It’s not just the time, it’s also the movie Ilya and David blog about below (and one of my favorites). Ilya considers whether the defendant in 12 Angry Men was really guilty. I think the author, Reginald Rose, deliberately leaves that unclear. The audience never even hears any testimony, and what we hear second-hand from the jurors is conflicting. It’s conflicting for a reason, I think; the idea is to make the audience dwell on the difference between guilt and the absence of reasonable doubt of guilt.
David suggests that Henry Fonda asks a lot of questions that should have been asked by the defense attorney. I would put this a bit differently: I think Henry Fonda is the defense attorney. Rose’s clever move is to take a criminal case — government witnesses, followed by cross examination, closing, and then jury deliberations — and to present them all as all just part of the jury deliberations. As I see it, the jurors who think the case is easy present the government’s case; Fonda’s questions are the cross examination and closing argument; and the hostile reaction by jurors who object to Fonda’s inquiries are the testimony of the goverment’s witnesses under cross examination. This device lets Rose tell the story of an entire criminal trial under the guise of the screenplay being just about jury deliberations. Great stuff.