8

Two lone jurors…

In a remarkable example of life imitating art, a single juror, a 41-year-old health care worker, refused to vote guilty with the rest of the jurors deliberating on the case against the accused murderer of Etan Patz, a little boy whose disappearance in 1979 focused national attention on the child predator problem.  The defendant, Pedro Hernandez, had delivered an elaborate confession to police, then revoked it. For 18 days, Adam Sirois battled the eleven other jurors, who told him that they were convinced by the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Sirois, however, said he had doubts, too many to send a man to prison for life. In the end, the vote was 11-1. Yesterday, the judge in the case pronounced the jury deadlocked—hung— and declared a mistrial.

Sound familiar? If Sirois was made the hero of a cable TV  adaptation, it would be considered a shameless knock-off of “12 Angry Men,” the iconic 1957 jury film that originated as a live TV drama by the late Reginald Rose:

FOREMAN: …Nine — ten — eleven . That’s eleven for “guilty”. Okay, Not guilty? .
 (Juror 8 slowly raises his hand.)

FOREMAN: One. Right. Okay, eleven to one -­ “Guilty”. Now we know where we are.

JUROR 10: Boy-oh-boy! There’s always one.

JUROR 7: So what do we do now?

JUROR 8: Well, I guess we talk.

In the film, which takes place in real time, that maverick Juror 8, famously played by Henry Fonda, convinces the rest of the jurors to change their votes in less than two hours, although in the film, and when the story is on stage, two hours is so intense that the speedy time frame  seems reasonable. The Hernandez jury was not as easily swayed, obviously. After the mistrial, in a press conference, the jurors were visibly annoyed with Sirois (He was Juror 11, not 8) , although they said that the deliberations were civil, unlike the mood in Rose’s jury room. Nonetheless, Sirois was not invited to the post-trial dinner with the other jurors.

I know the Rose screenplay very well; I might qualify as an expert on it. I’ve directed that script on stage three times, twice professionally, and am preparing to do so again this summer as the swan song of the American Century Theater, the professional non-profit theater company I co-founded 20 years ago. It is a memorable—and much parodied–saga of American individualism, heroism and courage in the face of majority will and peer pressure. It is also a vivid  lesson in civics, and the importance of each citizen’s obligations to uphold core cultural values. Although it is often muddled in second and third hand descriptions (the awful stage adaptation that is made available to amateur groups makes the play into a detective story in which the defendant is proved innocent) “12 Angry Men” is about upholding the principle of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt even when the defendant seems guilty to almost everyone. Like O.J. Simpson. Like Casey Anthony. Like George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, and the Baltimore police indicted on dubious evidence in the death of Freddie Gray.

Fonda’s Juror 8 is an unequivocal hero in the abstract, but the media and popular reaction to his real life avatar, Sirois’s Juror 11, appears to be very different.  A great deal of anger is being focused on Sirois, with more to come.

One reason for the difference is that the victim in the fictional trial was a hard, cruel man who had regularly beaten his son, the defendant. Etan Patz, Hernandez’s alleged victim, was 6 year’s old, and his photograph evokes an emotional response even now:

Etan Patz

When Hernandez confessed, there was palpable relief that this tragic cold case would have closure at last. Would that factor alone tend to bias jurors? I think so.

Hernandez’s confession is another reason Sirois’s stand is unpopular. Those who are not involved in criminal law or law enforcement have a difficult time understanding why anyone would confess to a heinous crime they didn’t commit, but it happens frequently. He also didn’t take the stand in his own defense (the accused teen in the movie did testify). That suggests guilt to many, although the Constitution tells us that it shouldn’t, and legally, it can’t.

The main reason, however, is that the Hernandez trial is real, and “12 Angry Men” isn’t. The public generally assumes that real criminal defendants are guilty, although they cheer the Perry Masons of popular fiction, saving the wrongly accused. In real life, accused murderers are seldom admirable characters; Hernandez certainly isn’t. We also want murders, and especially child killings, to be punished, as well as to know the killers are locked away where they can’t hurt our kids, or us. Cognitive dissonance operates powerfully here: the juror standing up for an accused child-killer’s innocence will naturally be associated in the minds of observers with the suspicious defendant and his heinous crime, alleged though it may be.  The lone juror in real life seems to be protecting the bad guy, siding with him, siding with crime, siding with evil and against, in this case, little Ethan Patz.

In the film, director Sydney Lumet got around this problem by showing a quick shot of the kid accused of murder:

12 Angry defendant

He looks like a former model for those Big Eyed Kid paintings they used to sell in supermarkets, or someone Sally Struthers would be asking us to support for 13 cents a day. This is no monster, and studies show that jurors are inordinately influenced by how an accused criminal looks. If the accused had looked like this (convicted murderer Jerrod Remy)…

jared_remy

…I don’t think the audience would have been so quick to see the case Hank’s way, do you? Hernandez looks more like the second photo:

Pedro Hernandez

But the principle being asserted and protected by the lone jurors are the same in film and reality. “Ultimately I couldn’t find enough evidence that wasn’t circumstantial to convict. I couldn’t get there,” Sirois told the New York Times. [ Note: There are legitimate reasons to doubt the prosecution’s case. ]

Like Juror 8, Sirois was insisting that Hernandez be found guilty, in his assessment of the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt or not at all:

JUROR 8: … I don’t really know what the truth is. No one ever will, I suppose. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we’re just gambling on probabilities . We may be wrong. We may be trying to return a guilty man to the community.No one can really know. But we have a reasonable doubt, and this is safeguard which has enormous value in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it’s sure….

Juror 11 wasn’t sure. It doesn’t matter if his analysis was right, or even whether Hernandez really was the killer…

6TH JUROR: He’s guilty for sure. There’s not a doubt in the whole world. We shoulda been done already. Listen, I don ‘t care, y’know. It beats working’. You think he’s innocent?

8TH JUROR: I don’t know. It’s possible.

6TH JUROR: I don’t know you, but I’m betting ‘ you ‘ve never been wronger in your life. You oughta wrap it up. You’re wasting ‘ your time.

8TH JUROR: Suppose you were the one on trial?

6TH JUROR: Well, I’m not used to supposing. I’m just a working man; my boss does the supposing. But I’ll try one. Suppose you talk us all outta this and the kid really did knife his father?

The answer to that supposition is that as difficult as this possibility may be to bear, it is not within the juror’s duties to consider it. Juries exist to determine if the State has offered sufficient credible evidence to show that a defendant committed the crime he has been accused of committing, or whether the defense has shown sufficient flaws and weaknesses in that evidence that every one of twelve reasonable, objective, fair observers can say with confidence that no reasonable doubts exist regarding the guilt of the accused—every single juror, individually.

The plot of the real trial did not proceed as neatly as in the film. There, the lone juror gradually convinces each of the others to change their votes based on his relentless and logical dissection of the prosecution’s case (and his introduction of new evidence on his own–unethical and improper, but hey, it’s a movie!) The first vote in the Hernandez jury was not 11-1 to convict, but 8-4. Sirois did not become the lone juror holding out against the arguments, entreaties, rants, and attacks of the rest until late in the deliberations. Still, he held out  alone for a lot longer than it takes Juror 8 to get the whole jury to vote not guilty in the 1 hour and 45 minute movie. In fact, a case could be made that Adam Sirois was more ethical and more courageous than his much-lauded fictional equivalent.

In “12 Angry Men,” after blocking an immediate conviction with his single vote, Juror 8 and the other jurors reach an impasse. Unlike Sirois, Fonda/ Juror 8 is not willing to take responsibility for hanging the jury on his own:

JUROR 3: What are you, the kid’s lawyer or something? Who do you think you are to start cross-examining us? Listen, there are still eleven of us in here who think he’s guilty.

JUROR 10: Yeah. What do you think you’re gonna accomplish? You’re not gonna change anybody’s mind. So if you want to be stubborn and hang this jury, go ahead. The kid’s be tried again and found guilty sure as he’s born.

JUROR 8: You ‘re probably right.

FOREMAN: (to the 8th Juror) What about it?

JUROR 6:  You ‘re the only one.

8TH JUROR: I have a proposition to make to all of you . I want to call for a vote. I’d like you eleven men to vote by secret written ballot. I’ll abstain. If there are still eleven votes for guilty, I won’t stand alone. We’ll take a guilty verdict in to the judge right now. But if anyone votes not guilty, we’ll stay and talk this thing out. Well, that’s all. If you want to try it, I’m ready.

Really, Hank? Would Mister Roberts, Abe Lincoln, Clarence Darrow or any of your other famously moral characters leave a man’s life and the proper standard of guilt up to what is essentially random chance, and allow a majority to vote them out of doing what they believed—indeed knew— was right? As it happens, of course, one juror does join Juror 8 in his quest for the truth, but that wasn’t pre-ordained. Fonda’s lone juror rolled the dice with a teen’s life and the integrity of the justice system on the line.

Not Adam Sirois, Juror 11. He stayed adamant to the end, upheld the principle of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without any allies. He was more of an Ethics Hero than Henry Fonda!

How many people can say that?

_______________________________________

Facts: New York Times, Daily Mail, New Yorker

32 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: The “Lone Juror,” Adam Sirois

    • One of a growing list of my all time favorites. Lee J. Cobb was excellent, as well, and I was seriously impressed by Hank sticking that switchblade in the table.

      • Really, every one of the jurors is terrific, which is why so many of them became stars later. It was Jack Klugman’s first movie, and early in the careers of E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam and Robert Webber too. Only Cobb and Fonda were familiar to film audiences. And John Fiedler!—Jack the Ripper in Star Trek, Piglet in the Winnie the Pooh movies, and J.Nobel Daggot in the original True Grit!

  1. It’s a gut wrenching decision to argue that the prosecution didn’t prove their case. Just because you think the defendant is probably involved isn’t evidence of guilt. I found myself sleep walking due to the stress. The jury I served on began with 3 not guilty votes and over the course of the week scoured the evidence. We ended up returning a not guilty verdict because there were just too many holes in the case. Bravo Mr. Sirois. The film 12 Angry Men remains one of the best examples of ensemble acting.

  2. The current episode of the TV show Inside Amy Schumer has a take-off on 12 Angry Men. It’s in B&W, the foreman is Jeff Goldblum, and while a parody it’s also done lovingly, an homage of sorts.
    Jack, as a pro in 12 Angry Men-ology, I think you will get a kick out of this.

  3. I’m about 95% done discussing matters of ethics, politics, governance and society with anyone in this country except my tight circle of friends.

    Nothing against you Jack, but I’m nearly past cynical.

    When I can sit at a table with an FBI agent discussing matters of rule of law and due process and the FBI agent openly guffaws the mere mention that constitution might matter…

    I’m done.

    When the answer to the question “would it be wrong for the Army to just up and park a tank on your property without your permission?” is: “Well, was anything damaged…?”

    I’m done.

    My generation is illiterate on rights. ILLITERATE. And we’re inheriting this country.

    It’s done.

    over…

    • Hey Tex,
      It can certainly be disheartening. I find that withdrawing from the fray periodically can be restorative, although there’s the risk of becoming a silent, cynical observer. When I find myself talking to someone who lives in subsidized housing, receives food stamps, and works 20 hours a week, and they want to ‘educate’ me about our country’s systemic failure to adequately provide for everyone, it’s hard to keep a civil tongue. Much less engage in a dialogue that may influence their thinking.

      Still, we should be stalwart; knowing that our efforts are largely wasted is not a reason to fail to make the effort. This blog will never draw the average BuzzFeed reader, yet it is consistently here, addressing ethics issues large and small. (I doubt that Jack is in it for the money…) The current (40 year) trend to trade liberty for security may well be irreversible, but “don’t go gentle into that good night”. Call BS when you see it, and get ready to do it again. I also find that the phrase: “Bite me, Commie”, although unlikely to persuade, can be useful.

      • Tex, you’re going through mental menopause. Every thinking person runs into it when the pain gets too much to bear. All it takes to get through it is, say, 5% of your fierce faculties and a few close friends.

    • Sadly, you’re right. And primarily, I’m convinced, because MY generation has been woefully remiss in educating your generation in the COST of those rights.

  4. It’s not being a hero to aid and abet a criminal, especially one like Hernandez. It’s being a danger to society. I hope and pray some of the good people left in NYC exact their own justice upon this piece of filth.

    Face it. Sirois ignored all the evidence just because he hates the police, or so one must judge from the excuses he gave for failing to convict Hernandez despite all other members of the jury being willing to do so.

    • I’m not going to be respectful to a willingly ignorant statement like the firts sentenc. Read the post. If you did and still write something that moronic, read about 20 other posts here on taht subject. Neither a defense attorney who represents a guilty criminal (or one who may be guilty), nor the jurors who vote to acquit him, are “aiding and abeting a criminal.” What they are doing, and the law, and history, and the courts, the legal profession, scholarship, and philosophy, and FACTS and ETHICS ALARMS are in unanimous agreement because it is true, is upholding the principles of fair trial, due process, innocent until proven guilty under the law, and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your statement? To quote Juror 9 in the film: “Only an ignorant man could believe that.” Your statement has no more legitimacy than asserting that the world is made of bubblegum. You get to post opinions and arguments here, not misrepresentations.

      There is no evidence that any bias against police were behind the juror’s stand.

      • You mis-equate the law and what is true. Yes, defense attorneys and jurors are legally allowed to do as they do. That’s the law; it doesn’t mean that the truth isn’t that they’re aiding and abetting criminals. This is especially true of lawyers who know their clients are guilty and use technicalities to get them off and of jurors such as Sirois who refused to convicted because he didn’t like or trust the police – his stated reason for hanging the jury.

        It is not upholding the principles of fair trial, due process, innocent until proven guilty under the law, and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt when someone refuses proof and allows their prejudices to bolster their doubt past the point when accepted evidence can assail that doubt.

  5. He is an ethics hero if he held out on principle. I don’t think its fair to cast aspersions on him. I’ll feel diofferently if he writes a book and cashes in, though. It might be tempting for some in a high-profile case to try and cash in on being a hold out.

    • It’s obvious that at this point, anyone who does anything good, bad, right, wrong or otherwise is tempted to cash in. Why would his actions after the trial affect your assessemnt of his conduct during the trial? Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, no? The suggestion that he’d hang a jury in a terrible murder because it might give him a shot at a book deal is a pretty dastardly thing to suspect of a juror without some evidence that that was the motive, and a big stretch to boot. Occam’s Razor suggests that he voted non guilty because there was really no physical evidence at all…no weapon, no body, just a recanted profession.

      I might have voted not guilty.

      • Fair enough. But I do worry that in a high-profile case and an 11-1 verdict, the lone hold out is well positioned to cash in. Rightly or wrongly, he will garner some suspicion if he does.

  6. If I were Mr. Sirois (or the admirer to his left) I wouldn’t be grinning at the cameras.

    This is a bad time in this country to be a victim of cognitive dissonance — spoiling everyone’s desires or expectations and flying in the face of their firm beliefs — considering the incidence of irrational mob responses in the past few years that have preempted outcomes both in and out of the courtroom or on and off the playing field before the evidence is even in. Because the news flows by in eye-confounding banners and ear-bytes, there is a tendency to think that it is gone, over. But for the participants, the slogans and gestures last, in the minds of some, forever.

    The excuses are varied: presumed racism, rape, child-abuse, cheating, corruption, guilt or innocence. As Ethics Alarms #1 position of “everybody does it” points up, it is the easiest rationalization and a powerful temptation to act on the Opinion everyone is supposed to have (because they have a RIGHT to an opinion, of course they have to have one). Which makes the joining with others of the same (unsupported) opinion lead to an overreaction (incited by media?) for both like-minded or idle citizens against whatever authority appears to stand in the way of their convictions. Meanwhile authority, using its own precedents by custom as well as by law, compound the errors: as police, mayors, district attorneys (#44 “we’ve always done it this way” or #5 “we’ve been getting away with it this long”) or academics and grandstanding politicians (#29a “I’ll tell you what to think since you’re too stupid to figure it out for yourself”).

    The unhappy, long-term and potentially fatal consequence of these outbursts is that in not wanting or being able to accept they were wrong, overreacted, made fools of themselves, blindly followed the herd or a false prophet — they don’t back down. They – okay, we, well, if you insist, I … I simply didin’t look for or listen to any follow-up. The larger or more powerful the group, the less likely it was that I would risk speaking up. In fact, somewhere in any given day’s multiplicity of news sources is always a story similar to the one I just attacked/defended: “Somebody” has done “it” again, see? I knew it. My made-up mind has been vindicated That “I” would see that Sirois joins Zimmerman as an enemy of the people, because that is the opinion of the majority, an uninformed, misinformed blind and deaf opinion.

    Been there, done that. It didn’t take much. First, the dirty jury-duty stories, not uncommon: called up two or three times a year, year after year, and not excused for exams (one of them missing a State Board licensing that cost me a year of professional income), or medical procedures (a minor operation that had to be rescheduled for a time that was to have been a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, the first in fourteen years). I never got to serve on a jury, just sat in the pool and fumed. Being groomed to accept the idea of a faulty “justice system” that did things like reward the cold-blooded assassinations of the city’s mayor and a supervisor with a diminished-capacity defense which, blown into national headlines, became reduced to “the Twinkie defense.” The riots and counter-actions by police following the inadequate trial results were short-lived, but what remained was the idea that the system WAS indeed broken and that neither it nor its defenders, the police, judge, prosecution and jurors, had a vested interest in either the law or justice. The natural identification for the man-in-the-street is the juror.

    Being prompted to “do a Sirois” myself, standing out against a popular local hero (a journalist/author/historian supposedly representing a large minority whom I knew without doubt to be a plagiarizing, lying, bigoted hypocrite, led me, finally, to reassess that passive position. My answer was to distrust not the systems, faulty and flawed as they were, but two traps I had fallen into: 1) my own overriding scepticism, an intellectual laziness that allowed me to sit back and criticise instead of pursuing often unpleasant truths or participating in debate and reasoned action; and 2) the media, particularly headlines or any other kinds of shortcut or replacements for informed – that’s the adjective that goes best with the noun – opinion.

    In the case of the Pedro Hernandez trial (keeping in mind it is not the Etan Patz trial), there is no way I could obtain an informed opinion on Sirois’ decision — even the trial transcript does not contain a record of jury deliberation. Barring access to that, I have to trust the system and assume nothing whatsoever about Sirois’ stand.

    It was the gall of Sirois in the “it’s clever me, teacher; I’ve got the answer” pose that almost sucked me in: Do we have a new provocative “hand-up” gesture? Or an attentive photographer catching an op? Nuts. I’m waiting for the second trial; I think it starts in June.

  7. In over 40 years as a police officer and deputy sheriff, I saw more than a few guilty men go free, but I also witnessed a number of trials where even I was surprised that the jury found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m not a big fan of the circumstantial case, and very wary of confessions where there is evidence of psychological duress, or a defendant’s diminished capacity and/or mental illness. There is tremendous pressure to proceed with prosecution of heinous crimes, and I fear that trials too often proceed just to get the monkey onto the jury’s back and off the prosecutor’s. Though not well-versed in the evidence of this case, I’m not offended by Sirois voting “not guilty,” based on what I do know about it (with Dan Abrams’ apt caveat applied). Fiat justitia ruat caelum!

  8. Ah, yes, shameless Juror Eight, who self-righteously bullies eleven other jurors into seeing the world through his warped, Rose glasses. Juror Three is right, of course, but the film makes him out to be so unsavory that by the time we’re halfway through the film, we all hate him. You don’t believe people you hate. First, it is illegal to submit evidence in a jury room, as Juror Eight did. The film should end there. Mistrial. But no, Juror Eight isn’t done with getting a murderer off the hook. Second, this film is a masterpiece in showing how movies can manipulate audiences, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the kid is guilty as sin. Third, that all the evidence produced in court is erroneous is highly improbable. Really, how likely is it that three or four witnesses are all totally wrong. Or maybe they got together and formed a conspiracy. Four, the perpetrator is portrayed as a scared and harmless looking Italian (?) kid who looks like he couldn’t hurt a cockroach. Five, Juror Eight is retrying the case without a prosecutor. This is not the job of a jury. The jury is supposed the evaluate the evidence, not retry the whole stinking case. Our justice system is based on an adversarial schema. What evidence the prosecutor might have to explain Eight’s objections are left outside the jury room. When I teach this play, I have the class break up into groups and come up with plausible explanations for Eight’s assertions, such as the marks on the neighbor’s nose that implies she wears glasses. Six, we also have other improbable stuff going on like the killer’s using the exact same knife that the kid bought at the “junk store.” What are the odds of that happening? Seven, and the kid’s losing the knife through a hole in his pocket. Yeah, right. We believe you. We really do. Most people jump on board with sympathetic Juror Eight and never give a thought to his possibly being wrong. I don’t have the time or space to fully critique this film, which I love, but not for the reasons most people love it. Those that have an analytic mind and an open mind will conclude that directors, writers, and actors can manipulate audiences into believing what they want them to believe. However, I endeavor to teach manipulative techniques to my students. It’s a fun movie to unteach, so to speak.

    • “Ah, yes, shameless Juror Eight, who self-righteously bullies eleven other jurors into seeing the world through his warped, Rose glasses.”

      (Rose-colored glasses: good one!)

      But he hardly bullies anyone. How would that be called bullying even by the most liberal interpretations?

      “Juror Three is right, of course, but the film makes him out to be so unsavory that by the time we’re halfway through the film, we all hate him. You don’t believe people you hate.”

      I don’t hate him. Jury 10 is the one we’re supposed to hate. As I say in the post, the kid is probably guilty, but 8 makes a compelling argument for reasonable doubt.

      “First, it is illegal to submit evidence in a jury room, as Juror Eight did. The film should end there. Mistrial.”

      Irrelevant to the point, however, which is 1) it isn’t a unique knife as the courts was meant to believe, and 2) the defnse attorney didn’t do his job. It should be a mistrial, but it should also be an appeal on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. Moreover, many, many jurors engage in such misconduct and it is never discovered. It wasn’t here. So what?

      But no, Juror Eight isn’t done with getting a murderer off the hook. Second, this film is a masterpiece in showing how movies can manipulate audiences, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the kid is guilty as sin.

      The fact that he may be guilty as sin doesn’t mean he was proven guilty in court. He just wasn’t.

      Third, that all the evidence produced in court is erroneous is highly improbable. Really, how likely is it that three or four witnesses are all totally wrong?

      WHAT? Happens all the time! Did you read the Ferguson grand jury testimony? If the prosecution only has bad witnesses, that means that he couldn’t find good ones.

      Four, the perpetrator is portrayed as a scared and harmless looking Italian (?) kid who looks like he couldn’t hurt a cockroach.

      Can’t blame Rose for that. It’s not in the script. Bad choice for the director, as I wrote.

      Five, Juror Eight is retrying the case without a prosecutor. This is not the job of a jury. The jury is supposed the evaluate the evidence, not retry the whole stinking case.

      The line between “examining the evidence” and “retrying the case” is very slim to invisable. This would NOT sustain a mistrial claim. The retrying the case is partially narrative. The audience can’t see the trial, so it has to be retold. This isn’t any kind of a flaw.

      Our justice system is based on an adversarial schema. What evidence the prosecutor might have to explain Eight’s objections are left outside the jury room.

      And one of its problems is that adversaries aren’t equal in dedication, resources and skill. That’s why this is the first point 8 makes.

      When I teach this play, I have the class break up into groups and come up with plausible explanations for Eight’s assertions, such as the marks on the neighbor’s nose that implies she wears glasses.

      That’s legally irrelevant. The fact that there may be other explanations for exculpatory evidence or evidence that calls a witness’s credibility into question doesn’t matter one bit. The point is that the evidence isn’t clear and certain, and therefore is not reliable.

      “Six, we also have other improbable stuff going on like the killer’s using the exact same knife that the kid bought at the “junk store.” What are the odds of that happening?”

      That’s the weakest part of 8’s defense, but it’s still circumstantial. If the eye-witness testimony is in doubt, that isn’t enough to convict in this case.

      “Seven, and the kid’s losing the knife through a hole in his pocket.”

      See above. Still possible, still just conjecture unless you can prove its the kid’s knife. Prints, for example. There weren’t any. And the argument has weight that you don’t show a knife around to the world before leaving it in your father’s chest.
      “Most people jump on board with sympathetic Juror Eight and never give a thought to his possibly being wrong.”

      Wrong about what? I have always understood that the kid is probably guilty. He’s still right about there being reasonable doubt, and the fact that the kid didn’t get a fair trial because his lawyer wasn’t even as good as an architect.

      I don’t have the time or space to fully critique this film, which I love, but not for the reasons most people love it. Those that have an analytic mind and an open mind will conclude that directors, writers, and actors can manipulate audiences into believing what they want them to believe. However, I endeavor to teach manipulative techniques to my students. It’s a fun movie to unteach, so to speak.

      You haven’t come up with any legitimate critique yet. Of course film is manipulative. I, however, have presented the film as a stage piece 3 times, and guess what? It works just as well…even in front of an audience of law students and another full of criminal lawyers. There are no manipulative techniques. Juror 8 isn’t played by a famous star known for playing good guys. I have 10, and 3 played far less flamboyantly than in the film—yes, Juror 7 (the baseball fan) is still a jerk. I also always make it clear that Juror 8 is an arrogant, superior prick in many ways.

      He’s still right.

      • And don’t forget: the play isn’t about juries. It is a character study about group dynamics, the affect of bias on judgment, and how a supposedly rational decision is based on dozens of non-rational reactions. It does make a difference if an advocate is likable or disgusting. Many of the flips by the jurors—2, 5, 6, 9, maybe even 1—are at least partially guided by not liking the people on the “team” of guilty advocates. It shows how random a jury or any group decision can be, dependent on the unpredictable composition of the decision-makers and how they react to each other. The story of the murder? Just a means to an end.

        • Well Mr. Marshall, I may think you’re failure as an ethicist and a student of law and justice, but I’ve got to say that you’re damn, damn, damn fine film critic. Few seem to understand what that film was really about, getting too caught up in the setting.

            • Oh please! Take what you can get, especially since you’d be unlikely to give a detractor a similar compliment judging from your reply to my original comment.

              Unlike many, I will give someone I disagree with a sincere compliment when I feel moved to do so.

              • I can’t teach people if they take offense at being called as ignorant as they are. And you are. This Comment:

                “This is especially true of lawyers who know their clients are guilty and use technicalities to get them off and of jurors such as Sirois who refused to convicted because he didn’t like or trust the police – his stated reason for hanging the jury.”

                …would be recognized as ignorant of basic constitutional and criminal law principles literally by every single un-disbarred lawyer, law student and scholar who ever lived. Absolutely. It is an willfully silly and wrong statement. Nobody who watched three TV episodes of a lawyer show could say it, unless he fell asleep. I give detractors compliments frequently, provided they have some faint idea what they are talking about. You don’t, and are arrogant about it. Good luck with that.

                But you understand film, and that’s something.

                • By the way, I quote comments like yours about lawyers defending guilty clients in ethics classes, and the lawyers don’t believe intelligent citizens actually think this way, because it is so head-smackingly dense. So having an actual quote is really quite useful.

  9. Hernandez several times, throughout his life, from his teen years to today, admitted he killed a child. Sirois wasn’t a hero. He was solipsist and stubborn, deaf to a situation he could never be vulnerable to or imagine himself in. It was an injustice that Hernandez wasn’t found guilty the first time. The retrial was consistent in story and did.

  10. “He was more of an Ethics Hero than” Henry Fonda!” Far from it. The evidence for guilt exceeded the legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I will not speculate as to what misled Sirois, but I am grateful for the 23 other jurors that deliberated seriously and conscientiously in the two trials. Unlike the jurors in “twelve angry men” they dealt with reality, not fiction. They were courageous enough to confront the facts.

    • But another individual cannot assess his position. It doesn’t matter, from an ethics perspective, whether the defendant was actually guilty, the only thing that matters, ethics hero-wise, is whether Sirois sincerely lacked reasonable doubt. Juror * (Fonda) was prepared to change his vote if nobody changed theirs. Sirois had more guts. And Fonda’s defendant was also probably guilty.

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