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Important Legal Terms for “Twelve Angry Men”

By Wendy Muldawer

Before reading Twelve Angry Men, introduce students to the legal terms they’ll encounter throughout the play. Includes a downloadable power point and student handout.

Important Vocabulary

Counsel: a lawyer or attorney

Defendant: A person, company, etc. who is accused of something and taken to court

Prosecution: The legal team who presents the case in a criminal trial against an individual suspected of breaking the law (the defendant).

Testimony: the statement or declaration of a witness under oath

Burden of Proof: The obligation to establish a fact by proof. This is the prosecutor’s responsibility.

Motive: Something that causes a person to act in a certain way or do a certain thing. Examples of motives: revenge, jealousy, anger.

Alibi: An excuse or explanation for the defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the crime.

Circumstantial Evidence: Evidence that is implied; it

Premeditated Homicide/Murder: A murder that was done on purpose (not accidental) or one that was planned in advance is considered “premeditated.”

Foreman: The head juror. The foreman’s role is to ask questions on behalf of the jury, facilitate jury discussions, and sometimes to read the verdict of the jury.

Reasonable Doubt: the level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime. There must be no “reasonable doubt” in the mind of a juror that the defendant is guilty.

Deliberate: to consider carefully

Verdict: The jury’s final decision; the verdict is either “not guilty” or “guilty”

Acquitted: Declared “not guilty” (found innocent).

Hung jury: a jury that can’t agree on a verdict

Double Jeopardy: as stated in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, no one can be punished more than once for the same crime.

Application

One way to either teach these concepts or assess students’ understanding of these concepts is to discuss the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the man convicted of killing former singer/pop star Michael Jackson. The website listed below offers an in-depth look at the trials, the jurors, the evidence and the verdict. Students could be asked to identify the defendant, prosecution, the verdict, the motive, the testimony, etc.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/michael-jackson-trial/

Download the Lesson & Student Handout