The American Legal System and Literature
Justice is conveyed in every part of life whether it is in dramatic productions or on the news. Two productions, Trifles by Susan Glaspell and Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose display the criminal justice system from several different aspects that not only speaks volumes of how far it has progressed but also how much is left lacking in terms of true justice. One thing these two pieces remind the reader is how evidence whether physical or spoken can affect the determination of innocence or guilt.
The first play, Trifles, by Susan Glaspell, expresses the cultural differences between men and women in the setting of a neighbor?s home where a crime was committed. In this story a woman is accused of murdering her husband. Two women accompany their husband?s, of which one is the sheriff while they search for evidence the roles of women are clearly expressed and mocked through the arrogance of the men. In this play the justice system portrays the conflicts of law and justice in regards to evidence. As the men search the barn and home for evidence of what happened that fateful night as Mr. Wright was strangled in his bed with his wife sleeping right next to him their pompous and female lack of respect shine through. In the pursuit of a conviction they passively go room to room and with no obvious evidence in sight their conversation turns to insults of the accused woman?s lack of housewife skills, meanwhile the women that accompanied them stay in the kitchen and begin to slowly figure and play out different scenarios of what could have possibly happened.
The women came with the men to gather some necessities for the accused current being held in jail. As they talk they begin noticing things the men don?t. It is these little details that help them to piece together the unhappy, lonely and alienated life this once vibrant woman led. Talking more about Minnie and her solitary life with a miserable husband they find evidence that leads them to understand how this woman could have justifiably killed her husband if that was the case and they make the difficult decision to dispense their own justice by circumventing the law. Through solidarity these women decide to help the friend and neighbor due to the guilt that they did not play their part in her life to have possibly helped to prevent this crime and they hide any evidence that would indeed lead the juror of men to put her away or possibly to death.
The second play ?12 Angry Men,? is about a young boy accused of murdering his abusive father. It displays the different personalities and during the mental processing of the evidence how one man seeing a different story sticks to his gut feeling and pleads for the others to reconsider their verdict. As the play unfolds so does the personal history of some of the jurors and their own painful pasts that reveals their very biased reasons for their guilty verdict. As the jurors argue and attack each other they begin to see an alternate reality and it is then the true and unjaded decision process begins. Although in our justice system a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the evidence seems at first glance to be more than enough to put this young man to death. However, with the overbearing need for true justice, one juror is able to make the other eleven jurors stop and analyze this case on a whole other level.
The convictions of this juror, with the help of not only the evidence presented in the case but with some of his own personal items he is able to make the others who come from completely different backgrounds and personalities stop and realize that their immediate impressions may be inadequate. He explains and demonstrates how the testimony and evidence may tell a different story of longtime abuse and a very hard life and how there is more to the story than meets the eye. As time goes by it becomes clear to some of the other jurors that their own personal issues and emotions may have been leading them to judge the situation incorrectly and brings doubt into their minds. In the end each and every man had to compromise his beliefs and that one juror was able