The Instigator
Logician
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

Resolved: That anonymity should be granted to all people merely accused of a crime

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
RoyLatham
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/15/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,470 times Debate No: 11445
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (4)

 

Logician

Pro

This first round is merely for me to define terms and set the debate, and for my opponent to accept the debate. NO ARGUMENTS SHOULD BE GIVEN IN THIS FIRST ROUND. After my opponent has accepted, I will give my arguments and we will have a 3-round debate as per usual.

I believe the resolution largely speaks for itself. I will, however, give two definitions and one caveat that define the terms and boundaries of the debate, to avoid possible confusion about what I'm proposing and what I expect my opponent to oppose.

1) "Merely accused" = the status of every alleged criminal and defendant in a court case, before they have been convicted and actually found guilty of the crime in question. This covers the period after the allegation has been made to the police, right up to the moment that the judge/jury declares the person to be guilty of the crime. If they are found not guilty, then their anonymity should remain indefinitely (pending whatever re-trials may or may not take place).

2) "Anonymity" = That no information be released into the public domain about the accused that would enable someone to identify them as the accused. This includes (but would not be limited to) the person's name, address, date of birth, picture or relation to the alleged victim. This does not include such generic information as: "Police have arrested a 25-year-old male". This ban on the publication of information extends to police information, media reports and "public gossip" (e.g. Facebook/Twitter allegations). Any such publication of information contrary to the above would be treated as interfering in a police investigation/contempt of court, and punished accordingly.

All of the aforementioned withheld information can of course be used during the trial itself, but such information should not be released to the general public before such a time that the person may or may not be found guilty.

3) Caveat: if someone skips bail and fails to turn up for court on their due date, then (if possible) the trial should go ahead without them. If they're found not guilty, the anonymity still applies; if they're found guilty, then as per my proposition their anonymity will be dropped to find and arrest them. If for whatever reason the trial judge determines that the trial cannot go on without the accused present, then anonymity can also be dropped in this circumstance, to allow the police to publicise their attempt to find and capture the accused. In this circumstance, the accused has forfeited his right to privacy by clearly and unequivocally breaking the law - by virtue of not turning up to court, he is in contempt of court and already guilty of that crime; and it is the nature of publicising information about someone's contempt of court that details of the original trial be made public. In this case, anonymity need not (and should not) apply.

If there are any more questions, concerns, points of clarification or issues of general confusion that people wish to raise, I ask that you do so in the comments section, before accepting this debate and potentially derailing the debate as a whole. Thank you.
RoyLatham

Con

Please present your case.
Debate Round No. 1
Logician

Pro

OK. Thanks, RoyLatham, for accepting this debate. Without further ado, then, I present my substantive case:

=== THE IMPORTANCE OF "Innocence until proven guilty" ===

There is very good reason that every country with a fair legal system enshrines an idea of "innocence until proven guilty" in its legal codes: given that the criminal justice system serves to deny people their freedom and liberty, it is very important that anyone deemed to be a "criminal" has gone through rigorous procedures to ensure that they actually did commit the crime in question. Ensuring that frivolous accusations don't lead to lifelong damage/stigma on innocent people is the very cornerstone of this rigorous legal procedure.

=== HOW A LACK OF ANONYMITY MAKES SUCH A TRIAL BY PUBLIC OPINION MORE LIKELY ===

This rigour is undermined every time that we publicly identify anyone merely accused of a crime. For whilst the legal system, and the judges/lawyers that largely comprise the legal system, accept and respect the concept of innocence until proven guilty, this cannot be expected to translate into the attitude of the general public. All too often there is the concept that "there is no smoke without fire" - that something must have happened, otherwise the alleged victim wouldn't have reported anything. There is also often a prevailing sympathy with the alleged victim, especially when children or sexual crimes are involved, which often bias the public against the alleged perpetrator and make them feel that the accuser must be in the right. Whilst an entirely understandable urge, it becomes harmful when applied against people who should be presumed innocent, as suddenly they are presumed guilty by the community as a whole.

Identifying the suspect of a crime is, crucially, what makes this flurry of accusations stick. Anyone can innocently visit a police station to legitimately help the police with their investigation, or take time off work due to the way in which an allegation personally affects them - for instance if they knew, and were close to, the accuser. It is often only when someone is announced as being a suspect that suspicions surrounding someone will be raised, and even if this is not the case, the publication of their being put on trial and/or being arrested will only serve to legitimise any suspicions that were already raised. It becomes a matter of public record that, out of all the people who may have committed the crime, the accused is the one most suspected by police (and, perhaps more importantly, by the victim) to have done so. This only lends weight to the idea that there is no smoke without fire: "for after all," it may be reasoned, "why else would they have been arrested, had they not done something wrong, of which I should be suspicious?"

Not only does this suspicion clearly cause harm when endured by innocent people - most intuitively with such allegations as rape, paedophilia and domestic abuse ("wife-beating") - but it is provably false: to take accusations of rape or sexual assault as an example, not only are there instances of maliciously false allegations, but there is always the distinct possibility that the accuser is mistaken about what happened, how far the accused actually went and how clear his/her withdrawal of consent actually was. Allegations given by children are also especially open to potential misunderstandings and abuse by external agencies - the McMartin Preschool Trial, for example, made clear how the testimony of children can be susceptible to any pre-existing belief, either from their parents or from interrogators themselves, about what the "correct testimony" should be. [1]

This concept of "no smoke without fire" results in the accused often being ostracised from their community, being suspended and/or fired from their job, and generally having a cloud of suspicion remain over their heads often for the rest of their lives...especially if, as happens in the UK, an unfounded allegation stays on their criminal record permanently, resulting in it re-emerging and causing problems when the person tries to get employment at a later date. [2]

None of this should be taken to undermine the very serious crimes often involved in such cases, nor to imply that malicious and/or false allegations are common: it only serves to highlights the fact that "no smoke without fire" is very clearly not a principle which can be trusted in such allegations. Given this knowledge, and given the destruction of lives that can result, the Government should act to stop such ramifications from taking place.

=== ACCEPTING THAT THIS PROPOSITION DOES NOT SOLVE EVERYTHING ===

It may be mentioned by RoyLatham that private gossiping will still take place. Whilst accepting this as sadly inevitable, it does not significantly destroy my case. For even if 'whisper campaigns' take place, that is something that happens anyway and can never, unfortunately, stop. I am not suggesting that my proposition is a panacea that will solve all the problems surrounding this issue, merely that it will significantly help. Furthermore, the Government should not be complicit in such campaigns and presumptions of guilt, as they are at the moment by allowing the identities of the merely accused to be made public. If the Government sees something that is wrong in society - as I have argued very clearly that lack of anonymity here does - then it surely has a duty to try and solve that problem in whatever way possible, for what other reason have we elected that Government to represent us? The fact that every problem will not be solved is not a reason to try and lower the occurrence and possible widespread nature of these problems: despite laws against murder, for instance, there are still plenty of murderers, yet this is clearly no good argument for legalising murder. It is merely an argument for trying better to enforce the law, a conclusion which applies itself very clearly to the present case.

=== CONCLUSION ===

I may yet in future rounds have reason to introduce more substantive matter. But so far, I have shown a very clear case. A just legal system is based on an idea of innocence until proven guilty, and publishing identifiable details of the merely accused (and thus to be presumed innocent) leads to a false presumption and belief among many people that they are in fact guilty. Such presumptions clearly harm innocent people, and even if it is unfortunately impossible to eradicate such attitudes, the Government should not complicit in such actions taking place.

For all of these reasons, I urge you to vote Pro.

Sources
[1] http://www.law.umkc.edu...
[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk...
RoyLatham

Con

Thanks to Pro for an engaging topic.

Suppose the resolution were, "The government should be allowed to arrest and try citizens in secrecy." Pro's resolution is not that government merely be allowed to do that, but they be required to do that. Moreover, the public cannot be warned of dangerous criminal suspects on the loose and the police cannot ask the public for aid in catching a suspect for arrest if the information given in any way allows the suspect to be identified. No composite sketches or security camera photos are allowed. Freedom of speech is restricted, which in America would require an amendment to the Constitution.

Is all this worth the claimed benefits? First, let's examine those claims.

1. Presumption of Innocence

Pro's argument depends upon the notion that defendant is tried by "the public." That's not true, the defendant is tried by a jury. The court's task is solely to find twelve impartial jurors. Regardless of the whether the defendant is identified in the press, any prospective juror may know the defendant, a victim, a witness, or may have some important prejudice that would lead t an unfair decision by the juror. There are legal safeguards to prevent that:

a. Each juror is asked if they have read or otherwise anything of the case and if they have have formed an opinion about the guilt of the defendant. The jury is usually required to fill out a questionnaire asking questions about their prior beliefs that might prejudice their opinion. The defense attorney gets to examine each juror to try to uncover any prior prejudice. There are very few cases where jurors cannot be found who have head little or nothing about a particular case. The judge may excuse any number of jurors who are found to have relevant prior prejudicial opinions.

b. Cases that are highly publicized may lead to difficulty in finding impartial jurors. In those cases the defense may request, and the judge can grant, a change of venue. The case will then be moved to a location where an impartial jury can be found.

c. Pro contends that the mere accusation of a suspect will prejudice a jury. If true, that is not remedied by the resolution. The defendant is put in front of the jury and named as the one charged. The defendant is not merely named, he is there in the courtroom with the attorneys, judge, and jury arrayed around him. This is countered by the judge's instructions that there is a presumption of innocence and by admonitions that the testimony of police must not be taken as fact. Jurors generally take their jobs seriously and behave accordingly.

d. The guarantee of anonymity does not prevent jurors from forming prior opinions about guilt or innocence. Suppose the press reports, "Mr. X was arrested today and charged with shooting the Sheriff at high noon on the streets of Tombstone in front of a dozen witnesses. Mr. X was later apprehended while high-tailing it to the Border." The real name of "Mr. X" is not revealed in press accounts, but the jury in the courtroom will quickly learn that the defendant is the notorious Mr. X who was described in accounts as perpetrating the evil deed. His name was not the important part of any supposed prejudicial accounting. In fact, it's doubtful that unless the defendant is O.J. Simpson or the like, that jurors would even remember the name given in the accounts.

2. Anonymity

The question is whether the resolution would substantially diminish prejudice against a defendant found not guilty. Pro grants, "For even if 'whisper campaigns' take place, that is something that happens anyway and can never, unfortunately, stop." True. Consequently, the community around the accused will still form whatever prejudices they would have formed. He will go missing from work or school, and word would soon spread as to the reason. The only escape for the accused person is to relocate to some place where he is not known. There are very few criminal cases where news of a case goes beyond the local area. If news does reach another area, the fact that the defendant was found not guilty is likely to be accepted; that's particularly true if the person was falsely accused.

In the U.S., there was a famous case of a Duke University lacrosse team being falsely accused of gang rape. http://en.wikipedia.org... There is no evidence that the publicity left harm on the falsely accused players. what everyone remembers is that they were *falsely* accused. In fact, it was quite opposite, as several became honored for their behavior in the face of false accusations.

The Public's Right to Know

Whatever embarrassment the accused might suffer is offset by the public's right to know.

3. The public ought to both be warned of and able to assist the police in tracking down suspects. Consider:

"News report: Police now have a composite sketch of the suspect serial killer based upon eyewitness descriptions and security camera video. Police believe it is an accurate likeness of the suspect. The picture cannot be released to the public, however, because if they did so the suspect would likely be identified. Under a recent debate resolution adopted into law, nothing that could lead to the identification of a person not actually convicted can be revealed."

There is a long-running TV show called "America's Most Wanted." http://www.amw.com... The show publicizes criminal suspects and request public assistance in locating them. They only deal with major crimes. They claim to have aided in the arrest of 1109 fugitives. Every one of the arrests is due to release of information that enables the suspect to be identified, usually a photograph of the person sought. Under the resolution "no information [can] be released into the public domain about the accused that would enable someone to identify them as the accused." Therefore, under the resolution, over a thousand serious felons would not have been caught.

4. a. The right to know about trial proceedings is critical to curbing prosecutorial abuse or neglect. In the Duke rape case, the prosecutor was ultimately found guilty of misconduct. That might have been covered up if everything was kept secret up to the verdict. If the defendants were found not guilty, they could not have revealed the records of the case to the public. (Note that the resolution makes no exception for the defendant revealing information to the public.)

b. More generally, the public is rightly concerned with whether individuals are being singled out for prosecution because of some affiliation that ought to be irrelevant to whether or not the person is charged and at what level the person is charged. There is concern with whether celebrities are let off easy, or, sometimes, treated more harshly to make an example of them. There is concern with whether heavily-lawyered wealthy people manage to escape on technicalities.

c. An errant judge may decide to let off a defendant for some insubstantial technicality, or for no identifiable rational reason. Perhaps the Mob got to him with a bribe. Since defendant is found "not guilty" the circumstances are forever concealed from the public.

5. Suppose the press investigates Governor Smith and finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The governor is "merely accused." The newspaper cannot publish the findings because the presumption of the resolution is that anything that might taint public opinion must be suppressed. So the paper can give the finding to the police, but they cannot report it. But what pays for investigative journalism? The prospect of selling papers, or in cashing on with increased television viewership. The resolution will effectively end investigative reporting.

For these many reasons, the resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2
Logician

Pro

I thank RoyLatham for an excellent response. There are several aspects to my approach in dealing with his case, as will become obvious as the headlines present themselves.

=== DEALING WITH RoyLatham's PREPARATORY ACCUSATIONS ===

Before moving on his main case, RoyLatham spent a paragraph on detailing three problems he has with the resolution. They were:

1) "Suppose the resolution were, 'The government should be allowed to arrest and try citizens in secrecy.' Pro's resolution is not that government merely be allowed to do that, but they be required to do that."

This isn't a fair analogy. "Trying citizens in secret" implies a tyrannical, dictatorial regime that doesn't have any checks or balances upon its judicial system. This is clearly not true for the system that I'm proposing: I'm proposing a system where the justice system is transparent, fair and just - the only difference is that the identifying features of defendants should not be publicised. Calling the defendant "Mr. X" instead of, say, "John Smith" does not in any meaningful sense limit the transparency of the justice system.

2) "[T]he public cannot be warned of dangerous criminal suspects on the loose and the police cannot ask the public for aid in catching a suspect for arrest if the information given in any way allows the suspect to be identified."

This is not true, for reasons that I will detail below.

3) "Freedom of speech is restricted, which in America would require an amendment to the Constitution."

It isn't a good argument against my case to say that constitutional amendments would be required to enact my proposition. All I need to show is that my policy is fair and just: after all, if it is fair, then maybe America *should* amend the constitution accordingly...

=== CLARIFYING RoyLatham's MISUNDERSTANDINGS OF MY CASE ===

There are three major places in his argument where RoyLatham misunderstands what I made perfectly clear in my argument: firstly, what I call "trial by public opinion"; secondly, the role (or lack thereof) of juries in my case; and thirdly, my argument regarding Government complicity. (Indeed, RoyLatham completely ignores this last argument - hopefully, in later rounds, he will deal with it sustainedly.)

To the first misunderstanding: RoyLatham argues that my "argument depends upon the notion that defendant is tried by 'the public.' That's not true, the defendant is tried by a jury." This completely ignores the whole point of my argument. I accept that defendants are tried by juries - indeed, I mentioned this fact in passing in my Round 1 definition of "merely accused" - and in this sense, the large proportion of RoyLatham's case where he argues for the usefulness of juries is irrelevant. What I was arguing - and what RoyLatham missed - is that, in addition to trial by jury, publicising details of the merely accused leads to an additional "trial by public opinion". It is this faux-trial which I deem to be unfair, and it is this that RoyLatham completely ignored in his rebuttal. Hopefully, he will deal with it in his next round.

On the second misunderstanding - RoyLatham says: "Pro contends that the mere accusation of a suspect will prejudice a jury." This is simply false. Nowhere in my arguments (outside of my definitions in round 1) do I even mention the word "jury", or refer to anything of the sort. My entire argument refers to how the general public will perceive the naming of the accused - juries have played no part literally no part in my argumentation. Hopefully RoyLatham will recognise this in future rounds, and direct his rebuttal more accurately as a result.

On the third misunderstanding - RoyLatham correctly quoted me when he said: "Pro grants, 'For even if 'whisper campaigns' take place, that is something that happens anyway and can never, unfortunately, stop.'" But he completely ignores my analysis that both follows and preceded this quote. I argued that, contrary to his unargued assertion, public suspicion would drop when we don't name merely accused people - after all, a lot of the suspicion surely only arises because they're named in the first place. If they weren't named, the problem in these cases would cease. The number of people viewed with suspicion would thus drop, thanks to my policy.

But even when these whisper campaigns would still continue, I maintain that the Government should take a firm stance against such campaigns. Just because something is bound to continue, that doesn't mean the Government should allow it to continue: after all, the fact that murders (for instance) will always happen doesn't mean that we should just let it continue, and stop trying to prosecute and deter people from murdering. Until he deals with this point, RoyLatham has not successfully rebutted this part of my case.

=== DEALING WITH RoyLatham's SUBSTANTIVE CASE ===

Moving on from his misunderstandings, then, RoyLatham presented some new points. I will thus separate them out, and deal with them separately.

Firstly, RoyLatham plays what I call "example tennis": he gives an example of where a false accusation of rape didn't lead to the accused being seen in a bad light, before implying that this example is proof enough of his entire case. Firstly, I'd point him to one example of my own where it clearly did cause damage - see my source [1] below. Specifically, see this particular part of that article:

"Mr Cummings said he still had trouble from people close to where he lives in Fawley, Hampshire, who wrongly believe "there is no smoke without fire" and he cannot go into certain pubs."

RoyLatham must do more than give one example after another to prove his case; he must argue from general principle towards specific, provable, harms, as I am.

Secondly, RoyLatham made great play out the logical conclusions of absolute anonymity. Even so, none of these damage my case:

Firstly, he said that "The public ought to both be warned of and able to assist the police in tracking down suspects." They can. All the police need to do is be subtle, and call it "eliminating people from our enquiries". If sufficient people are included in this list, perhaps due to their coincidental appearance on the same CCTV footage, no damage is done.

Secondy, I point out that anonymity doesn't stop people going to appeal, or to the press with accusations of prosecutorial abuse. It's still possible for the press to run a "prosecutor/judge is unfair" story (as with the mafia, or with his quoted lacrosse case) without naming the defendant. All the press need to do is talk about "Mr/Mrs X". This alternative works for his concerns about the lacrosse case, about general potential issues of unfair judgments (e.g. for celebrities) and about potential Mafia bribes.

Secondly, he mentions the number of criminals who have been caught on "America's Most Wanted". Firstly, I'd refer him to my "eliminating from enquiries" point already made. Even after this, though, RoyLatham can't successfully argue that just because a policy (i.e. the status quo) leads to more criminals captured, this is therefore a good policy. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that we would be justified in imprisoning everyone - after all, this would surely capture every single criminal. But this clearly is not a good policy. Why? Because we must weigh up the good that a policy causes, versus the bad. RoyLatham doesn't do this.

Finally, RoyLatham bemoans the alleged end to investigative reporting that will result from my policy. This argument, however, is morally flawed. If investigative reporting in certain cases damages the lives of innocent, law-abiding citizens, then yes - it should be restricted accordingly. Is this really a controversial statement?

In conclusion, RoyLatham isn't successful in his attempted rebuttal, nor do his sustantative arguments hold much weight. Vote Pro.

Source
[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk...
RoyLatham

Con

1. Pro cleared up what he meant by "trial by public opinion." It had nothing to do with justice in the actual trial, which I think people usually worry about. If his claim was to improve courtroom justice, that would be potentially a more serious concern than concerns about the defendant's post-trial reputation. We agree trials are now fair.

So Pro's case is that it is the suspects neighbors, hearing press reports about the case, who might potentially discriminate against a suspect even though he is found not guilty. Pro gives exactly one example of that happening and then claims it is logical to generalize from that one case. He supposes in general it is logical that citizens will not recognize that a person was found innocent, and will instead suppose that he had some guilt. I do not agree. It is much more likely that innocence will be recognized. I gave an example of the defendants in the Duke rape case being applauded for being found not guilty in the face of prosecutorial abuse. So we each have one example and a line of argument based upon the one example.

Pro, however, has the burden of proof. He ought to show that in a substantial percentage of cases that a defendant found not guilty nonetheless suffered some substantial adverse consequences. I challenge Pro to produce a study or or other solid evidence that "not guilty" is generally taken as "guilty." I think it is rare.

2. The next question is whether the resolution would mitigate any problem that does occur. In the one example that Pro gave it was the local people, only in Hawley, that persisted in suspecting the man found innocent. I argued that those people will learn about he case whether it appears in the press or not. Pro grants there will be a whispering campaign. However, without press reports there will be no disclosure of facts to offset the rumors that are spread. Rumors may say that defendant got of on some technicality rather than based upon the evidence. Rumors may misrepresent the testimony given against him. People are better off with the facts.

Pro claims that "a firm stance" by police will minimize the potential harm or rumors. Consider what the police must do to enforce the proposed new law. Suppose a Mr. Smith is arrested for shooting the sheriff, and the posse comes and drags him away. Neighbors see this happen and want to discuss it. His co-workers want to know what happened to Smith. For the "minimizing" to be enforced, there must be a fear that informants will tell the police that his neighbors spoke or e-mailed or twittered about what happened. It only works insofar as a police state mentality against free speech can be engendered. To maintain fear of the state, law enforcement officers must stop looking for real criminals and pursue citizens who may only be talking about what they saw.

Many of the highly publicized scandals involve political leaders. Of late we've had the governors of South Carolina, Illinois, and New York; a candidate for President; and an assortment of Congressmen implicated in major scandals. All had criminal suspicions including misuse of taxpayer money for personal expenses. Under the resolution, none of it could be mentioned in the press. There is no possible wording by which the governor of a state could fail to be identified. The police would have a full time job arresting citizens who discuss their governor having a mistress in Argentina or having sold a Senate seat. Police states can pull this off, but it takes a huge network of informants. I argue that the effort is not worthwhile, and is gross violation of the peoples right to know what their politicians are doing independent of any possible criminal action.

3. Pro defined the resolution at the outset: "no information [may] be released into the public domain about the accused that would enable someone to identify them as the accused." That clearly prohibits circulating wanted posters, showing surveillance video of the crime, or revealing detailed descriptions of the suspect. Pro claims this might be remedied, "All the police need to do is be subtle, and call it 'eliminating people from our enquiries'. If sufficient people are included in this list, perhaps due to their coincidental appearance on the same CCTV footage, no damage is done." This only works if the obfuscation is so complete that no one can identify the suspect. The criteria is "would enable someone to identify them." If someone comes forward and identifies the suspect, that is ample proof that the law preventing him from being identified was broken.

If Pro believes that a simple change in wording describing the suspect solves the problem, then everyone can use that wording to obviate the effect of the resolution. Anyone can say "The police are attempting to eliminate Fred Smith as a suspect in the shooting death ..." It won't take a minute to figure out what that really means, which is that Smith is a suspect.

Even worse, Pro proposes "If sufficient people are included in this list, perhaps due to their coincidental appearance on the same CCTV footage, no damage is done." So, for example, police put together a composite sketch of a serial killer. The warning needs to along the lines of: "Police today assembled a composite sketch of the killer. It is one of the following eight sketches. Police ask that people be on the lookout for people resembling any of these eight people an report sightings immediately." People have enough trouble remembering what one sketch looks like, let alone eight. Moreover, if people could remember them all, it would generate huge numbers of false leads. Anyone who happens to look like one of the seven non-criminal faces would be erroneously put under suspicion, which is what the resolution is supposed to avoid.

Pro says I "can't successfully argue that just because a policy (i.e. the status quo) leads to more criminals captured, this is therefore a good policy." The argument is that the good done by capturing very large numbers of the worst sorts of criminals outweighs the harm done by identifying them. The harm done by not catching them is they continue to commit serious felonies. So Pro claims that the harm done by having more people raped, robbed, and killed is outweighed by the potential damage to an innocent person's reputation, of which there are few examples.

Pro agrees that investigative reporting will effectively be ended. He argues that the greater could lies in protecting the reputation of someone falsely accused by the investigative reporter, rather than exposing crooked politicians, mafia bosses, and consumer swindles. The reader will have to make that value judgment. My opinion is the greater good very clearly lies with investigating and exposing corruption. If a media organization makes a false accusation, they are open to being sued for defamation. That is a very strong, and completely adequate, deterrent to making false charges.

4. Prosecutorial abuse needs to identified when the person is placed under arrest, so it can be corrected before it is brought to trial. A post-trial appeal does not allow interested third parties to investigate the soundness of the State's case in the first place, nor to investigate on behalf of the defense. Also, if bad or corrupt judging results in a dismissal or "not guilty" verdict, the facts are forever concealed from the public.

Pro trivializes the partial repeal of the First Amendment. It's not trivial because Americans but an extremely high value on free speech. It is hily valued right of a free society. It raises the bar for restriction. To limit free speech there needs to be an extraordinarily compelling reason. There is at most a very minor benefit, outweighed by severe disadvantages.

Throughout, Pro claims his resolution will work in a transparent system. If enacted, the system will not be transparent. There will be secret trials.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 3
Logician

Pro

In this final round, I will re-summarise my arguments, and look over the various other criticisms that Con has levelled against my case.

=== RE-AFFIRMATION OF MY CASE ===

1) The principle of innocence until proven guilty is undermined under the status quo

Con hasn't challenged this. His response has instead been to argue that such undermining - and the consequent suffering undergone - is "rare" and justified when compared to cases where guilty people get off on technicalities. Firstly, he hasn't argued why such suffering really is "rare", whereas I argued the contrary right from the beginning, in Round 2. Secondly, I have argued how appeals and retrials will sufficiently correct such actual miscarriages of justice: until such instances are proved as actual miscarriages, the mere potential that they may be so is not sufficient to justify ruining the lives of genuinely innocent people.

2) That anonymity makes a trial by public opinion more likely

Con claimed that I "give exactly one example of ["no smoke without fire"] happening and then claim it is logical to generalize from that one case." This is simply not true. A great deal of my argumentation in Round 2 was spent analysing why this problem of 'no smoke without fire' happens; it is Con who has asserted (without argument) that this is "rare", and provided a single example (the lacrosse case) to claim that his understanding of the status quo is more prevalent than my, thoroughly argued, one. I only gave my example to show that his example does not prove his case as a whole. If he wants to argue that his belief is more widespread than mine - especially when I have directly argued from human psychology why my principle holds - then he has to argue also from first principle, rather than provide solitary examples to the contrary. He hasn't done so.

He did, nonetheless, argue that anonymity makes it impossible for mislaid suspicion to be refuted. But such suspicion could only ever remain without evidence and easily rebutted by the innocent party - after all, they've no criminal record and have never been convicted of a crime. Any public allegations to the contrary could be met with a watertight lawsuit of slander/libel from the innocent former-defendant, deterring people from making such allegations.

Furthermore, Con claims that my burden is to show my principle to hold "in a substantial number of cases". This isn't true - it is to show that the current policy of non-anonymity both causes significant harms to those affected, and so should be prevented as far as possible, and that the current policy runs contrary to the commonly-accepted (and unchallenged) principle of innocence until proven guilty. After all, I wouldn't need to show that a "substantial" number of people are being murdered to show that murder is wrong and should be opposed. The same principle applies here.

This is my burden, and I have met it. But even if one accepts Con's assignment of burden, I met it anyway, through my arguments in Round 2 (as mentioned above) on how my principle holds true in a general sense, which Con has not dealt with. So no matter whose statement of burden you believe, I have met them both, and therefore win this debate.

=== CON'S MISCELLANEOUS CRITICISMS OF MY CASE ===

There are a variety of other criticisms that have coloured Con's reaction to my proposition, and which I feel obliged to deal with in this final round. Clearly, though, character limits mean I cannot answer every such criticism: I've overcome this by dealing with the most pertinent ones, especially where my defence applies to other similar criticisms made.

1) Whether I identified the right problem

In his original rebuttal, Con missed the entire point of my argument, assuming that I was talking about juries when I was arguing about the reaction of the public as a whole. This was not something that was "unclear" in my original case - it was instead Con rebutting what he thought I "should be arguing", rather than what I actually was.

His response was that I had not identified a "serious concern". I have argued that the status quo leads to the lives of innocent people being ruined, as their reputations are destroyed through unproven accusations leading to the community in which they live believing them already to be guilty. Whatever one's opinion about how this concern balances against other relevant concerns, surely it's uncontroversial that this is a serious concern about which I have a right to be worried?

2) "Secret trials"

For some reason, Con is convinced that my policy will lead to so-called "secret trials". I rebutted this idea in Round 3, when I made it clear that I'm "proposing a system where the justice system is transparent, fair and just - the only difference is that the identifying features of defendants should not be publicised." I also made it clear that the media could still report on prosecutorial abuse, which is another of Con's criticisms. The only difference is that the media would only be able to refer to the defendant as "Mr. X" rather than "John Smith", which would not significantly change the media's abilities to investigate and make such allegations, either through reporting the case of "Prosecutor Y", or by lodging charges with the police, having watched the trial unfold and knowing what took place.

Nonetheless, this criticism repeated itself in Con's Round 4, where he simply repeated his previous argument. I don't understand how he can still be fearful of institutional "abuse", when I have clearly shown how trials could still have the same checks and balances as at present. After all, defendant anonymity does not equal anonymity of the judge or the prosecutor. Where's the secrecy? The potential for abuse? It is nowhere. My policy is perfectly consistent with a transparent justice system.

3) On 'eliminating people from enquiries'

Con's rebuttal here was twofold: firstly, that such usage contradicts my resolution; secondly, that it leads to too many leads. On the first: publicising the images of multiple people (who may, for instance, be "sought as potential witnesses") clearly doesn't mean that people will assume them to be guilty. No "obfuscation" of published images would be necessary - there is clearly no problem under my argument when people identify who they believe to be witnesses and not suspects. Con misses this distinction in my argument.

On the second: the police would already know who they suspect of the crime, and so wouldn't be mislaid by "false leads". In addition, they would clearly benefit anyway in knowing the identity of possible witnesses to the crime, and so the public's extra information wouldn't even go to waste. Where's the "problem" that Con alleges to exist?

4) Investigative reporting

Con summarises my argument thus: "the greater good lies in protecting the reputation of someone falsely accused by the investigative reporter, rather than exposing crooked politicians, mafia bosses, and consumer swindles." This is a false dichotomy. I'm not against exposing corruption or proven consumer swindles, as this entails that such guilt has been proven in court. If such cases really are as open-and-shut as Con is implying, then the trial will be quick and it won't be long before the paper can tell the world how they enabled the guilty verdict. Con takes refuge in the idea that defamation lawsuits will still be possible - but this ignores my entire argument on how the principle of "no smoke without fire" will hold firm in many people's minds. Where investigative journalism leads to such destruction and libel, the freedom of speech that Con values so uncritically is harmful in these circumstances and should be restricted, just as it is (despite the First Amendment) in cases of slander and libel already.

In conclusion, my re-affirmation deals with Con's challenges, and his various criticisms don't succeed. Vote Pro.
RoyLatham

Con

Pro has selected an interesting topic. It may seem at the outset that "just a little" loss of free speech might be worthwhile, but careful consideration reveals that adopting the resolution would have terrible consequences.

A serial killer is on the loose and police have managed to come up with a good likeness of the man based upon witness testimony and surveillance video. So should an alert be broadcast warning the public about the dangers posed by this individual, and to ask the public to call law enforcement if they see him? Does the public have a right to know? Pro says, "No." Pro worries that if the suspect is caught, tried, and found not guilty, then the suspects reputation will be harmed in the minds of errant citizens who do not understand that "not guilty" means "not guilty." Pro has the burden of proving that his alleged problem is so serious as to end the principle of free speech. He has not done so.

Pro suggests that a long list of people might be publicized under the guise that police are seeking witnesses. The criteria for judging what is allowed is, as stated by Pro, "That no information be released into the public domain about the accused that would enable someone to identify them as the accused. This includes (but would not be limited to) the person's name, address, date of birth, picture or relation to the alleged victim." So as long as people cannot identify the serial killer on their streets, it is okay to publicize the case. In a surveillance video, the witnesses to the crime might be shown, but the man holding the gun could not be shown for fear he would be identified. The net effect is that persons sought for the commission of very serious crimes will be allowed to continue their criminal careers, causing serious direct harm to the public. The TV show about searches for wanted fugitives would become illegal.

So why are we supposed to let serial killers roam unidentified? Pro cites a single case of a man found not guilty of a crime who was nonetheless subjected to discrimination from members of his community, citing his inability to visit certain pubs in his home town. Pro constructs the theoretical argument that due to erroneous "no smoke without fire" thinking, the problem might be widespread and hence well worth having serial killers roam free to solve it. There are some such dimwits in the general population. However, Pro provided no evidence whatsoever of a general problem. Pro claims that because he went on and on expounding his theory of human behavior, that makes it sound. It does not. My refutation is short. Most people understand that "not guilty" means "not guilty." The whole jury system depends critically upon that understanding, and Pro agrees the jury system works. Imagine, i general, all the information we would have to suppress in order to prevent dimwits from misinterpreting those facts.

The purpose of the resolution is to suppress talk by citizens in the community of the person who is implicated. Pro agrees that cannot be entirely accomplished, but that vigorous police enforcement can suppress some of the talk. Enforcement requires a network of informants willing to report their neighbors who speak freely. The effectiveness of the resolution depends critically upon inducing police state fear. Pro apparently agrees, as he made no counter argument. Inducing police state style fear of free speech is incompatible with democracy, and I think Pro knows it.

If the details of trial proceedings are publicized, the identities of the defendants will become obvious. Courtroom videos are banned and the address of a domestic crime scene cannot be disclosed. A defendant is blocked from seeking alibi witnesses. Prosecutorial misconduct cannot be nipped in the bud as it was in the Duke rape case; the trial must be end with an illegitimate conviction before attempting to correct the actions of the prosecutor. If an errant judge may let a criminal go on an irrelevant technicality or due to a bribe. Since the verdict is "not guilty," the records of those cases remain sealed forever. Pro chose not to respond to the problem of corrupt "not guilty" verdicts.

The resolution will effectively put an end to investigative reporting. Investigative reporting is done by media who want to attract public interest by unraveling the details of case. Pro falsely claims that I said these are open-and-shut cases. I said no such thing. Particularly in cases of political corruption, it's often not clear if the politician crossed the line from behavior that in unseemly or unethical to illegality. Under the resolution, however, any suggestion that the person might be guilty of a crime must be suppressed. There can be no revelation that the governor, or whomever, is involved in suspicious circumstances. Investigative reporting is expensive, so if the investigating agency cannot report until the trial record is revealed to everyone, they have no advantage in initiating the investigation. The financial incentive of the media lies with the public using that particular media outlet to learn facts not available elsewhere. The resolution eliminates that advantage by suppressing publicity until all the facts have been exposed in a trial. It also opens the media to prosecution for the act of having exposed criminality. there will be no more investigative reporting.

Throughout, Pro has mistaken the burden of proof. He summarizes, "Con claims that my burden is to show my principle to hold "in a substantial number of cases". This isn't true - it is to show that the current policy of non-anonymity both causes significant harms to those affected, and so should be prevented as far as possible, and that the current policy runs contrary to the commonly-accepted (and unchallenged) principle of innocence until proven guilty." Pro's burden is to show that the benefits of ending the principle of free speech outweighs the harm it causes. We could solve the problem of people being falsely accused by never accusing or prosecuting anyone. That's a 100% solution, with the downside being that criminals are unfettered. Pro must show that there is a net benefit to setting up a system of police informants so people fear talking, ending wanted posters and publicizing the criminals, keeping all trials substantially in secret with "not guilty" trials suppressed forever, and ending investigative reporting.

The principle of "innocent until proven guilty" applies to defendants on trial. Pro agrees that nothing in the resolution will change the present presumption of innocence in trials. My opponent agrees it will not lead to trials that are more fair. The way crimes are discovered is that someone has a suspicion, often well-founded upon surveillance videos or forensic evidence. Such evidence needs to be made public so that citizens can protect themselves and can assist the police.

There should be a very strong presumption in favor of the right of free speech as a fundamental right. Pro's resolution undermines that right with unacceptable consequences. Voters should uphold freedom of speech and defeat the resolution.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
Ninja, Of course, an as-yet unidentified person cannot be charged. So a likeness of the person cannot be released in the hope of identifying the person. If identification is then made, it would be a crime. But you make a good point in that trials in absentia are not now legal in the United States, and I should have raised that whole issue of trying people who are absent. Interesting.
Posted by Ninja_Tru 6 years ago
Ninja_Tru
-I feel as if coming out of Round 2, the Pro had a lot of offense to weigh against the Con but didn't do so. Therefore, I ended up voting Con because he did a lot more work on his scenarios, and defined some harms to weigh against the Pro.

1. I agree with the Pro, the "no smoke without fire" thing is a real issue. Careers are ruined for that.

2. The Con gives the example of a serial killer having escaped and no police being allowed to investigate it, and also that America's Most Wanted would be illegal. However, the Pro has offense to that in the very first round. The Pro said that "If for whatever reason the trial judge determines that the trial cannot go on without the accused present, then anonymity can also be dropped in this circumstance, to allow the police to publicise their attempt to find and capture the accused. In this circumstance, the accused has forfeited his right to privacy by clearly and unequivocally breaking the law - by virtue of not turning up to court, he is in contempt of court."
-That's a clear cut answer that America's Most Wanted would still be good to go. The serial killer forfeited his or her privacy. The Pro doesn't stop manhunt programs. Pro, if you have a sneaky tactic like that set up, use it when the going gets tough.

3. I think the Pro should take note of the Roe V. Wade Case of 1973. Jane Roe was the pseudonym of a woman from Texas who was prosecuting for the right to have an abortion. Even though we now know her name (Norma L. McCorvey), her identity was kept secret (more or less) while the case made its way up to the Supreme Court, while still sparking national controversy and public discussion during its course. This is a good example of investigative journalism existing alongside privacy.

-Still, Con does more analysis on why his stuff matters more. Good debate.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
debate.org has always cut off about the last 40 characters. Every new person on the site gets to discover this. But taking 30-60 minutes to edit out 40 characters ... you're doing something wrong there.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, "I sent my book to the publisher, and they said I had to cut it from 800 pages down to 400. So I took out the word 'I' "
Posted by Logician 6 years ago
Logician
Hmm, I see your point there.

In an unrelated issue, am I the only one for whom the "x Characters Remaining" running line that debate.org gives underneath the textbox seems to be wrong? Throughout this debate, and my other one, I've written my round, been ready to send it, and then been forced to spend an extra 30-60 mins editing my arguments because it cuts my final sentence off half-way through... because apparently, "2 characters remaining" doesn't actually mean that I have 2 characters remaining... it means that I'm 30-40 characters over the limit, and have to cut down...

*confused*
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
No harm, I'm just offering a debate tip. I think it derives from academic debating in which debaters must switch sides on an issue so they alternately assume the roles of Pro and Con rather than actually giving their own opinions.
Posted by Logician 6 years ago
Logician
Seriously? And there I was thinking it was a form of politeness - y'know, recognising the other person as a human with a username, and such.

Oh well, chalk it up to debate.org inexperience on my part. Sorry if I offended you in any way.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
Logician, Use "Con" or "my opponent." Calling an opponent by name edges up on personal attack.
Posted by Korashk 6 years ago
Korashk
Tainting of the jury pool is an excelent point Pro.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by Ninja_Tru 6 years ago
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