The Instigator
Con (against)
2 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
8 Points

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

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/20/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,372 times Debate No: 11480
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (2)




AFF goes first.


(I ask that my opponent follow the conventional LD debate format).

"The primary function of an independent juror is not, as many people thing, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by the government." This quote from the American Jury Institute is why I strongly affirm the resolution Resolved: In the United States the principle of Jury nullification is a just check on the government.

We will look to the VALUE of FREEDOM in today's debate. Given that the resolution pertains strictly to the United States we must look to the very foundations of our American values, this is where we find the value of freedom. Historian Eric Foner defines freedom as, "the resistance to tyranny".

In the most strict context of the resolution (given it's legal nature) the way we must resist by LEGITIMATELY RENDERING JUSTICE. This will be the CRITERION for the round. This not only acts as a weighing mechanism for my value, but will serve as a vehicle for which freedom is to be achieved. In conclusion, freedom through legitimately rendering justice.

OBSERVATION ONE: JURY NULLIFICATION IS NOT THE ONLY MEANS OF CHECKING THE GOVERNMENT, HOWEVER IT IS THE BEST MEANS. Professor John Van Dyke, from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, says that in some cases Jury nullification may be that ONLY way for the public to express opposition to an unjust law. This shows that jury nullification is the best check on the government, because at times, it is the only voice the public has.

CONTENTION ONE: Jury nullification, in its principle and application, serves as both a legitimate and just check on the government.

SUB POINT A: The principle and application of jury nullification serves as a just check on the power of the government.
Jury nullification is intended to protect the defendant and ultimately people abroad. Professor James Duane at the Regent's Law School of Virginia asserts that applying the letter of the law in all of its generality to every situation may not be appropriate. Ultimately, the law does not equal justice thus the only way to legitimately administer justice is through jury nullification. Without Jury nullification the people of the United States would be lacking this legitimate and just check on the power of the government.

SUB POINT B: Jury nullification is a legitimate check on governmental power.
Some opponents of jury nullification would say that it is an unwarranted and dangerous power, not designated to the people by the constitution. On the contrary, jury nullification is: a perfectly constitutional and legitimate means of administering justice. Granted, nowhere in the constitution does it explicitly say the words JURY NULLIFICATION, however, Professor John Van Dyke said, "The framers of the constitutions strove to create an independent judiciary but insisted upon further protection against arbitrary action…" Clearly jury nullification is perfectly within the spirit of the constitution. It is much like the concept of freedom of expression, nowhere in the constitution does it say these words, however, freedom of expression is at the very core of our American values yet, is not in the constitution; it is inferred, but not explicitly stated. Beyond this, according to assistant Professor Andrew D. Leipold at the University of Illinois, jury nullification intervenes in situations where old, and often irrelevant laws, resurface. Jury nullification corrects these laws and ultimately legitimizes the system. The legitimate administration of justice and ultimately liberty cannot exist without jury nullification.

It is critical that one understands that the law does not equal justice not matter how you define it. There are times when laws are unfair and unjust. Carrie Ullman from the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics supports this saying that, "jury nullification can be a useful corrective tool in situations where the interests of justice and strict compliance with the law do not necessarily coincide." Jury nullification renders justice in these instances by administering it in ways that are out of the power of the judge. This position is illustrated by Professor Alan Scheflin from Santa Clara University saying that a jury can administer justice in ways that a judge cannot.

Ultimately, through extensive research and generally accepted fact the resolution Resolved: In the United states, the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government, is upheld. The burden of proof on the part of the affirmative is upheld as is the resolution, therefore I urge you to vote affirmative.

Thank you
Debate Round No. 1


I wish to thank my opponent for accepting.

Opponent's case:
"The primary function of an independent juror is not, as many people thing, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by the government." Non-concur, it the responsibility of a juror to weigh evidence presented by both sides, the constitutional 5th, 6th, and 8th amendments protect citizens from tyrannical abuses.

OPP Value: Freedom is the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. We are already guaranteed this in the U.S. Constitution.
Tyranny is closely associated with dictatorship: a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.) Princeton wordnet

OPP Criterion: Legitimately Rendering Justice. The U.S. government operates on a system of checks and balances. While admittedly imperfect, there are many safeguards that protect freedom without vigilante jurors ignoring evidence presented, and making decisions based on emotion or something other than factual evidence.

OPP Observation: Jury nullification cannot possibly be the only defense of freedom, nor the best. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution, who is often restricted on what evidence is actually admissible. The defendant is entitled to legal counsel who has a less strenuous task of proof.

OPP Contention 1: Is it truly legitimate and just? Jurors for all intents and purposes are nothing more than "Temps" that usually have little to no knowledge of neither medical nor investigative procedure. Further, they are not legally accountable for the decisions they make. A jury can ignore evidence, and in essence, ignore not only the law, but also individual rights.

OPP 1A: Jury nullification may protect the defendant, it may also harm the defendant while simultaneously protecting a guilty party.

OPP 1B: While passionate, the argument of inference is not objective. It is circumstantial, and argumentative, and cannot be upheld.

OPP 2: Not all laws are fair, nor legitimate. While jury nullification may serve as a vehicle to compensate for legal inadequacies, it is far from fair or legitimate. Two wrongs do not make a right.

I negate the resolution as stated.

I half expected to engage in an all out battle of the word "just". I thank my opponent for a more creative twist.

My Value is Individual Rights. John Locke's 2nd Treatise was instrumental in our founding fathers building of what was to become the U.S. Individual Rights are paramount to that end.

Criterion: Protection of Rights. If our rights are not firmly safeguarded, we will likely spiral into a much less desirable form of government. This includes playing by the rules.

C-1: Jury Nullification undermines the judicial system.
The justice system was built with safeguards in mind. Defense counsel strenuously argues to exclude evidence that is harmful to the defendant's case. Does that make the truth any less true? No, to the contrary, facts become inadmissible. This argument I am using is a tightrope, however, ultimately it only takes 1 hardheaded juror to create a hung jury. This could put a rapist or murderer back on the street. Is that just? It only takes 1 charismatic juror to convince fellow jurors to disregard a legal system that has been used effectively for over two centuries. This blatant disregard for law and factual evidence clearly undermines the justice system, and tramples upon individual rights.

C-2: Jury nullification defies Constitutional Rights
According to the 5th amendment, people are entitled to due process. According to the 6th amendment, people are entitled to trial by an impartial jury. These rights are violated when juries ignore the law, ignore facts, ignore evidence, and decide on their own. They have taken justice out of the hands of the people entrusted with it. They have taken the position to determine people's freedom or confinement, and have absolutely no legal requirement to explain their actions, nor any consequences for doing so.

For these reasons, jury nullification can be a danger to society, a danger to individual rights, and a danger to Constitutional rights. It is neither just, nor moral, nor legitimate. Thank you.


There are a few risky assumptions that my opponent makes in support of his position.

The first assumptions is the very first argument that my opponent presents against my introduction and value. He basically tries to convince you that jurors are not needed to check governmental abuses of power because the constitution already does this. While it's true this is the constitution's purpose, it is not true that it is always effective. There have been points throughout the history of the united state, where the government has abused its power. A few examples would be: suspension of Habeus Corpus, Espionage and Sedition Acts, Fugitive Slave act, and many more. Don't make the mistake of assuming that the Constitution will save us. That is, in the end, up to the people.

In defense of my criterion, checks and balances is an internal government check, while jury nullification is an external (people to government) check. Once an unjust law is passed the only thing that we can rely on is my criterion legitimately rendering justice.

On to my observation, my opponent provides "legal counsel" as a superior alternative to jury nullification. However, this A) does not check the government, B) only protects the defendant, and C) is not competitive to jury nullification.

Against my contention one he attacks the legitimacy of the institution of the jury. 1, we are not debating about the legitimacy of the jury; BUT RATHER the legitimacy of JURY NULLIFICATION. 2, the awareness level (which my opponent talked about) and the protection from public scrutiny are what make juries such an effective check. Through jury nullification the jury insures that the LAW is not the one that tramples on individual rights.

On my sub-point A, my opponent talks about how jury nullification protects the defendant and hurts them, but the most interesting part about their argument is how it does this ALL AT THE SAME TIME. While this is an interesting thought, it doesn't make sense and was not supported at all.

On my sub-point B, the only complaint that my opponent provides is that my argument is passionate and unsupported. He offers these while blatantly ignoring the two cards I offered in support of this point. This can be considered a drop since my opponent had nothing to say on the matter.

In my second contention, my opponent ignores the fact that laws need to be fair and legitimate before his value of individual rights can be insured, and his criterion of protecting rights can be up held. Don't let him blow jury nullification out of proportion, it's been around for hundreds of years and we all still have rights. He cannot simply assume that a universal application of the letter of the law is ALWAYS appropriate in EVERY situation.

Let's move on to his case...

His value of individual rights has a few problems. 1, you can't insure it with out my value of freedom. 2, his position does not uphold individual rights (he can't insure the law won't oppress my rights). 3, his argument is non-unique (we have individual rights now in a world WITH jury nullification).

On to his criterion of protection of rights. 1, he can't insure this will happen without jury nullification. 2, you can't assume that current checks (excusing jury nullification) are going to adequately "protect" rights as they have failed in the past. 3, his advocacy does not support his criterion (taking away jury nullification as a check on the government doesn't some how magically protect rights). 4, this is one of those assumptions mentioned earlier (he assumes that the law equals justice).

In his first contention we see another one of those risky assumptions. Firstly my opponent has no link in this contention to his value or criterion. Making it a mere unrelated side note to the debate with no real voting value in today's debate. Furthermore, my opponent assumes that current safe guards already in place are adequate. I would like to again point to history asserting that this is clearly not the case. Safe guards have failed before and my opponent has no way of proving that they won't again in the future. Here he also talks about hang trials. While this is a dandy point we are debating about jury nullification therefore this point is not under the resolution. Contrary to my opponents assertions, jury nullification does not undermine the judicial system it legitimizes it by nullifying unjust laws. Remember, it has been assumed NOT proven that: the law does not equal justice, and current safe guards already in place are adequate. Don't let my opponent blow jury nullification out of proportion wit his examples in this contention.

On to my opponent's second and final contention. The first thing mentioned is "due process" (basically everyone is constitutionally entitled to equal consideration under the law. Jury nullification does not impact this. In a trial by jury everyone ha the potential to have a jury that will nullify. Just because every jury doesn't nullify doesn't make it unconstitutional (that's like saying just because not every judge delivers a "not guilty" verdict judges are unconstitutional). The same argument applies to his second point about an impartial jury (just because every jury is different doesn't make them unconstitutional). One may find that in the end constitutional arguments against jury nullification how no grounds in the truth.

Remember the assumptions: 1 that the constitution is the ultimate protector of freedom, 2 that law equals justice, 3 universal application of the law is always appropriate, 4 safe guards already in place are adequate, and 5 that checks and balances are adequate or in some cases pertinent to the debate. These assumptions will be critical to today's debate.
Debate Round No. 2


twsurber forfeited this round.


My opponent has failed to refute my arguments.... Does this mean my opponent has no response or that he simply got cancer and is unable to respond? Either way my arguments stand.

Thak you and please vote affirmative as no reson to vote negative has been provided.

Good round
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by mackoman_93 8 years ago
Thanks good debate :)
Posted by twsurber 8 years ago
Posted by mackoman_93 8 years ago
There... for your effort :)
Posted by twsurber 8 years ago
Sorry folks, while I did not get cancer, I did have back to back away baseball games, jv and varsity both nights. My bad on missing the final round. You guys can at least give me the spelling and grammar. :o)
Posted by Yoguy-107 8 years ago
to qualify the reason why i voted the way i did. i believed the con had better points that linked in his case. he some what stated at least how he linked to his v and vc while the pro did not state even by a little how he linked to his v and vc for that reason i voted con. now on the other hand the pro had many convincing arguments that were not really refuted well in the con's rebuttal. so over all id rank this debate as a tie despite the forfeight.
Posted by Me100 8 years ago
Lol whatever mack, not your case BS :P crappy mod you did to yours lol
Posted by mackoman_93 8 years ago
just make a case up it's not that hard... it doesn't even have to be legit
Posted by mackoman_93 8 years ago
it's all good this isn't my case. I didn't want to post my case on the internet.
Posted by twsurber 8 years ago
Koop has a point, there are case thieves lurking.
Posted by Koopin 8 years ago
Don't do it Cherymenthol.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by mackoman_93 8 years ago
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Total points awarded:25 
Vote Placed by Yoguy-107 8 years ago
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Total points awarded:03