The Instigator
Pro (for)
5 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Professional Juries Should Be Used in the U.S. Justice System

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/17/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 13,908 times Debate No: 39087
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (2)




In this debate, I will be arguing that professional juries SHOULD be used in the United States justice system. So, my opponent will be arguing that we should not use professional juries and use the current jury system we have now. If you don't want to make an argument in the first round, I'll start in the second round.
Hoping to have a nice debate!


This issue is dear to me. I thank Con for the opportunity.
Our jury system in the US is based on a noble history of nullification. The point of having a jury of your peers instead of a professional jury is that, if the government passes some untenable and tyrannical law, they will have to take the accused before a jury to determine whether or not that law is fit to be applied.
Our system is partially based on Scotland's system. In Scotland, there are not two, but THREE possible determinations by the jury. Like us, they have guilty and not guilty, but they also have "not proven"(1).
The reason for this can be seen when you realize what guilty and not guilty mean. Guilty doesn't mean "the accused did it" it means "the accused did something wrong for which there is reason for guilt".
Doing what the state says one ought not to do is NOT the same as being guilty.

The history of the common law right to jury nullification actually goes back to before the USA was founded. The jury refused to convict the Quakers for breaking the law banning religious congregation (2 pg. 1) (3). In 1735, a jury refused to convict a journalist for criticizing a public official (2 pg. 2) (3).

The reason the South was getting uppity in the years leading up to the civil war is because fugitive slaves were not being sent back to their owners in the South despite the Fugitive Slave Act.
The slaves were CERTAINLY being arrested, but they were being found not guilty regardless of the facts (2 pg. 15).

There is also reason to believe that that's why the prohibition on alcohol ended. It became impossible to enforce in some areas because the juries would always find the accused not guilty (2 pg. 14) (3).

However, this glorious (in my opinion) system has fallen under attack in recent years because even though it is a common law RIGHT to nullify the law and to find the accused not guilty regardless of the facts, it is now common for judges in the US to LIE about the existence of that right.
Judges are not only able to neglect to mention that juries have the right to nullify, the Supreme Court has also upheld the right of the presiding judge to lie to the jury about that right- to actually instruct the jury that they are only to judge the facts of the case and not the law itself (3)(4).
If the system were designed in such a way that juries were meant to judge the facts only, then yes, a professional jury would be preferred. However, our system is fantastic because of the fact that the people are the very last and most powerful check against government overextension.

It is the fourth branch of the United States and it is under attack. If anything it is to be restored, not disassembled.


Debate Round No. 1


You make good points about the benefits of a non-professional jury. I definitely agree that there are benefits of a non-professional jury, but I think the cons outweigh the pros.

First, think about the jurors themselves. They are literally picked up out of their lives and dropped into a courtroom. They have jobs they need to do and family they want to be with. I think this is a bit inconsiderate towards these people, because they have to put their whole life on pause because of some trial they most likely don't want to be a part of. Why should these people have to do this? Why is this their job?

Next, you have to consider that the professional jurors are probably American citizens as well. Most of the time, they will make decisions based on the law, but they would also have the right to determine a situation where something is against the law, but that law should be changed based on the crime committed in order to make the law more fair.

You say that non-professional juries can help keep the government's power in check, which is true. However, that only applies to situations where the law is determined unfair and the verdict should be determined by the people instead of the law. However, this only applies in certain situations. Most of the time, the jury needs to know the law so they can make an accurate verdict for a certain charge. Let's say I am something like a car salesman. I may be very good at what I do, but I probably don't know much about law. This leads to a situation where I cannot make an accurate and fair decision because I am not properly educated in law.

To me, juror is a specialized position. Not anyone can do it, because there is a right way and a wrong way to do the job. It's the reason that doctors aren't baseball players and waiters aren't CEO's. Each job is specialized and you need the tools and education to do it right. To me, non-professional juries are like taking random people off the street to operate on people. This situation is very important, because someone's life may hang in the balance. I don't believe the job of surgeon should be given to people who can't do the job properly based on the fact that they have never been properly educated on the subject.

So, I certainly agree that non-professional juries can help keep the government's power in check. But, non-professional juries also come with the fact that the jurors often know nearly nothing about law and therefore cannot make a decision based on the law. Professional juries can also keep the government's power in check in the same way, but they are also educated enough on the subject to make good decisions.

I think this is going to be a good debate. I'm looking forward to your next argument!



"Why is this their job?"
Because that's the price we pay for a civilized judicial system. If we don't have a random sampling, we won't have proper representation. It's the finest example of demarchy.

What if the US had professional juries during the era of the Fugitive Slave Act? The jurors would be well-paid, powerful, white men whose only incentive would be to uphold the law.

"…they would also have the right to determine a situation where something is against the law, but that law should be changed based on the crime committed in order to make the law more fair."
No they wouldn't. A juror does not have the right to change the law. He/she only has the right to nullify it.
I suppose a professional juror could choose not to vote a particular way, but he/she would have political ramifications because their job exists only at the behest of those who nominated them. Only the politically powerful would continue to serve on juries.
If a professional juror found a case not guilty when the government REALLY wanted a guilty, you can bet his/her character would suddenly come under fire.

"Most of the time, the jury needs to know the law so they can make an accurate verdict for a certain charge."
I disagree profusely. The jury does not at all need to know the law. That's what the judge and lawyers are for. They inform the juries on what parts of the law are relevant and how to come to a decision based on the law. The verdict they make IS accurate. Especially since the vast majority of laws that go up before a jury include such terms as "reasonable". In American law, "reasonable" is defined as "a reasonable person would...". If the only people judging whether or not a thing is reasonable are people hired by the state in the first place, we would have a GLARING fault in the system.

"…I cannot make an accurate and fair decision because I am not properly educated in law."
It does not. Why would you have to be educated in the law in order to think fairly? If someone presents to you a case, you would be able to say what you think is fair regardless of what the State has determined is fair.

"Not anyone can do it, because there is a right way and a wrong way to do the job."
Right and wrong are subjective and based on society's standards. What better way to test society's standards than a random sampling of society? It's scientific.

"…jurors often know nearly nothing about law"
And they aren't supposed to. If they know about the law, they skew the results. That's why jurors are made to leave when certain objections are being made by either side of the case. The jury is only supposed to know what the judge and lawyers present.

"…therefore cannot make a decision based on the law"
If a lawyer said 'if A, then B'. Would you say "Woah, now, I don't know about all that legal stuff!"?

It is imperative that the jury remain neutral.

Like I said, this is a topic I really enjoy, so I'm interested to see your responses.

Debate Round No. 2


"Why is their job?":
Your answer doesn't really answer the question. The question is this; why are American people forced to do a job they have no experience. You say that that creates proper representation. But in the courtroom, which opinion is more relevant; a person who has no idea what they are doing, or a person who knows the situation and how the law applies to it. This is NOT THEIR JOB, because there are certain things that should be known before doing the job. Second, I am not talking about the past; this debate is about whether or not they should be used NOW. They may have worked better back then, but things change. Slavery is no longer legal, and that worked well back then for the landowners and the economy. We need to change systems as time passes.

Next question:
What I meant to say is that professional jurors can also determine something that is unfair and illegal and choose to nullify it. Their job exists for the sake of the justice system. Judges can make unpopular decisions and keep their job. Everyone comes under fire for unpopular decisions, including non-professional jurors. No one can prevent that. But that won't change the decision.

Sorry, but this is absolutely ridiculous. You're saying the people who determine what verdict should be handed down should NOT have to know anything about law. That makes no sense at all. They need to know the law for themselves so they can make accurate decisions. Professional jurors ARE reasonable people. They can make "reasonable" decisions. But if all they know about the law comes from lawyers, they are going to have two very biased views of the same thing, which is like trying to see through glasses with two different lenses. Everything gets blurred. Jurors should know the law before making decisions about what its says!

This is also a but ridiculous. Fairness is part of a juror's decision, but the law is a big part of it too. Professional jurors know both fairness and law, and non-professional jurors only know what they think is fair. We take the opinions of random people to determine the outcome of murder cases. That simple makes no sense. If John was on a murder trial jury and he wasn't very smart, he could make any sort of unreasonable decision and have it protected. The opinion of a random person shouldn't be enough to sentence anyone on.

This is like saying we should random select people to perform surgeries. That way, we can find out what the "right" way is to do it. I can see what you are saying, but a profession is a profession.

"If they know the law, they skew the results". This just makes no sense. People who know the law should not make decisions based on the law in situations where they are supposed to make a decision based on the law and what they think is fair. This doesn't make sense.

Jurors still need to know a place's laws to determine a verdict.

I really don't understand your argument of "jurors shouldn't understand the law."


"Your answer doesn't really answer the question... You say that that creates proper representation"
So... I DID answer the question.

"which opinion is more relevant;”
I would prefer to be judged by my peers than by a group of people whose only incentive is to uphold the law. If I shoot a man who was trying to shoot me, and there's no self-defense law, I would be guilty of murder to your professional jury and innocent to a citizen jury.

"I am not talking about the past;"
I am. The past is relevant. Do you think that we live in some utopia where no further social issues can arise? Where the government will never again back a tyrannical law? Maybe slavery will never happen again, but prohibition is already happening now. Marijuana is illegal and if you go to court for marijuana possession, a citizen jury MIGHT acquit you, but a professional jury would NEVER.

"They may have worked better back then, but things change."
Convenient to not say how things changed.

"Judges can make unpopular decisions and keep their job"
Judges can make downright illegal decisions and keep their job. You WANT that? Judges keep their jobs because we don't elect them, we vote to retain them and no one is politically active in checking their judges.

"that won't change the decision."
That's naive, in my opinion. Of course it affects their decision.

"That makes no sense at all" "two very biased views"
If you have a law degree, both lawyers will probably choose to not have you on the jury. They don't WANT jurors who know the law. They want an impartial jury that can make the decision based on what facts are presented. We have an adversarial system for that reason. Our system is to find guilt, not truth. Biased views do NOT make it less true. It is designed for biased views. We want the defense to zealously defend and the prosecution to zealously prosecute.

"about what its says!"
Therein lies the problem. Jurors AREN'T making decisions about what the law says. That's what the judge is for. Jurors are making decisions about the law itself.

"opinion of a random"
It isn't. A guilty verdict can be undone. A not-guilty one cannot. That's the beauty of it.

"perform surgeries"
No. It's not. At all. The law answers to the people. Medicine is hard science.

"know the law"
A person who knows the law knows more of the law than you are presenting.

"Jurors still need"
Yes, and they are instructed of the law during the trial. They must only know the law which is presented to them and not more than that.
Knowing more than that skews the results.

I don't understand how you think politically elected juries wouldn't be subject to political pressure. Judges are.
I also don't understand the high esteem in which you hold the law. It isn't magic; it's just what a bunch of people decided was fair. That's why I want to be able to further check what's fair to society with a citizen jury.

Debate Round No. 3


This is my conclusion, so I'll keep it short.

My opponent says that decisions by the jury should be based on what they think is fair influenced by statements from the lawyers on each side and the judge. I think that a basic knowledge of the law would make juries more fair, because then jurors can make decisions based on the law and also make decisions based on what is fair or not.

A law describes a certain offense and how one determines if that law is relevant to an offense. If someone commits an offense, the jury has to decide whether they are guilty of that offense under the law. If they do not know the law, how can they decide whether something is legal or not? My opponent, for the entire debate, has said that jurors do not need to know the law.
How is one supposed to make a decision about the law without knowing anything about the law? One of the reasons we have laws is so that they will be FOLLOWED. Decisions in a jury should mainly be based on the law.

If I think it is fair for a criminal to be found not guilty just because I'm in a good mood that day, what's the point of our jury system?

So, I think my opponent's arguments don't make much sense. Is deciding the fate of criminals a profession? I think so. I think you need training to do it and there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Just like if people had been pulled off the streets to do other important jobs like surgeries, people shouldn't be pulled off the streets, away from their lives, in order to make decisions that they barely understand and don't want to make.

Just think about the arguments for a second. Should juries decide based on the law or on their personal feelings? If they make decisions based on the law, we should have professional juries. If they make decisions based on their feelings, what is the point of even having laws?


“…and also make decisions based on what is fair or not.”

Therein lies the problem with Pro’s view. It is essentially the argument that if we elect politicians, they’ll decide what’s fair for us. There’s no chance for corruption. If there is corruption, just don’t vote for them next time (there’s no next time for the people already in jail). There’s no reason for our voice to be included in any way except for choosing them in the first place.

“A law describes a certain offense and how one determines if that law is relevant to an offense.”

True. And the jury is the check to make sure the law isn’t tyrannical. Laws were made by people and people can be wrong.

“Once unions were against the law, but slavery was fine.

Women were denied the vote, and children worked the mines...

A rotten law stays on the books ‘til folks like us defy it”

“… guilty of that offense under the law.”

No, the jury has to decide whether or not they are guilty regardless of the law. It doesn’t matter what the law says if it’s a bad law or a bad application of the law.

“… how can they decide whether something is legal or not?”

I don’t see what Pro doesn’t understand about the lawyers and judges explaining the law. Do you think that a person trained in the law is not qualified to explain a law? Not all laws, just the law at hand.

“…said that jurors do not need to know the law.”

No, I said that they do not need to know MORE law than that which is relevant to the case at hand. That law will be elaborated upon extensively throughout the trial. Anyone who has actually attended a jury trial knows this.

“…they will be FOLLOWED”

“Slave, get back to yer shed! Leavin’s illegal dontchaknow?”

“…what's the point of our jury system?”

1. There’s no logical reason to believe that exact thing wouldn’t happen with a professional jury. It happens all the time with non-jury trials now.

2. The point of the jury trial is not to get convictions. It’s to have a check on government tyranny.

“…important jobs like surgeries…”

Medicine is way more black and white than the law. The law is nothing but gray areas. Ask any person who’s been to law school.

“… what is the point of even having laws?”

Con is implying here that laws must be in opposition to what the people want. Murder is illegal. If you were in a good mood one day, would you let a murderer off the hook?

If a law is a good, just law, the peer jury would never revolt against it.

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

How do we know that the law was enacted in a way that the people intended? Peer juries.


I think I deserve to get at least sources and conduct for this debate. Pro attacked me in the comments and did not present any sources at all. I would also hope to get the better argument points because I actually fleshed things out instead of just repeating that my opponent was making silly arguments. With that in mind, I hope you do vote Con.

Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ironknight47 3 years ago
Well, I apologize if I sounded condescending. I definitely did not mean to. All I meant was that your very arguments seemed to contradict themselves. People making decisions based partly on the law should not know anything about the law. I guess that just didn't make a lot of sense to me.
If you feel that way, I'll try to be more respectful in my comments for any future debates.
Posted by Darris 3 years ago
If someone disagrees with you, you shouldn't say "well that's just ridiculous, I mean, listen to yourself."
It implies that I haven't thought about my arguments and that I'm not logical. If you want to show that my arguments don't have merit, you have to say why. If you want to convince me to change my mind, you shouldn't say "I mean, just listen to yourself".
It's belittling and condescending.
Posted by ironknight47 3 years ago
I still don't get how what I said is not civil. I don't understand your arguments and quite honestly I think they are pretty ridiculous, or at least strange.
Posted by Darris 3 years ago
I was limited to 3000 characters, so there wasn't a lot of room for development. I used all of my available characters every time. Sometimes I reverted to sarcasm because it got the point across more quickly.
If it were a 10,000 character debate, I would have fleshed out the arguments much further. I usually write the debate in a word processor and then copy it into the box because it occasionally lags on me when I type into directly.
I'm not contesting your vote, I'm just giving my reasons so that you might understand why I did what I did.
Posted by Darris 3 years ago
" Your argument that people who decide things based on the law should not know the law is ridiculous. Just listen to your arguments."
No. That's not civil.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Suggestions for Improvement:

Pro - use sources to back your analysis. Provide some framework to weigh the debate, especially if you're the instigator. Provide Voting Issue and don't be too brief in your concluding arguments.

Con - cut the sarcasm. Adjust your formatting. Accompany your claims with analysis!

Have fun on DDO!
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
RFD Cont'd:


Pro - You make a good point--juries need legal competence. They are not ONLY judging the fairness of the law, but also whether the criminal is technically guilty under the law. This requires a basic understanding of legal precepts. I would have liked a more thorough analysis/crystallization of the debate, but your points were adequately reiterated and defended.

Con - Again, way too much sarcasm. Your formatting is to in-your-face and your spacing is odd. I would like more than one sentence rebuttals. Develop your points! Thank you for providing me with voters.

RFD Conclusion:

Con showed that nullification is an important function of juries. Yet, it is not the only function. Insofar as juries must also judge one's guilt under the law, they need some comprehension of the law. Professional juries would fulfill this need, and may also, to a much lesser extent, be able to nullify laws. Thus, I find Pro's case more compelling. Arguments to Pro/ Due to poor formatting and occasionally grammatical errors by Con--though BOTH could benefit from proofreading--I give s/g to Pro. Con's sarcasm, especially evident in R3, conduct goes Pro. For being the only one to provide sources, I give the remaining 2 points to Con. Congrats on a good debate!
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
RFD: I will provide my stream-of-conscious analysis as I go over the debate round-by-round. I will conclude with the ultimate reasons why I voted as I did.


Con - Provides sources. How is jury nullification necessarily relevant--the topic is about professional juries, not the nullification principle. I'd like some clearer connections to the resolution, though I see what you're trying to say.


Pro - Nice, well-formatted constructive speech. I would have liked some independent offense of your own. As it stands, your entire speech is written in response to Con. So, it's like saying "Con isn't negating." But why then are you affirming? I would like some points of your own that are not rebuttals to Con...okay, I'm finally getting a bit of this at the end of your speech where you talk about specialization. You should provide sources for this to add credence to your points. Still though, it's not much unique offense.

Con - I'm not liking your formatting or your spacing. It's awkward. Isn't the purpose of nullification to render the law void--in a sense that does change the laws by effectively removing a law from the books? I would like you to develop your response more--two or three sentences seems insufficient to fully articulate some of your points. You're a bit sarcastic...


Pro - again, nice formatting. It's not in-your-face, but it's organized. Good responses to the first 2 questions. Your rebuttal to the third point assumes the argument. Yes, Con is arguing that laymen should be jurors because that is what the resolution requires him to do. You can't blain him for that. You're assuming that lay = bad before you've proven it.

Con - Your examples, like the one where no self-defense statutes exists, are a bit outrageous. They tend toward reduction ad absurdum. You give one liners without adequate explanations; your arguments are thin. You haven't proven that juries are judging the law, and not the criminals themselves. I need warrants!
Posted by ironknight47 3 years ago
I'm not being civil?
Posted by Darris 3 years ago
Hey, man. Keep it civil and keep it in the debate.
They're not making decisions based on the law. That's where we differ. You think they should make decisions based on the law. I think they should make decisions based on their conscience.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by bsh1 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:52 
Reasons for voting decision: Good debate. This was an interesting topic, and both sides brought up good points. My RFD is in comments, but I'll assign points here. Conduct: Pro; S/G: Pro; Arguments: Pro; Sources: Con. I vote Pro.
Vote Placed by thett3 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I think the winning argument was the Jury nullification scenario brought up by Con. Pro also never gave a mechanism for how professional juries would be selected in the US, so I think it's a fair assumption on Cons part that they will only be gained by the politically well connected. So much for a jury of one's peers. Most importantly Pro has the burden of proof to change the status quo, and his arguments don't really give us enough reason to desire this. Yeah, Jury duty yanks people out of their lives but Pro doesn't sell the impact very well and Cons arguments definitely outweigh. I think Pro could've strengthened his argument against lay juries by showing obvious lapses of judgements from juries due to their ignorance of the law, but Con is right that it's the job of the court officials to instruct the Jury about the law.