The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

New Member Tournament: Juveniles Tried as Adults

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/28/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,905 times Debate No: 19024
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (2)




Full Resolution: Juveniles should be tried as adults only in some cases.

Outline of the Debate:

‘In some cases’ can refer to a minor being charged with murder (capital, 1st degree, felony murder) or rape (gang rape, rape via causing fear using threats/violence to override consent), but mainly about murder.

No semantics, and by that, standard debating rules/ethics will apply, with 72 hours of argumentation where the maximum character limit is 8K, also each debater has 4 rounds to argue then we proceed to voting, where the RFD voting style will take effect and votes lasting 2 weeks.

R1- Acceptance of Debate/Terms/Definitions

R2- Openings

R3- Clash

R4- Final Rebuttals/Summaries

Burden of Proof:

PRO will argue that in some cases, juveniles should be tried as adults.

CON will argue, that even in some cases, juveniles shouldn’t be tried as adults.


- Juvenile/s {1} – (or a juvenile delinquent) is a person who is underage (usually below 18), who is found to have committed a crime.

- Adult/s {2} - A person who by virtue of attaining a certain age, generally eighteen, is regarded in the eyes of the law as being able to manage his or her own affairs.

- Try {3} – to examine and determine judicially, the guilt or innocence of (a person), to be put on trial.

- Murder {4} – The unlawful/intentional killing of another human being without justification or excuse.

- Rape {5} - Refer to the given link for specifics.








I’m not exactly sure about my wordings here, but if CON wants to add a definition, suggests a change or has a question, please post it on comments to avoid semantics or unfairness.

I thank Lickdafoot in advance for accepting this debate and I wish her luck on this phase of the New Member Tourney.



Challenge Accepted! I agree with the terms established by Pro. Good luck to Jm_notguilty!
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for her response and acceptance and hope to have an interesting and wonderful debate.


These are my arguments for the opening round. Please note that I may introduce new arguments/rebuttals as the debate proceeds further.

C1: Law & Order

a) Victims deserve justice

I’ll begin citing a classic English case about the killing of little James Bulger, (1993, UK), a 2-year old toddler and her mother were at a mall shopping when two 10-year olds took little James and brought him to a 2 mile death march, when they reached to the middle of nowhere, they began to bully him, then engaged to severe torturing, threw paint in his eyes, inserted batteries in his mouth & anus, and hitting him with metals and rocks and then dropped a 22 pound iron bar on him, then eventually murdering little James, the boys left him in the train track until a train ran over and cut little James’ body in half. The youths were eventually arrested and were put to trial, though they were found guilty and sentenced, they only serve for 10 years and were released with new identities and are now having a life {1}.

Little James

This isn’t justice, little James deserves to have a life than his two murderers, but it won’t happen, ever, he died in vain, so what to suggest to fix this problem? See below.

b) Harsher Punishment = Deterrence

We can reduce lawbreaking rates if we punish those people responsible, the same goes to a juvenile delinquent, if a child goes through juvenile court and if that child is advised and taught on its main objective and usual process, which is rehab after conviction, or plea bargain resulting to probation and suspended sentence {2}, the child is more likely to think that they will be set free very soon, it’s like attending a boarding school, this really doesn’t make them scared, it surely doesn’t deter much crimes, especially the violent ones, but, if a child has knowledge of harsher punishments and consequences when committing felonious acts, then they will more likely be afraid of the consequences of the law.

Christine Chamberlin, from Boston College Law Review, states that: {3}

Part of the reason that juveniles aren’t deterred by punishments for juvenile crimes might be that juvenile proceedings are still fairly confidential in many states. Transferring jurisdiction to adult court, however, would allow these proceedings to be more open to the public, increasing awareness among juveniles of the possibility of trial in adult court. Thus, insofar as Massachusetts’ youthful offender statute allows youthful offender trials to be open to the general public as if they were adult trials, the imposition of an adult or blended sentence on a youthful offender may be publicized so that more juveniles become aware that severe penalties can be imposed on youthful offenders. This greater awareness should deter more juveniles from committing crimes.”

C2: Astringency of Crime

a) Delinquents know that murder/rape is unacceptable

Every person knows that killing another person with malice is never acceptable, kids have been taught these values and morals in school, they know what they’re doing, parents, teachers and even television gives the youth a tip on what happens when you murder.

b) Psychologically different?

Some people argue that the young are too young to be treated as adults when they are put on trial for murder, again, young or not, these youths know that what they did was wrong, it doesn’t matter, just because a child is a child doesn’t that the particular child who commits murder is less demeritorious.

Many people view adolescents being able to decide for themselves, being mature, like driving age, age of consent, they don’t need special treatment from the government, but why do juvie courts do?

If a youth is old and competent enough to use a computer, he is more likely to be competent when picking up a gun and shoot people, which makes him competent enough to murder someone. Guns don’t kill, people do, and by that, we need to hold these youths responsible.

There are childish and immature children as well as naive, gullible and immature adults, but there are intellectual and well-educated adults as well as smart and responsible child prodigies.

C3: Downside of Juvenile Jurisdiction

a) Advantages of adult courts

In US juvie courts, there is no jury, or no jury is often implemented {4}, the decision of whether or not the young defendant is guilty of murder or rape rests solely on the judge, which is a disadvantage since judges are sometimes biased and has a docket longer than Frederica Cook’s will, but when charged as an adult, the decision rests on the jury, the defendant gets a decent judge and decent lawyer.

You might argue that juvie is a good thing because judges will punish murderers but, again, juvie court is not that decent, and that delinquents are not having their rights properly exercised, and I’m also arguing, what if, the defendant is innocent? Will we just let the judge decide to incarcerate the sentenced youth to rehab for years?

b) Rehabilitation?

The juvenile system focuses the youths on rehabilitation rather than punishment, this seems shallow and soft. There are occasions where youths are convicted but only serve for 1 year due to them having their 18th birthday the year after their sentence, that’s not just nor is it fair, just because a boy murdered a woman before his 8th birthday doesn’t mean that he should be treated as a kid, which would make a difference if he murdered the woman after his 18th birthday, we need to allow the youth’s accountability and culpability to establish a degree of the punishment’s astringency. Sentencing teen murderers to rehab undermines the justice system, no one should get away from the law.

*I will expand these contentions in the next round. In the meantime, I await my opponent’s response, thank you.*




{3} Christine Chamberlin, Not Kids Anymore: A Need for Punishment and Deterrence in the Juvenile Justice System, 42 B.C.L. Rev. 391 (2001).




I thank my opponent for making an interesting first round of our debate. It seems as though this round is for opening only, so I will wait until next round to bring forth any rebuttals.

I will attempt to show you that children and adults have different psychological responses to their environment, and should be treated accordingly in the court of law. Furthermore, the child’s brain has not yet developed to fully understand the implications and consequences of their actions.

Development of the brain

The brain is the sole cause of our behaviors. Every thought and feeling we have comes from our brain. A brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25, and children’s brains develop unevenly. Generally in adolescents, the Cerebellum, Amygdala, and Nucleus Acumbens are very active. These centers control our physical coordination, emotions and motivation, respectively. The Prefrontal cortex is the very last part of our brain to develop, and this is what controls our reasoning and judgment of impulses. [1] It is not fair to judge a child with the same standards as adults when their brains are not mature enough to reason before they act. Consequences of impulsive actions made by children should therefore be held with more leisure than the actions of adults.

Environmental effects on the brain

The brain is molded by environmental triggers. Neurons that send messages back and forth will strengthen in areas of focus, and will dissipate in areas that are unused. A developing brain has sensitive periods, where any actions or consequences can greatly effect the development process. What this means is that feedback from our environment can help or hinder a brains growth. [2]

A young child spends nearly all of their time around family; and this is when their brain is most sensitive. A young brain is one that has plasticity, meaning the ability to change with the environment depending on expected stimuli. This means that the parents are largely responsible for the child’s behavior. An adult’s brain, however, looses plasticity and is more set in its patterns. Because a child’s behavior is largely dependent upon the parent’s responses, the child cannot be fully responsible for their actions. It is not until the child’s brain has matured enough to reason on it’s own that the parents no longer mold the brain, and are therefore no longer responsible for the child.

Say a child was raised in an abusive family, where the parents used physical violence on a daily basis. The child’s synopses will be strengthened in areas where violent, physical behaviors are needed. So the child goes on to emulate these actions that he sees. He cannot yet reason that these behaviors are inappropriate; even if he is told by others that they are. His brain is not yet developed to reason before acting. Once the brain develops, the person will be able to reason about his actions. Now he is responsible for them, and should be held fully responsible in the court of law.

Special Punishment for Developing Brains

Juvenile court emphasizes therapy and rehabilitation, like my opponent said. This is important and a pivotal factor in the interest of the young criminal, and society at large. Because the brain is still growing and molding, supportive counseling can guide the brain growth into one that makes them a more competent adult. Sticking a child in a cell will do nothing but damage the brain further, making the child more likely to continue his crime in adulthood. A strict lifestyle, focusing on learning, counseling, and routine, can help the child in insurmountable ways. The shaping of or youth is an important step in the process. You cannot pluck a sour apple from a dying tree and expect it to taste good, but you can water that dying tree and make it’s next bunch of apples turn sweet.


Just like every case is different, every person is different. One should be judged by the circumstances surrounding their crime. A child's circumstances are not always a result of poor judgment; they are a result of a poor environment and lack of judgement activity in the brain. Therefore, appropriate punishments that strive to shape the child for future decisions is the method that is most beneficial, not only for the child, but for society.


Debate Round No. 2


Thanks for the response, Lick.


RE: Brain Development and Environment

I’d like to note that we aren’t determining whether a 7 y. o. kid should face adult court of murder or rape, we need to consider teenagers, particularly the ones near the legal age of adulthood.

But, if we determine someone’s maturity based on their numerical age on every case, chances are, the justice system would be a joke.

We need to determine one’s maturity by the culpability from a legal perspective and not the age per se.

Moin Yahya from the University of Alberta states in a Law Review journal that, and I quote: “Simply because the average youth is less mature than the average adult does not mean that the particular juvenile who commits a heinous crime is less culpable.” {1}

Now, according to that journal, it showed that according to economic studies, juveniles are somewhat very rational and mature, a behavioral examination experiment and survey was conducted to a group of children, ages 7, ages 11 and undergraduates (ages 21), in the end they found out that average 11 year olds already developed their cognitive skills. We can assume, based on this reliable study, that there are children who are very mature and rational. {1b}

According to the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in Washington DC, they state that: “Adolescents commonly experience “reward-deficiency syndrome,” which means they are no longer stimulated by activities that thrilled them as younger children. Thus, they often engage in activities of greater risk and higher stimulation in efforts to achieve similar levels of excitement.” {2}{3}

If people are officially mature at 25, then why not change the official adult age to 25 instead of 18? Because if we did that, we would be treating the most notorious age-appropriate criminals as children, it gives justice a bad name, the same thing goes to treating mature teens as childish kids. I mean, what’s the difference between a 17 3/4 year old and an 18 year old adult?

This just means that the average teen shouldn’t be treated as an average 6 year old who likes to play with ponies or robots, there may be psychological differences with kids and adults, but they are rational and capable of doing something bad, thus we need to take them seriously.

Also, in addition to the arguments above, I’d like to expand this premise by continuing to talk about the Bulger case. The defense made their argument by using the conclusive presumption (or doli incapax) as a defense, which the prosecution refuted triumphantly. Doli incapax is presumes that a delinquent can’t be held accountable for any felonious wrongdoings, and thus can’t be convicted of a crime. {4}

But a few years after the Bulgar case, the defense of said presumption for defendants underage was abolished by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, stating that “...The rebuttable presumption of criminal law that a child aged 10 or over is incapable of committing an offence is hereby abolished.”, therefore making the age of criminal responsibilility in the UK to 10 y. o. {4}

How was the presumption rebutted? Well, the child psychiatrist (Dr. Eileen Vizard) who interviewed the suspects, testified that they exactly knew what was right or wrong, it was obvious, and if we think rationally, taking an innocent toddler from his mom was wrong and torturing and eventually killing the baby was wrong, she answered this with certainty under oath. {5}{6}{7}

Jonathan Foster, from The Independent, argued that if the defendants were incapable and immature at trial, then why did they waive their rights, why did they have the capacity to even stand trial and make a defense? {7}

The evidence was crystal clear, the abduction to eye witnesses to expert witnesses to the murder per se.

But bottomline, the case had nothing to do on whether the suspects knew on what was right or wrong, the capability of the suspects and the severity of the crime was obvious from the start.

RE: Special Punishment for Juvies

CON argues that putting kids in prison is a bad idea because of brain differences, again, I remind everyone that the ‘kids’ that we are referring to are the ones charged with murder/rape, which, as I’ve proven, is known as a violent and serious offense and the juveniles know this, they are capable on knowing what is right or wrong. And with the arguments I’ve shown on what type of juveniles commit such heinous acts, it’s less likely that a 10 year old or below would murder. Putting a murderer behind bars does something good to society, it gives retribution to the victim’s loved ones and it serves justice to all.

Now, my opponent argues that rehabilitation is an important way of punishing as it helps youths. But, as I’ve shown in my previous argument, it does not.

Rehabilitation, first and foremost, fails. It increases recidivism and does not deter potential crimes.

According to Maia Szalavitz in an article she published from TIME {8}, she cited a research that shows teens got worst in rehab, since those who entered the juvie proceedings were nearly 7 times more likely to be arrested for crimes as adults. Also, the likelihood of the ones sentenced to juvie prison and being re-arrested is 37 times, unlike youths who weren't put through the system.

Furthermore, it suggested that youths who go through the juvie system even for a little time are more likely to be rearrested as adults, and yes, this comparing with youths with the same behavioral issues who didn’t go through the juvie system. It also suggested that being put on probation/rehab raised the youth's odds of adult arrest by a factor of 14.

It also cited a study comparing teenager’s impact on 4 interventions: parenting groups aimed in discipline, social-skills-training group, parent/teen-focused group interventions or no intervention at all, the results showed that the parent-focused group was the most compelling, where it made a reduction in teen misbehaviors.

Next, according to the statistics presented by the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association {1}, it showed that teens appear to be more responsible and being charged of violent crimes (esp. murder) than adults during that increase the past decade, and according to said statistics, people under 25 (including juveniles) are committing more crimes than adults, or people of the mature brain, this just shows that the seriousness of this issue ought have a solution, to serve justice. And even today, delinquents are more likely to be caught and charged with a crime than adults, this just shows how serious this is and we need to take them seriously. {9}{10}


It is clear from the start that the issue is about juvies tried as adults on murder/rape, and murder is murder, it's the most serious of all offenses, everyone knows this, even juvenile delinquents, saying that their brain isn’t developed is ridiculous and ludicrous, giving them a free pass on murder just because they claim they didn’t know that killing was wrong is frivolous and is unreasonable.

I’ve given evidence that harsher punishment does deter potential and that rehabilitation does not work, it has shown the increase of recidivism rates. Incarcerating dangerous delinquents protect the innocent. It sends a huge message against committing crime and thus reduces crime. It serves justice, since one of justice’ primary role on society is to ultimately protect the innocent, the potential victims and the victims per se who grieve for justice and retribution. Ergo trying juvenile delinquents is justified via deontological ethics and under utilitarian view of justice by determining accountability/culpability of the offender.

I’ve also argued previously that adult courts are more beneficial than juvie courts, since they value juvenile rights more, juvie courts fail to deter juvie violence and that again, in order to enforce justice, we need to give retribution, not only failed treatment.

Now, I leave the floor to my opponent and await her rebuttals/defense, good luck! :)




Lickdafoot forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks for the response, Lick, sorry if I rushed you, I actually expected a very long response but since it’s not that long, I’ll make this brief. ^_^

Readers, please note that my opponent’s R4 arguments are in the comments section.

Final Rebuttals:

“My opponent says that maturity should be determined from a legal standpoint and not from one's numerical age. I agree with this sentiment. Each case should be looked at separately.”

You can vote for PRO right there, voters, as my opponent’s last words clearly affirm the resolution.

“I ask my opponent at which age should one be considered an adult? Should children be held up to the same standards as an adult? Obviously a seven year old has not developed to the point of legal maturity. Neither have teenagers. So why should they be treated the same?”

I believe, in my humble and personal opinion, that the legal age of adulthood must be 16-18, even lower, maybe, since I’ve shown previously that teens and pre-teens can think very rationally according to my statistics. Teens are far more different than an average 7 year old, I agree, but we must accept reality that in some cases, we know that teenagers are seriously and rationally capable of committing murder or rape.

CON then argues that children don’t have the ability to think before they act, I agree, but we must accept the fact that only some children don’t know what they’re doing, but again, murder is murder. And are juveniles in general have the ability to think before they kill? Of course! We have to accept the severity of the actions and provide justice to the victims. And again, CON argues that we need to help them through treatment, but again, I repeat, rehabilitation fails.

“Even a misguided teenager who has committed murder is more receptive to a rehabilitation program than an adult who has committed murder. My opponent brings up the point that more teenagers commit crimes than adults. I believe this shows that teenagers aren't fully developed, and need to learn from their mistakes.”

I repeat, Murder is murder, and stating that juvies are not fully developed when committing murder is ludicrous and frivolous.

My opponent’s further arguments to support her defense on special treatment were already refuted, I’ve given evidence that rehab increases recidivism rates and it has other disadvantages, which my opponent didn’t rebut.

Final Conclusions:

Again, the resolution asks that if we should try juveniles as adults on some cases, and I’ve satisfied my burden on proving that yes, we should try them as adults on some cases. Because it shows a message, to serve justice, to deter crime, to reduce recidivism, and it values and upholds the defendant’s constitutional rights.

My opponent’s main case is that juvies are psychologically different and that rehab should apply. These arguments were already refuted before she made her R4 argument. I’d like to ask the readers to please extend my previous arguments in the previous rounds on which my opponent failed to address.

To end this, I ask the readers the same question my opponent asked, with further clarification, which sentence is more favorable? Is it the one in which criminals are put behind bars while crime is being deterred and in which the victims can now sleep at night having knowledge that justice was served or is it one in which criminals are given assistance via rehabilitation which we know and I proved, doesn’t let people make better choices but instead, it increases recidivism rates and does not deter crime.

Lick, it was an honor debating with you, I hope we debate again soon.

As this is my last word, I urge the voters to vote PRO.



My opponent says that my statement about maturity being looked at by case, and not by number, is a stance for his case. This is not so. Maturity is different for everyone, and one doesn’t reach full maturity until the age of about 25. Because of this, teenagers need to be treated with a certain understanding. That understanding is that teenagers are not fully matured. Sure, some teenagers are more mature than others, but this does not mean that those immature teenagers should be treated as adults. Why? Because they are still developing, and need a chance to learn the proper way of doing things. A person struggles with having something on their adult record. A teenager should not be burdened even further from making themselves a value to society. Instead they should be given the tools and resources to learn from the mistakes that they have made at such a ripe and non-reasonable age.

Pro also mentioned that the legal age of adulthood should be 16- 18. This in itself confirms the Con standpoint. An 18 year old is considered an adult. Anything younger than that and we are still dealing with a teenager. Like I said previously, every teenager matures differently, but with no cut-off point, no standards can be set. Eighteen is the appropriate cut off point.

A good case was brought up about rehab increasing the chance of repeating criminal activity. I understand that I did not respond to this properly in the last round. I will refrain from arguing against his studies, but I would like propose a situation to you. Say you have a teenager who got in trouble. Would the appropriate way to punish them be to lock them in their room for years, or would it be to put short term restrictions on them and teach them about their wrong doings, and how to better achieve success in the future? Even if one misguided kid makes a change to the better from rehabilitation, it is worthy to commit teenagers to this program.

Furthermore, I believe that the rehab recidivism doesn’t necessarily confirm the resolution. This shows that the system is faulty and needs to be approved upon, such as finding stricter and more effective programs. It does not show that teenagers should be held to the same standards as adults in a legal setting.

Children should be given more fluid punishments than adults. This is because time in jail for a juvenile is as nervewracking as time in an adult jail. A person should not have their record tarnished as an adult because they made a mistake when they were young and not fully developed.

I’d like to thank my opponent for this debate. I admit that I really dropped the ball last round, and that was my fault due to lack of focus. Give him the conduct point not just for my forfeit, but for his patience with allowing me to post my argument in the comments.

Good luck to him in the rest of the tournament!
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by BlackVoid 6 years ago
Forfeit prevents it from showing on the front page, which is where most of the votes come from. I'll get to it soon and hopefully some others will take time too.
Posted by Lickdafoot 6 years ago
i'll ask a couple people.
Posted by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
Srsly? No votes?! :(
Posted by Lickdafoot 6 years ago
I'd like to thank my opponent for his patience with me. Since I went into his time, if he feels as though he does not have enough time to respond to this case, I'd ask him to make note of that in his case and type up his closing statements. I will make this case my closing.

Brain Development and Argument

My opponent says that maturity should be determined from a legal standpoint and not from one's numerical age. I agree with this sentiment. Each case should be looked at separately. But then what would be the cut off point? I believe that the age of 18 is an appropriate cut off point to justifiably determine one's maturity level. Around this age is when we start developing our frontal cortex, so that we have a basis for understanding reason. I ask my opponent at which age should one be considered an adult? Should children be held up to the same standards as an adult? Obviously a seven year old has not developed to the point of legal maturity. Neither have teenagers. So why should they be treated the same?
Posted by Lickdafoot 6 years ago
People do know right from wrong, even children. But children do not have the ability to think about these things before acting on them. They act in a way that emulates what they were taught. They need to be retaught, rather than regurgitated into a system.

Teenagers are at the age when they are going through hormonal changes. Their brains are wired for physical activity and immediate action. If we treat these teenagers as adults, we are limiting their need to continue to develop. If they are stuck in a cell with adults who are criminals as well, they are learning how to fit in to a criminal lifestyle. If however, they are treated with rehabilitation, they are much more apt to develop their brain in a way that is more suited for societies standards. They have more chance of success, more chance to offer some value to society.
Posted by Lickdafoot 6 years ago
Special Treatments

Even a misguided teenager who has committed murder is more receptive to a rehabilitation program than an adult who has committed murder. My opponent brings up the point that more teenagers commit crimes than adults. I believe this shows that teenagers aren't fully developed, and need to learn from their mistakes. Should an adults record be hampered for the rest of their life because they made a mistake at a young age, when they weren't fully aware of the implications of what they did? Juvenille programs give the teenager a chance to evaluate their misbehaviors and learn to act on them accordingly in the future. This gives them a chance to be more prepared and prove themselves as adults, once they are fully mature. A Juvenile sentence isn't necessarily a weak one; it is one that enables them to be in a position to learn from their mistakes. I believe that any person should have the right to make amends of their past mistakes.


Juvenile sentencings aren‘t easier and less effective; they are designed to give the criminal a chance for success. I would like to ask you readers what is a more challenging conviction: Is it one in which the person is stuck in jail for a long period of time, with nothing to do but fraternize with the fellow inmates? Or is it one in which gives them assistance and rehabilitation towards making better choices in their adulthood? This is what is more appropriate for a person of a young age.
Posted by Lickdafoot 6 years ago
I completely understand since I am eating into your time, sorry. I will have the debate up shortly. If you don't feel as though it was enough time to respond, you can just say so and I will use what i put in the comments as my final argument.
Posted by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
if u could put post it within 12 hrs, it would be much appreciated :))
Posted by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
This week is an examination week, so I might be in some tight schedule... and.. umm, since the clock is ticking on 'my side', I might not have that m time on researching rebuttals... So there's a problem.
Posted by Lickdafoot 6 years ago
okay, thanks. i will have it up as soon as i get home from church tomorrow.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: What F-16 said. I'll vote on args at some point too.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: LDF wrote on my profile saying that she wanted to lose a debate. I'm happy to help :) (I might come back later and vote on arguments though)