The film Twelve Angry Men is abundant in fallacious reasoning, which the jurors use to arrive to their conclusion and to purpose or refute different propositions. Most of the informal fallacies could only substantiate a certain degree of probability when the jurors proposing the propositions thought it was definite.
Juror Eight proposed the first fallacy in the film. After the initial vote to determine each juror’s opinion, juror Three stated that he [Eight] was in court and heard the same testimonies and Eight’s response was that he [the defendant] was eighteen years old. The implication Eight makes is that because the defendant is young that he is either too young to have committed the crime or that it would decrease the probability that he would have committed the crime. This is a red herring; the defendant’s age has nothing to do with his capability to commit murder.
Following Eight’s red herring, he then has an appeal to pity. He related to the defendant and sympathized with him and though he did not claim that he was guilty or not guilty (Eight said he did not know), his reason for doing so was not based on insufficient or conflicting evidence; it was based on pity, which is fallacious.
An ad hominem fallacy was presented when juror Nine told juror Ten that only ignorant men could believe that all people who live in the slums are born liars. Nine’s implication is that Ten is ignorant for believing such a thing. Ten’s claim was doubly fallacious as well. Just because a resident of the slums was born into that type of culture does not mean that he is a liar, which is the genetic fallacy, trying to discredit by where the truth or testimony may have derived from. The second fallacy presented in that statement is where Nine begs the question and assumes that the defendant was a liar.
When the jurors began going around and sharing their arguments for the opinions, juror Two thought he was guilty because he believed he was guilty from the beginning; he was begging the question. Trying to prove guilt by assuming guilt is circular. When juror Seven began to share his arguments for his opinion he began to recount the past actions of the defendant to demonstrate that because he has committed certain crimes or acts in the past that he must be guilty of the crime he is being charged with. This is a red herring; past actions have nothing to do with what actually happened in a different set of circumstances at another time. Habitual behavior may certainly increase the probability of such an event happening, but it does not make the present charge definite. Following every juror’s turn to present their case, jurors Four and Ten commit a genetic fallacy. They try to demonstrate that because the defendant had been raised in the slums and lives in a bad neighborhood he must be guilty. Juror Five then responded by claiming that he was in the same situation growing up, and that he turned out fine. This fact may certainly increase the probability that one may be more prone to violence if raised in a violent atmosphere, but the conclusion purported is not a necessary conclusion.
Juror Three commits a modal fallacy, though it is not informal, he makes an illicit move in his reasoning by suggesting that just because it is possible for something to have happened means it actually happened; that does not necessarily follow. When the jury brought in the knife from evidence to examine and discuss it, juror Ten attempted to discredit the defending attorney’s knowledge of the knife because he is the “fifteenth assistant to [inaudible]…” Just because the attorney is the fifteenth assistant to someone does not mean he lacks knowledge in a particular area; this is a red herring.
After a second vote to determine where the jurors’ opinions side, Three asked Five why he changed his mind and Five’s response was, “Because he is a poor kid.” The social status of an individual has nothing to do with determining the guilt or innocence of a crime; this is a red herring. Soon after this, while discussing the witness of the old man who lived on the floor beneath the murder scene, Nine tried to explain why the old man would have lied about his testimony. He makes a hasty conclusion based on a lack of evidence, he merely speculates why the witness would have tried to conceal his lame leg. In doing this, he also begs the question and assumes that the witness was lying to begin with.
Right before the demonstration of what the old man witness would have had to accomplish in order to see the boy running down the stairs, juror Ten began another tirade of anger. Ten unleashed his irrational reason for why he believed the boy really murdered his father. He claimed that because he is a slob and cannot even speak correct English, he is therefore guilty. Yet again, Ten commits another red herring fallacy. The lifestyle or grammar skill level is completely irrelevant to whether or not the boy actually murdered his father. During the demonstration of the old man witness, juror Three commits a red herring fallacy.
During the discussion and demonstration, another juror recaps the testimony of the old man. The old man said that it took him fifteen seconds to move from the bedroom, twelve feet, down the hallway, another forty-three feet, and then to open the door. In recapping the testimony, juror Four commits a fallacy of equivocation by uses the words the old man used in his testimony in the same way when they do not mean the same thing. Four stated that the man claimed to have “walked, or ran, or went” to the door. He used them all in the same way when they are different. To use them interchangeably, in this context, is fallacious. The testimony came in to question when the fifteen seconds seemed highly improbable given the distance and his lame leg. Three responded by trying to discredit the old man’s testimony by stating that he cannot know it was fifteen seconds, and when asked why, Three responded, “Because he is old!” The age of an individual does not determine how well the memory functions. It may certainly increase the probability if there is warrant or evidence for a lack of memory function, but in the lack of any evidence suggesting that in this situation, which only increases the probability, the jurors would have to take the old man at his word and original testimony.
Soon after, an argument ensued between Eight and Three. Eight began to give reasons for why the defendant should be executed and found guilty. Both jurors commit fallacies in their squabble. Eight wields an ad hominem fallacy by claiming the only reason Three wants to see him die is “because [Three] is a sadist.” There may be other reasons why Three wants him to die; maybe he believes the defendant was actually guilty of the crime. Eight’s name calling of Three does not prove or disprove anything about what Three actually believes and why he believes it. In doing so, even if Three was a sadist, that would not necessarily entail the reason why he believes the defendant is guilty, Eight tried to explain away Three’s reasons by trying to discredit where the conclusion derived from (that he was a sadist); this is a genetic fallacy.
After another vote the jury is split 6-6. Ten commits the fallacy of exclusion, despite all the evidence that would yield a non-guilty verdict, he claims that the defendant is guilty despite of all the facts, simply because of the kid that he is. It would not be fallacious if his reason for his position were based on his belief that the evidence for a guilty verdict was actually supported by the evidence. It is fallacious because even though the evidence suggests a non-guilty verdict (“despite all the evidence”) he claims that he is not considering the evidence that may suggest a different conclusion.
During this ensuing discussion, Ten proceeds to state that the defendant is guilty because “all these types of people” are bad, all others get drunk, and that none are good. This is an overgeneralization. Even if the claim is true, Ten takes the sample of a part of the population and applies that trait or aspect to an individual, assuming that all people like him are bad people. This type of reasoning is fallacious, it does not follow that in general, all people like the defendant are bad people, that the defendant is bad for the same reasons just as the rest of the population.
During the dénouement of the film, the woman eyewitness [with the glasses] has her testimony scrutinized by the jury. Juror Eight noticed that while she was on the stand that she had the indentations on her nose that glasses would make. Eight claimed that at the time of the murder, while in bed, she most likely was not wearing her glasses to sleep based on the testimony of Four, the juror who wore glasses, and on the probability that most others do not either. Eight builds his argument and says that by the time she noticed what was going on across the street, she would not have had time to put her eye glasses on to see what was going on with the clarity of vision she would need. Eight creates a dilemma, either she was wearing her glasses or she was not wearing her glasses when she witnessed what happened. Because it is more probable that she was not wearing her glasses, she therefore could not see with a clear vision of what happened. This dilemma is a false dilemma. It could be possible that she was in the process of putting on her glasses and witnessed the murder and saw the end of the scene with her glasses on. She could have been in an improbable circumstance where she would have been wearing glasses that late and that she really did see the murder take place, with clarity of vision, as she testified.
This hypothesis offered by Eight, the false dilemma, is a construct of a larger fallacy of presenting a straw man argument. Even in building his argument for why the woman would not have been wearing her glasses, he assumes that she was wearing eyeglasses to begin with. Four testified that glasses can only make those marks, but it could have been the case that she wore sunglasses to court that day on the way in. It also assumes that she was at least near sighted. The woman would have no need for glasses at night to see across the train from a distance if it is the case that she can see distant images with clarity. Juror Three attempts to identify this fallacy by claiming that she may have been near-sighted, but his argument is dismissed.
In the last vote, juror Three is outnumbered 11-1. He begins to get emotionally distraught. His last arguments he placed his verdict on were the testimony of the woman eyewitness and that of the knife. After seeing the testimony of the woman eyewitness seem to fall apart, he reaches in desperation to hold on to the argument from the defendant’s knife. Both Eight and Three construct an argument from ignorance, each taking a different horn. Eight claims that the boy’s knife fell out of his pocket and Three claimed that no one can prove that the knife did not fall out of the pocket, each of which lack substantial evidence. In doing so, the two engage in a hypothetical discussion that lacks any explanatory power to the situation.
Distraught again by the halting persuasiveness of the arguments against him, Three presents the final fallacy of the film. Three proclaims, “The woman testified in open court!” (Implying that she could not have lied). The problem with this is that it may have been the case that she did lie in open court. She was supposed to tell the truth, and one could assume that, but just because she did testify in open court does not mean that everything she said was entirely truthful. This is a hasty conclusion. The arguments and evidence that the rest of the jurors have made make every indication that she may have indeed lied during her testimony. Three claims that because she testified in court, that settles the issue; she could not have lied. The reason is fallacious, a hasty conclusion, because his first and only consideration is that she would have told the truth given her testimony in court.
Throughout the movie, the viewer could easily feel pity for the defendant because of how the script develops the plot and portrays each character. It could certainly cause the viewer to become prone to believing everything the defending jurors [of a non-guilty verdict] say. This would be an appeal to pity in the evaluation of the film. Both sides of the issue commit fallacies throughout the film, some more obvious than others. The more obvious fallacies were the emotionally driven ones, where a character would yell or appear to be upset whereas there were some claims and arguments that lacked a critical examination that turned out to be fallacious.
 There are limitations to what age can be determined as being capable of committing murder. It is highly improbable that an infant murder anyone; however, considering the context of the crime and the details involved, it would be reasonable to include the defendant as one who is capable of committing murder.