The Instigator
snelld7
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
pcmbrown
Con (against)
Winning
12 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 2 votes the winner is...
pcmbrown
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/22/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,591 times Debate No: 8279
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (2)

 

snelld7

Pro

Given that my opponent knows about what plea bargaining is, I'll do something different (other than providing definitions) this time. I'd like to open with a series of quotes.
" In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."~U.S Constitution

(problem with plea bargaining in this sense, is that the prosecutor becomes the D.A, the judge, the "unimpartial" jury, and the public audience all in one)

and

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."~ U.S. Constitution
(problem with this is that people who steal and receive a plea bargain, and people who steal and go to trial; don't get the same sentences/aren't receiving equal protection of the law)
========================

Ask yourself, How can a cop-out be just when it's used in the judicial system? It can't be. Because of this, I concur with the following: Resolved- Plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust.

CONTENTION 1-My first Contention is that Plea Bargaining undermines our idealistic criminal program.

The goal of any criminal justice system ought to be to convict the guilty and free the innocent. Now, the American criminal justice system rests on the assumption, carried over from the British common law tradition, that the injustice of convicting the innocent is greater than that of allowing the guilty go free. William Blackstone's well known maxim that it is "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" is one that rests at the core of the American criminal justice system. In American criminal courts, the burden of proof rests squarely on the state: people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Plea Bargaining aims more on holding someone responsible for a crime, oppose to finding out who the right person really is. All their worried about are convictions, and not the fact that their unjust convictions. The reality of the matter is, that they don't know a criminal is guilty every time they offer a plea bargaining. Which brings me to my next contention.
=============
CONTENTION 2- BRIBERY IS UNJUST IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE

When it comes to plea bargaining in exchange for testimony this exchange is an inherently unjust means to achieve potentially just ends. The easiest way to illustrate will be to consider two other practices: bribery and torture.

Suppose a defendant, offers to donate a lot of money to charity in exchange for a lighter sentence? Most would agree that the wealthy ought not to be able to exchange money for a lighter sentence. In fact, one of the most common criticisms of the American criminal justice system is that the poor are far more likely to be convicted when they are charged with the same crime. The ability of people to exchange money for a lighter sentence is widely considered an injustice. Why, then, should be it right for a person to exchange information for a lighter sentence? Surely, a large donation to charity might do more good for society than paying to have someone serve time behind bars, so why not let the wealthy criminals trade their wealth for their freedom?

Secondly, we're talking about criminals with nothing to lose and EVERYTHING/FREEDOM to gain. Does it seem hard to realize that these people have more motivation than ever to lie, on top of them being unjust people already? This pushes toward my next contention.
=============

CONTENTION 3- PLEA BARAINING IS COERCION AND ENTICES PEOPLE TO LIE.

Consider the following example:
Bob and Ray, two brothers, are accused of having committing the same murder. The circumstances of the crime is such that the District Attorney does not have sufficient evidence against either brother without them testifying against one another.
The District Attorney decides to put the two brothers into a classical "prisoner's dilemma." That is, he instructs the police to arrest Bob and Ray and he has them put into separate jail cells where he can offer them each plea deals in exchange for their testimony.
The district attorney explains that:
-- If one brother testifies and the other remains silent, the brother who testifies would go free and the silent brother would likely be sentenced to twenty years to life in prison.
--- If both brothers refuse to testify, the district attorney tells the brothers he will charge them with lesser offenses that will likely result in each of them receiving jail sentences of about two years.
--- If the brothers both testify, each will likely receive a sentence of ten to fifteen years.

The district attorney offers these plea deals to each brother separately and does not let them confer with one another before making their decision. Neither brother knows for sure what choice his sibling might make. How should the brother's act?
Bob and Ray each have only two choices: stay silent or testify. As you can see from the table above, neither brother, assuming he wants to avoid a very long prison sentence, has any real incentive other than sibling loyalty to stay silent.
If Bob were to stay silent, there are two possibilities: his brother betrays him, in which case he get sent to prison for twenty year to life or his brother also stays silent in which case both of them get two years in prison.
However, if Bob were two betray his brother, the results in both instances are better: either his brother stays silent, in which case he would be let go, or his brother testifies against him in which case he receives a sentence of fifteen years in prison-a long sentence, no doubt, but still a significantly better sentence than twenty to life.
From the point of view of the district attorney, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony would have worked out quite well. By engaging in plea bargaining, the two brothers would likely both testify against one another and receive relatively long prison sentences. Simply by separating the two brothers and offering them each the same deal. But an impartial looking at this notices someone is innocent and they're both either paying for something the other has done or something a completely different person has done.

It is worth noting, by the way, that my example though clearly hypothetical is neither particularly far fetched nor overly contrived. Many people, for it, assume that the only time a prosecutor will offer a plea bargain in exchange for testimony is when the person being offered a plea deal is guilty of a minor offense and the person against whom testimony is sought is potentially guilty of a much more serious crime. But this is not always the case.

So, what does this long digression have to do with the presumption of innocence? Wasn't the district attorney able to come up with an ingenious method of protecting the public in this case? Without having offered plea bargains in exchange for testimony, both of the brothers would likely have received light sentences for relatively minor offenses. The district attorney managed to get two accused murderers to testify against one another and avoided either of them being set free. What could possibly be unjust?

Well, suppose neither Bob nor Ray were guilty? Under the circumstances the district attorney put the brothers in, they're unjustly forced to pick between silence = jail time or lying= freedom.

Resolution Affirmed
pcmbrown

Con

Although my opponent has not presented a value and criterion, I will do so to better organize my arguments.

Value: Justice, defined by Aristotle as "giving each his [or her] due." The importance of justice to the resolution is self-evident.

Criterion: Utilitarianism, defined by Bentham as "the greatest good for the greatest number." It is evident that absolute justice cannot be achieved. However, the proper course of action is to provide the maximum amount of justice to the maximum number of individuals.

I concur with my opponent that the definitions are fairly obvious. However, please note that the resolution concerns only cases where testimony was given in exchange for a lighter sentence.

1. Plea bargaining eliminates the threat of major criminals. When plea bargaining occurs in exchange for testimony, it is in order to convict another of a more significant offense. The sentence of a minor criminal is lessened, so that one at a higher level may be convicted. It is obvious that higher level criminals are of greater detriment to society than their lesser counterparts. They cause a greater amount of crime to be perpetrated within a society. Therefore, their conviction is of greater benefit. Because plea bargaining lessens the danger to society, justice is achieved for each individual within that society.

2. Plea bargaining guarantees a conviction. This eliminates the potential for an acquittal, therefore preventing crime. Again, this reduces the danger to society, resulting in greater justice.

3. Plea bargains reduce the pressure placed upon judicial institutions and prisons. Both facilities are placed under pressures which prevent adequate attention from being given to each case. This inherently detracts from the justice that the system may achieve. By reducing the strain, justice is increased.

"CONTENTION 1-My first Contention is that Plea Bargaining undermines our idealistic criminal program."
This argument is totally irrelevant. The American "presumed innocent until proven guilty" concept does not apply, as we are not debating U.S. policy. Note that the text of the resolution does not include "In the United States". Aristotle's principle of justice holds the punishment of the guilty to be as important as the protection of the innocent. Therefore, this contention, being specific to American and British law, is inapplicable.

"CONTENTION 2- BRIBERY IS UNJUST IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE"
My opponent argues that a lighter sentence should not be given in order to achieve societal benefit. Yet, he fails to warrant this. Why is it wrong to do this? The greatest societal benefit ought to be supported. This achieves the most justice for the greatest number.

"CONTENTION 3- PLEA BARAINING IS COERCION AND ENTICES PEOPLE TO LIE."
First of all, this example makes no sense whatsoever. Two persons cannot be convicted for the same murder. This creates reasonable doubt, and as a result, neither brother would be convicted, if both testified. Further, plea bargains are made in exchange for testimony. They are not given for specific, incriminating testimony, or for a conviction. In fact, the legal penalty for lying is quite high.

Thanks for posting.
Debate Round No. 1
snelld7

Pro

I will avoid the use of value and value criterion. I feel it's unnecessary in this case. So, because I don't have one I will not attack my opponents because it may be unfair (unless he wants me to).

I probably should have clarified this one term- Testimony.

Testimony can be defined as
-a solemn statement made under oath.
-an assertion offering firsthand authentication of a fact
-something that serves as evidence
wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

My opponent fails to realize, you can testify against yourself. The simple "I'm guilty, I did it" is testimony when you're being prosecuted. This said, plea barganing in exchange for testimony can be against yourself.

Onto the meat of his case:

1) My opponent is under the misconceived notion that plea barganing eliminates criminals and that's why it's the best thing. There are two fallacious realizations of this statement. He fails to realize that it also creates big criminals. Quite counterproductive I might add, and it makes it void. Criminals don't start out as "Big Fish," they start as little fish getting off easy on crimes and losing respect for the judicial system. So, as long as they think they're putting big fish in jails, they're creating them the same way. Laziness should NOT be used in our judicial systems. These people should be out doing their jobs oppose to looking for a cop-out/fast way out. The second realization is that criminals lie. We are using the scum of the earth that have nothing to look forward to but jail time, to get "honest" and "truthful" testimonies. If my opponent does ot also concede that this entices people to lie then he is just putting up the "front" for the debate. Consider the case of Robert H. - an unidentified man whose case was first described in a 1994 paper for the University of Chicago Law Review by Albert Alschuler and Andrew Deiss. According to the authors, Robert spent six months in the early 1990s in an Atlanta jail without any formal charges before meeting with a public defender. On the day she met him, she told him he'd been charged with a felony, but if he pleaded guilty he could go home that day because of the time he'd already served. If he pleaded innocent, he'd be kept in custody for at least another year awaiting trial. Not surprisingly, Robert pleaded guilty. Only later did authorities realize that due to a bureaucratic error, he'd been mistaken for someone else and should never have been arrested, let alone convicted. If Robert H. could be strong-armed into bearing false witness against himself, defence lawyers ask, why should we believe that someone like David Radler, choosing between the threat of life in a U.S. prison or 29 months in a cushy Canadian facility, wouldn't opt to bear false witness against someone else? These bargains are especially dangerous in white-collar cases, Langbein says, because formerly successful executives face an overwhelming temptation to tell prosecutors exactly what they want to hear. "What it does is defeat the age-old wisdom that led us to divide the charging and investigative function on one hand from our determinative and sentencing functions," Langbein says. "What's happened is the prosecutor has combined all those functions in one set of hands: he is the investigative officer, the prosecutorial officer, the determinative officer and the sentencing officer." Police, judge and jury in one incredibly powerful office.

2) "Plea bargaining works by threat, and it goes like this: 'Oh, you want to exercise your constitutional right to a jury trial? Please be our guest. But understand that if you exercise that right we will punish you much more severely,' " he says. "In effect, that means we are punishing you twice. Once for what you did and once for having the temerity to exercise your right to face a jury."~John Langbein, a professor of law and legal history at Yale. To Langbein and other critics, the gap in sentences handed to those who co-operate with prosecutors, versus those who maintain their innocence and go to trial, illustrates a form of coercion that underlies practically every serious prosecution in Canada and the U.S. Perhaps the most famous example unfolded in the late 1970s, in the case of Paul Lewis Hayes, a small-time American fraudster and petty criminal. Hayes already had two felony convictions on his record when he was caught forging a cheque for US$88.30. Prosecutors told Hayes he would get a five-year prison term if he pleaded guilty, but if he chose to go to trial, he would be indicted under Kentucky's Habitual Criminal Act, which carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Hayes refused to accept a five-year term for an $88-crime. He was convicted as a habitual offender and sentenced to life in prison. Ask yourself, would it have been ok to give someone 5 years if they deserved life, or life if all they deserved was 5 years? Clearly, the unjust application of plea barganing is exposed for what it really is, unlawful bribery.

3) This is simply not truue. Justic isn't increased by reducing the strain. It's compromised for.

Onto his other arguments:

>>>This argument is totally irrelevant. The American "presumed innocent until proven guilty" concept does not apply, as we are not debating U.S. policy. Note that the text of the resolution does not include "In the United States". Aristotle's principle of justice holds the punishment of the guilty to be as important as the protection of the innocent. Therefore, this contention, being specific to American and British law, is inapplicable.

--- You fail to realize that in order to get evidence of this happening, you have to look in the places it's happening. Being that it isn't specified DOES NOT mean I can't use it, that means there's nothing stopping me from using it. Being that there is no invisible society to turn towards in the context of the resolution, we must use real life. Not only must we use real life, we are to expand on more than just one place. This is very topical.

>>>My opponent argues that a lighter sentence should not be given in order to achieve societal benefit. Yet, he fails to warrant this. Why is it wrong to do this? The greatest societal benefit ought to be supported. This achieves the most justice for the greatest number.

---That's what my ENTIRE case is about. Have you not found the many reasons I've given as to why it is wrong to do this?

>>>First of all, this example makes no sense whatsoever. Two persons cannot be convicted for the same murder. This creates reasonable doubt, and as a result, neither brother would be convicted, if both testified. Further, plea bargains are made in exchange for testimony. They are not given for specific, incriminating testimony, or for a conviction. In fact, the legal penalty for lying is quite high.

It makes perfect sense. You don't think, in getting a murderer for a crime, they have multiple suspects? I didn't make this up, nor did I have someone else create this. I got this from a lawyer himself.

Moreover you said "Two persons cannot be convicted for the same murder. This creates reasonable doubt." According to which society? I see you've found the need to use certain society rules, when you said it was untopical when I wanted to do it...

Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy schedule and doing this. You explained to me your situation, and I'm very impressed by your ability to fall through with your plans. Thank you

"Is it a wise decision to trade the liberties and rights offered by our constitutions for the sake of expediency?"

Sources:
1) http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com...
2) http://www.dreamessays.com...
3) http://wiki.idebate.org...

4) http://decorabilia.blogspot.com...
pcmbrown

Con

First of all, the whole value/criterion debate is proving unnecessary. Suffice it to say, that both sides are attempting to achieve justice.

The given definition of testimony is accepted.

Con:
1. a. This "Big Fish" argument is in no way warranted. Arresting high-level criminals is of vast importance. b. Coercion does exist on a very small level. My opponents example is that of a single case, with very little impact. The positive implications, and necessity, of plea bargaining far outweigh these minor incidents. c. My opponent does nothing to negate the social benefit.

2. a. My point, being that plea bargaining guarantees a conviction, went totally unaddressed. My opponent merely restates his bribery and coercion points, which I'll address later. Extend this point, and its resultant societal benefit.

3. There was no refutation to my point. Currently, only 10 percent of case go to trial. "According to Department of Justice figures, roughly 90 per cent of criminal cases in the United States end in a guilty plea, the vast majority of which have been negotiated with prosecutors in return for a lesser charge, a lighter sentence, a more comfortable prison, or an agreement to testify against someone else. A 1997 Queen's University study found that plea bargaining in Canada is just as common, and works in much the same way." Maich, Steve. Macleans, 7/2007. Even with 10 percent of cases being tried, the court system is still strained by the amount of criminal cases. Our judicial system is not capable of handling 10 times the cases we do now, as would be the circumstance without plea bargaining. It simply could not function. Without a functioning system of justice, no justice can be established. Thus, plea bargaining is a practical necessity to achieve justice.

Pro:

1. My opponent states that plea bargaining is unjust because it defies United States ideals. However, we can't look to the United States as a paragon of morality in this debate. Blackstone's principles, though the basis of U.S. law, are not the basis of justice. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution has no ground in this debate. Just because an act in unconstitutional in the U.S., it is not necessarily unjust. United States law cannot be used to determine if something is just, but can be used as an example, given its experience with plea bargaining.

2. My opponent has not stated why it is wrong to act in the greatest societal benefit. Plea bargaining is necessary for justice to be carried out, and creates societal benefit. My opponent must prove why we ought not support the greatest societal benefit.

3. Sir, your example was not taken from a lawyer, but instead, this Wikipedia-like site. http://wiki.idebate.org...
It is merely logical to state that two individuals, independently accused of a crime, cannot both have committed it. If my opponent can cite a justice system which defies this logical principle, I shall stand corrected. You did not address the point that courts avoid creating an incentive to lie, e.g. not requiring specific incriminating statements, penalizing perjury. Furthermore, testimony against another composes a small fraction of plea bargained cases, so any coercion that exists is outweighed by the benefit and necessity of plea bargaining.

Thank you for being so patient.
Debate Round No. 2
snelld7

Pro

snelld7 forfeited this round.
pcmbrown

Con

As my opponent has forfeited the last round, I shall merely solidify the reasons that I have won this debate.

1. Plea bargaining results in the incarceration of major criminals. This contributes to the well-being of each person in society, maximizing individual justice. My opponent's only refutation was absurd and unwarranted.

2. Plea bargaining prevents the acquittal of criminals. Again, this maximizes individual justice, for the same reason. This point must be extended, as my opponent offered no refutation.

3. The justice system simply cannot function in a world without plea bargaining. As I've shown, the current system is already under a great strain, and to impose 10 times the current case-load would be logistically impossible. It would result in the collapse of the justice system, and thus, justice would not exist. This was the case in Canada.

"Most legal professionals have come to grudgingly accept the system, warts and all...In 1975, the Law Reform Commission of Canada called plea bargaining ‘something for which a decent criminal justice system has no place.' In 1989, faced with a system bogged down under its own weight, its position had completely reversed: ‘plea negotiation is not an inherently shameful practice,' the commission concluded…Most agree that…prosecutors have too much leeway in the games they can play to extract guilty pleas…Still, they say, the courts would grind to a halt without plea bargains. (2007)"

This point has not been refuted, and therefore extends.

It is apparent that plea bargaining creates justice, and in fact is necessary for justice to be achieved.

Thanks for the debate, thanks for reading, and vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by snelld7 7 years ago
snelld7
Ya, we definately should've!
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
Pro brought up reasonable arguments but they were poorly defended. Con did a solid job stating and cementing his position throughout.

Tournament vote: pcmbrown
Posted by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
we should've made it 72 hours....
Posted by snelld7 7 years ago
snelld7
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
its fine, since hes not copying an argument, though he ought to have cited the site
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
Just like Con in my debate, Pro is directly quoting from wiki.idebate.org. Is that acceptable in this tourny or something?
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
Nice to see these are still going on.
Posted by snelld7 7 years ago
snelld7
....why'd you let it expire? You had 7 days...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
snelld7pcmbrownTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
snelld7pcmbrownTied
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Total points awarded:07