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Pro (for)
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In The United States, Jury Nullification Is A Just Check On Government

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/26/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,026 times Debate No: 62138
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
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Lincoln-Douglas style debate. First round is for acceptance only. I look forward to this debate!


Let the battle begin!
Debate Round No. 1


In the United States, jury nullification is not a just check on government. Jury nullification is defined by as "where a jury deliberately rejects the evidence or refuses to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about a social issue or because the result dictated by the law is against the jury"s sense of justice or morality."

Negating jury nullification as a just check on government will achieve the value of societal welfare, which is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "the health, organization, and functioning of society". For society to function properly, to be organized uniformly, and to be kept healthy on the grounds of morality justice is a necessity. Therefore the value criterion to determine when societal welfare is reached must be justice, which is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "properly due or merited". I will show how jury nullification is unjust in three ways: that it allows juries to convict the innocent and pardon the guilty, that jury nullification does not distinguish between good law and bad law, and that jury nullification logically ends in an anarchist state.

I.Nullification Allows Juries To Convict The Innocent And Pardon The Guilty

The Iowa State Bar Association explained in "Jury Nullification" "Nullification instructions place citizens at the mercy of a small group of people who may grant or withhold justice at their whim, in complete disregard of the law. Proponents of this type of legislation state that a nullification instruction will protect criminal defendants from "unfair" laws. In reality, a nullification instruction invites and authorizes juries to acquit defendants who have clearly committed atrocious crimes. For example, in the 1960s, state juries frequently acquitted members of the Ku Klux Klan for some of the most heinous acts against other human beings that have ever been committed in the United States. These instances of jury nullification were so wide spread that Congress enacted separate federal laws to address the issue. A nullification instruction allows a jury to convict innocent persons even when the evidence does not show guilt. Jury nullification allows jurors to act out of hatred or sympathy, rather than following the law, and makes these acts a real and legitimate part of the legal system."

The Iowa State Bar Association shows us that while jury nullification may have the glamorous claim of freeing the innocent who corrupt legislators would otherwise condemn guilty, it also bears the heavy negative aspects of its potential to pronounce the guilty innocent and the innocent guilty. Allowing criminals to go free and proclaiming the innocent guilty is a travesty against justice and the true welfare of society.

II.Jury Nullification Makes No Distinction Between Good Law And Bad Law

In his work "Empowering Juries and Weakening Democracy" Steve Chapman states, "Advocates could do more to publicize that the measure would let juries effectively suspend not only bad laws but good laws, and not just in rare cases but in common ones. Prosecutors say that it could be invoked in up to half of all criminal trials- and might offer a refuge not only for those defendants charged with "victimless" offenses like drug use and prostitution but also domestic abuse, drunk driving and statutory rape. As the puckish legal scholar Herbert Wexler once put it in reference to jury nullification, "What"s sauce for the goose depends on whose ox is being bored." If you allow juries to acquit pot-smoking invalids, you have to let them give a pass to husbands who slap the missus around or good old boys who fail roadside sobriety tests. Good laws and bad laws alike can be overridden."

What Steve Chapman shows us rather humorously in this example is that under the same legal exceptions a jury can make towards defendants being prosecuted for "victimless" offenses, they may also let those guilty of more sever crimes that infringe on the freedom of others go free. Laws may be reformed by proper processes, but this form of jury vigilantism opens the door to increased crime because of the precedent of exception and a legal system which subjectively changes from case to case being run by the individual"s personal beliefs. This inequality is highly unjust and is not good for society.

III.Jury Nullification Risks Anarchy And Complete Subversion Of The Law

Circuit Judge Leventhal writes, "This so-called right of jury nullification is put forward in the name of liberty and democracy, but its explicit avowal risks the ultimate logic of anarchy. This is the concern voiced by Judge Sobeloff in United States v. Moylan : to encourage individuals to make their own determination as to which laws they will obey and which they will permit themselves as a matter of conscience to disobey is to invite chaos. No legal system could long survive if it gave every individual the option of disregarding with impunity any law which by his personal standard was judged as morally untenable. Toleration of such conduct would not be democratic, as appellants claim, but inevitably anarchic."

Judge Leventhal shows us the dangerous potential of jury nullification and the logical conclusion of what it could mean if taken to its furthest extremes- anarchy. Anarchy by definition cannot be just. Justice regards law and anarchy regards absence of law, and as such an absence of justice. So justice is violated and society is hurt by jury nullification.


Many thanks to Con for challenging me to this debate.

=Aff case=

I agree to Pros criterion of justice. If I can show that jury nullification provides more justice, I win the round.

I. Jury Nullification deals immediately with unjust laws

There are a lot of ridiculous, unfair, and discriminatory laws on the books in the United States today. A good example of this would be what are known as three strikes laws, where offenders who commit a third offense are given a mandatory life sentence. This sounds fair in certain circumstances--someone who habitually violates women, for example, should be locked away or executed for the public good. But because the law is necessarily broad and automatic, some completely ridiculous results occur. A man named Curtis Wilkerson in California was sentenced to life imprisonment for stealing a pair of socks worth $2.50. In Texas, William Rummel was sentenced to life imprisonment for failing to return the cost of a repair job worth $120.75 the customer deemed unsatisfactory. As Matt Taibbi explains[1]:

thousands of people – the overwhelming majority of them poor and nonwhite – remain imprisoned for a variety of offenses so absurd that any list of the unluckiest offenders reads like a macabre joke, a surrealistic comedy routine.

Have you heard the one about the guy who got life for stealing a slice of pizza? Or the guy who went away forever for lifting a pair of baby shoes? Or the one who got 50 to life for helping himself to five children's videotapes from Kmart? How about the guy who got life for possessing 0.14 grams of meth? That last offender was a criminal mastermind by Three Strikes standards, as many others have been sentenced to life for holding even smaller amounts of drugs, including one poor sap who got the max for 0.09 grams of black-tar heroin."

These kinds of laws are incredibly unfair to the peoples lives who they ruin, and the society who has to pay for their imprisonment. California's law was enacted after an outrageous incident where a repeat offender murdered a teenage girl because the justice system had failed to keep a dangerous man behind bars. Unfortunately, the law passed was hasty, unfair and led to dire consequences that have ruined thousands of lives. It took California 18 years to repeal its three strikes law, and even as it did these people are still behind bars. Many states still have them on the books. Were jurors aware of their right to nullify, they could reject the injustice of forever ruining a mans life over a pair of socks or a faulty air conditioner, while still being able to ensure that violent and dangerous monsters never see the light of day. These impacts should be preferred because they are real and tangible, compared to my opponents vague, theoretical postulations. Perhaps nullification would be a bad idea if we had a legal system that didn't have such severe punishments but there's a reason the US has, by far, the worlds largest incarceration rate[2].

Examples of ridiculous sentences abound due to minimum sentencing laws of any kind abound. A great article from Business Insider[3] lists a myriad of examples, including a man who was given 15 years for trying to overdose on Vicodin before being stopped by police for carrying an open bottle of alcohol. In many of these cases, the judges themselves said that the penalty was ridiculously unfair.

My opponent might object that not all of these were the result of a jury trial and that's just the point--these laws are so blatantly unjust that juries will often return a not guilty verdict as a result. The system has had to resort to backhanded methods to get juries to convict under three strikes laws, as Gail Cox explained less than a year after California passed its three strikes law[4]:

"...a San Francisco jury revolted after it returned a guilty verdict on assault and attempted carjacking charges, only to learn that it had just decided the first half of a bifurcated trial; next they were to decide the validity of two prior burglary convictions. The three-strikes law requires prosecutors to "plead" and "prove" prior convictions if they intend to use them to enhance a sentence. So as not to color the initial deliberations, the jurors had not been told that the defendant, Eugene Jones, was a repeat offender.

When they got to the second stage -- when they learned that as a three-time loser, Mr. Jones faced a 25-years-to-life sentence -- it was irrelevant that the state's standard jury instruction orders jurors not to take penalty or punishment into consideration. Bailiffs reported that one man announced he felt "violated." In one account, a woman juror began sobbing. When they refused to return to their deliberations, Superior Court Judge Anne E. Bouliane declared a mistrial."

The punishment is so disproportionate to the crime that the prosecution was forced to hide the fact that they were seeking 25 to life until after the jury returned a guilty verdict because they knew jurors would be reluctant to ruin a mans life over such minor charges. Even though juries are not informed of their right to nullify, the defense is not allowed to make the argument that they should nullify, and if the judge knows that a juror is aware of the right to nullify they can be struck from the jury, nullification still happens due to the fact that jurors override laws that so conflict with their conscience.

It would be ideal if we could simply appeal these kinds of unjust laws, but that takes time and political capital that simply does not exist in many cases. It took liberal California until 2012 to abolish its three strikes law, but only 9 hours to claim its first victim[1]. Jury nullification has to be preferred in the status quo because it gives the people at least some means of defense against this outrageous governmental overreach.

It's also worth noting that due to the vast quantities of "paper laws" created by federal agencies on a daily basis, there are many "crimes" that are anything but, a citizen can commit a crime even when they act in good faith with no criminal intent. As The Huffington Post explains[5]: "If a prosecutor wants to ruin your life, he or she can. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it." This is due to the vast amount of felonies the average American commits on accident. The article goes on to explain "There has also been a trend over the last 20 years or so toward laws that don't require prosecutors to show criminal intent. This means you can be prosecuted for crimes you had no idea you were breaking -- even laws you actively tried not to break. A 2010 study co-authored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Heritage Foundation found that in its rush to criminalize more and more behavior, Congress has been passing poorly-drafted laws that increasingly lack any requirement at all to show intent."

Essentially, allowing juries to nullify ensures that the only "crimes" that will be punished are those that are malum in se, or crimes that are crimes *because* they are wrong, as opposed to crimes that are crimes only because the state says so, malum prohibitum. And I contend that that's the way it should be. There are too many laws being passed today that are so broad that even understanding them would require the aid of a paid attorney, and many of us violate laws while acting in good faith. Harvey Silverglate famously estimated that the average American commits three felonies a day. This kind of overreach is ridiculous and the citizenry needs every tool in its arsenal to resist this kind of overreach.

II. The purpose of a jury trial

Why is it so essential that a person is judged by a jury of their peers? The reason is a subtle nod to the idea that what constitutes a "crime" is not objective and cannot formulaically be applied to all situations but rather law and justice are a set of preexisting and immutable principles, the full complexities of which humans can only grasp begin to understand. Is it really just to punish someone for a crime they committed in good faith, for an offence they were not aware existed? Every situation is different, and human error ensures that no law can be crafted perfectly. As Lysander Spooner once said, "Those who deny the right of a jury to protect an individual in resisting an unjust law of the government, deny him all defence whatsoever against oppression."

The purpose of a jury trial is thus twofold: it isn't just to truth seek. Having laymen truth seek is a bad idea anyway as they aren't experts in the field. It's to provide a fair enough sampling of a persons peers to make sure a fair verdict is rendered--essentially, the right of a man to be judged by his peers is there to ensure that a just penalty is wrought, one in line with local customs and standards and not at the whim of a distant central authority. Only an individuals peers can really understand the kinds of behaviors expected of the defendant and how he acted in violation of these community norms. There are many things that may be considered wrong in New York City, for example, and may be viewed entirely differently in a rural town in Iowa. Moreover, laws may be written sloppily and allow for grave injustices as the Huffington Post explained. Jury nullification is the only thing that solves for this by giving juries the power to avoid egregious violations of justice when a well intentioned law is written poorly.

The resolution is negated. Nullification is just.



Debate Round No. 2


Thanks, Pro.

As we begin, I would like to emphasize that we have at least agreed on the relevant values to this case, namely societal welfare which is upheld by justice. However, a necessary factor in insuring true justice is objectivity. Objectivity and equality are vital to the existence of real justice, because without this the individual in question does not receive what is "properly due or merited". A vital part of this definition is receiving one"s dues- no more and no less. Unless my opponent contests that all individuals do at least share a common right to equal treatment regardless of arbitrary differences, then we can agree on this further exploration of the meaning of justice as well. Unless this is contested in subsequent rounds, I will progress under the assumption that this addition to our definition of justice is mutually agreed upon as what best upholds our common value of societal welfare.

I.Improper Laws Do Not Require Jury Nullification as an Intrinsic Solution

Although I believe this premise is universally applicable, it is much more difficult to contest in a political system like America"s. Justice is not furthered by the breaking of laws that one views as unjust, whether these breaches in law are active in nature and subsequently tried in court or passive breaches approved by a jury. If a law was universally viewed as corrupt or fundamentally incorrect, then it would cease to be a law through the proper channels of legal reform. However, because this is not the case in issues of jury nullification and there is a degree of controversy, subjectivism and vigilantism creep into the legal system. Although individuals have total control over their own actions and can determine whether to break or keep laws on a personal level, it is the duty of no individual to determine which of these laws are just or unjust based upon his own system of beliefs. If a law is significantly negative or is becoming unnecessary for the benefit of the society, it will inevitably be revoked through the proper legal proceedings. Should a law be undesirable but not to the extent to warrant the labor associated with promoting and advocating legal reform, then it has not reached a point worthy of the law"s revocation or nullification. This is the correct functioning of a democratic republic, not the pseudo-anarchic whims of the jury. Should the jury be allowed to decide which laws do and do not apply in the courtroom, is this not a clear undermining of societal welfare? Can a subjective legal system governed by the opinions of only a small jury truly be considered justice? No, a system such as jury nullification clearly does not uphold these values. An objective legal system that promotes complete equality is truly the best that we have.

II.The Purpose of the Jury

It seems that the two primary reasons for the jury that my opponent points out in her second contention are the jury"s ability to interpret poorly written laws and the ability to make situational exceptions, such as providing a necessary delineation between a murder trial in cold blood and one in self-defense. However, is this truly what jury nullification is? I do not contest that a jury is ideal for situations such as these, but neither of these are true examples of what jury nullification is. The currently uncontested definition of jury nullification is "where a jury deliberately rejects the evidence or refuses to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about a social issue or because the result dictated by the law is against the jury"s sense of justice or morality". This clearly is not the case with a law that is poorly written, and is also not the case when the jury takes into account relevant circumstances regarding a case. Declaring a man innocent for killing in self-defense is by no means jury nullification, it is simply a relevant situational factor. Therefore, it is not unfair to dismiss this contention, at least until further examples regarding the jury"s purpose in relation to nullification are produced.

The resolution is affirmed, as I have shown that there are proper and positive alternatives to jury nullification that make it an unnecessary violation of justice and thus societal welfare.


Alright, I'll refute negs case and then go on to defend mine.

=Neg Case=

I'd first like to take issue with Cons assertion that in order for society to function properly it must be uniformly organized. It's not that this is not true on some level, but I think it overestimates the degree of homogeneity in the United States and "society" is a deeply nebulous term as it encompasses what amounts to extraordinary differences between populations. This is the inevitable result of the trend of political centralization that's been occurring in the Western world for the past several centuries as rights and mores that were once decided by local communities become decided by ever distant central authorities. My analysis about the purpose of a jury trial to ensure a degree of fairness in the verdict by making sure the "crimes" committed were indeed crimes in the sense that they were committed with malice and criminal intent should take priority over my opponents blind legalism. Jury nullification should be preferred as it gives the populace a defense against government overreach.

I. Unjust verdicts

First of all, Con needs to provide some kind of quantification of this impact or else it's difficult to weigh. How often do these injustices occur in the status quo? Verdicts of the kind my opponent mentions are indicative of a much deeper societal rot than they are damning evidence against nullification. The impact is also mitigated by the fact that these kinds of verdicts lend a degree of credibility to complaints of oppression by minority populations. The acquittal of Emmit Tills killers remains one of the starkest examples of inequality in the criminal justice system and sparked protests attended by hundreds of thousands of people[1], helping to kickstart the civil rights movement. Note that I'm not arguing that these kinds of verdicts are *good*, but rather they don't have the impact Con wants them to have because they don't occur in a weird kind of secret bubble where no one can see them but instead cry out to the world loud and clearly that something must be done.

My impacts should be preferred because I'm showing injustices that occur right now and can only be remedied by juries nullifying absurd laws and offers resistance to the recent trend of broad, sweeping laws that don't even require the prosecution to show criminal intent. Compare this to my opponents evidence that cites cases from the 60s. This is a status quo resolution so Con is obligated to show a current impact from this or you can throw it out.

II. No distinction between good and bad law

This contention amounts to an appeal to an authority that relies upon bare assertions. Chapman argues that jury nullification could be used in up to half of prosecutions. To which I say, so what? I embrace this disad. Prosecutors absolutely should be forced to defend why the crime is a real crime should the defense raise that argument. It's extremely dubious that the defense could make a good argument for domestic abuse being a crime. It's very likely that the defense could've made the argument that the jury shouldn't be allowed to ruin a mans life over a $2.50 pair of socks, had they been allowed to raise that argument. Most convictions in the United States are for truly victimless drug offenses, disproportionately leveled against the poor and the nonwhite. How is it unjust to remedy this in any way we can? Where are these examples of Jury's letting off men who beat their wives? Even if Con comes up and shows them, they still shouldn't be preferred because these are isolated incidences of injustice compared to my institutionalized injustices.

Indeed, it seems to me that jury nullification is the ONLY thing that distinguishes between just and unjust laws. Blind legalism harms us all, remember the Huffington Post article: virtually every one of us has unwittingly committed a felony and if a prosecutor felt like ruining our lives, she could do so with imputiny. Jury nullification may not be a perfect system but it seems the risk is well worth the reward.

Con further contends that it's unjust to have disparity in punishments and convictions based on individual preference, but this is a nonunique attack. Unless Con wants to completely change the justice system to allocate mandatory penalties in every crime, an argument I will gladly refute, a huge amount of subjectivity is inevitable.

III. Anarchy

This point is essentially a slippery slope fallacy--we know that jury nullification doesn't lead to anarchy because the right has existed for centuries and, indeed, constitutes the entire purpose of judging a man by the verdict of his peers. The problem with Sobeloff's argument is that jury nullification does not encourage people to disregard any law they don't like but rather gives them a reassurance that they will be treated fairly should the federal leviathan attempt to abuse its power.

Indeed we can see that it's unjust laws that harm the legal system and the government far more than nullification ever could. California's three strikes law was so unjust that a juror literally started sobbing upon realizing what they had done by returning a guilty verdict. That harms the legitimacy of the government far more than nullification.

In order for Sobeloff's argument to be correct, the citizen must be so certain that society at large agrees with him that the crime is not a crime that he's willing to take the risk of prosecution and do it anyway. If a law is so widely unpopular and unjust that your average citizen knows his peers won't convict him should he be prosecuted for breaking it, is breaking said law really a crime? If Cons legal positivism is the best philosophy, he hasn't proven so.

All that nullification does in sure that only malum in se is prohibited. We should convict people for committing acts their peers deem to be criminal, not for breaking a law made at the whim of an unelected bureaucrat.

=My case=

Con argues that in order to secure justice everything has to be objective and equal. By making this argument, he's binding himself to a much more strict advocacy where everyone committing the same crime gets the same sentence without any regard to aggravating or mitigating factors you can't really give him this ground as his world has shocking levels of sentencing disparity as well.

I. Unjust Laws

Con argues that improper laws can be overturned through what he calls the proper legal proceedings. The problem with this argument is that it doesn't actually engage the meat of my contention where I argued how this is an impossibility. Again, it took liberal California 18 years to get rid of its three strikes law but we know that injustices resulting from it occurred literally 9 hours after its passing. Con doesn't solve for the here and now, but instead puts great faith in the system to fix laws. Unfortunately for Con, he didn't prove that the system will fix unjust laws (keep in mind that the war on drugs has been going on for over 40 years) nor did he respond to the warrant that even if we purge from the books those laws that are unjust, human error ensures that no law will be crafted to allow for a just outcome in every scenario.

Con continually characterizes the idea of jury nullification as anarchic but this is uncompelling for four reasons: First, even if this was true he doesn't explain why this is bad. This response is mere rhetoric. Secondly, whatever impact he has simply doesn't outweigh. Compare Cons rhetoric to the actual instances of gross injustice I highlighted in my case. Thirdly, as I've previously shown governmental legitimacy is harmed far more by showing citizens that their government prosecutes people for crimes that aren't crimes and allows for the gross injustice of locking a man up forever because he stole a pair of socks. Fourthly we *know* this argument is invalid because the right to nullify has existed for centuries and British society didn't break down because juries refused to execute young paupers for pick pocketing.

Con wants an objective legal system but he doesn't really explain how this is going to maximize societal welfare, nor does he really explain what this means. This is unfair to me as I'm left to attack only what I think he means and run the risk of building up and tearing down a straw man when Con actually means something completely differently. You can't vote on this kind of conjecture but you can vote on actual examples of oppression and injustice that could be remedied had jurors been aware of their right to nullify.

II. The purpose of a jury

Con doesn't dispute this contention but rather calls into question if this results in actual nullification. This is a crushing blow for Con, as a jury rejecting a poorly written law (like three strikes laws) because they find it unjust is a perfect example of jury nullification. You can vote Pro right here: Con agrees that juries have a higher purpose than truth seeking, and that purpose includes sheltering the unfairly prosecuted from government overreach. Con also does not dispute that there are wild differences in codes of behaviors between populations that are, nominally, supposed to be judged under the same sets of laws. I contend that in order for a crime to be committed the individual generally had to act with malice and criminal intent. Con disagrees in favor of blind legalism, in favor of prosecuting citizens for crimes that are not crimes, for laws they did not know existed. There are so many laws and regulations on the books that, as the WSJ explains[2], it's impossible to even count them.

Even more troubling, the federal government has thrown its lot in with Con. I'm the only one offering a way out for the civilian. Vote Pro.

Debate Round No. 3


I will begin by defending my case and conclude by refuting Pro"s.

From the beginning, my opponent misinterprets my stance on the value of equality. Equality cannot and should not be mandated throughout every aspect of any society. The equality that I speak of is the equal beginning that all individuals must be allowed to share. Through personal choices they may add or detract from their initial equal position, but to assert that equality should be violated on any issue other than the actions of the individual for some arbitrary characteristic or circumstance is immoral. Additionally, my opponent mentions that this equality that I claim as a value is a growing concept in the Western world of what used to differ between small communities. I negate this, and insist that the equality rightful due to all women and men exceeds the boundaries of any nation and is simply a necessary competent of an ethical and functional society.

I.My main contention with my opponent"s criticism of this first point is her apparent belief that jury nullification allows unjust verdicts. If these verdicts that I refer to are indicative of a "much deeper societal rot" is that not a clear condemnation of the same values necessary to support jury nullification? When good laws are violated negatively as a result of the moral decay of a representative group of peers who serve as jury, this clearly present solid reason to condemn jury nullification. It simply cannot be excused by blaming society as a whole institution, when the laws of that society would be just. Additionally, I do not see how any impact is lessened by the fact that these examples of unjust jury nullification lend a degree of credibility to the complaints of oppression by minority groups. Surely in instances involving minority groups, it would be ideal to have an objective law than entirely face the subjective whim of a jury group that does not adequately represent their peers.

II.Pro seems to be under the false impression that when I claim that jury nullification does not differentiate between good and bad laws that I must advocate blind legalism. This is not the case. There is a definite middle ground between inflexible laws and a legal system ruled by the whims of the masses. This middle ground is offered in proper legal reform and in the presence of a jury to take into account circumstances in a trial that may lawfully pardon the otherwise guilty party. This is not jury nullification, this is jury analyzation. The jury"s duty in the courtroom is not to understand the purpose of a law but simply to distinguish circumstances that might make the generalized application of the law against the law"s intent. This is not jury nullification, as one can see by a brief return to our shared definition of "where a jury deliberately rejects the evidence or refuses to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about a social issue or because the result dictated by the law is against the jury"s sense of justice or morality".

III.My opponent seems to present a false dichotomy in regards to this final point of my case. She tells us that jury nullification is more ideal than an immoral law, and that moral rulings assigned from a group of peers is more ideal than that from an "unelected bureaucrat". Are these exclusively our choices? I continue to assert that there exist legitimate legal ways that corrupt laws may be reformed that does not require a dilemma of absolutes such as the one presented here. Surely being judged by a group of our peers is not ideal in many scenarios. The racial climate in the south eastern states is radically different from that in north western states. Surely in scenarios like this and in many others, allowing legal judgments to flow from the whims of the majority and not through politically appropriate means offers the greatest risk to justice and societal welfare. My opponent comes dangerously near a complete abandonment of the value of justice that we both agreed to ultimately uphold.

-My Opponent"s Case-

My opponent"s introduction in defense of her case is not only fallacious but also contradictory to her contention in point two regarding my explicit advocacy of the jury"s duty to consider mitigating circumstances. One need look no further than my post in round two to see that I have clearly advocated the importance of the jury, and so to claim that I advocate a legal system in which "everyone committing the same crime gets the same sentence without any regard to aggravating or mitigating factors" is blatantly untrue. There is a fast difference to the consideration of mitigating circumstances that permit exception in what is universally understood as an otherwise just law and pronouncing a guilty individual innocent because one "rejects the evidence or refuses to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about a social issue or because the result dictated by the law is against the jury"s sense of justice or morality." I will continue to refer to this definition because it is of vital importance to this case, specifically in regards to my opponent"s increasing misinterpretation of it.

I.An important clarification here is that much of my argument regarding this point pertains to legitimate risks and ideals rather than concrete historical example. Simply because an atomic bomb was not used to harm any individuals prior to 1945 does not mean that it certainly held the potential to. This example is clearly imperfect and I am sure my opponent would not mistake it for an attempt at absolute comparison, but a vital distinction can be made nonetheless. My contention addresses the potential of the system for abuse, while she defends with retrospective agreement. My attempts to reform this system are preemptive while hers are optimistic (and notably unreasonably so). Simply because a system has not exclusively been misused does not make it desirable, especially when it poses such risk. However, the most important contention I offer is this: my opponent states "Con continually characterizes the idea of jury nullification as anarchic but this is uncompelling for four reasons: First, even if this was true he doesn't explain why this is bad." If my opponent does not agree that an anarchic state is intrinsically negative to the well-being of society, than this debate is already resolved. Anarchy cannot account for justice and the welfare of society. In an anarchic world, society does not exist. To advocate a system of ideals that revolves on the absence of government can uphold neither our value of justice nor societal welfare.

II.Finally, this attempt to entirely discredit my case is explicitly fallacious. My statement was "It seems that the two primary reasons for the jury that my opponent points out in her second contention are the jury"s ability to interpret poorly written laws and the ability to make situational exceptions, such as providing a necessary delineation between a murder trial in cold blood and one in self-defense. However, is this truly what jury nullification is?" I proceeded to rehash our mutual definition if jury nullification which I have already done twice in this round. The interpretation of poorly written laws and making informed decisions based on mitigating circumstances consisting with an otherwise moral law is not jury nullification. I will again repeat that jury nullification is "where a jury deliberately rejects the evidence or refuses to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about a social issue or because the result dictated by the law is against the jury"s sense of justice or morality", not an instance in which the jury considers mitigating circumstances such as murderous intent and self-defense and necessary clarification in vague laws. These are not issues of personal conviction or a clash of values with current laws; these are simply appropriate duties of the jury. Jury nullification is something else entirely.

In summary, my opponent has grossly misinterpreted and misused the term jury nullification in the previous round. Her claims of my concession are invalid. Jury nullification risks the conviction of the innocent and a sort of mob-mentality in the court room that is detrimental and subversive. I have shown this and this not only supports my case but undermines my opponent"s first contention. Her second may be dismissed entirely, as it revolves exclusively around a fallacious representation of jury nullification. Again, this debate is not between "blind legalism" and jury nullification. My stance is not one that advocates a law so rigid that individuals with mitigating circumstances must be condemned with the intentional murderer. However, the decision of which laws to follow and which laws to dismiss should not lie in the hands of the jury. To advocate a legal system as subjective as this undermines the equality guaranteed to us by a functioning system of justice, without which societal welfare would diminish. For these reasons, you must vote Con.

Thanks for the debate, Pro. It was truly enjoyable.


Thanks for the debate, Aburk.


Vote on whichever world provides the most justice. In this final round, I will go over the arguments made in the debate and attempt to prove that I have clearly provided a world with a greater amount of justice.

=My case=

Let's start with my case.

I. Deal immediately with unjust laws

In my first contention, I showed how political conditions often cause absurd and unjust laws and that human error ensures that no law can be perfectly crafted--this is why nullification is an ideal safeguard. Con never really managed to refute this argument--in his final round, regarding this argument Con only notes two things: that he's not advocating an inflexible legal system and that anarchy is bad. This shows pretty clearly why you should vote Pro because this is probably the most important contention and Cons final rebuttal fails to really address it. Indeed, I did not straw man my opponent but rather pointed out that his argument against jury nullification regarding the lack of objectivity and equality is non unique unless he wants to completely reform the system. Since he's now made it clear that he doesn't, you can throw out his attack about inequality as a shocking degree of inequality between sentences for similar crimes exists in his world as well. This is extremely important: Con has basically lost the debate here. A loss on this contention would be a crushing blow for Con as it undercuts his entire idea of a free and democratic system eventually doing away with unjust laws. Even if he were to prove that all unjust laws eventually get done away with (which is very dubious--again consider that the drug was has been going on 40+ years), he doesn't solve for those individuals unfortunate enough to commit their "crimes" while the unjust law reigned. I solve for the here and now, Con has no equivalent mechanism. Keep in mind that these laws are so blatantly unjust that the prosecutors are forced to use underhanded tactics like hiding that they're seeking life imprisonment because they know that if juries knew the implications of a guilty verdict they would nullify.

Moreover it's worth noting that we can't lose sight of the real issue at stake here. We are dealing with peoples lives here; my case showed how a mans life was taken away, forever ruined over a $2.50 pair of socks. Another over an air conditioner. Con never really attempted to engage these examples because he can't, the best he can hope for is some vague need for equality outweighing this, but when compared to the thousands (at least) of lives ruined by draconian laws it's clear who provides more justice.

Nullification saves these individuals from a fate so terribly unfair it sounds like it comes out of a black comedy. Cons world stares blankly at their suffering but gives them the comfort of knowing that they will be followed by many, many more victims before our backlogged democratic process finally gets around to appealing bad policy.

II. The purpose of a Jury

On this contention, too, Cons response is almost entirely defensive. Con argues that the Jury does have a purpose in helping to interpret laws. He disagrees, however, that this is true nullification but this doesn't exactly follow. If the Jury throws out the law because they think the fact that the offense was very small (say, two dollars and fifty cents) and doesn't warrant the punishment the sloppily written law metes out, they are engaging in nullification by definition as they are nullifying the law due to their sense of justice. The problem for Con regarding his support for mitigating factors is that the law cannot possibly account for *every* mitigating factor (like, say, the crime you're going to imprison someone forever for involving a pair of socks), so sometimes the jury has to act using extrajudicial information that appeals to their sense of justice in the same way a legally enshrined mitigating factor would. I contend that these kinds of judgements are the *entire purpose* of a jury.

Con never really addressed the meat of what I was trying to argue: that the *point* of having a jury of an individuals peers is because standards across the country are *different*. It's wrong to punish someone for committing an act that they and their community do not consider a crime and due to the endless political centralization that has been occurring in the past few centuries, it is inevitable that states will have populations of widely varying standards of morality inside their borders. Thus the principle of jury nullification is indeed a just check on government because it protects individuals from outrageous overreach. Remember, there are now so many laws and rules that counting them is virtually impossible.

Con closes his rebuttal to my case by arguing that we need to always follow every law lest societal welfare decline. Unfortunately for Con, we didn't see any of these impacts occurring in the rich history of juries nullifying laws--England didn't collapse because juries spared pick pocketing orphans the death penalty by handing down a not guilty verdict.

My contentions stand. The only way to protect justice is to endorse nullification.

=Con case=

Con argues that it's immoral to endorse a system that establishes any kind of inequality other than that brought on by the choices of the individual themselves. This is deeply problematic on a practical level (for example, Cons position would prohibit parents sending their children to superior private schools because this perpetuates inequality) but more importantly it speaks volumes about the differences between what Con is advocating and what I am. Con is relying upon this abstract concept to persuade you, as opposed to the concrete examples I give. Voting for Con is the equivalent of saying it's better for *everyone* indicted under horribly unjust laws to be convicted rather than only *some*. Jury nullification may not be perfect, but it's a better way to save as many people as we can than the mechanism Con offers: wait until the law is appealed and ignore the convictions before that.

I. Unjust verdicts

This contention can be rejected due to Cons failure to answer the question of how often this kind of thing occurs. It's impossible to weigh the impact of cases from the 1960s against cases from the status quo. There are all kinds of civil rights organizations in this country, if the murderers of blacks or other minorities were routinely (or ever) getting off due to corrupt juries, there would be information about if for Con to cite. Remember you can only judge a debate by the information presented within it and Con gives absolutely no reason to believe that this is widespread enough to outweigh the good aspects of jury nullification.

Con also misunderstands how, historically, these kinds of verdicts have helped to kick start national protests that moved along the civil rights movement. This ripple effect does not make these verdicts *good*, but they make them *less bad* than they otherwise would be. Compare this to the cases I bring up that lack any kind of mitigation.

II. Good vs Bad law

Cons argument here is confusing. He again argues that he's taking the "middle ground" and that we can just appeal bad legislation through the proper democratic process, but this ignores two key ideas that I've expressed very clearly throughout this debate that Con never really addressed. The first is that this is a falsehood. We *know* examples of unjust laws that took nearly two decades to repeal, that are still on the books in many states. If the proper democratic process worked, we wouldn't need nullification but human error ensures that we need as many safeguards are possible. The second is this whole idea of human error. Con doesn't compellingly sell the case that we can properly write laws that lead to just outcomes in every circumstance because we can't. Human error is inevitable which is why it is ideal to give jurors leverage to mete out the outcome that justice warrants. One can do no better than to once again quote Lysander Spooner:

"Those who deny the right of a jury to protect an individual in resisting an unjust law of the government, deny him all defence whatsoever against oppression."

III. Anarchy

Con continues to argue that there are legitimate means to dealing with unjust laws other than nullification but other than through the government, a path we've already seen fails, he's failed to articulate them. Maybe it isn't ideal to have a jury of peers decide every case on their own moral judgement, but given the choice between that and having no alternative to following unjust laws and the convictions they entail, it's clear that the benefits is much greater than the risk.

Con goes for the racial angle again, but there's a reason that Jury selection involves both the defense and prosecuting attorneys and changes of venues can be requested. These things are institutions that grew organically out of the legal system as it evolved to distribute the best outcomes, much the same as jury nullification. In the modern world cases of juries letting off criminals due to racial animus is sufficiently rare that Con couldn't find any examples in the past 50 years to cite.

The resolution is affirmed.
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by awesome14_greatesttanker 11 months ago
Why is ur profile pic donald trump?
Posted by thett3 2 years ago
Thanks for the RFD, Uchicha. Although I think you meant to vote on arguments, not conduct :P
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago

Con's primary failing in this debate was that he depended far too much on rhetoric-based theoretical arguments, as opposed to Pro's well-evidenced practical arguments; what *actually* happens is more important than what "should" happen. This is seen in all the major clashes throughout the debate.

In response to Pro's argument about jury nullification (JN) serving as an immediate remedy to unjust laws, Con asserted that unjust laws would be repealed through 'proper legal means' and that the moral subjectivism of jurors shouldn't play a role in justice. However Pro's evidence directly refutes the former-- unjust laws have existed for extended periods of time despite the existence of those 'proper legal means', and no matter how much abstract rhetoric Con uses, he cannot get around the fact that, in practicality, a subjective process which repeals unjust laws is more just than a (supposedly) objective process which doesn't. Con's claim that JN's subjectivism would lead to unfair jury decisions is wholly unsupported; he doesn't show it would happen frequently enough to mitigate the benefits that Pro affirmed.

As for Con's anarchy argument, it suffers from the same problem-- it does nothing to mitigate the benefits of JN. Moreover, Pro noted that it is a slippery slope fallacy-- Con doesn't show how JN vaguely following the pattern of anarchism actually means allowing JN would cause anarchy to ensue.

By the end of the debate, Pro is able to show that JN is beneficial to the cause of justice, and Con is simply not able to refute that. I have not weighed Pro's purpose-of-jury argument because, as I see it, it merely serves to further justify the existence of a nullification mechanism (and Con's response to it is really unclear); Pro's benefits argument is sufficient on its own to affirm the resolution due to the lack of adequate response from Con. Hence, I vote Pro.

Great debate, guys!
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
I should probably null vote until I get the RFD posted...
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
you have no idea how much i want to trash my iphone right now -______-
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
Oh what the fucck. I just spent an hour writing an RFD for this debate only to accidentally delete it because my iPhone's touch screen is complete shiit. I will retype it tomorrow. Sorry for the delay ._.
Posted by aburk903 2 years ago
I assumed that the profile picture change was a move of desperation in an attempt to sabotage young male voters (especially the Disney hentai community that so frequently votes on this site). At least now I can easily dismiss any possible losing verdict with the excuse of sexual bribery.
Posted by Daltonian 2 years ago
I would like to inform con that Thett3 enticed me into voting for him on this debate with sexual favours but he did a lousy job so I won't carry any bias when voting in the end

Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
dammit, thett3 -_-
you better not be bored of the topic by the time i am free to debate it XD
Posted by aburk903 2 years ago
I assumed that was the case, given the delay in posting. I completely understand, and will be more than happy to postpone the posting of my initial round until the end of my three allotted days. I look forward to when the debate really begins at the end of the week!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments