The acting in this serial is very good but it ascends to legendary status inside of the courtroom. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to match Derek Jacobi (the Counsel for the Defense) but Anthony Sher (the Counsel for the Prosecution) plays what has to be the most brilliant prosecutor that I have ever seen on the tubes. The British accents add to an already incredible performance.
I also want to put in a special word of praise to Rolfe Kent who did the music for this series. The main theme is absolutely superb.
But what good would a court series be if the court case was boring? Thankfully, the case presented is extremely tense and emotional. It involves a Sikh boy being tried for murder. I don't want to spoil the outcome but I will say that there are a few things about the mystery that I am still guessing about and will never be fully resolved, just as it should be in a good crime series.
SUMMARY: While it drags in places, this show does an excellent job of creating complex, realistic characters who have an incredibly difficult decision in front of them. This decision is made even more difficult by the superb quality of the lawyers on both sides of the case. Caught in the middle of this maelstrom is a quiet Sikh boy who is accused of a heinous crime. The combination is downright succulent.
I RECOMMEND THIS!
NOTE: If you don't have time for this whole series, 12 Angry Men is a classic, shorter film which achieves a similar effect.
No one in fiction ever seems to get the concept of reasonable doubt. At the end of this miniseries, the jurors are talking heatedly about how there isn't enough evidence to be sure, and the fact is, once you've established that, you've established reasonable doubt and your decision should be made. The foreman talks about how he wants to be sure, really sure, before he votes not guilty, but you can't necessarily be that sure. In the end, you just have to be sure enough. Or, really, unsure enough. The standard is lower in civil court. It's only a preponderance of evidence. However, a criminal trial is more important. This is someone's future, maybe even their life. You have to be much more certain that someone is guilty, and you are not finding them "innocent." It doesn't enter into the verdict at all. And yet in movies and on TV, everyone always has to be certain, and there's always the possibility that they're guilty, and so forth. Hardly anyone ever even mentions "reasonable doubt."
John Maher was dead, to begin with. Twelve men and women are to stand as jurors in the trial of the accused killer, a Sikh boy named Duvinder Singh (Sonnell Dadral). We don't get all their backstories, but there is recovering addict Johnnie Donne (Gerard Butler), who falls for Rose Davies (Helen McCrory), who is already trying to work up the nerve to leave her husband. Charles Gore (Stuart Bunce) has left the seminary in search of a past love, and he befriends elderly Elsie Beamish (Syliva Syms). Peter Segal (Michael Maloney) is badgered by his racist father-in-law to talk about the trial, even though he knows it's not allowed. Marcia Thomas (Nina Sosanya) is a single mother with a difficult mother of her own. Jeremy Crawford (Nicholas Farrell) is coming to terms with his new status in life after a friend conned him out of essentially everything he and his family had.
In fact, we find out very little about the relationships in the Singh family, and all we know about the Maher family is that they want a guilty verdict enough to threaten jurors. We do hear the evidence--all we know about the case comes through the trial--that John was a vicious bully. Duvinder freely admits to having hated him, freely admits that he had been planning to kill John that morning. Medical evidence, however, suggests that he physically could not have struck the blows. You see, John had at one point wrenched Duvinder's arm out of its socket in an attempt to prevent his being able to play cricket. Which, wow. John rubbed dog poo in Duvinder's hair, which also means having forcibly removed Duvinder's turban; it seems unlikely Duvinder removed it himself. Were it not that John was killed with twenty-eight blows, doubtless more than one fatal on its own, it would almost seem as though the horrible child got what he deserved. Not that he deserved to be killed, of course, but you could certainly see why it was done.
Honestly, I'm not sure I really wanted as much focus on the jurors as there was, though given the title, it was hardly a surprise. It was also one of those fictionalized trials where everything seemed to go awfully fast. Testimony and cross-examination seem to be a half-dozen questions each. We know the whole thing took perhaps a week, or else there are days completely unaccounted for. True, many trials are shorter than that, but I would hope one of this magnitude would last a bit. It also struck me that important questions when unasked. Were any of the boys' classmates called? Did they get testimony from any of the actual divers who searched the canal to find Duvinder's clothing with its possible bloodstains? Maybe we could have cut the subplot with the whiny Jeremy in order to take a little more time at the trial. Yes, all right, I think we're supposed to be uncertain at the end as to whether the right verdict was reached, but shouldn't a doctor have testified about Duvinder's arm?
I thought about it, when I started watching this. I automatically assumed that Duvinder was not guilty, and I wondered what that said about me. On further thought, I think it said that I would have been a good juror. After all, the point of a trial is that the prosecution must convince you that the defendant is guilty, not the other way around. All of these characters talk about relying on their instincts. It's said that, without instinct, how can you make a decision? But that's wrong, isn't it? Surely the important way to decide about someone's fate is to weigh the evidence objectively. Did Duvinder Singh kill John Maher? It is up to the prosecution to present enough evidence to demonstrate his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I know I'm looking at it through American eyes, but our justice system is, after all, based on the British one. "Innocent until proven guilty" may be a polite legal fiction, but it's one we should pretend is true nonetheless.