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Resolved: In the United States, the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/13/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 720 times Debate No: 19271
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
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Ok so this is an interesting debate
Round 1- Acceptance
Round 2- Case
Round 3- rebuttal
round 4- summary
round 5- final focus


Challenge accepted
Debate Round No. 1


I affirm resolved: In the United States, the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government.
Principle: a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning
Jury Nullification: the acquitting of a defendant by a jury in disregard of the judge's instructions and contrary to the jury's findings of fact
Just: Fair in one's dealings or actions
Check: Means of control or restraint
I offer the following observations for the round:
1. The United States is a Democratic Republic, meaning that it uses principles of democracy with respect to the fact that these democratic powers will be used by the people to elect individuals to represent them in the government. Thus, such a government system is still based upon its people.
2. In the current system of law-making, people do not have any direct say in such processes.
Contention 1: Jury nullification helps to reform unjust laws. As Adam Scheflin and Jon Van Dyke write, "Jury nullification, rather than destroying the law, is necessary to protect it. As Roscoe Pound pointed out long ago, the law on the books is often quite different from the law in practice. "Jury lawlessness," he said, "is the great corrective of law in its actual administration."' When the law becomes too rigid, too mechanical, or too far behind public opinion, the jury may make minor adjustments to bring it back into conformity with justice. In this way, according to Pound, the letter of the law may be kept, yet the jury may be allowed to accommodate it to the law in practice. The more juries exercise their power to acquit, the more they illustrate the defects in the legal system that need correcting by more equitable legislation or prosecutorial practices." Thus, from this card one can see that jury nullification can be used to fix flaws that are present in the legal system and make changes that will make the system more just.
Subpoint A: Jury nullification can lead to the removal of unjust laws and prevent oppressive government. As Travis Hreno writes, "However, if it is oppressive, or if laws like it are enforced in an oppressive manner, this oppression can not succeed without the cooperation of a jury. A jury prevented from nullifying in some manner simply becomes a passive participant in such oppression. A jury not prevented from nullifying, on the other hand, is in the position to prevent such oppression from continuing by refusing to return a guilty verdict in spite of sufficient evidence of the defendant's guilt. This has a two-fold effect. First, the individual defendant is spared the imposition of a criminal sanction under an oppressive law. Secondly, laws that are routinely nullified, soon cease to exist. Thus, the ability to nullify allows the jury to prevent the government from oppressing its citizens through the law both on the micro and macro levels." Thus, this card shows us how jury nullification can directly legitimize governments through the removal of unjust laws, increasing justice. Furthermore, as Harris Mirkin writes, "Juries, as seen by the founding fathers, served as an alternative to revolution because juries could prevent the enforcement of those laws which would give rise to a right of revolution." Thus, this shows us that jury nullification is a way to express disapproval with the government without causing outright revolt, which is a much more harmful process.
Contention 2: Jury nullification provides necessary flexibility in the legal system. As John Wigmore writes, "The whole basis of our general confidence in the judge rests on our experience that we can rely on him for the law as it is. But, this being so, the repeated instances of hardship and injustice that are bound to occur in the judge's rulings will in the long run injure that same public confidence in justice, and bring odium on the law. Now this is where the jury comes in. The jury, in the privacy of its retirement, adjusts the general rule of the law to the justice of the particular case. Thus the odium of inflexible rules of the law is avoided, and popular satisfaction is preserved .... That is what jury trial does. It supplies that flexibility of legal rules which is essential to justice and popular contentment. And that flexibility could never be given by judge trial." Without flexibility, laws would be extremely unjust, as every single case in court is different, thus jury nullification provides for the flexibility needed to make court trials fair, legitimizing the government, and achieving justice.
Subpoint A: There are multiple scenarios where the jury would be the only way to reach a just decision through jury nullification. As Scheflin and VanDyke write, "(1) the prosecutor may be overzealous in bringing a prosecution because a particularly prominent or controversial person is involved or because of some personal relationship between the prosecutor and one of the parties; (2) the trial judge may not be able to view the case objectively because of personal eccentricity or deep-seated bias; (3) the government may be the victim of the crime in a way that makes it impossible for the prosecutor not to prosecute or for the judge to dismiss the matter; (4) the case may be so highly publicized that prosecution is unavoidable even though undesirable; (5) the government may have, in the opinion of the community, overstepped legitimate bounds in its efforts to bring the defendant to trial; and (6) the defendant may be a highly sympathetic person who (the community feels) has suffered enough, has been singled out unfairly for prosecution, has violated an unpopular law, or has acted in a manner which the community does not condemn." Thus, in each of these 6 cases, injustice will inevitably occur if jury nullification is not present, as the law needs to be treated with flexibility in such situations.
Contention 3: Since the United States is democratic and based upon its people, then the people need a direct say in how the laws of the country are enacted. Citizens of the United States do not have any direct representation in the creation of laws, as members of Congress create laws. However, since the United States is a democratic country designed to be run by its own people, then its people need to have a direct say on the laws. Jury nullification provides an opportunity for this, as it gives citizens the ability to challenge laws that they feel are unjust, thus giving them a say in government. Van Dyke continues, "The right of the jury to nullify applications of law in a particular case can also be supported on political grounds as an essential aspect of democratic self-government. It serves to remind governments and legal professionals that the people are sovereign. It serves to remind the community that protection of its liberty and freedom rests in the hands of the people. The Senate and House reports on the 1968 federal Jury Selection and Service Act expressly state that, "It must be remembered that the jury is designed not only to understand the case, but also to reflect the community's sense of justice in deciding it." If the United States is to be a legitimate government, then it needs to give its citizens a say in the lawmaking process, and jury nullification allows for that, thus jury nullification is needed for the court system to be just.
To effectively check the government, there needs to be a separate external body checking its actions.
Thus I urge you to affirm


I negate the resolution, resolved: In the United States, The principle of jury nullification is a just check on government.

I agree with my opponents definitions however would like to interpret them to you because some of the wording can be vague at times.

In the definition of jury nullification id like to point out were it says contrary to the findings of fact, this means that they know without a doubt he is guilty.

As well as just in being equal and or fair.

I will attack:
Observations : 1 is alright although id point out that people vote and elect government to represent them in all government and when they vote they have used there power in government.
2. Yes people do have a direct say they elect people to put laws they think are needed into place.

I will also sum up his Ct's in a summery so you can understand a little better.

Ct1. Jury null helps reform laws....
Im going to ignore the rest because its not really important, the mere fact you say this really means nothing.
My point you may ask is that jury nullification does not reform a law, never has jury nullification reformed a law. One case I could use is OJ Simpson trial, everyone knew that he did it, and admitted to it on Operah.( He was acquitted and guilty of murder, and all evidence pointed to him. The jury used the power of nullification and let him free. Oh yeah murder is still against the law, jury null doesn't reform laws rather it lets criminals off. Also if you don't like my OJ example you can always look to Casey Anthoney trial.
My opponent also rants about unjust laws, I would like for him to name one law that jury nullification has reformed, not acquitted for but reformed.

Ct2. Jury null provides flexibility to the legal system...

No no it doesn't, the defined definition of jury null does not give flexability rather breaks it.
They disregard evidence, and the facts, to let a guilty person free.
Since it doesn't reform laws, it has not effect on the legal system besides letting murders a rapists back on the streets.
Most reforms of law are done by the supreme court not juries, and again were are all these unjust laws that we are crawling with apparently?

Ct3. People of the country need a say in government because we are democratic...

Well people vote for the elected officials who make laws they listen to the officials get their platform and vote for them. The people were directly involved in the people that make the laws and are represented by them.
The people already get a say.
A juries purpose is to un biasly look upon the facts of a case and decide if the facts are enough to convict.
Also to remind you jury null does not reform laws, and we already have checks and balances.

I would like to point out my opponent did not source any quotes, or evidence he gave.

My case:

Ct1. Jury nullification has been used unjustly for years consider OJ and Casey Anthoney. Clearly they were both guilty, and both acquitted. As well as back in the 1930's when an all white jury would convict a black man with little or no evidence or would acquit a white man who murdered a black person with a ton of evidence.

Ct2. Jury nullification has no purpose other than to let criminals go free. Jury null does not reform a law, therefore has not purpose other than to let guilty people free.

And I urge a negative vote.
Debate Round No. 2


Ok so first i am going to start out with my source problem.
This is one of the first time i am debating on this website so excuse my acts
I didn't know we had to post links because this was from my own debate case but here is the link to the pack i used as sources
all the sources i got are from here

First i am going to defend my case and then attack my opponents case
For my definition: My opponent is stressing the idea of contrary to the finding of fact and i want to stress that a jury nullification means that the jury unanimously decides that the defendant does not deserve that punishment. That it is too harsh. This should clarify the round

My observations: To my observations all my opponent sated was that the people do have a direct say but i have 3 responses to that argument
1) People vote for candidates they do not vote directly for laws. They do not even vote directly for presidential candidates they vote for electors. They just vote for someone they think would be a good president not that will definitely apply their laws. here's an example. a man wants to legalize all drugs but no candidate is pressing for that. The man still votes. But his view is not being expressed
2)People have no say at all on past laws
3) One person's voice is never heard distinctly

My first Contention:
He argues that Jury nullification reforms no laws but only lets criminals off.
I have 6 responses to that
1) He is taking the jury nullification idea to extremes and using extreme cases but realistically the mistakes are minimal because juries have to be unanimous in decision to nullify
2) In his OJ example his Oprah interview happened way after the verdict so you can't look to that extreme case
3) Again the unjust acts of past laws cannot be changed by people
4) Manslaughter cases and those nullification have lessened the tightness of the punishments of manslaughter5) The 1973 Drug act in new york was repealed because of many nullification because if someone was caught with drugs no matter the amount they had the same sentence. This was unfair and was repealed.
6) Every case is different but same punishments are given this is fundamentally unfair

My Contention 2:
He argues that it does not give flexibility
I have 4 responses to that
1. nullification happen because in that specific case the law is unjust
2. There has to be a unanimous decision so each juror checks on each other
3. It protects minorities because all parts of society are in on juries.
4. Makes case by case flexibility

My contention 3: He argues that my argument is non unique and people all ready have power
I have 3 responses to that argument
1. He is acting very extreme in his arguments because he is only talking about negative not the normal use of nullification
2. it cant be direct because people aren't voting for laws they are voting for people and this skews there views
3. There are no checks on past laws. The courts are the check on this and this is through nullification

Now i will attack his case
His first Contention
He argues that jury nullification is unjust
I have 5 responses to that
1. He is using extreme cases and not the everyday use of jury nullification
2. America is a country bases upon on it society and must do what its society believes. Although immoral the society believed in slavery so i was established.
3. No extreme cases will happen anymore because the jury have to unanimously decide on this making them check on each other
4. Unjust laws exist as well and those need to be seen by government because they do not always see but courts will high light this
5. Society changed to that all kinds of people are jurors so minorities have rights

His Contention 2:
His second contention is that Jury nullification has no use other than to let criminal go
I have 3 responses
1. Unanimous decisions idea has to be cross applied here
2. This is an extreme idea not day to day use
3. Nullifying is protecting just citizens because we do not want harsh and cruel punishment

Therefore i uphold the most democracy and help the most people so i urge a affirmative ballot


joshuaXlawyer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


safenation forfeited this round.


joshuaXlawyer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


safenation forfeited this round.


joshuaXlawyer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by joshuaXlawyer 4 years ago
Challenge accepted
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