The Instigator
dogparktom
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points
The Contender
nheilbrun
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Public Behaviour

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
dogparktom
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/16/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,885 times Debate No: 10140
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (20)
Votes (1)

 

dogparktom

Pro

Resolved, that no circumstance can excuse Ms. Langrall's behaviour in the following incident:

Police: Woman threw urine-soaked sweatshirt on cop
Megan Nicole Langrall was arrested for shoplifting in Shrewsbury Township, police said.
By TED CZECH
Daily Record/Sunday News
Updated: 11/16/2009 08:29:33 AM EST

A Codorus Township woman threw a sweatshirt soaked with urine, saliva and mucus in a state trooper's face after he arrested her for retail theft Saturday, according to state police.
Police arrested Megan Nicole Langrall, 24, at the Wal-Mart in Shrewsbury Township about 4 p.m. They then placed her in the backseat of a police cruiser to take her to state police's barracks in Loganville.

On the way to the barracks, Langrall urinated in the backseat of the cruiser, police said.

Troopers took Langrall inside the barracks and gave her an emergency blanket in which to wrap herself. They also told her that if she was wearing a shirt under her urine-soaked sweatshirt, she could take her sweatshirt off, police said.

When Cpl. William Tucker approached Langrall with several wipes to clean her hands, Langrall took off her sweatshirt -- which contained urine, saliva and mucus -- and threw it in Tucker's face, police said.

Police charged Langrall with retail theft, aggravated harassment by a prisoner, harassment, disorderly conduct, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief.

State police filed the charges before District Judge Walter P. Reamer.

http://ydr.inyork.com...

'Megan Langrall' on Facebook -
http://www.facebook.com...
nheilbrun

Con

Thank you for the chance to argue on public behavior.

It was the great German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche who remarked that "The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it." It is in his words that I find an excuse for Langrall's actions. Which is why I stand firmly in negation of Resolved, that no circumstance can excuse Ms. Langrall's behaviour in the following incident.

I will begin with a brief road-map: Definitions, Interpretation, Observations, Contentions, Voter Terms

In clarification of today's debate, I provide the following definitions from <http://www.merriam-webster.com...;, as the affirmative side has failed to do so:
1)circumstance- a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another
2)excuse- to serve as excuse for, justify
3)Ms. Langrall's behavior- behavior pertaining SPECIFICALLY to Ms. Langrall

Therefore, the resolution can be taken as to meaning...
Resolved: No condition, fact, or event justifies Ms. Langrall's behavior.

As an Observation, Note that all I have to do to win in this debate is prove that at least one condition, fact, or event exists that would attest to the justification of Ms. Langrall's actions as depicted in my Opponent's first constructive.

The following Contentions contain evidence and analysis upholding the negation of the resolution.

Contention 1: Psychiatric Disability is a condition that would justify Ms. Langrall's behavior.
<http://www.bu.edu...;
"Mental illness is a term that describes a broad range of mental and emotional conditions. Mental illness also refers to one portion of the broader ADA term mental impairment, and is different from other covered mental impairments such as mental retardation, organic brain damage, and learning disabilities. The term ‘psychiatric disability' is used when mental illness significantly interferes with the performance of major life activities, such as learning, working and communicating, among others."
Because mental illness can lead to irrational behavior i.e. that of throwing a "urine-soaked sweatshirt on cop", this is a condition that justifies Ms. Langrall's behavior.

Contention 2: Crooked Cops, Drug Addiction, and the Desire for revenge
<http://www.csdp.org...;
"What do America's major cities have in common with L.A.? Crooked cops. Cops faking evidence and lying in court, cops shaking down drug dealers, cops working for dealers, cops stealing the drugs and dealing themselves.
A 1998 GAO report says money isn't the only motive. 'Vigilante justice' is another factor.

Put yourself in the cop's shoes. It's tough to legally find evidence of a drug deal between a willing buyer and seller. To make it stick you're going to have to lie about it on the witness stand. Everybody knows you're lying — the prosecutor, the judge, the bailiff — but nobody complains because that's how you get the job done.

But no matter how many drug dealers you bust, they are instantly replaced. No matter how many tons of drugs you seize, the flow never stops. No matter how much dirty money you confiscate, it keeps bubbling up out of the sewers.

So maybe the tenth time or the twentieth time you hand over a suitcase full of cash to the evidence locker, it dawns on you that this is Mission Impossible. Why not get in on the action and kick a little butt while you're at it.

All across the country — all across the world — the drug war is giving us organized police crime on a frightening scale. It's undermining our criminal justice system and our civil rights. "

As a statement of fact, it is undeniable that being put under arrest under questionable means or charges would upset anyone. Whether or not Ms. Langrall actually was committing theft is the true question. In today's day and age, drugs have proven to be a significant problem. That being said, with no way to distinguish between these "crooked cops" and the cops that uphold the constitution's rights, the policeman dealt with in Ms. Langrall's case could very well have been expressing "vigilante justice", or one of his own personal biases. Since the police report makes no specific incites, inferences can be made where applicable. Thus, though the manner of achieving it is considerably disgusting in the eyes of society, revenge appears to be a highly feasible option for Ms. Langrall. Therefore, however disgusting it may be, Ms. Langrall's possible "circumstances", including Crooked Cops, Drug Addiction, and the Desire for revenge, attest to the justification of her behavior.

Contention 3: Unpredictability of the "Damned Human Race"
<http://www.thedamnedhumanrace.com...;
"One is obliged to concede that in true loftiness of character, Man cannot claim to approach even the meanest of the Higher Animals. It is plain that he is constitutionally incapable of ap�proaching that altitude; that he is constitutionally afflicted with a Defect which must make such approach forever impossible, for it is manifest that this defect is permanent in him, indestructible, ineradicable.

I find this Defect to be the Moral Sense. He is the only animal that has it. It is the secret of his degradation. It is the quality which enables him to do wrong. It has no other office. It is incapable of performing any other function. It could never have been intended to perform any other. Without it, man could do no wrong. He would rise at once to the level of the Higher Animals.

Since the Moral Sense has but the one office, the one capacity (to enable man to do wrong) it is plainly without value to him. It is as valueless to him as is disease. In fact, it manifestly is a disease. Rabies is bad, but it is not so bad as this disease. Rabies enables a man to do a thing, which he could not do when in a healthy state: kill his neighbor with a poisonous bite. One is the better man for having rabies: The Moral Sense enables a man to do wrong. It enables him to do wrong in a thousand ways. Rabies is an innocent disease, compared to the Moral Sense. No one, then, can be the better man for having the Moral Sense. What now, do we find the Primal Curse to have been? Plainly what it was in the beginning: the infliction upon man of the Moral Sense; the ability to distinguish good from evil; and with it, necessarily, the ability to do evil; for there can be no evil act without the presence of consciousness of it in the doer of it.

And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor (some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance) insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirch less innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development (namable as the Human Being). Below us, nothing."

In Mark Twain(Samuel Clemens)'s "Damned Human Race", Twain notes that it is mankind's irrational Moral Sense which both distinguishes between right and wrong and allows for mankind to take part in both. In relation to the case of Ms. Langrall, her condition may have been solely the irrationality defined by Twain's in depth thesis. Despite its lack of moral permissibility, said condition still serves to justify Ms. Langrall's actions.

In regards to voter terms, having shown at least one condition, fact, or event exists that attests to the justification of Ms. Langrall's actions as depicted in my Opponent's first constructive, I have met the criteria for winning this debate. I have shown that Psychiatric Disability, Crooked Cops, Drug Addiction, the Desire for revenge, and the overall irrationality of the human race serve as conditions, or circumstances, justifying Ms Langrall's "behaviour", thus winning this debate five times over. Therefore I strongly urge a ballot in favor of the negative.

Thank You
Debate Round No. 1
dogparktom

Pro

Thank you, nheilbrun, for joining me in debating this proposition.

First, you offer the following definition of 'circumstance' - 'a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another.."

I will agree to the following limiting amendment to the definition: "...or determining Ms. Langrall's behavior during the incident of her arrest. There must be an actual connection between the condition, fact, or event cited and relied upon by you and the specific person, Ms. Langrall.

Second, regarding your definition of 'excuse' - "to serve as excuse for, justify..", I contend that it is insufficient. Rather, we should use a legal dictionary such as http://dictionary.lp.findlaw.com... . Here are the relevant definitions:

excuse
[ik-'sky�s]

1: "excusal"
2 a: a circumstance that allows for release under the law from an obligation, duty, or contractual liability
(compare act of god force majeure fortuitous event impossibility of performance)
b: a circumstance (as a physical threat) that grants immunity for otherwise tortious or criminal conduct
(compare justification privilege)

justification
['jes-te-fe-'ka-shen]

1: the act or an instance of justifying
2: something that justifies
specif : a legally sufficient reason or cause (as self-defense) for an act that would otherwise be criminal or tortious
3: the affirmative defense of having a legally sufficient justification
(compare excuse)

In light of the above definitions, I contend that you must cite something relating to Ms. Langrall that is sufficient under the law to relieve her from criminal liability.

Next I will respond to Con's Contentions:

Contention 1. Psychiatric Disability...

The fact, per se, that a defendant suffered from a mental illness or defect does not automatically excuse the defendant from responsibility for his or her actions that are alleged to be criminal. Rather, the defendant must offer sufficient proof of the mental illness or defect and its relation to the alleged criminal behavior before the judge or jury decides that he or she is relieved from responsibility for the alleged crime.

Here is the relevant Pennsylvania law from PAJUR CRIMLAW 4.13 AND 4.14:

Legal insanity is grounds for complete acquittal in Pennsylvania.[FN1] The verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" means that the defendant did commit the act, but because of his mental illness he cannot be legally responsible.[FN2] In other words, a defense of insanity acknowledges commission of the act by the defendant, while maintaining the absence of legal culpability.[FN3]
The test of legal insanity is not whether the defendant was mentally ill from a medical viewpoint,[FN4] but whether the defendant knew what he was doing and knew that it was wrong.[FN5]
Illustrations: The court did not err in its instruction to the jury regarding mental illness when it defined legal insanity as requiring that the actor was either incapable of knowing what he was doing or incapable of judging that it was wrong.[FN6] Also, testimony which suggested that the defendant purposefully committed the criminal acts in a secluded spot, that he purposefully fled from the scene when a car approached, that he attempted to destroy evidence and to disguise his appearance, and that he knew that he had killed someone, and that it was wrong to do so, was sufficient to rebut the defendant's insanity defense.[FN7]

The insanity defense, as it has developed in Pennsylvania, is more than a layman's approximation of the degree of mental soundness necessary to possess the requisite mental state for the commission of the crime.[FN8] Rather, it is a societal judgment as to the minimal mental capacity that must be possessed by the actor to be held criminally responsible for his acts.[FN9]

CUMULATIVE SUPPLEMENT

� 4:14. Motive; distinctions

West's Key Number Digest

West's Key Number Digest, Criminal Law 47 to 51

The fact that mental disturbance provides the motive for criminal conduct does not, by itself, entitle the perpetrator to an acquittal by reason of insanity.[FN1] Examination of the motive for a crime will rarely reveal that the perpetrator is in the best of mental health.[FN2] A history of mental illness also does not settle the issues of competency and insanity.[FN3] Nor is the incomprehensibility or bizarreness of someone's behavior determinative of his legal sanity or competency to stand trial.[FN4]

Thus, Con's argument ("Because mental illness can lead to irrational behavior, i.e. that of throwing a "urine -soaked sweatshirt on cop", this is a condition that justifies Ms. Langrall's behavior." is (a) insufficient as a condition, and (2) insufficient in law.

Contention 2. Crooked cops, Drug Addiction, and the Desire for revenge.

Con's argument is pure speculation and conjecture. His inference of revenge is not based on any actual fact regarding the arresting officers. Thus, the claim that the police officers arrested her based from a motive of revenge cannot serve as a circumstance JUSTIFYING Langrall's behavior.

Contention 3. Unpredictability of the "Damned Human Race"

Con makes and relies upon an argument from authority. The authority is an essay by Mark Twain, the specific aspect being, "the irrationality defined by Twain's in depth thesis." First, the argument from authority in this instance is fallacious. http://en.wikipedia.org... . Con uses a claim (his in depth thesis) by Twain as a circumstance of Ms. Langrall when there is no evidence of any connection between the two.

I look forward to the next round of arguments.

Tom
nheilbrun

Con

Brief Road-map: Definitions Debate, Contentions, Voter Terms

While my opponent's definitions are sound, they apply to the practice of law in the United States. This is not a court of law. And while my opponent might argue that the resolution refers to a court case, we must again look at my opponent's first constructive:

"Resolved, that no circumstance can excuse Ms. Langrall's behaviour in the following incident:

Police: Woman threw urine-soaked sweatshirt on cop"

In no way does this my opponent's diction allude to debating over judicial permissibility. His interpretation is non-sequitir being as how any logical human could see where throwing a urine soaked sweatshirt on a cop is inappropriate and calls for punishment. My opponent favors a one-sided debate, where his case is basically a moving target. In looking at the debate from my interpretation, where we are debating over whether a situation could warrant her behavior, the grounds are more even, and it provides for a far more satisfying debate.

In addition, my opponent's definition of circumstance takes mine out of context. My definition is "circumstance- a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another", while my opponent claims his definition is "or determining another", which is clearly abusive.

I will now move on to my contentions.

Contention 1:Psychiatric Disability
Clearly, in any situation, when someone is of a handicapped mental caliber, they are to be excused from their wrongdoing. Like a child acting out, the parents, our those who are guardians, are responsible for the child's actions. My Opponent's case attests to that simple fact: "insanity is grounds for complete acquittal in Pennsylvania.[FN1] The verdict of 'not guilty by reason of insanity' means that the defendant did commit the act, but because of his mental illness he cannot be legally responsible". While my opponent will attempt to argue my contention does not apply because it must relate to the case itself, it must be noted that the resolution simply calls for conditions that would justify Ms. Langrall's actions, and also that my opponent cannot prove that Ms. Langrall does not have a mental condition.

Contention 2:Crooked cops, Drug Addiction, and the Desire for revenge
My opponent's claims for my second condition only relate to my sub-point about revenge. He ignores the possibility of cops being crooked, and Ms. Langrall's possibility of being on drugs. In addition, my opponent's point on revenge is void and null because of the fact that, while not morally permissible, desires for revenge could justify throwing a urine soaked sweatshirt on a cop. My opponent could argue that since these conditions are only a possibility, they do jnot stand as viable arguments. However, they fit the requirements of the resolution, and are therefore valid.

Contention 3: Unpredictability of the "Damned Human Race"
In this contention, I use Mark Twain's writings solely as an example, as Mark Twain is articulating upon the raw irrationality of Homo sapiens. My opponent claims this is fallacious because I am using Mark Twain at the core of my thesis, and using his word as law. However, even without Mark Twain's well developed literature, my contention would still stand. The irrationality of the human race still serves to justify Ms. Langrall's actions, proving the connection between my contention and the con side of the resolution.

I have proven why my opponent's case is abusive and does not apply to the resolution he has provided. In addition, I have defended my contentions, and I Still prove that there are conditions justifying Ms. Langrall's actions. My opponent takes my words out of context and drops several points, including that of crooked cops and drug addiction. He also ignores my last connection stating solely that it is fallacious without truly refuting. Because my case still stands tall against the pro side, I urge a con vote. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
dogparktom

Pro

Con states " In no way does this my opponent's diction allude to debating over judicial permissibility. His interpretation is non-sequitir being as how any logical human could see where throwing a urine soaked sweatshirt on a cop is inappropriate and calls for punishment." (Emphasis added)

I respectfully inquire if Con's statement "...throwing a urine soaked sweatshirt on a cop is inappropriate and calls for punishment" is a legal or a moral conclusion? Con can answer and clarify his statement in the next round.

It is axiomatic that the infliction of punishment on a person presupposes that the person has been found to have committed a legally or morally wrongful act. A civilized society does not punish innocent people. 1 Since it is not disputed that Ms. Langrall "[threw] a urine soaked sweatshirt on a cop," it follows that she should be punished. In other words, Con is implicitly conceding that Langrall's action should not be excused.

I will now respond to Con's Contentions:

Contention 1. Psychiatric Disability.

Con's citing 'a child acting out" is irrelevant because Ms. Langrall is an adult. She is 24 years old.

Next, Con states: "that my opponent cannot prove that Ms. Langrall does not have a mental condition." But, Con has the burden of proof. It is fallacious for Con to demand that Pro prove a negative. 2

Con's argument is in contradiction. He claims above that Ms. Langrall should be punished, but under this contention she should be excused because of an assumed psychiatric disability.

Contention 2. Crooked Cops, Drug Addiction, Desire for Revenge.

We are debating a concrete fact situation which became a pending criminal case. Con argues from possibilities. But possibilities are irrelevant to a concrete case.

Con states above: "In addition, my opponent's point on revenge is void and null because of the fact that, while not morally permissible, desires for revenge could justify throwing a urine soaked sweatshirt on a cop." Con's justification based on revenge is inconsistent with his statement above that "any logical human could see where throwing a urine soaked sweatshirt on a cop is inappropriate and calls for punishment."

Con's argument is in contradiction. He claims above that Ms. Langrall should be punished, but under this contention he claims that she should be excused because of assumed circumstances of Crooked Cops, Drug Addiction, or Revenge.

Con's arguments are incoherent 3 and contradictory.

Contention 3. Unpredictability of the damned human race.

Con states and argues: "The irrationality of the human race still serves to justify Ms. Langrall's actions,"

Con's argument is contrary to human history and thought, specifically, to such histories of law and of moral philosophy. Accepting the obvious, that man acts irrationally on occasion, does not entail that he should be relieved of either legal or moral responsibility for his wrongful actions. To hold otherwise would mean that no one could be held responsible for any action that is claimed to be either illegal or immoral.

Abusiveness:
On two occasions in his argument above, Con charges me with being "abusive." For Con to be consistent, I would argue, he should also admit that when someone is 'abusive' their actions are excused or justified because of the irrationality of the human race.

Con's argument is in contradiction. He claims above that Ms. Langrall should be punished, but under this contention he claims that she should be excused because of the irrationality of the human race.
_____________________
1. http://en.wikipedia.org... ; http://www.merriam-webster.com... ; http://dictionary.lp.findlaw.com...
2. " The fallacy of demanding negative proof -
http://en.wikipedia.org...
3. Incoherent - http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
4. Abusive - http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
nheilbrun

Con

nheilbrun forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by daniel_t 7 years ago
daniel_t
1) "Resolved, that no circumstance can excuse ..." Mental illness is a circumstance that can excuse her actions, if it can be demonstrated. If all you wanted to do is resolve that nothing in the newspaper article or police report suggests a circumstance that makes her behavior excusable, you should have resolved that.

2) The newspaper article is obviously biased toward the police or at least only reports their side of the story. All of the stages you mention are alleged. She may not have done 1, 2, or 3. There may have been misbehavior on the officers' part during the transportation. Even 5 may not have occurred.
Posted by dogparktom 7 years ago
dogparktom
In this debate, mental illness is just a POSSIBILITY as a defense (and, thus, NO FACT upon which one can infer an excuse or justification) to the criminal charges. There is nothing in the newspaper article that justifies an inference of mental illness. Langrall's BEHAVIOR happened in stages:
1. She voluntarily entered the Wal-Mart store.
2. She voluntarily engaged in conduct in the store involving some merchandise. (usually, shoplifters engage in suspicious behavior and are watched - at this point, just an ATTEMPTED theft charge could be lodged against her)
3. She voluntarily left the store with merchandise that had not been paid for. ( A THEFT charge could then be issued against her and she was arrested by store security who then called the state police)
4. She was transported (apparently without any misbehavior) to the police barracks.
5. In the barracks she voluntarily threw the urine-soaked sweatshirt at the officer.

The newspaper article ( which must be based on the filed police complaint and supporting affidavit of probable cause) does not state ANY BEHAVIOR THAT IS SUGGESTIVE OF MENTAL ILLNESS.

Thus, I contend that mental illness is just a POSSIBILITY and, whether morally or legally, there is no excuse or justification for her behavior.
Posted by daniel_t 7 years ago
daniel_t
@RoyLatham: "circumstance 1. a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action." Yes, I think the state of the individual who initiated the action fits the definition.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
daniel_t, Hmmm. Is mental illness a "circumstance"?
Posted by daniel_t 7 years ago
daniel_t
Con has this one sown up. Pro has already admitted that there is at least one circumstance that would excuse Ms. Langrall's behavior...

Pro said, "The fact, per se, that a defendant suffered from a mental illness or defect does not automatically excuse the defendant from responsibility for his or her actions that are alleged to be criminal." Which means that mental illness *can* excuse the defendant, it doesn't *automatically* do so, but it *can*, thus her behavior is excusable.
Posted by dogparktom 7 years ago
dogparktom
I have posted a message in the education forum regarding this debate. It relates to use of the word 'inappropriate' to describe Ms. Langrall's behavior toward the arresting officer. http://www.debate.org...
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
IMHO, there is no obligation of one side to accept the definitions claimed by the other. There is an exception if the definitions are given in the opening argument and also made a condition of accepting the challenge. That didn't happen in this debate. Which definitions apply can be argued from the context of the posed challenge. Here Pro can claim that it was implied that leg definitions apply because there is a court case at issue, while Con can claim that common sense definitions ought to apply because this is a debate site not a legal site. The audience gets to vote on which is most compelling.
Posted by dogparktom 7 years ago
dogparktom
I received this email from the PA police in response to my fax sent yesterday:

Mr. Bieter,

I received your fax requesting a copy of a police report in reference to an incident with Ms. Langrall.

Unfortunately, PSP criminal reports are not accessible to the public.

The criminal complaint and attached affidavit of probable cause would in fact be public record. These items would most likely be available for public inspection at the District Court where it was filed. (Judge REAMER'S office in Shrewsbury PA). I am not stationed in that county, so I do not have that district court's contact information. I am sure you could obtain that via an internet search (PA District courts, 19th district).

If you have any further questions, direct them to Troop H, York. 717-428-1011.

Cpl. William M. Mowrey
Patrol Supervisor
Pennsylvania State Police
Troop H, Harrisburg
Posted by nheilbrun 7 years ago
nheilbrun
I have no problem continuing the debate. You argue how you argue, I will argue how I argue. Let's see how it turns out.
Posted by dogparktom 7 years ago
dogparktom
Do you want to continue the debate or not?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by dogparktom 7 years ago
dogparktom
dogparktomnheilbrunTied
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Total points awarded:70