The Instigator
Travniki
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
RyuuKyuzo
Con (against)
Winning
22 Points

Conjoined Twins and the Penal System

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
RyuuKyuzo
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/10/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,714 times Debate No: 34646
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (5)

 

Travniki

Pro

So one day I was just sitting at my desk, masturbating, when I realized that there is no legal precedent for incarcerating conjoined twins when one of them (but not the other) has committed a crime.

Consider the following:

Harold and Stephen are conjoined twins. They are in a public park, when Harold pulls out a gun and shoots five people, despite Stephens efforts to stop him. The conjoined twins are arrested; Harold tells authorities he simply hates people and wishes to harm as many individuals as he can. Stephen is horrified by Harolds' dark nature, but is, unfortunately, physically attached to him. Harold is now a killer, and he expresses his intent to murder innocents again.

The resolution is the following:

This House would incarcerate Harold and Stephen

I support this resolution, I will argue that a legal individual should have their rights sacrificed in order to assure that Harold is put behind bars.

Con will argue that a legal individuals' rights cannot be compromised despite this drastic situation.
RyuuKyuzo

Con

I too was masturbating, when the answer to this conundrum (as well as other things) suddenly came over me. As such, I find myself in opposition to Pro's position.

I thank my opponent both for instigating such an interesting topic, and for opening this debate up to me.

I wish him good luck.
Debate Round No. 1
Travniki

Pro

Since the age of Enlightenment, Western legal philosophy has prioritized the protection of innocents over the prosecution of the guilty. If this debate was simply "This House Would imprison an innocent person to stop crime", it is likely that proposition would lose.

However the egregious and specific nature of this legally unprecedented conundrum naturally defies the conventional legal norms and values the West has developed in the past 300 years.

I would like to mention that alternative solutions, such as lobotomizing Harold or empowering Stephen with a shock mechanism he can use to control Harold, are not in the spirit of this debate. The resolution was specifically designed to tackle very heavy philosophical and legal themes, not provide Con with a loop-hole and quick win. It is assumed in this debate that we are operating under traditional Western law, so no spectacular or extra-legal solutions can be used. Remember, Cons BOP was described as "Con will argue that a legal individuals' rights cannot be compromised despite this drastic situation." in round 1.

Legal Impunity for a Killer and the Obligation the Legal System has to its' Society

What are the implications of allowing a murderous misanthropist to roam freely, unchecked, and left to his own devices? They are obviously disastrous; a criminal will operate freely and exercise his evil at his every whim. He only needs to subdue his brother, and he can wantonly indulge in savage ignominy as he butchers babies and murders mothers. Harold could literally walk around with a knife stabbing people as he crosses the street, and the law could never hold him accountable as he has an unwilling legal hostage sharing his flesh. He could walk up to schools, nurseries, government buildings, non-chalantly douse them in gasoline and set them alight. The ruling principle of the legal system and society is the protection of its' citizens; it seems to have an obligation to remove this threat to life, liberty and security of persons from society. But does it also not have an obligation to protect the rights of a citizen, and safeguard him from being penalized for a crime he did not commit?

Obviously one of these obligations, these fundamental goods, must be breached. How do we determine which is more important? If you are in the camp of the philosophical flaveur-du-jour, Utilitarianism, then the choice is simple. Analyzing the situation from a ratio of suffering to pain, and harm to benefit, to society, it is obvious one would incarcerate the conjoined twins. It is proper to sacrifice the legal integrity and mobility rights of a minority that represents 0.000001% of the population when choosing to NOT incarcerate him is actively sacrificing the much more important rights of life liberty and security of the entire population. Life itself is more important than Stephens right to a fair trial and to not be incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Incriminating the innocent twin offends our morals because we put value on human life, but we must remember that if society does not exercise its' power to remove him from society, it is actively making the decision to disregard human life that will be diminished and stolen from Harolds free reign.

Stephens Moral Obligation to "Take One for the Team"

Imagine that Harold has subdued Stephen and is walking towards a nursery with a large rock. He intends to murder the infants in the building with it. Now suppose a police officer is watching and moves in to intervene. Is it unethical for him to tackle the conjoined twins to the ground? It would be committing an act of violence upon a guilty, deserving individual, but also an innocent, non deserving one. But clearly the officer cannot acquiesce to Harold killing the children, so he has an obligation to tackle him; no one reading this debate would think it unreasonable for him to do so. So we can establish that Stephen must sometimes accept punishment for circumstances he cannot control.

Accept the reality of the ugly situation and it is obvious that Stephen and Harold must be incarcerated.
RyuuKyuzo

Con

Pro contends that due to the unusual nature of this case, we ought to throw out the past 300 years of development in the philosophy of justice. Essentially, he is saying by the very fact that this case is unusual, we should ignore the obvious logic behind prioritizing the rights of the innocent over catching the "bad guy", however it is times like these, where the lines are fuzzy, that such developments were made for. As such, I will proceed to explore that which we all already know is the just decision in order to re-affirm my position in the eyes of the judges, and see to it that this mock court does right by Stephen.

Debate Ethics

Pro is trying to pull a fast-one here by suggesting I cannot provide an alternative without violating the spirit of the debate. A debate's "spirit" is not something to be defined ex-post facto -- to do so is to try to trap your opponent after they've already accepted, which truly does violate the spirit of debate; Not just this debate, but any debate. The only specification given as to what my BoP is, is to argue for the defence of Stephen's legal rights. If I can come up with an alternative that solves the issue of Harold's criminal nature without egregiously compromising the rights of Stephen, then I am well within my right to present such an argument, as no rule was made saying otherwise prior to my acceptance.

Security vs. Freedom

Pro's core argument rests on the notion that we ought to prioritize security over individual rights. To support this, he appeals to utilitarianism -- arguing that it benefits society best to impede on one individual's rights in order to safeguard the general public. However, there is a reason why we have historically valued the former over the latter, and it's the same reason why Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." [1]. By claiming we ought to imprison Stephen despite knowing full well that he is innocent, Pro is making a statement that spits in the face of our Western concept of freedom. He is claiming that the state should have both the power and the right to knowingly imprison an innocent so long as it means imprisoning a guilty party as well. This sets a dangerous precedent.

If we can imprison an innocent party in order to imprison a guilty party in this case, we set the precedent to allow it in other cases as well. Why not threaten to imprison anyone who "pleads the 5th", that is to say, imprison those who choose to exercise their fifth amendment rights to not answer questions that may lead to an arrest? [2] After all, it's much easier to get information out of people when they themselves are facing prison time simply for refusing to answer. This is the inevitable extension of prioritising imprisonment of criminals over the rights of innocents, and the legal concepts protecting against such outcomes stretches back much farther than the last 300 years. It can be seen even in the Magna Carta, the document the fifth amendment stems from, which is nearly 800 years old [3]. Pro would have us ignore this obvious logic, which has been acknowledged as vital for the better part of a millennium.

As such, utilitarianism clearly favours the protection of Stephen's rights, as ignoring them simply to imprison a criminal provides the highest disutility to society -- it establishes a precedent that undermines our legal right to due process in favour of state expansion.

Taking One for the Team

Pro is trying to argue that if we agree to allowing the police officer to tackle Harold down in order to stop a crime in-progress, we must therefore also agree to imprisoning Stephen for life in order to incarcerate Harold. This is, honestly, the most over the top example of equivocation I've ever seen. Tackling Harold/Stephen down in order to stop a crime in progress is forgivable as there was no time to do anything else and some action had to be taken -- but to use this as an excuse to ignore Stephen's rights as a citizen and give him a life-sentence when we DO have the time to consider the moral and legal implications of our decision is just plain lazy. The entire purpose of the justice system is to take advantage of the time we have available to us to allow both sides to develop their case, ensuring nothing pertinent is ignored.

Purpose of Prison

Nick Kam, member of the California State Bar and a graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law, wrote a piece of legal scholarship outlining this very same thought-experiment titled "Half Guilty" [4]. In it, he outlines the reasons for having legal punishment in the first place:

Retribution - This is the lowest reason. It is essentially to satisfy those affected by the crime by appeasing their desire for vengeance. This reason can be put aside in cases where the moral choice is fuzzy. After all, it is immoral to ruin the life of an innocent merely to satisfy our own desire for vengence.

Rehabilitation - This can be done without prison time. We can place Harold under strict surveillance without compromising Stephen's life (much more than it already is being attached to a murderer, that is), and have mandatory sessions with a psychologist to keep tabs on his mental state.

Deterrence - Since most people don't have a conjoined twin, the pre-established deterrent of life in prison for other murderers remains whether we imprison Harold or not.

Incapacitation - This is the only one of note we must sacrifice. However, since we can keep tabs on Harold/Stephen, such as requiring a police escort when they go out until such time that a psychologist determines Harold is no longer a significant threat, we can ensure the public's safety without needlessly ruining Stephen's life.

As such, we can fulfil the purpose of legal response without jail time, further establishing that imprisoning Stephen for Harold's crimes is a needless and egregious infringement on Stephen's rights.

As it happens, Nick Kam concludes his paper agreeing that such a response would not be legal nor ethical.

Conclusion

It is foolish to throw our hand up and toss out our intuitive values on the prioritization of rights simply because we are pressed with a hard moral question. Rather, it's times like these that we must examine why we have these values prioritized in such a manner in the first place. We cannot imprison Harold/Stephen as by doing so we are implicitly agreeing that we ought to sink into totalitarianism whenever things start to get fuzzy. Tackling Harold during a crime cannot be used as an excuse to imprison Stephen for life after a crime -- such a contention doesn't even make sense prima facie, and through alternative methods, we can ensure the public's safety without resorting to tossing our legal rights out the window. As such, pro has failed to fulfil his burden of proof.

The resolution is negated.

Vote Con

Sources


1. http://www.goodreads.com...
2. http://en.wikipedia.org...
3. http://www.legislation.gov.uk...
4. http://nickkam.com...
Debate Round No. 2
Travniki

Pro

Travniki forfeited this round.
RyuuKyuzo

Con

Seeing as Pro forfeited last round, but does intend on coming back next round, I'll keep this round brief so as to not over-load him for his R4 post.

To re-cap my last round argument; we cannot imprison Harold (the guilty twin) if it means imprisoning Stephen (the innocent twin) because by doing so, we admit that it is morally permissible to knowingly imprison an innocent just to ensure we imprison a guilty party. Doing such a thing is widely considered to be absolutely out of the question, whether it be by the U.S. constitution, the Magna Carta, or Blackstone's Formulation (It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer) [1]. The later of the three being especially influential in our legal systems "This variation was absorbed by the British legal system, becoming a maxim by the early 19th century.It was also absorbed into American common law, cited repeatedly by that country's Founding Fathers, later becoming a standard drilled into law students all the way into the 21st century." [2]

The Americans bumped up this formulation 10 fold, as seen by the most quoted version of this formulation given by Benjamin Franklin "That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved." [3].

The core of my opponent's argument in his opening round was that we ought to lock up both of them for the safety of society. This method ensures society's safety, but also involves nullifying Stephen's right to due process, and so it is both illegal and immoral in Western democracies, and therefore not a viable option. As such, we must set them both free -- however this doesn't mean we have to put society at risk. The twins can be placed under police surveillance and Harold can be subject to routine check-ups with a psychologist to ensure he doesn't go on any more murderous rampages. Granted, this method does slightly Stephen, but it inconveniences him less than having an unchecked murderer fused to his hip, so it's the most rational option to take.

In conclusion, imprisoning Stephen would be unethical, illegal, and unnecessary. The Western notion of justice hinges upon the idea that the government can't knowingly imprison an innocent to accomplish its goals. Furthermore, society's safety can be secured without needlessly breaking these laws. As such, the resolution is negated.

Vote Con

1.http://tinyurl.com...
2.http://tinyurl.com...
3.http://quotationsbook.com...

Debate Round No. 3
Travniki

Pro

Travniki forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Travniki 3 years ago
Travniki
Yeah, sorry. I had no time for this between work and exams. Vote con.
Posted by tulle 3 years ago
tulle
Watching!
Posted by Travniki 3 years ago
Travniki
Sounds good
Posted by RyuuKyuzo 3 years ago
RyuuKyuzo
You'll have to wait till next round. I'll use my R3 post for clarification of a few things I said in R2, and we'll carry on from there.
Posted by Travniki 3 years ago
Travniki
I could post my arg in the comments, or just wait till next round
Posted by Travniki 3 years ago
Travniki
Hey RyuuKyuo! Sorry for forfeiting, I was stupid to start this exam in the middle of exams; I had no time to post my argument
Posted by Ragnar 3 years ago
Ragnar
@Philochristos, not sure. Depends on the crime? Ultimately this is such a puzzling question, that I am likely to vote on sources and such but not argument.
Posted by Maikuru 3 years ago
Maikuru
I read a lateral thinking puzzle just like this. Following.
Posted by philochristos 3 years ago
philochristos
Ragnar, what if it's a lesser crime than murder, but that would still ordinarily merit prison? How should we handle that?
Posted by Ragnar 3 years ago
Ragnar
Than lobotomize the insane one.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by thett3 3 years ago
thett3
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Better late than never...Con made a really awesome case which Pro obviously found it hard to respond to.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 3 years ago
Maikuru
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Reasons for voting decision: Sadsies. I was looking forward to this =(
Vote Placed by tulle 3 years ago
tulle
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Reasons for voting decision: FF and concession... sadsies :(
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
Ragnar
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Total points awarded:15 
Reasons for voting decision: Concession... (you're welcome to declare this a votebomb and counter, since the concession itself was in the comment section instead of the actual debate). Also con had very good sources.
Vote Placed by Fanboy 3 years ago
Fanboy
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: FF