The Instigator
oprahskid
Pro (for)
Winning
17 Points
The Contender
Cooperman88
Con (against)
Losing
9 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: 1/7/2008 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,819 times Debate No: 1516
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (8)

 

oprahskid

Pro

This is my first debate on this website, and so I wanted to start it with a prewritten Lincoln-Douglas Debate speech I had. Obviously, I'd like to debate this LD style. If you wouldn't like to debate the Con side, I will be happy to switch places with you. I want to see if anyone's interested before I edit my case so it fits the format of the site. I'll post my case once I get a challenger.

To begin, I'd like to just offer the following definitions and parameters (we'll settle the argument later):

Justice: Giving each their due.

Just: to seek punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all.

Punishment: Penalty inflicted through a Justice System

Is: The present tense form of the verb to be
This excludes any past or future applications of plea bargaining, as well as any
possibly reforms. Rather, we must debate the current application of plea bargaining within the current context of the system to determine what is just.
The word "is" is absolute, therefore both debaters should have to win by affirming or negating the resolution as a whole.

This Debate focuses on determining whether or not plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is just. The objective for the aff is to prove that it is just; the objective for the Con is to prove that it is unjust.
Cooperman88

Con

First off, I wish you luck.

Before I can really argue the merits of your case, you should probably have a case. But I will argue your definitions. You define justice as "giving each their due." Now I don't know where this came from, and it may have come from yourself. That's cool I don't mind. I still think it is wrong. I say justice, is the punishment of a wrong doing. I have a couple of problems with your definition of just. You define just as "to seek punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all." My first problem is that the word just cannot be defined as an action. Which is what you do. Just is an adjective. which means it describes a noun. So I will define just as being fair. Therefore unjust is not being fair. I believe that these are pretty common understandings of the words, and therefore should be allowed.

As far as everything else goes, I agree. I must say that plea bargaining is just, and you must say that plea bargaining is unjust.

I await to hear your arguments.
Debate Round No. 1
oprahskid

Pro

My Definition of Justice is from the teaching of Aristotle.
Your definition of Justice is faulty as it fails to take into account the rights of innocents.

As far as my definition of the word "just" goes, I'm saying that the adjective is achieved through that verbalization. That is, a fair and impartial administration of justice for all achieves justice.

This Debate focuses on determining whether or not plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is just. The objective for the aff is to prove that it is just; the objective for the Con is to prove that it is unjust.

The Social Contract is formed for the protection of rights. The Obligation of the US with respect to justice is to protect the rights of it's people. This protection occurs within the Justice system, and extends to the society outside the system. The Justice system apprehends breakers of the social contract and removes them from a societal context where they can cause more harm to innocent citizens. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal and endowed to inalienable rights.

I.
The function of our justice system is to determine the guilty from the innocent, and to appropriate punishment. The very mission statement of the US Justice Department is stated to "seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans". Plea Bargaining is defined as an arrangement between the defendant and the prosecution. As such, it does not involve the Department of Justice and thereby is no longer confined it's mission statement, or the general purpose of the Justice system. The purpose of plea bargaining is to skip the whole process of finding justice, and instead to just allot punishment.
If the only reason someone testifies against themselves or someone else is to reduce their own punishment, the possibility of their own innocence is not reduced. The option of plea bargaining encourages them to forego their right to a trial by their peers and the rights implied by that trial. In many cases, the defendant is coerced. G. Douglas writes: The most serious concern with plea bargaining pertains to the possible coercion of innocent defendants to plead guilty. The unilateral power of the state to determine the sanctions for different offenses can provide a broad range of options for prosecutors to overcharge or threaten to pursue the most severe penalty if the defendant goes to trial. The harsh penalties associated with conviction at trial provide the prosecutor with significant leverage to persuade defendants to plead guilty. In some cases, this may result in innocent defendants being faced with a choice where the cost of pleading guilty outweighs the risks of going to trial. Risk-averse defendants will accept the state's offer and plead guilty. The incentives inherent in plea bargaining, therefore, create an increased risk of innocent defendants receiving punishment. The coercion is common and undeniable: Gifford writes: The most important reason innocents plead guilty is due to the sentencing differential. Defendents who reject Plea Bargains are treated substantially harsher. The coercion comes from two fronts. A: The defendant's lawyer receives a flat rate for the trial, and is therefore likely to act in hers own best interests by making a trail as short as possible. If she can receive hers pay without even trying a case, it stands to reason that she can do more cases and thereby make more money. B: The Prosecutor can manipulate a defendants into plea bargaining even when plea bargaining does not suit the best interests of the defendant. A prosecutor could bluff her way into convincing the defendant that her case is unwinable through preying on the ignorance of the defendant in tandem with the coercion that originates from the defendant's lawyer. Because a prosecutor can use illegally obtained evidence to bluff their case a defendent is cheated out of their autonomy and into plea bargaining. A second unseen impact causes further rights to be violated. Because legal and illegal evidence are both used in plea bargaining, there is no longer an disincentive to obtain illegal evidence. As a result of this, the right to privacy will never be respected by the police force.

II.
Under the current system, the following scenario is possible: Bobby is a gang member who robs a gas station. Suzy works alone and robs a gas station. Because Bobby is able to testify against his gang members, he receives a lesser sentence than Suzy even though they committed the same crime. Justice is being decided over extraneous factors such as who the defendant knew or did not know. Not only is this unjust in itself but it also rewards criminals for associating and organizing with others. This gives an incentive for organized crime.
If a criminal testifies against their fellow criminal, they are absolved or at least part of their punishment.. Since the purpose of the a punishment is to reflect upon the transgression, offering them a way our of the punishment would undermine the criminal element. Furthermore, it suggests that Bobby's crime is not as serious as Suzy's. If a criminal chooses to testify against his co-conspiritors, then this shortens his sentence. However, this is unjust in the principle that not everyone has a co-conspiritoy to testify against. Indeed, we allow criminals that associate with other criminals an avenue of clemency that we do not allow criminals that act alone. This is neither fair, nor is this practice impartial.

III.
Because of false testimony, Plea Bargaining in the root cause of flagrant injustices. Subpoint A: Criminals have a strong incentive to provide testimony regardless of it's validity. The criminal has interest in himself, not justice. Therefor he will make up whatever is necessary to reduce his sentence. This is unique to plea bargaining because no other circumstances would give the witness an incentive to lie. Subpoint B: This is magnified by the fact that even when attempting to tell the truth, a testifier is frequently inaccurate. A Fort Bragg study conducted by Andy Morgan showed that "Despite being alone in a room with the interrogator who tormented them for over half an hour, the soldiers were not very good at picking the interrogator out of a live lineup with only 26 percent accuracy.". Although these individuals wanted to tell the truth, as a majority they were unable. This questions testimony as resource to be bargained for.
Finally the impacts of both subpoints are devastating. Frequently innocents will be sent to prison, while truly guilty individuals run free.

IIII. My final contention is of great importance: By allowing individuals to plea bargain in exchange for testimony, you are providing an incentive. The defense cannot offer incentives to others for testimony. So by allowing the prosecution to do this, you are creating a monopoly on bribery that rests only in the hands of the prosecutor. This forever stacks the deck in favor of the prosecutor.
Cooperman88

Con

I would first like to thank my opponent for the wonderful contentions brought to our attention today. I will begin by discussing the merits and weaknesses of my opponents case, and then move to the construction of my own.

First and foremost, my definition does not exclude the rights of innocents as I clearly say it is the punishment of wrongdoing. An innocent person has done no wrongdoing, therefore should not receive punishment. You argue that innocent people often receive punishment and I will refute that at a later time. If your definition of just is the way to receive justice, then it is not a definition of just. It is what is necessary in order for something to be just. You still have not sufficiently defined the word just, and have not shown me or those who will judge this why mine should not be accepted. The word just is very easily defined as being fair. It is not illogical in any way, and should be accepted because it is a common definition of this word. It is what most people think of when they think of just.

Secondly, in the paragraph before your first contention, you mention inalienable rights. I'm sure we both agree that these are the most important rights, as they are inherent in every man, woman, and child. These rights, defined by Thomas Jefferson, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I say to you today that a plea bargain allows for life and the pursuit of happiness at the very most, and may also include liberty.

Now for your first contention. You say that the Justice Department's mission statement is also your definition for just. This cannot be. A mission statement is not a definition. It is a plan of action, or possibly even a goal to be reached. A definition is the description of a word. The two cannot coincide. You can refer to my earlier analysis of your definition above.

Another argument on your first contention is that it turns what you have already said. You say "The purpose of plea bargaining is to skip the whole process of finding justice, and instead to JUST ALLOT PUNISHMENT." (emphasis added) When we look to your definition of just, you say "...punishment of those guilty of unlawful behavior..." If plea bargaining gets a punishment, then it fits your definition of just. So you either must agree with my definition of just, and throw yours out; or you must agree that a plea bargain is just. The very next sentence says "If the only reason someone testifies against themselves or someone else is to reduce their own punishment, the possibility of their own innocence is not reduced." I say that if someone is trying to reduce their own punishment, then they are pursuing their right to the pursuit of happiness. We can all agree that punishment is not a very pleasing thing, and therefore, the lessening of a punishment is a pleasing thing. Also, if you talk to someone who has been to jail, they will tell you that life "on the inside" is not a real life. It pales in comparison to that of a normal life. So therefore a plea bargain again is giving them the right to life. Life is not just the physical aspect of breathing and having a heartbeat. It is quality of life. So pursuing a better quality of life is attaining your right to life. You say that plea bargaining is foregoing their right to a trial. But their right to a trial is not as important of a right as those inalienable rights. Inalienable rights will always outweigh in importance other rights. So if by plea bargaining, they attain their inalienable rights, all other rights that might not have been attained don't matter. This is where you bring up innocent people being convicted wrongly. According to the Innocence Project, which is by no means a "supportive" group on my behalf, says that only .5 percent of those convicted are wrongly convicted. And this includes those who have retrials due to such things as Brady violations and things of that nature. The source is http://caught.net.... the number of people that actually get convicted wrongly is miniscule.

Your second contention is all about this scenario you present. You say that Bobby gets lesser of a sentence for giving up some of his fellow gang members. If these gang members have done something wrong, they should be convicted of it. If Bobby's testimony helps provide justice to those who need to be convicted, then he should do that. Now Bobby probably has a sense of brotherhood with his fellow gang members. This means he won't want to give them up. In order for him to give them up, he would need some sort of incentive. This incentive is a lesser sentence. He is still punished, and guilty of wrongdoing. More justice is served with a plea bargain. Bobby is still punished, and so are other people who deserve to be punished.

Your third contention's main piece of evidence is the fact that not many people could tell you who was the one interrogating them. This is a fallacy. The people who are plea bargaining, know the people they are testifying against. It is not a stranger they have met for the first time. They do not have to pick them out of a lineup. All they have to do is say what happened. If the people being interrogated couldn't tell you what they were interrogated about, maybe then this information would prove your point. But it doesn't. It just shows that people can't pick out someone they just met for the first time. The people they are testifying against aren't acquaintances.

Your last contention "of great importance." The fact that the prosecution can "bribe" someone isn't unjust. There are different tools used by both sides, and this is just one of the tools used by the prosecution. If a person is innocent, chances are likely that they won't admit to a crime they didn't commit. Yes, it may happen. But there are many times that a person has their case overturned because the prosecution got a witness from them. Take the example of the Ron Williamson case, or the Dennis Fritz case. Both of these men were falsely accused of raping and murdering a young woman. Ron, while being interviewed, told of a dream where he supposedly saw himself killing this young lady. The prosecution used that to convict him, but it was later overturned. So this last contention still hasn't proven how it is bad.

My last argument on your case is that you have never proven how plea bargaining is unjust. If a punishment is given to someone who has committed a wrongdoing, then according to your definition, it is just.

Now I haven't really presented a case, but I have shown you by negating your points how a plea bargain is in fact fair. It allows for more criminals to be convicted, and it allows the person doing the plea bargaining to pursue their inalienable rights. Thank you, and good luck in the future rounds.
Debate Round No. 2
oprahskid

Pro

Definition Debate:

You define "just" as "the punishment of wrongdoing". This does nothing whatsoever to imply treatment of innocents. Indeed, it excludes any handling of innocence. By the strict literal interpretation of your definition, it doesn't matter what happens to innocents.

I define just as seeking punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all.
My definition supercedes yours because it specifically makes provisions for the treatment of innocents.
I'm not really defining "just", I'm merely labeling the action as just.

If you want to argue fairness being equal to justice, you must give me your definition of fair. I will refute then it.

Defense of my Contentions:

I
-Justice Department: The mission statement of the justice department says what the people are due. Since I define Justice as giving each their due, it is just to give them their due (what the Justice Dep. promises them).
-You selectively apply part of my definition so it mirrors use. See above to see how this is wrong. Plea bargaining doesn't ensure fair and impartial administration of justice by not giving them a proper trial.
-Your argument concerning the right to pursuit of happiness is flawed unless you were to say that prison is unjust because confining someone interferes with someone's right to the pursuit of happiness. (you also apply the right to life in this argument-same refutation applies.) TURNING your argument, the right to the pursuit of happiness of the victim is infringed upon the criminal who get's a lesser sentence. They're locked up in the first place to prevent them from violating other's rights.
-You claim that not very many innocents are convicted, and then you offer a stat. If you had read the whole article, you would see that it deplores the innacuracy of this stat, and places the innocent conviction rate as being much more promenent withing the system. "the true rate of wrongful convictions may be closer to ten percent than to one-half of one percent. " http://caught.net...
-You don't even address the issue of coercion. When people are coerced, they are robbed of their autonomy.

II
-You basically state that we need to bribe the criminal into providing testimony. This assumes that plea bargaining is worth testifying for (disproven in contention III) and that it's worth compromising the integrity of the courts. Since Contention III disproves the first premise, I will continue to the second.
-You claim that Bobby needs an incentive to testify against his fellow gang members. This incentive can be provided through a subpoena.
-If we allow criminals a reduced sentence for any purpose other than that they no longer pose a threat to society, we are undermining the function of the courts: to put social contract breakers in a place where they do no more harm.
-Your statements also imply that testimony is necessary to convict. This is not the case. Almost no jury in the world would convict a man based solely on testimony. Other evidence is needed. If a testimony is needed to convict a man, then there is probably not much strong evidence against him, and without proof we cannot be sure of his guilt.
-This contention just illustrates that people are given different punishments for the same crime. This violates all notions of fairness, and to support it would undermine your own definition of justice. To award punishment differently on extraneous factors such as who the defendent knew or what they knew totally violates proportionality. This also creates further problems (see above).

III
I claim that testimony is not worth bargaining for in the first place due to it's inaccuracy, which is only compounded by the brotherly loyalty that my opponent claims exists.
-You claim that the study is flawed because it involves the testifier picking someone out of a lineup. You just claim this isn't the case, but give no supporting evidence. You assume that anyone who testifies against someone else is part of that criminal organization, but plea bargaining for testimony is not only used when convicting members of organization. For example, prosecutors could offer a car their a reduced sentence to identify a murderer in court before a jury.
-In your refutation of my second contention you stated that the criminals in organization have a sense of loyalty. Chances are, if you can only get a testimony through bribing a criminal, they are the only person available to tell what went on. As the only people who know what really happened, they are at liberty to embellish the tale however they feel without fearing retribution from the court.
-As the point proven by the stat still stands (testimony is frequently inaccurate) and my opponent points out that criminals feel a sense of loyalty towards one another, we must consider the two points in tandem. Testimony is often false even when it's given without incentive, and the people giving the testimony don't really want to convict those that they're testifying against.

IIII
-"If a person is innocent, chances are they won't admit to a crime they didn't commit." They will admit their guilt if the coercion (which you didn't refute) that is in effect convinces them that their case is unwinnable. They're just going with what they (incorrectly) perceive is their best interest.
-Incentivizing IS unfair, because both sides cannot do it in this instance. Giving someone a reduced sentence is akin to a bribe. The system discourages bribery because it inherently maligns the legal system by providing untruth and unfair advantages to whichever side abandons morality. This is why subpoenas were developed.
-You use an example where a ruling is overturn after they've been convicted and served time. For example, in the instance you've provided, irreprable harm was done to the defendent before the desicion was overturned. To due irreprable harm to an innocent in neither giving them their due nor being fair.
-Prosecutors offer plea bargains because they are less likely to be overturned. If an innocent is found guilty through plea bargaining, it is less likely to be overturned.

You make the claim that I haven't proven plea bargaining to be unjust because as long as guilty people get their punishment, justice is served.
This is not in accordance with my definition, because it doesn't give them their due.
-They are due their full prison sentence unless they are no longer a threat. They are not due a lesser sentence because they provide information (as I have proven above).
-We also must remember innocents.
In order for plea bargaining to be just, it must not only seek punishment for those who are guilty, but it also must administer a fair and impartial punishment.

As for the final arguments you sneak in towards the end:
"PB let's us convict more criminals".
Wrong. PB let's you convict more PEOPLE (innocents as well as guilty). As I've stated above, testimony isn't even a primary tool used to convict. It's unneccesary, and often innaccurate. The testimony obtained through PB can convict innocents.
"PB let's people pursue their inalienable rights"
I've addressed this above, but I want to refute it specifically.
Just because prison makes people unhappy doesn't mean we shouldn't use them. The inalienable right is the pursuit of happiness, not happiness itself. Just because we make don't people happy it doesn't mean we don't allow them to pursue happiness. ANALOGY: You're given the right to walk, just not the right to walk all over other people.

With all that said, I feel that my opponent has posed some very valid arguments. However, he has let a few of my own arguments go unchallenged, and has extended no points whatsoever as of this post. I will continue to refute his points and address voting issues in the next round. If neccessary, I will offer further argument towards word definition.
Cooperman88

Con

Cooperman88 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
oprahskid

Pro

Bummer. He seemed like he had a grasp on it, maybe he didn't have time to respond?

I don't suppose anyone would like to take the position for this topic?
Cooperman88

Con

Cooperman88 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by oprahskid 8 years ago
oprahskid
*"I don't suppose anyone would like to that the AFF position for this topic?"
Posted by bcaldwell100 8 years ago
bcaldwell100
I have minor LD experience and would like to debate you, but I am far too busy at the moment to do so. To avoid wasting your time with a forfeit, I just have one question/ argument. Your definition of Justice and Just are vastly different. If your VC is "to seek punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all" and you somehow tie that to due, my guess is social contract and retribution. But as definitional parameters go, I have to ask why you have conflicting definitions.
Posted by kels1123 8 years ago
kels1123
I don't know all your arguments , but I may agree with you somewhat so I can't accept this challenge . I think this will be an interesting debate though.
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