Twelve Angry Men, originally written for television by Reginald Rose in 1954 and subsequently adapted for stage (1955), film(1957) and television again (1997), effectively conveys the central importance of the right to a jury trial afforded by Article III of the Constitution as well as Amendments V, VI, and XIV.
In America, the responsibility to protect individual rights and promote the common good ultimately rests with its citizens, not the government. When citizens participate in thoughtful and responsible ways, the welfare of our constitutional democracy is ensured. While most civic participation is voluntary, the call to serve on a jury is not. It comes as an order by the court.
If the constitutional guarantee of a fair trial is to be realized, the process used for selecting jurors must also be fair. Before Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., the constitutional principle of equal protection under the law had been applied to federal jury selection practices in criminal trials but not in civil trials. In this lesson, students learn about jury selection and how the role and responsibilities of government in civil and criminal jury trials are viewed by the Supreme Court.
In this lesson, students are asked to select from a list of potential jurors those most likely to be fair and impartial in a trial of Goldilocks v. The Three Bears. Students are prompted to justify why each juror they chose would be impartial, and so gain an understanding of the challenges associated with selecting an impartial jury.
Students will gain an understanding of the modern jury system and historical methods of conflict resolution. They will compare and contrast the different trial methods of past and present, and analyze each as a way to resolve conflict. They will examine jury trials and the responsibility to decide the facts. Then students will write a persuasive essay arguing for their preferred method of trial.
In this lesson, students will perform a comparative close reading of select informational texts from the Scottsboro Boys trials alongside sections from To Kill a Mockingbird. Students analyze the two trials and the characters and arguments involved in them to see how fictional “truth” both mirrors and departs from the factual experience that inspired it.