The Instigator
albachteng
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Los_Altos_JW
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

In the United States, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/13/2007 Category: Society
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,871 times Debate No: 360
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (4)

 

albachteng

Pro

Because Justice demands equality, I affirm. In the United States, where we are often quoted as saying "all men are equal before the law," plea-bargaining in exchange for testimony is clearly detrimental to the system of justice as well as justice itself. When speaking of plea-bargaining, the equality is an issue of significance, since we are mentioning a specific procedure common in the United States court system. If defendants are not treated equitably under the system of plea-bargaining in exchange for testimony, then clearly, the negative side will have failed to show how the system can be fair or equitable, and I will have proven my case.

Let us loosely define plea-bargaining as an agreement between defense and prosecution in which the defendant for some crime agrees to plead guilty in exchange for some lesser sentence. Note that in this case we are adding the specification that the defendant agrees to plead guilty and give testimony in the prosecution of another crime for which the defendant has some knowledge. It is therefore, pertinent to this debate that the defendants have the ability to make such a bargain. Also note that a lesser sentence does not necessarily mean less time in prison, but could offer other accommodations such as a lower security prison, etc.

My First Contention: Plea-bargaining fails the concept of Universality. Since whether or not a criminal or innocent charged with a crime is capable of making a plea bargain is most often dependent on factors outside the scope of his or her crime, criminals of similar crimes are treated inequitably under the plea-bargaining system. This inequality means that one defendant is forced through the trial process, while the other is not. Thus, plea-bargaining seeks to undermine the system of equality before the law carefully preserved in the United States, making the system of plea-bargaining in exchange for testimony unjust.

also note: Under the United States Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, Amendment VI, the non-trial mode of procedure encouraged under plea-bargaining in general, deprives citizens of a constitutional right – "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to… trial… by an impartial jury…" According to John Langbein, in Law and Society, "In order to displace the constitutional design and substitute our nontrail procedure for the trial procedure envisaged by the framers, we make it costly for a criminal accused to claim his constitutional right. When an accused is convicted following jury trial, we [in the united states] customarily punish him twice: once for the crime, and then more severely for "enjoy[ing] the right to… trial… by an impartial jury…." This means that some defendants are, while some defendants are not, enjoying their constitutional rights to a trial by jury, while others are being coerced to give up that right. The lack of equality before law is evident, and the lack of justice is therefore guaranteed.

Contention 2: Plea-bargaining in exchange for testimony fails to maintain principles of proportionality in punishment. According to the Kantian theory of Retributivist justice, "To be just, the punishment must be proportionate to the crime committed, so that, roughly, more serious crimes receive more severe punishment," and vice versa. No other justification of punishment is morally acceptable with respect to justice. Deterrence would justify almost any punishment, which is not in adherence to U.S. law, so we must accept the retributive view. (that is, we should agree for clarity that the purpose of punishment is retributive, to give the criminal what he is due) Plea bargaining offers criminals a way to receive a punishment less than that chosen for the crime they committed: make the plea bargain, give the prosecutor necessary information, and they reduce sentence, etc. Consider again how two criminals guilty of the same crime could be treated disproportionately under any law system with plea-bargaining in exchange for testimony set in place. A United States with plea-bargaining shows itself once again incompatible with Justice due to its many inequities.

Sub-point: Consider that criminals who know of the system of plea-bargaining could conceivably spend more time around criminals with the expectation that being caught with knowledge of other crimes offers him/her a "safety net" of sorts, the ability to plead guilty and testify against others, if all else fails. In this way, plea-bargaining promotes crime, and further inequality under the law. obviously, this is a hypothetical argument, but not unreasonable - if criminals know that they can get reduced sentence, then the original intent of the (hypothetically) proportional punishment is thrown out of balance when a criminal knows of other crimes. (inequitable, once again, because the punishment no longer fits the crime). This is of course, assuming the punishment approximately fits the crime in the first place.

So…
Universality of the bargain
Trial by jury (the universality of)
Proportionality of the punishment to the crime
Safety-net increases potential crime and throws proportionality further out of balance.

As you can tell, i'm mostly arguing in hypothetical/philosophical terms here, but i welcome all kinds of arguments.
Los_Altos_JW

Con

I negate. The negative burden is to isolate a class of cases where plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust. If there is a context in which plea bargaining is just, the universal condemnation of plea bargaining in the resolution would be false. A universal becomes false when one of the particulars it contains is false.

I value justice and my value criterion is security. First, security is a prerequisite to all other valuations of rights, because without security one does not have the capacity to enjoy those rights. Property rights mean nothing if one lacks the security to enjoy them. Second, since there is no morally relevant factor to distinguish between individuals, moral theories must tally the worth of each person equally. Deontology fails this test because it gives any person's views infinite weight when they contradict with the views of the majority, independent of their validity. Third, moral theories that do not aggregate rights are incoherent because they provide no way to decide moral conflicts. Since all side constraints are inviolable, there is no way to prioritize an action when it conflicts with multiple side constraints.

My contention is that informants are key to stopping terrorist activities. Terrorism destroys security because it undermines social stability and murders innocent lives. There are two ways to give terrorists an incentive to talk—lighten their sentence or cause them so much pain that they are forced to give up information. Since torture is unjust, plea bargains are the only alternative. Maurice Sonnenberg et al,

Inside information is the key to preventing attacks by terrorists. The CIA must aggressively recruit informants with unique access to terrorists' plans. That sometimes requires recruiting those who have committed terrorist acts or related crimes, just as domestic law enforcement agencies routinely recruit criminal informants in order to pursue major criminal figures. The CIA has always had a process for assessing a potential informant's reliability, access, and value. However, the CIA issued new guidelines in1995 in response to concern about alleged serious acts of violence by Agency sources. The guidelines [that] set up complex procedures for seeking approval to recruit informants who may have been involved in human rights violations. In practice, these procedures have deterred and delayed vigorous efforts to recruit potentially useful informants. The CIA has created a climate that is overly risk averse. This has inhibited the recruitment of essential, if sometimes unsavory, terrorist informants and forced the United States to rely too heavily on foreign intelligence services. The adoption of the guidelines contributed to a marked decline in Agency morale unparalleled since the 1970s, and a significant number of case officers retired early or resigned. Recruiting informants is not tantamount to condoning their prior crimes, nor does it imply support for crimes they may yet commit.

These procedures discouraged plea bargains in exchange for testimony, preventing the government from effectively gaining information on terrorist plans, including the 9/11 attacks. Thus, I negate.

REBUTTAL

AT: Aff constitutionality
(__) The constitution can be wrong. (Slavery)
(__) We can always change the constitution.This is guarunteed by the constitution :
(__) The constitution is justified upon universal moral principles, ie. Respect of inalienable rights. Therefore, the constitution has no authority if it violates these principles. If I show that plea bargaining is justified under these same moral rules, or abolishing plea bargaining violates them, you negate.

Case turns:
(__) Turn: People consent to plea bargaining. The constitution is made to guaruntee liberty above all else. Therefore, it is more important to respect liberty than to follow the text of the constitution.
(__)Turn: The Supreme Court is the final word on constitutionality, and they have determined that plea bargaining is constitutional
Timothy Sandefur writes,
The U.S. Supreme Court held in the 1979 case Gannett Co. Inc. v. DePasquale that the public does not "have an enforceable right to a public trial that can be asserted independently of the parties in the litigation." That seems reasonable; while requiring jury trials may make sense as a matter of policy, it is not an inalienable right. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable by nature. But the right to a jury is a civil right, not a natural right. If defendants can waive personal jurisdiction, and waive their right to an attorney, there seems little sense in saying that the jury right is inalienable. Today, it seems to be universally conceded that the right to a jury trial is alienable, and nothing in the Constitution says otherwise.

AT: EQUALITY

(_)this is absurd and justifies having no legal system. All legal systems have an element of arbitrarity. For example, one jury may be more partial to a piece of evidence than another. There is no way to eliminate this.

(__) each crime is different. the fact that a defendant is willing to plead guilty and give up information is evidence of his remorse and willingness to cooperate, and that should be rewarded

AT: Retributivism

(_) we don't torture torturers, rape rapists, or assault assaulters. Retributivism fails because it is impossible to have exact punishment

(__)Retributivism only says that we can punish to a degree equal to the crime, not that we must. Jeffrey Reiman argues
Here too, however, the assertion of a duty to punish seems excessive, since, if this duty arises because doing to people what they have done to others is necessary to accord them the respect due rational beings, then we should have a duty to do to all rational persons everything—good, bad, or indifferent—that they do to others. The point rather is that, by his acts, a rational being authorizes others to do the same to him, he doesn't compel them to.

AT: Contention 2 Subpoint

(__) this relies upon a notion of retributivism - thus if thats false so is this

(__) this argument is outweighed by the fact that we will be able to convict criminals who are higher up i.e. organized crime, terrorist leaders. Letting the small fish go is justfied if we can get to the leaders

(__) equality doesn't matter because we're saving more lives
Debate Round No. 1
albachteng

Pro

albachteng forfeited this round.
Los_Altos_JW

Con

Los_Altos_JW forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
albachteng

Pro

albachteng forfeited this round.
Los_Altos_JW

Con

Los_Altos_JW forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by AREA 9 years ago
AREA
Plea barganing is, in general, debatable.

bcaldwell100
What is surprising about putting constructives on the net?
Worried they may teach people and lose some competitive edge?

I enjoyed your speech, albachen,
but as for it not being universal, and also being unfair...
yes, isn't that a given? The reason we don't like practices which are not universal is because they are unfair. Not sure I see the division of arguments there.

Los ALtros JW, so your stance is not that it is more just than unjust? Instead you will only set out to prove that it is just in at least one case?
Posted by bcaldwell100 9 years ago
bcaldwell100
Wow, I'm surprised you guys are willing to put constructives out on the internet. The topic is over so it no longer matters, but that is risky.
Posted by shalominthehome 9 years ago
shalominthehome
im not a big fan of the new ld topic just b.c i dont like the wording. i just think its too long, too wordy
Posted by albachteng 9 years ago
albachteng
i find it one of the more interesting topics. I like it when the debate topics lean towards the more philosophical than concrete. this U.S. specific stuff is not to my liking, but we get to talk about justice, punishment, crime... all interesting stuff.

you? i guess we'll find out!
Posted by Los_Altos_JW 9 years ago
Los_Altos_JW
LOL LD topic. Sweet this will be fun

what do you think of the current topic?
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by smiletrishalovesyou 9 years ago
smiletrishalovesyou
albachtengLos_Altos_JWTied
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mrmatt505
albachtengLos_Altos_JWTied
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dairygirl4u2c
albachtengLos_Altos_JWTied
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chadn2n
albachtengLos_Altos_JWTied
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