The Instigator
royalpaladin
Con (against)
Winning
17 Points
The Contender
imabench
Pro (for)
Losing
2 Points

DDO OT Semifinals: Jury Nullification

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
royalpaladin
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/3/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,796 times Debate No: 28847
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (6)

 

royalpaladin

Con

Resolved: In the United States, the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government. Imabench is the pro for this debate, which is part of the DDO Official Tournament. Imabench must present his case in the first round, but may not present any arguments in the final round in order to maintain round balance. Imabench also must present definitions in the first round, but I reserve the right to challenge them in my first speech, which will be presented in the second round.

Rules
1. No semantics
2. No trolling
3. No exploiting the character limit
4. Dropped arguments are concessions.
imabench

Pro

Jury Nullification as defined by USlegal.com is :"Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of "Not Guilty" despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongly applied to the defendant whose fate that are charged with deciding."

http://definitions.uslegal.com...

I am pro Jury nullification, these are my arguments in favor of it:

1) Jury nullification allows jurors to protest laws that they find unjust

The Sedition Act of 1798 outlawed the right of people to publish any material that talked negatively about government, and it was one of the first acts in American history to be subjected to jury nullification. What happened was that the american public was very opposed to such acts, and naturally sympathized with those who were arrested under its terms. One of the ways people protested this law though was to acquit those who were clearly guilty of violating the law because the jurors agreed that the law was unsound and unjust. Other acts of Jury nullification arose to protest people arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law, to defend people who were arrested for speaking out against the Vietnam War, and even used to free people who were arrested under Prohibition laws.

http://www.isil.org...

Jury nullification is perhaps the biggest tool that people on jury duty posses to fight against laws that they all agree are unsound, unjust, and even unconstitutional.

2) Jury nullification allows jurors to protest against punishments associated with guilty verdicts of a particular crime that seems overly-cruel.

Jury nullification originated in England just prior to the arrival of the Magna Carta where jurors acquitted people guilty of crimes not because they found the laws to be unjust, but because they found the penalties and punishments associated with a guilty verdict to be unjust. Although jurors that gave acquittals were later harassed very extensively by their own government, it was the earliest form of protest that the common people had against injustices they saw in government and its laws, and is still a valuable tool for a people to have to prevent their government from becoming more tyrannical then it already is.

3) Jury nullification is a part of the checks and balances used to restrain a tyrannical government.

Jury nullification is a right that all Americans have to protest and actively fight against laws passed by the government that they find to be either unjust or carry too harsh of a penalty with a guilty verdict, making jury nullification a key tool to have when fighting blatant tyrannical government laws. Jury nullification is essentially the 'Veto' that the american public can use against laws they find unjust.

4) To restrict jury nullification would be to restrict the first amendment.

The people of the United States have the right to protest and the right to petition against their government for a crime the government has committed because jury nullification is essentially a protest of government, which is a right that is protected within the Constitution under the first amendment.

Ill end here for now so that my opponant can have character space to introduce her own arguments against jury nullification.
Debate Round No. 1
royalpaladin

Con

1: Jury nullification increases subjectivity in criminal trials. Since the purpose of the jury is to determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant with regards to specific crimes, judges currently do not tell jurors that they can nullify. Telling juries that they can stray from this duty to only evaluate the facts makes juries more comfortable with acting subjectively. Psychologist Irwin Horowitz of the University of Toledo conducted an experiment and determined juries that receive nullification instructions, however, are “more likely to acquit a sympathetic defendant and judge a dangerous defendant more harshly than when such information is not present or when challenges are made to nullification arguments.” [1] In addition, Horowitz discovered that the juries that received nullification instructions “spent less time deliberating about the evidence and more time discussing the defendant, personal attributions, and anecdotes” [1]. This has two destructive impacts. First, promoting the introduction of subjective, non-evidentiary factors by increasing jury power violates the right to a fair trial. Defendants should expect that they will be evaluate solely on the basis of whether or not they committed the crime, and not on subjective factors such as whether or not the jurors dislike the law and wish to protest it or whether or not they like the defendant. Ultimately, nullification subverts the reason for the existence of the jury in the first place. Second, increasing subjectivity through nullification allows for an inconsistent application of the law from trial to trial. Defendants deserve equal protection under the law, so it is unfair if some defendants who committed a crime are able to roam free while other defendants are sentenced to jail simply because the opinions on the validity of the law vary from jury to jury. For example, nullification was famously used in the South to acquit the racist murderers of Emmett Till [2]. This violated the right to equal protection under the law for other defendants in murder trials because it allowed the juries to arbitrarily decide to whom the law should be applied.

2: Jury nullification is not a fair check on government because it is undemocratic. Juries consist of twelve people who are chosen by lawyers for both sides from a pool of potential jurors through the voir dire process, and they thus unelected, unrepresentative bodies. In addition, juries are entirely unaccountable for their decisions. Jury deliberations occur behind closed doors and they simply reveal their verdict without explaining their reasons, so it is usually impossible to understand their decisions and there is no way to hold them accountable for their actions. In a republic, nullification is unjust because it allows an entirely unelected, unaccountable, and unrepresentative body to usurp power and make decisions about to whom the law should apply.

3: Jury nullification stifles reform of bad laws. Reformation of bad laws requires pressure on legislative bodies and access to higher courts. For example, Prohibition was repealed by Congress because of the massive influx of nonviolent criminals in the jail system while criminal enterprises on the streets flourished, and the Supreme Court ultimately overturned sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas. Nullification stifles both of these requirements. First, it reduces the pressure on the legislatures to reform because it hinders some of the impacts of the bad laws. Had so many innocent individuals not been jailed because of Prohibition laws, for example, there would not have been as much pressure to change. Second, nullification prevents cases from reaching higher courts, which can overturn unjust laws and ensure that all people who have been convicted as a result of poor policy are freed. Had Lawrence’s case been nullified, Texas sodomy laws would still have been in place today.

Rebuttals
He claims that jury nullification allows jurors to protest laws that they find unjust. First, turn this against him because this allows juries to usurp powers that do not belong to them. He assumes that this is a good thing, but this is bad because it allows the jury to obtain authority that does not belong to it. The jury exists to determine whether or not an individual is guilty or innocent, and not whether or not the law is unjust. He is thus conceding that through nullification, the jury is taking an authority that is outside its function. Second, turn this because the jury is not a representative body, so it should not be making such policy decisions. These are decisions to be made by the people and their representatives through the electoral process, and not by a group of 12 individuals who were selected through voir dire. Third, just because it can be a check on unjust laws does not mean it is automatically a just check on government. Assassination and terrorism can also be used to check unjust laws, but we do not consider them good because they violate rights. Similarly, nullification violates the right to a fair trial and the right to equal protection under the law, so it is not just. Fourth, nullification is not an effective form of protest because we don’t actually know why the juries made their decisions. Deliberations occur behind closed doors, and they only release their verdict, so it is almost impossible to claim with certainty whether or not nullification has occurred. This means it has no discursive impact that can lead to reform and it is not a good form of protest.

He then says that nullification is just because it protests against bad punishments. First, turn this because it is not the jury’s place to determine what the punishment should be. The judge is supposed to assign punishments based on the state’s guidelines. Second, it is unjust to allow a criminal to walk free simply because the 12 people on the jury feel the punishment is bad. For example, if the punishment for murder is the death penalty, it is unjust to allow the murderer to escape conviction simply because the jurors all disagree with the death penalty. If the punishment is truly unjust, the people as a whole, not just the twelve jurors, can collaborate to decide this through the electoral process, or the case can be discussed in higher courts like the Supreme Court. Allowing the jury to decide this is both unfair and undemocratic.

He next reasserts that nullification can be used to restrain the government. Cross-apply the argument about how just because it is a check does not mean it is just. Remember, assassination and terrorism are also checks, but they are not just because they violate rights. Similarly, nullification violates the rights to a fair trial and to equal protection under the law, so it is not a just check even if it is a check. You can also link-turn this response because it assumes that the people are the ones who are negating the law. Juries are a group of 12 people who are chosen by lawyers through the voir dire process, which actively screens out educated people like doctors and lawyers. They are not representative bodies and they are not making decisions for the people. Third, keep in mind that nullification can also be used to enhance government tyranny. For example, in the South, as in the case of Emmett Till, nullification was used to prevent KKK operatives from being convicted for murdering and attacking African Americans. Fourth, this is all outweighed by the fact that nullification stifles reform, which is ultimately needed to hinder unjust laws.

He lastly brings up free speech. Keep in mind that liberties can be restricted when they violate the rights of others. For example, falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is banned, as is stabbing another person. Speech can be restricted if it violates the rights of others. Nullification violates the right to a fair trial and to equal protection under the law, so it can be restricted.

Sources: http://www.debate.org...
imabench

Pro

1) "Psychologist Irwin Horowitz of the University of Toledo conducted an experiment and determined juries that receive nullification instructions, however, are “more likely to acquit a sympathetic defendant and judge a dangerous defendant more harshly than when such information is not present or when challenges are made to nullification arguments"

I dont necessarily think this is a bad thing because there are several instances where being sympathetic to a defendant in a trial is warranted. Take the case of Roy Brown, who robbed a bank with a gun but when the teller gave him 3 massive stacks of bills, he only took a single $100 dollar bill and gave the rest back. 3 hours later he came back to the same bank to return the same $100 bill that he had stole because he felt bad for taking it.

He was sentenced to 15 years in jail.
http://rollingout.com...

Had the jury known they had the right to nullify, they surely would have done the right thing and let this man at least get a shorter sentence, because there are cases where the people know what the right thing to do is then the law does not.

"promoting the introduction of subjective, non-evidentiary factors by increasing jury power violates the right to a fair trial"

The thing it though that there are cases in which subjective and non-evidentiary factors actually protect someones right to a fair trial. Take the story of Gulnaz, an Afghanistani girl who was raped by her cousin's husband and became pregnant with her rapists child.... She was found guilty by the Afghani courts of sex outside of marriage -- adultery -- and she was sentenced to twelve years in jail or marry her rapist attacker to justify the sex they had...... Now if Jury nullification were allowed and were a right, then a jury could take into account the fact that she was raped, just 19 years old, that her rapist was already married to her cousin, and other subjective factors to actually protect someones right to a fair trial.....

http://en.wikipedia.org...

Having the right to a fair trial includes having the right to not be persecuted by absurd laws, which is what jury nullification defends against. Jury nullification is one of those things that can both protect and violate a constitutional right depending on the scenario, similar to many other rights people have and enjoy.

"Defendants should expect that they will be evaluated solely on the basis of whether or not they committed the crime, and not on subjective factors such as whether or not the jurors dislike the law and wish to protest it or whether or not they like the defendant."

Thats just your opinion though. There are many cases where defendants would plead for jurors to take into account subjective factors in deciding their fate because to do so would actually be fairer then the laws themselves. Jury nullification is almost never used or applied in cases that involve normal laws that carry with them normal punishments, it is only ever used in cases where the law in question is arguably unconstitutional and the sentence that comes with a guilty verdict arguably qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

2) "Jury nullification is not a fair check on government because it is undemocratic."

So then if jurors were selected randomly and accurately represented the public, then would that make jury nullification justified? Jury nullification doesnt go hand in hand with having unelected jurors, its possible to have jury nullification without unelected jurors in the same society. Since these two are unrelated, this argument is really an entirely different debate and not relevant to the topic at hand.

3) "Jury nullification stifles reform of bad laws. Reformation of bad laws requires pressure on legislative bodies and access to higher courts"

Jury nullification doesnt stifle reform, it is the byproduct of when reform fails. For years people have protested against Marijuana illegalization and have gotten nowhere. So since they cant change the law the best thing society can do is show forgiveness or mercy towards those convicted under those laws and do the right thing for them until the laws are repealed or fixed.

"Prohibition was repealed by Congress because of the massive influx of nonviolent criminals in the jail system while criminal enterprises on the streets flourished"

There were a ton of reasons why Prohibition ended, including inability to enforce the law, widespread public disapproval, it was corrupting government itself, cost a ton of jobs, was phenomenally expensive, etc.
http://www.patheos.com...

Letting an unjust law slowly put innocent people in jail until society finally pushed for it to be repealed is not the only reason why the public rallies against unpopular laws. When laws cant be repealed when they are pretty unjust is where jury nullification comes into play. Jury nullification is Plan B when repealing an unjust law through conventional means takes too long.

4) "Third, just because it can be a check on unjust laws does not mean it is automatically a just check on government. Assassination and terrorism can also be used to check unjust laws, but we do not consider them good because they violate rights"

Thats because assassination and terrorism results in people being punished or killed for something they didnt do and didnt deserve, jury nullification is the exact opposite, where people who are being punished and dont deserve to be punished end up being saved.

" Deliberations occur behind closed doors, and they only release their verdict, so it is almost impossible to claim with certainty whether or not nullification has occurred"

Ok Seriously, I dont even know what youre trying to argue at this point....

"It is not the jury’s place to determine what the punishment should be"

And where does it say that in the Constitution exactly? The role of the jury isnt set in stone and is open to interpretation.

"For example, if the punishment for murder is the death penalty, it is unjust to allow the murderer to escape conviction simply because the jurors all disagree with the death penalty."

This scenario is prevented against by jury selection, in a capital punishment case lawyers are allowed to dismiss jurors who have a vendetta against the death penalty and would likely be biased towards letting the defendant be released rather then convicted. Jury nullification has its faults, but those faults are countered by other laws and rights within the Judicial system.

"If the punishment is truly unjust, the people as a whole, not just the twelve jurors, can collaborate to decide this through the electoral process, or the case can be discussed in higher courts like the Supreme Court. Allowing the jury to decide this is both unfair and undemocratic."

But the electoral process is a slow and painfully ineffective way in trying to quickly overturn legislation, and Appealing to the Supreme Court is just as bad since they only accept a hundred out of several thousand cases they recieve every year!
http://www.ncjw.org...

Ill end this here for now. Jury nullification exists to fight against unfair and unjust laws that cannot when conventional processes for overturning those laws are taking too much time to yield results, causing dozens or even hundreds of people to fall victim to such an unjust law while little progress is being made. Its literally the Plan B the public has to fighting poorly designed laws..... Id continue to respond to the Cons arguments and rebuttals but she crammed so many of them into this round that I literally ran out of space to respond to them... So I tried to pick the most important ones and responded to them. Back to you then.
Debate Round No. 2
royalpaladin

Con


According to Rule 4, drops are concessions. My opponent may not have new responses to the dropped arguments in his next speech.



Horowitz


My opponent concedes Horowtiz. He tries to turn this by saying that subjectivity is a good thing and brings up a case in which a criminal felt remorse and says that the jury can give a reduced sentence. There are four problems.




  1. He’s strawmanning Horowitz by changing what Horwitz means by “sympathetic”.Imabench is pretending that he’s talking about nuance in the study, but that isn’t true. The second Horowitz quote, which was dropped, clarifies this. It says, that juries with nullification instructions “spent less time deliberating about the evidence and more time discussing the defendant, personal attributions, and anecdotes“. The sympathy is irrelevant to the case; it’s referring to external factors like character instead of the evidence. His turn is thus invalid and you extend Horowitz for the neg.

  2. He’s ignoring the fact that unsympathetic defendants, like promiscuous college students or people who have been convicted in the past are harmed by this because things other than the case are being discussed. This is unfair to them; they need to be judged on the facts.

  3. The jury can’t even take nuance into account because it doesn’t assign sentences; it only releases a verdict. Nullification would allow the bank robber in his example to go free, not get a lighter sentence.

  4. The law already accounts for nuance by allowing the judge to take these things into account when delivering sentences. Judges aren’t constrained rigidly; they have guidelines but also have leeway. This person could get a lighter sentence anyways. Nullification is not needed for this.


Fair Trial and Subjective Rulings


He brings up the adultery example. Keep in mind that the resolution is about the U.S.; adultery laws are unconstitutional. He says that the right to a fair trial includes protection from absurd laws. This isn’t true; the right to a fair trial, according to the Constitution, includes right to a trial by jury, protection from double jeopardy, and no ex post facto. The Constitution does not give protection from absurd laws. Second, absurd laws have been struck down in higher courts, meaning the government can try you under them and can also get rid of them through other means that don’t unfairly jeopardize trials. One example is the sodomy law in Lawrence from my last speech.


He then says that some people might like subjective juries. I’m sure a charming murderer would, but that doesn’t mean he should get subjectivity. Trials have to be objective in order to be fair to the state, the victim, and the defendant. He also asserts that nullification is only used in unconstitutional cases. This is absurd. Extend the dropped/conceded Emmett Till/KKK example and the Horowitz evidence, which both prove that nullification can occur in any scenario, not just constitutional cases.



Equal Protection


I noted that defendants deserve equal protection; it’s unfair to convict a defendant for a crime and let another one go just because their juries subjectively disagree on whether the law is good. This was cold dropped and thus conceded. Extend it. It will have important implications.



Undemocratic


He rejects this because it’s hypothetically possible to select jurors a different way. Ok, but this resolution specifically says “In the United States”. In the United States, they aren’t selected that way; a pool is selected at random and then the lawyers in the case cherrypick them in the voir dire process. His argument is completely irrelevant. There’s no reason to buy it because we’re talking about the US. He also drops/concedes the part that notes that juries are unaccountable since the decisions are made behind closed door and only a verdict is announced. It’s unfair to let an unelected and unaccountable body make these legal decisions and determine to whom the law applies. He can’t change the status quo and make arguments from a utopian fiat; that’s not fair.



Reform, Prohibition, and Supreme Court


He asserts that it doesn’t stifle reform without evidence. I provided two warrants as to why it does. The first was that it reduces pressure on the legislature to reform by slightly mitigating the impact in a haphazard way. He doesn’t respond to the analytic, so extend that. I gave the example of Prohibition. He says that there were other factors. I agree; but a major contributing factor was the fact that so many people went to jail for a stupid law and they spent so much money trying to enforce it. He gives evidence of that by noting the phenomenal costs and the drain on jobs. Turn that against him; it proves my point. Imagine that nullification had been more widespread against it. Some people would have gone to jail and others wouldn’t have, so equal protection, which he dropped, would have been violated and these impacts which caused the reform would have been less prominent. His evidence flows to my side. Against the idea that cases need to reach higher courts, he says that the Supreme Court only accepts a few cases. Ok, but it’s not the only court overturning bad laws; lower circuit courts, lower state courts, and lower appellate courts do this as well. There’s plenty of opportunity to overturn bad laws through appeal. Plus, the courts themselves actively seek these types of cases, so there’s no reason to believe the cases won’t go higher.



He lastly discusses the idea that this is a “Plan B” when reform isn’t possible. He cites the example of marijuana. First, reform is always possible; you just have to mobilize the electorate. Marijuana was recently legalized in Colorado, for example and will spread to other states. Second, this violates equal protection. Marijuana is a contentious issue; a lot of people don’t want it legalized because of the impact of drug dealers. It’s unfair to convict some people for using it and not others based on the juries’ personal feelings; people deserve equal protection.


Assassination and Terrorism


I note that just because something is a check doesn’t mean it is just. I gave the examples of assassination and terrorism. He says that this is because those kill innocent people. That’s entirely false. You can use them to target people who have done wrong. For example, you could assassinate corrupt leaders who take bribes or give contracts to friends or embezzle taxpayer money. Also, this is just a bad argument. Even if it were true, nullification can be unjust for different reasons than the one he provided, and it is. It’s unjust because it violates the right to a fair trial and equal protection under the law (which was dropped). Nullification can also be used to free evil, guilty people like Emmett Till’s murderers.



Usurpation of Powers


I pointed out that the jury is usurping powers from the judge; it’s place is only to determine guilt or innocence and not whether or not the law is unjust. He says that it’s open to interpretation. That’s not true. The jury instructions that are read by United States judges explicitly define the purpose of the jury, and explicitly state that they are not to make their own interpretations about the justness of the law or how it should be applied; they only evaluate facts: http://courts.uslegal.com...



Death Penalty Example


He says that jurors who have issue with the law can be excluded. Ok, turn, because that means that jury nullification is basically useless in all cases since the government can manipulate the jury to prevent it from becoming a factor. That means he has no solvency to protect against constitutional infractions. His whole case becomes meaningless right here. If he says that people can lie, then turn that against him because he’s contradicting himself.



Extend all of the other dropped attacks on his case, specifically the one with regards to the right to freedom of expression. He basically drops the idea of j.null being a protest.


imabench

Pro

Forfeit due to hand surgery. Vote con
Debate Round No. 3
royalpaladin

Con

Alright. I want to thank my opponent for debating this with me and congratulate him for making it to the semifinals. Vote con.
imabench

Pro

Always wear gloves whern playing football, trust me on this one
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by ZakYoungTheLibertarian 4 years ago
ZakYoungTheLibertarian
great showing from con, even if they are dead wrong. jury nullification is about the only good thing about the legal system; juries should judge not only the defendant but also the law itself. As St. Augustine once remarked 'an unjust law is no law'.
Posted by ZakYoungTheLibertarian 4 years ago
ZakYoungTheLibertarian
great showing from con, even if they are dead wrong. jury nullification is about the only good thing about the legal system; juries should judge not only the defendant but also the law itself. As St. Augustine once remarked 'an unjust law is no law'.
Posted by imabench 4 years ago
imabench
likespeac you dingus you voted for the wron person!
Posted by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
I, too, was really enjoying this close debate. May your hand feel heal up well.
Posted by RyuuKyuzo 4 years ago
RyuuKyuzo
Damn, I was following this debate and was really getting hyped for its finale. I hope your hand heals up soon ima.
Posted by imabench 4 years ago
imabench
Voting period needs to be 2 weeks
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by famer 4 years ago
famer
royalpaladinimabenchTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
royalpaladinimabenchTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Dingus?! I'm atempted to vote for Con due to that remarks.. except I'm alreacy voting Con! Pro conceded. It is an open question how this might have ended otherwise!
Vote Placed by thett3 4 years ago
thett3
royalpaladinimabenchTied
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Reasons for voting decision: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn7-fVtT16k
Vote Placed by Xerge 4 years ago
Xerge
royalpaladinimabenchTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Unfortunate forfeit by Pro
Vote Placed by RyuuKyuzo 4 years ago
RyuuKyuzo
royalpaladinimabenchTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro conceded.
Vote Placed by AshleysTrueLove 4 years ago
AshleysTrueLove
royalpaladinimabenchTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession.