The Instigator
hrvdbnd2013
Pro (for)
Winning
14 Points
The Contender
AlbertTheGreat
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points

In the United states, the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/11/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,622 times Debate No: 11410
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (28)
Votes (3)

 

hrvdbnd2013

Pro

"Because just as good morals, if they are to be maintained, have need of the laws, so the laws, if they are to be observed, have need of good morals."

Becasue I agree with Niccolo Machiavelli, I stand in firm affirmation of today's resolution Resoloved: In the United States, jury nullification is a just check on government.

The law as recorded by our founding fathers was meant to be a framework of society, not to be the rule indelably. It is up to the judicial branch to interperet the law as it is meant to apply in our society. Jury nullification has been an established part of American law for centuries. One prime example is the Bushell's Case of 1670, in which William Penn and William Mead, two prominent Quaker leaders, were put on trial for unlawful assembly and disturbance of the peace. When Penn was asked how he pled, he answered with a long explanation and argued that the jurors should go "behind" the law and engage their consciences as to whether or not he deserved to be judged and punished as guilty. The judge admonished Penn and instructed the jury to ignore the plea. In addition, he instructed them that Penn's admissions had constituted an admission of guilt. Despite such instruction from the judge, after extended deliberation, the jury returned a not-guilty verdict for both Penn and Mead. The judge disagreed, imposing a fine upon the jury for rendering a decision contrary to evidence and his instructions.The case eventually reached the highest court of its time, the Court of Common Pleas, where it was ruled that jurors could not be punished for a not-guilty verdict, no matter how vigorously the judge might disagree with the outcome.

The value I offer in today's debate is that of morality, or the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct. Something that is just in the resolution is based on what is morally right and fair. Jury nullification in a criminal case occurs when the jury or a juror assumes a right not just to decide whether the defendant committed the crime but also whether he should be convicted of it. The jury goes beyond the question of the defendant's guilt to a further question of, despite his guilt, should he be convicted? The jury will look at the motivation of the crime commited, and not just simply the law infraction. Ordinarily, a finding of guilt automatically leads to a conviction. Nullification is a decision by the jury to provide mercy rather than justice.

My criterion is John Locke's Second Treatise of Government in which Locke expresses his view of the social contract between the people and the government, with the power lying in the hands of the former, being that of the people. Locke's social contract states that in a situation where the people oppose a government's actions, it is not only their right, but also their obligation to repel those actions and laws. He states that when any branch of government acts contrary to the trust of the people, it is the people that must judge in the end. The government was made for the people, by the people. Logically, it should be the people who are making the decisions of guilt in a court of law.

Contention One: Jury nullification checks government in preventing the spread of tyranny and unjust rule.

The principle of jury nullification is a just check on government in the United States because it prevents the spread of tyranny and unjust rule. John Locke defines tyranny as "the exercise of power beyond right." In a democratic society like the United States, it is up to the people to justly check the government in order to ensure that society does not become subject to a rule of tyranny or injustice. Jury nullification serves as a vessel for such a check on government. According to Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D., of Los Angeles Valley College, jury nullification is "a check against the bias of judges and the irrationality and corruption that creeps steadily into the law, as irresponsible legislators and judges think about things other than justice. … The jury is the last line of defense, the last check and balance, against tyrannical government, if, that is, it is charged with determining the justice of a case and not just with blindly applying the law as given by a judge." Thus, if a jury follows the layout of the law and the instructions of the judge with "blind obedience," the need for a jury is eliminated and this is unconstitutional. With that in mind, jury nullification is a form of responding to unjust rule by nullifying said rule. Such action is in sync with Locke's argument of judgment of the laws and the rulers by the people and, thus upholding a just and morally right and fair society.

Contention Two: Jury nullification allows the people to protest unjust laws.

Jury nullification is most often used when the jury regards the law under which the defendant is being charged as unjust. Jury nullification is rooted deep in the history of our nation. Many juries often refused to convict violators of unjust laws such as the Fugitive Slave Laws of 1850 and the Alien and Sedition Acts of the late eighteenth century. Just as men and women in the past, including Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., and others, have practiced civil disobedience to protest government action, so does a jury nullifying a law practice civil disobedience. According to Radley Balko, editor of Reason magazine and former policy analyst with the Cato Institute, it is not only the right of a jury to nullify unjust laws, but their obligation. On the principle of jury nullification, Balko states that the concept "may seem radical, perhaps even subversive, but jury nullification serves as an important safeguard against unjust laws, as well as the unfair application of well-intended laws." Such a safeguard against unjust laws is Locke-supported action against an unjust government, thus allowing a just and morally fair and right society to survive.

Contention Three: Jury nullification checks against abuses of power by the legislature and executive agencies.

By serving as a last line of defense against unjust laws and unequal application of such laws, juries serve as a defense against politically gridlocked legislatures and deeply flawed social institutions.
Abramson, Jeffrey. 1998. "Two Ideals of Jury Deliberation." The University of Chicago Legal Forum. Volume 125.
Jury Nullification permits jurors to make their own response to official lawlessness, when they essentially set the defendant free rather than ratify the misconduct that built the case against him. Of course, sensibly exercising the nullifying power will require jurors to weigh the gravity of the crime against the severity and frequency of the misconduct. We certainly would not encourage jurors to refuse to convict an obviously guilty murderer simply as a way of condemning a prosecutor who suborned perjury. But in the case of a nonviolent drug crime, jury refusals to go along with a borderline legal sting operation may well foster rather than undermine respect for law. In the above sort of cases, jurors revolt not against the law itself, but against the silliness of applying the law in certain situations or against the rottenness of the agents enforcing it. What about those grander instances where the jury nullifies to declare its rejection of the law itself as unjust? Several Michigan juries have apparently done just that, refusing to convict Dr. Jack Kevorkian of violating state law against physician-assisted suicide even though Kevorkian has defiantly admitted his acts. While it is true that we elect legislators, not jurors, to pass laws, we continue to call on jurors to decide if even duly enacted laws remain worthy of enforcement.
AlbertTheGreat

Con

"The emotions aren't always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action"- William James quotes (American Philosopher and Psychologist, leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism, 1842-1910)

Since my opponent didn't, I would like to state the definitions for these terms:
_ Jury Nullification: occurs when a jury returns a verdict of "Not Guilty" despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged(http://www.law.umkc.edu...)
_justice: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair(http://www.merriam-webster.com...)

REBUTTAL: Jury nullification is not nescessary to be the just check on the government.
_While my opponent is giving out his/her informations which seem too conspicuous and appealing and almost so convincing, I was left not persuaded by my dear friend's opinions and perspective. While jury nullification does give out great outsets, gives the people of the world and the people of the United States the freedom of choice and the freedom of anticipation of the government's justice system, flaws are countless and require imperative attentions to this subject:

a) Jury Selection: According to US laws, the jurors are chosen randomly by age, except some cases based on a person's background(their religion, physical disability, whether or not that person have any profession in the law enforcement...)(http://law.cornell.edu...), therefore it's hardly to think that the jury can actually become a trusted stronghold or defense of the court since the jury came from different sources, with people from different backgrounds and opinions. Jury nullification therefore is non-reliable and while my opponent is arguing the judge and the court can be bias, he/she forgot that the jury itself in its nature is also full with bias since lots of them know little about laws but act with emotions.

b)Human emotions: Followed by the quote I presented above, most of our actions deprived from emotions, different people often react with different nature(some flee when scared, some fight...), the jury also controlled by emotions. Like my opponent said the value he/she is presenting in this debate is the value of morality, but my opponent had also left one factor deficient-the different values of morality. If you're a white man in the 20's to 50's in the South of the United States and you follow its tradition, you would have different moral value and believe you're superior than the colored people, or if you live in the Medieval time you would think that burning witches on stakes is right, so you see my point. The reason we have laws, as I agree with my opponent, is to correct and created a framework for society, to make an instruction for our society. Unfortunately since the jury can decides freely according to their opinions, the laws often can be broken easily.

c)The jurors abuse and use their power in their own belief: There were cases back in the prior time of the civil right movement which I can't now presented but I believe we all should know. At those time, if you're a colored man, you would have know by yourself. Because of the jury's power which they can exercise, the jurors can reach the verdict due to their belief. I should remind yoou that lots of time, people like the KKK or any discriminate groups are dominant in the jury, in that case people the verdict is totally unjust. Also a great danger is also ignorance of some informations, like this case(http://www.foxnews.com...), because of the lack in informations, the jury reached the verdict of 25 years of prison for a man who grow marijuana for his patients. In cases like this, I don't see how the jury could work as a power to enact on a supposedly "unjust" court system.

While arguing and critisize the justice system, my opponent maybe had forgotten, human are human, and in this case a normal individual in a room where the your word can decide a man's life, a person that may have no profession in law, a person that maybe driven mad by his belief and his opinion. Would you like to stand up there, my friends, to be judged and decided by those people? The answer should be answered by you.
Debate Round No. 1
hrvdbnd2013

Pro

Let's try to keep this debate in the traditional LD format please. In doing this my opponent failed to provide a value/ value criterion to support his stance that jury nullification of not a just check on government.

One definition that this debate needs to center on is check: An action or influence that stops motion or expression; a restraint. (yale.law.edu)

The burden of the affirmative in this case is to simply prove that jury nullification provides a check on governmental power. As one can see, this has already been done. One must simply look to the case of Dr. Jack Kevorkian that I provided in my constructive; jury nullification was used, and due to having jury nullification, the power was taken from the government and given to the people. In doing this, my criterion of the social contract was upheld, as was my value of morality, as the people had to decide what was fair and morally right and so on.

To move on to my opponent's case. . .

My opponent stated in his point about jury selection that the "jury itself in it's nature is also full with bias since lots of them know little about the laws but act with emotions." Do we not regularly call upon juries to make the final decisions in a court of law? Even in cases where jury nullification isn't being used? The truth is, that we do: the jury IS a trusted stronghold within the justice system. Like I stated in my third contention, "While it is true that we elect legislators, not jurors, to pass laws, we continue to call on jurors to decide if even duly enacted laws remain worthy of enforcement." We have always called upon the jury to make the decisions of guilt or innocence in the courtrooms. We have trusted the jury with these types of decisions, and jury nullification is no different. The argument that my opponent is making is not against jury nullification, but against the juries themselves. According to Andrew Parmenter, author of Nullifying the Jury, "a more genuine argument against informing juries of their nullification power is that jurors will use it not just to ensure justice, but also to express bias. The example most often used for this proposition is the acquittal of white criminals who targeted blacks in the pre-civil-rights-era south. It is certainly arguable that juries informed, educated, and cautioned about their awesome and important nullification power are less likely to reach a verdict based on bias. If such a jury does acquit according to bias, the problem is not found in their unreviewable power to acquit, but in the jury selection process' failure to provide an unbiased jury from the start." So to turn my opponent's arguments against him, having jury selection prevents the bias from creeping into the nullification process. After all, both the defense and the prosecution work together to decide the jury, not just the defendants. So it seems to me that my opponent is proposing that we do not use juries whatsoever because they are uneducated in the way of the law. The jurors are given no more education, or no less, in cases where jury nullification will not be exercised.

During the point where my opponent brought up that jurors abuse and use their power in their own belief, he provided a case in which a doctor was being tried because he grew marijuana for his patients, and in turn, he was in turn convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. This is exactly the type of case where nullification would be used! "In cases like this, I don't see how the jury could work as a power to enact on a supposedly 'unjust' court system." This is very close the same type of circumstance that Dr. Kevorkian faced when he was on trial. In his instance however, jury nullification was used, the jury protested the unjust laws, and the law on physician assisted suicide was repealed in the state of Michigan, due to the jury nullification. The jury was able to say that the law was no longer supported, the legislatures were able to hear, and they worked together to get the law changed.

And finally, in my opponent's closing argument, he left you, the judges, with some rhetorical questions. "While arguing and criticize the justice system, my opponent maybe had forgotten, human are human, and in this case a normal individual in a room where the your word can decide a man's life, a person that may have no profession in law, a person that maybe driven mad by his belief and his opinion. Would you like to stand up there, my friends, to be judged and decided by those people?"

In answer to that question, we already are judged by those very people. People who have no profession in law. People who may be driven mad by their beliefs and opinions. But in the end, with a jury nullification policy, it may very well be those people who save your lives. Judge David Bazelon says it best, "Trust in the jury, after all, it is one of the cornerstones of our entire criminal jurisprudence...the very essence of the jury's function is its role as a spokesman for the community's conscience in determining whether or not blame can be imposed."
AlbertTheGreat

Con

AlbertTheGreat forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
hrvdbnd2013

Pro

Uhmm well. . . the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government.
AlbertTheGreat

Con

AlbertTheGreat forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
28 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Yoguy-107 6 years ago
Yoguy-107
to qualify the reasons why i voted the way i did, was that the pro was very contradictory in her rebuttal which is why i did not vote for her. particularly the point she made about how we elect legislators to pass laws and not jurys. that is a major neg arg. it supports the fact that we as people do not have the right in the negative world to evaluate a law. SO i voted neg on this one. but both did well in presentation of points con just gave actual sources in which i could look up. and as well the fact that the negative did not present a v and vc should not have been an issue. pro unless you specify that you are doing LD at the very beginning you can use that to win the round. next time i would use them rather to weigh the arguments and try to prove your impacts greatly outweigh your opponents. great debating :D
Posted by Metz 6 years ago
Metz
Also, NFL nationals and district tournaments basically require a Value and Criterion. (I say basically because they do not explicitly require it but judges are told to look for it) But on the National Circuit and some progressive local circuits a Value and Criterion is not required. I have run numerous cases without either a value or a criterion and they did fine. The NFL DOES NOT have rules for what can or cannot be done in a debate round. They have suggestions... but not rules or requirements.
Posted by Metz 6 years ago
Metz
ummmm "I agree with Niccolo Machiavelli"
That is a rather...Strange...statement in today's society. =)
Posted by simplycici 6 years ago
simplycici
@Nails,
I'm an NFL coach.
Unless you're using syllogism, it is required to have a vp and cr.
Posted by hrvdbnd2013 6 years ago
hrvdbnd2013
Ok whatever. You believe what you want and I'll believe what I want. I know what the packet said and I know what the officials running the tournament said.
Posted by Nails 6 years ago
Nails
@ hrvdbnd, you're lying our your as$. I compete in the National Forensic League.

@ Yoguy, the general purpose of a burden is to act as a standard. As opposed to a weighing mechanism like a criterion that says "If affirming achieves more X than negating, you affirm" a burden is just a brightline that says "If affirming achieves X, you affirm." I'm not sure how you use the term in round, but if you're just setting up arbitrary burdens for yourself that's probably a bad idea.
Posted by Yoguy-107 6 years ago
Yoguy-107
@nails
was just a friendly suggestion
and burdens then in that context take away from the meat of the debate in my opinion. what is the point of a value and a standard if you will win based off burdens?
Posted by hrvdbnd2013 6 years ago
hrvdbnd2013
Ok if you say so. . .

And yes, if you plan to debate at LD Nat. they will check your cases to make sure that it has all that is needed. If they check it to make sure you legitimately qualified, they will check it to make sure you can legitimately can compete.

Who do you think runs the District NFL tournament? Oh yeah. . . NFL!
Posted by Nails 6 years ago
Nails
"if you plan to debate LD at Nationals"
"After I qualified at the district tournament"
"the NFL organization"

None refer to the district tournament. ALL refer to Nationals.

THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT TO HAVE A VALUE OR CRITERION.
It is a custom, but in no way mandatory.
Posted by hrvdbnd2013 6 years ago
hrvdbnd2013
What I meant when I said that we had to send in my case to the people at NFL was that we had to send in the one that I used at Districts to make sure it was "a legitimate Lincoln-Douglas debate case..." And yes, I am a freshman in high school, and the 2013 does in fact stand for a graduating year.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by hrvdbnd2013 6 years ago
hrvdbnd2013
hrvdbnd2013AlbertTheGreatTied
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Vote Placed by baby_b 6 years ago
baby_b
hrvdbnd2013AlbertTheGreatTied
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Vote Placed by Yoguy-107 6 years ago
Yoguy-107
hrvdbnd2013AlbertTheGreatTied
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