The Instigator
Maikuru
Pro (for)
Winning
21 Points
The Contender
resolutionsmasher
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points

Resolved: Plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
Maikuru
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/14/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,460 times Debate No: 8276
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (4)

 

Maikuru

Pro

Snelld7's Tournament: Round 1

::The Basics::

I stand in affirmation of the following resolution: plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust. For the sake of familiarity, accuracy, and relevance, all arguments will pertain to the U.S. unless otherwise stated. Now for a few definitions:

- Plea bargaining: the negotiation of an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant whereby the defendant is permitted to plead guilty to a reduced charge [1]

- Exchange: the act of giving or taking one thing in return for another [2]

- Testimony: a solemn declaration usually made orally by a witness under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official [3]

- Unjust: characterized by injustice: unfair [4]

- Justice: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishment [5]

::Arguments::

1. Unfair to Victims and Society

Plea bargains, including those given in exchange for testimony, are inherently unjust to those most deserving of the protections of law: the victims. Our legal system determines one's punishment based in large part on the severity of their crime. However, when the accused are allowed to reduce their sentence in exchange for some service, the appropriateness of their charge is ignored and fitting justice for the victim is lost [6]. Such a system serves to inappropriately benefit the criminal at the expense of those they have wronged.

This injustice is compounded by the harm plea bargains do to society at large. By allowing criminals to face only a small portion of their due charge, plea bargains fail to instill the expected punishment of the law. Crimes no longer carry with them the shadow of harsh consequences, as experienced criminals understand that pleas can and will lighten their sentence significantly. Thus, pleas work to undermine society's sense of legal justice and security by acting as a means through which criminal activity can go partially unaddressed.

2. Innocents are Endangered

Our legal system is based first and foremost on protecting the innocent, which is a concept that is severely threatened by the practice of plea bargaining. Given the stark differences in punishment for those who accept pleas as opposed to those who deny them [7], the accused are strongly motivated to lie in an attempt to lessen their charges. If an accused is offered a significantly lighter sentence in exchange for testimony, the likelihood of false information being provided doubtlessly increases. Not only do these circumstances benefit the criminals for lying, they endanger innocent citizens who are likely to be punished because of the appeal of the plea bargain.

In addition, should the individual charged with the original crime be innocent, plea bargains increase the likelihood that they will be wrongly sentenced. Pleas are presented in such a light that denying them is tantamount to subduing oneself to extreme punishment [7]. Wrongfully accused citizens, when presented the choice of an uncertain trial carrying a hefty punishment or a guilty plea carrying a lesser punishment, they will often choose the latter. By presenting them with a false sense of salvation, plea bargains ensure that innocents serve time for crimes they didn't commit.

3. Legally Suspicious

Plea bargains find no basis in the constitution. While this does not mean the practice is necessarily unjust, its current use within our justice system blurs the line between the power of the court and the rights of the defendant. The constitution provides citizens with the right to a speedy trial [8], but this right is being undermined by the extreme frequency of plea bargaining. During this practice, prosecutors use threats of swelled charges to coerce defendants into fearfully and ignorantly selling their rights. This intimidation is occurring so frequently and penalties for denying it are so great that our constitutional right for trial by jury has been all but erased through coercion and judicial convenience. This reality is unjust to not only the accused, but also to our entire law-based society.

Pleas in exchange for testimony are especially suspect, appearing to be little more than legal bribes. Defined as "money or favors given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust" [9], bribes are understood to be illegal and unethical within our judicial system. However, pleas in exchange for testimony parallel this definition perfectly; defendants promise to divulge information in the hopes that prosecutors and judges will reduce their charges. Once again, this stands as a blatant injustice to defendants and the legal system at large.

::Closing::

I have demonstrated how plea bargains, both in general and those involving testimony, are unfair and unethical toward nearly all parties involved. Defendants are pressured by overzealous prosecutors to abandon their constitutional right to a trial by jury. Innocent citizens are easily ensnared by both the false testimony of desperate criminals and a plea system that almost ensures unjustified jail time. Victims and society are denied their legal expectation of appropriate justice when wrongdoers are granted lesser sentences. Finally, our legal system is tainted by the continual presence and acceptance of bribes in the form of coerced testimony.

Thank you for reading and I eagerly await my opponent's response.

::References::

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
2. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
3. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
4. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
5. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
6. http://sentencing.typepad.com... - Full article, pg 14
7. http://www.cato.org...
8. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...
9. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
resolutionsmasher

Con

I will start by refuting my opponent's case.

My opponent's first point is that the victim in this situation is being treated unjustly. He reasons this by saying that those involved in the crime are not being held accountable to the full extent of their crime. According to one writer [1] the U.S. only drops the higher charge in place of a smaller conviction 2.56% of the time. The remaining majority of plea bargaining is only a reduction of the sentence attatched to the original crime. This ensures that a criminal still serves an amount of time proportional to the severity of their crime. I'll illustrate this for you:
Bob steals $300 from a convenience store. He's caught and convicted. He has information that will certainly lead to the conviction of a serial killer at large. In the US, the time served for a crime is given as a range that can cover several punishent choices. Because of this the District Attourney offers the theif a plea bargain to reduce the sentence of his conviction from the high end of that range to the low end. This will stay perfectly within the limits of proportionality and thus negates my opponent's first point.

My opponent's second point is this: That plea bargaining indangers the innocent by allowing criminals into the streets sooner than without the bargain. In responce I would like to make two points [2]:
1: Plea bargains in exchange testimony help convict the worst criminals and protect society: It allows the court system to put away the most serious offenders by getting testimony that could not be obtained otherwise; who knows more about the workings of crime than those involved in it? Many of these people will not testify unless there is something in it for them. Also, when those who are guilty beyond a doubt are exonerated in front of a jury because correct procedures have not been followed by the police or other agents, a plea bargain may be the only way to convict them and get them off the streets.
2: Plea bargaining lowers the risk of acquittal and freed criminals. Plea bargaining and plea bargaining in exchange for testimony creates a certainty of a conviction. No matter how strong the evidence may appear, an acquittal is always possible as long as a trial is pending. Ordinary plea bargaining as well as plea bargaining in exchange for testimony are both means to this end, which helps protect society.

My opponent's third point is this: That the rights of the defendent are being corrupted by plea bargaining. In responce I offer the following six points [3]:
1: Judges take measures to ensure defendants are not pressured to enter into false plea bargains
2: Abuses do not justify banning plea bargaining in exchange for testimony: The abuse of a system does not mean the system is illegal; it could simply mean that measures need to be taken to ensure that individuals are complying with the legal boundaries of the system. Abuses of plea bargaining in exchange for testimony can be countered by fighting these abuses; it is not appropriate to abandon the practice in the face such abuses.
3: Before a judge can accept a plea bargain recommendation, it must be demonstrated that the person voluntarily and knowingly waived their rights and plead guilty to the charge. Texas courts are actually obligated to document proof of this to ensure the waivers on record reflect a voluntary and knowing waiver of rights.[4]
4: Defendants have the right to engage in plea bargain contracts at their discretion
5: Plea bargaining may be a way out for innocent people who are framed - they can get a lighter sentence than they would standing in front of a jury.
6: Resolving a case quickly by plea bargaining relieves undue stress to the defendant While an argument of plea bargaining in general, this can also be cited as an added defense of plea bargaining in exchange for testimony.

Within my rebuttal against my opponent I have presented the basic defence of plea bargaining and will allow it to stand as my case.

My sources:
[1] : http://www.enotes.com...
[2] : http://www.cato.org...
[3] : http://www.abanet.org...
[4] : http://texascriminaldefenselawyer.blogspot.com...

More sources:
http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com...
http://criminal.findlaw.com...
http://www.nolo.com...
http://www.pbs.org...
http://www.truthinjustice.org...
Debate Round No. 1
Maikuru

Pro

I thank resolutionsmasher for his prompt posting.

I must make a note about my opponent's reply. Other than his first paragraph and opening sentences, my opponent has blatantly copied every word of his response from the "arguments" section of a debate website [1]. I understand he has been busy recently, but this plagiarism has caused him to ignore entire sections of my opening arguments.

I will address the relevant rebuttals and move on to those Con arguments I can discern.

::Rebuttals::

1. Unfair to Victims and Society

"According to one writer [1] the U.S. only drops the higher charge in place of a smaller conviction 2.56% of the time. The remaining majority of plea bargaining is only a reduction of the sentence attatched to the original crime."

My opponent's first rebuttal serves only to support my original argument. As I stated previously, the injustice to the victim stems from the criminal's ability to positively influence their legal standing through an exchange of service. This action relates in no way to the victim or the original crime, thus offering no fitting justice for those who have been wronged. Any reduction in punishment whatsoever for criminals as a result of testimony circumvents the consequences they would rightly face otherwise and acts as an unwarranted aid to those who least deserve it.

"Plea bargains in exchange testimony help convict the worst criminals and protect society… Plea bargaining lowers the risk of acquittal and freed criminals."

This line of reason errs on multiple levels. First, it implies that pleas in exchange for testimony are the only way of obtaining information. It falls to law enforcement and the legal system to produce necessary evidence, not to ill-intentioned criminals who are receiving undue benefits despite illegal activity. Second, it assumes that testimony provided is reliable. Testimony produced in exchange for a plea is incredibly suspect and likely to be fabricated in an attempt to lessen jail time. Finally, it ignores the reality that pleas allow criminals to return to the streets significantly sooner than they would otherwise. A system cannot boast about convicting criminals while simultaneously allowing them back into circulation more quickly.

2. Innocents are Endangered

"Plea bargaining may be a way out for innocent people who are framed - they can get a lighter sentence than they would standing in front of a jury."

My opponent concedes my second argument, which states that pleas guarantee undue punishments for innocent defendants. The fact that pleas offer these individuals reduced sentences does not eliminate the fact that pleas result in the false testimony against and punishment of innocents. Furthermore, given that these individuals are innocent, they would have no testimony to provide in exchange for their own pleas, making Con's point irrelevant.

3. Legally Suspicious

Con has ignored my arguments about constitutionality and bribery. Trials by jury have become increasingly rare due to the extreme frequency of plea bargains, with roughly 90-95% of cases ending in pleas [2]. The ease with which pleas can be delivered has trumped the defendants' rights within our legal system. Furthermore, the exchange of testimony for pleas accounts to nothing more than bribery and my opponent has not said otherwise. These arguments carry over to the next round.

My opponent's sole argument concerning defendant's rights involved measures used to ensure fair pleas. Unfortunately, Con paints as false picture; in reality, defendants are coerced into abandoning their rights through fear, intimidation, and ignorance [3]. The judicial measures Con mentions occur after the arrangement of the plea and are irrelevant to the discussion of defendants' rights.

::Con's Case::

• "Bob steals $300 from a convenience store…He has information that will certainly lead to the conviction of a serial killer at large."

Con has presented a convenient and unrealistic scenario that does nothing to negate the resolution. Benefiting the first criminal stands as an injustice to his victims and society at large, and the very offer of the plea is akin to a legal bribe. The fact that his testimony may incriminate another does nothing to lessen the initial injustices. Furthermore, real cases involve no guarantee that testimony will be truthful or that it will lead to a conviction. Con cannot use the ends to justify the means, especially when the ends are uncertain and the means are wholly and widely unjust.

• "Abuses do not justify banning plea bargaining in exchange for testimony."

I have not suggested the banning of plea bargaining, simply the realization that the practice is unjust for victims, society, defendants, and our legal system at large. Seeing as Con has not offered a single unblemished explanation of the fairness of plea bargains, all there is to discuss at this point are its abuses.

I apologize if I missed additional points by my opponent. I ask that he please separate them from his rebuttals to improve clarity for both me and the readers.

::Closing::

Sadly, Con failed to address the majority of my arguments. He acknowledges that pleas allow criminals to positively influence their sentences, which robs victims of their expected justice. He ignores the harm pleas do to innocents, who are inevitably accused and punished through plea bargaining. He also ignores the legal murkiness of plea bargains, which are non-constitutional and equivalent to bribery. The injustices of pleas in exchange for testimony are obvious and numerous, and we've yet to hear otherwise.

::References::

1. http://wiki.idebate.org...
2. http://legallad.quickanddirtytips.com...
3. http://www.thefreelibrary.com...
resolutionsmasher

Con

resolutionsmasher forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
Maikuru

Pro

Hmm...I was hoping since he was online in time, Res would at least post a message about the situation. In any case, my arguments extend.
resolutionsmasher

Con

resolutionsmasher forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
Clear win to Pro.
Posted by resolutionsmasher 7 years ago
resolutionsmasher
Fair enough.
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
The reasons show that I am not voting blindly, but rather that each point is justified. I do it for all my debates and I encourage my opponents to do the same.
Posted by resolutionsmasher 7 years ago
resolutionsmasher
We shouldn't vote in this debate dude. At least we shouldn't give reasons for the desision since we are the debaters. I will concede this debate due to a crazy week.
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
Well that was lame.

C: Pro - Con plagiarized one round and forfeited the others.
S & G: Pro - Those sentences Con actually wrote were littered with errors.
A: Pro - Con posted random material that did not address Pro's arguments.
S: Pro - Con's links were not the actual sources of his material, as he failed to produce the website from which he plagiarized.
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
Thanks for the fast reply and congrats on graduating. I'll try to make my responses equally quick.
Posted by resolutionsmasher 7 years ago
resolutionsmasher
You think you're busy. I've got my own graduation to plan.
Then I've got to get a job.
But I'll debate. We've got a week to do this before my posting becomes very eradic.
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
Thanks for your patience, res. It's season finale time on all the networks and my schedule is packed with shows haha.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
MaikururesolutionsmasherTied
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Vote Placed by resolutionsmasher 7 years ago
resolutionsmasher
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sherlockmethod
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Vote Placed by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
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