Twelve Angry Jurors
Central Florida Community Arts
By Reginald Rose
Presented at Orange County History Center
The lawyer has rested, and now it’s time for the jury to get together and decide if a young man form the bad part of town will live or die. It seems open and shut: there are multiple witnesses, no good alibi, motivation and opportunity. Its roasting hot in the pre-air-conditioned days of the 1960’s and some irritable jurors just want to fry this boy and get home to their unairconditioned homes. But one juror digs in, and while she’s not sure if he’s guilty or not, she rightly wants to talk this though before shipping him off to jail. This not universally popular, but it does ultimate make a difference in someone’s life.
This gimmick tonight is the plays location: it’s in the Orange County History museum down town where they have preserved a midcentury courtroom. The “A” ticker holders get to sit in the original jury box, completely with hard oak seats and actual 21st century air conditioning. The audio is a bit hard to hear, but the drama comes come though clearly. There are all sorts of reasons the jurors flip: time lines don’t add up, the knife work seems poorly done, and some jurors see their own lives on trial here. And then there my favorite juror: the blow hard “Hang ’em all ” Harry guy: THOSE people are all animals, and could they please hang him so he can get to his baseball game? He’s the “Law and Order” type who cares little for the law but loves to give orders.
There’s still drama in this social lesson, and the setting does add some verisimilitude to the event. The seats are hard, the air-condition is a brutally cold as the script reads as a room that brutally hot. There no intermission, and that eliminates a gag about a misfired fan and a subplot about a rained-out baseball game. But the guts of American jurisprudence are laid open. The bleeding hearts and the gun toting law and order types are stripped of their pretense and rhetoric and reduced to deciding the most elemental aspect of jurisprudence: does this defendant deserve this specific punishment given the exact facts we know, and none others? Some societies lean toward “Hang ‘Em High,” we claim to lean toward “Give ‘Em Another Chance.” Someday, somehow, WE might be the ones in the dock, and that loud mouth from receiving may decider our fate. Hope he takes this seriously.