By Kay Conklin
This is a story set in two different jury rooms, from two different places, and at two different times. One of them was for a jury that I sat on, with the other being in a movie I saw on TV.
I will start with the jury I was a part of back in the 1960s. I was a juror in the case of a young man who was being tried for selling drugs in Delaware, Ohio. When the time came for us to be sent to the jury room, we had barely gotten seated at our place at the table when one of the male jurors loudly said, “We all know he is guilty, so let’s vote now and get it over with so we can go home!”
I was shocked that he had said it, so have never forgotten those words during all these years since. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to say anything, but the others did, and we ended up having a rather long period of time in that jury room. We even had to have an explanation by the judge as to what was meant by part of the terms used. It was explained to us that if the defendant had given another person the drugs, it was the same as selling the drugs to him. And, since the defendant admitted giving away the drugs, he was found guilty.
During the trial, we had not been told what the punishment would be if he were to be voted guilty. We didn’t know if he would spend a few months in jail or a few years in prison. But later, we found that he would be spending a few years in prison. I never felt good about anything that happened that day in that jury room, but the part about being found “guilty” had to be done.
I will now write about the other jury room which was the location for almost the entire movie titled “12 Angry Men” that I had never seen until two weeks ago.
I had known about the movie ever since it came out in 1957. It starred Henry Fonda, Lee Cobb, and 10 others who were well known back then. My reason for writing about both of these two court cases is that the movie also had a man in it who said something very similar to what was said at the time I was on jury duty (That’s when a man said, “We all know he is guilty, so let’s vote now and get it over with so we can go home!”).
At the time I thought I was hearing those words said, for a second time, I was not paying as close attention to the movie as I should have been. This “12 Angry Men” movie was being played on our TV station #55 TCMHD that has all the old black and white movies every day and night, year around. As for the jury room itself, since it was set back in the 50s, there was no air conditioning, so the jurors “suffered” all the time with the “high temperature” in the room.
On the first vote, it was 11 for “guilty” and one for “not guilty.” Henry Fonda’s character was the one vote for “not guilty,” and eventually, he changed the minds of 10 of the other 11 jurors who had first voted “Guilty” to now vote “not guilty.”
But, when it came to the 12th juror, their good acting abilities showed through, and Fonda was able to finally convince Cobb to change his vote to “Not Guilty” also.
Now, back to the Delaware County courtroom. At the end of the day and having found the young man “guilty” of selling drugs, I was not comfortable walking down the long winding steps and out the front door of the courthouse with all the others involved in the case. Mainly, all these rather “scary” young men and women who were there wanting him to be found “not guilty” (Back in the ’60s, we called them “Hippies.). As I went down the street, I know I had to do something if I didn’t want these young people to ever recognize me as being one of the women on the jury. So, as I passed the beauty shop, I decided no one would recognize me if I went in and had my long hair cut off. So, I did.