Saturday, April 21, 2012

27. A Happy Ending, the Story Goes (II)


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As you should know by now, there is more than one way of telling a story. Indeed, faithfully rendering each and every sentence by only modifying tenses and reference is adequate for narrating facts, but a dialogue going on about making a point is far from accepting a neutral position. In such cases, the speakers’ interventions must be interpreted (see Peter Adamson’s “I Know, because the Caged Bird Sings” I and II to have a clear idea about the importance of rendering Platonic dialogues into intelligible accounts).

Now, I’d like to believe that at least you read the script – the ten-minute script – which in fact meant hours of re-interpreting. The question is, how does such a script differ from the action-packed blockbusters of today? But wait: there will be more questions at the end of the reported account. 

So, without laying total and unquestionable claim that my variant is the only one, I’m offering a suggested report on part 3 of 12 Angry Men in which I stuck to the meaning of the Jurors’ performance as far as the text allowed me to. You will find all the interpreted stretches in bold:


#8 assures the other jurors that he doesn’t have any brilliant ideas as to why he voted not guilty, and that he only knows as much as they do, since – according to the testimony – the boy looks guilty. He goes on to say that he probably is, but that, during the six days that he sat in court listening while the evidence built up, he began to get a peculiar feeling about the trial precisely because everybody sounded too positive. He then explains his view that, in fact, nothing was that positive, and that there are a lot of questions he would like to ask which perhaps wouldn’t mean anything; nevertheless, he adds, in the trial he began to get the feeling that the defence council wasn’t conducting a thorough enough cross examination, and that that makes him doubt about whether he didn’t let too many little things go by.
#10 interrupts #8 expressing his irritation at the little things #8 mentions, and crossly points out that when those fellows don’t ask questions, it’s because they know the answers already.
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#8 replies by asking whether they don’t think that it is also possible for a lawyer to be just plain stupid, which, in his view, is possible. #7 playfully adds that #8’s remark reminds him of his own brother-in-law’s attested stupidity on one occasion in the past.
#8 speaks again about the feelings those days of trial arouses in him and says that he keeps putting himself in the kid’s place. He assures them that, as far as he is concerned, he would have asked for another lawyer, and hypothesizes that, if he were on trial for his life, he would want his lawyer to tear the prosecution witnesses to shreds, or at least try to. He goes on to argue that, in this particular case, there was one alleged eyewitness to the killing, and someone else who claimed he heard the killing and that the boy ran afterwards. He concludes that there is a lot of circumstantial evidence, but actually those two witnesses were the entire case for the prosecution. When he reflects upon the possibility of the witnesses being wrong, he is interrupted by #12, who finds it hard to question the witnesses’ being wrong for, if it were so, there would be no point in having witnesses at all.
#8 answers back by repeating his question, and #12 is even more intrigued because he doesn’t quite get the meaning of #8’s argument: he knows that those people sat on the stand under oath. #8 insists that they’re only people, and people make mistakes, so he repeats his question, but #12 answers, irritated, that he doesn’t think so. #8 retorts by using a sharp, cutting, concluding question about #12’s presumably true knowledge that people don’t make mistakes, and #12 wearily invites him to consider that nobody could know a thing like that, since that isn’t an exact science. It was exactly what #8 wanted to hear, for he makes his point by admitting that #12 is right in saying that it isn’t.
Google Images: Jury Duty. Art
#3 intervenes, inviting everybody to get to the point, and inquires about the switch knife that was found in the old man’s chest. #2 interrupts #3 by pointing out that there are some jurors who haven’t talked yet and inquires about them all going in order, which he finds advisable. Irritated, #3 hastily assures him that they will all have a chance to talk – only to make him be quiet while he speaks. He goes on to ask about the knife that the boy admitted buying on the night of the killing, in this way taking the opportunity to ironically describe him as ‘fine’ and ‘upright’. When he invites everybody to talk about it, #8 readily agrees and, in turn, while inviting everybody to get together and have another look at the knife, he quickly adds that he would like to see it again, so he suggests this to #1, the Foreman.
One of the jurors protests in the name of all those present, for he doesn’t understand why they have to see it again, since they already saw it once. Going towards the door, #1 replies that the gentleman has a right to see exhibits in evidence and asks for it when the attendant appears. The latter approves and goes for the knife, which he quickly brings in.
Addressing #8, #4 intervenes by asking whether they too share his opinion about the knife and the way it was bought being strong evidence.
#8 agrees, and #4 starts his line of argument while inviting everybody to consider the facts one at a time. He states them one by one, the first being that the boy admitted going out of the house on the night of the murder at eight o’clock after being slapped several times by his father. #6 corrects him about the boy’s statement, as he didn’t say “slapped”, but “punched”, and firmly adds that there’s a difference between a slap and a punch.
#4 resumes his speech by introducing #6’s correction and passes on to the second argument, which refers to the boy’s next action of going directly to a neighbourhood junk shop where he bought one of those switch blade knives. #4 goes on to reinforce his conviction that the knife the boy bought wasn’t what can be called an ordinary knife because it had a very unusual carved handle and blade. He then adds that the storekeeper who sold it to him said it was the only one of its kind he had ever had in stock. #4 then refers to the third argument by saying that the boy admitted meeting some friends of his in front of a tavern about 8:45 and asks for confirmation, which #8 earnestly offers and #3 wilfully hastens to retort.
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#4 goes on to speak about the boy’s third statement, namely, that he talked to his friends for about an hour, leaving them at 9:45 and that, during this time, they saw the switch knife. The fourth argument #4 presents is the identification in court of the death weapon as that very same knife.  Finally, #4 mentions the fifth argument about the boy's alleged actions, visually, that he arrived home at about ten o’clock, and emphasizes that it is exactly at this point that the stories offered by the State and the boy begin to diverge slightly, since he claims that he went to a movie at about 11:30, returning home at 3:10 to find his father dead and himself arrested.#8 interrupts adding that the boy also claims that the two detectives arrested him throwing him down half a flight of stairs. #4 goes on with his argument inquiring about what happened to the switch knife, about which the boy claims that it fell through a hole in his pocket on the way to the movies, sometime between 11:30 and 3:10, and that he never saw it again. He addresses the other jurors expressing his complete disbelief about what he considers a tall tale, as he thinks it’s quite clear that the boy never went to the movies that night because no one in the house saw him go out at 11:30, no one at the theatre identified him, and he couldn’t even remember the names of the pictures he saw. He then puts forward his own variant of what actually happened by presenting the facts as he saw them, namely, that the boy stayed at home, had another fight with his father, stabbed him to death and left the house at ten minutes after 12; that he even remembered to wipe the knife clean of fingerprints. While changing his tone from complete self assurance to unveiled irony, he addresses #8 by referring to an implausible scenario of the boy losing the knife through a hole in his pocket only to be picked up by someone else off the street, who then went to the boy’s house and stabbed his father.