The Instigator
merciless
Con (against)
Winning
4 Points
The Contender
sithxo
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points

Resolved: plea bargaining undermines the criminal justice system: con

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
merciless
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/12/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 10,867 times Debate No: 14372
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)

 

merciless

Con

My opponents mistakingly believe that plea bargaining undermines the criminal justice system. In reality, plea bargaining is a natural part of the criminal justice system, a solution to the problems faced by state and federal courts. We abhor plea bargaining. We rant about how it lets criminals off light and how it gives prosecutors an unfair advantage. But plea bargaining does not undermine the criminal justice system, and there are 3 reasons why: plea bargaining is a necessity, plea bargaining is constitutional, and plea bargaining reduces the risk of letting the guilty go free.
Plea bargaining is a necessity. As of now, according to Attorney Sandefur, 90% of convictions result from plea bargains, and according to former Chief Justice Warren Burger, even a 10% reduction in plea bargains would double the number of trials. Imagine a tree with sucker growths. The tree represents the judicial system and the sucker growths represent plea bargaining. The roots of the tree represent the limited budget and staff of the judicial system, and the leaves of the tree represent jury trials. If we eliminated plea bargaining, there would be a 10-fold increase in the number of trials. If we use the tree analogy, removing the sucker growths will cause the tree to have 10 times more leaves than normal. Have you ever seen a tree with that many leaves? There is a reason you haven't. The roots of a tree can't supply enough minerals to support that many leaves. Likewise, the limited budget and staff of the judicial system can't support that many trials. Which would you rather have: tens of thousands of criminal suspects in jail because they plead guilty, or tens of thousands of criminal suspects in jail awaiting a trial? Any of those tens of thousands may be innocent, but in the former, they are in jail under their own free will. In the latter, they don't have a choice. Therefore, plea bargaining is essential if our courts are to run efficiently.
Plea bargaining is constitutional. The 6th Amendment states that "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, ... and to have the Assistance of
Counsel for his defense." However, according to Attorney Sandefur, defendants can waive the right to an attorney, a speedy trial, and personal jurisdiction. It makes no sense to say that a defendant can't waive the right to a jury trial. Therefore, plea bargaining does not violate any constitutional rights.
Plea bargaining reduces the risk of letting the guilty go free. According to the Suffolk Journal of Trial and Appellate Advocacy, "Cases aimed at dissolving notorious organized crime rings hinged on the validity of plea-bargains signed by accomplices. Rejecting this practice threatens to eradicate any possibility of conviction and allows reputed criminals to go unpunished." Plea bargaining is the only method that prosecutors can use to get accomplices to testify against crime ring leaders. Often, the testimonies of these accomplices are the main reason that crime ring leaders are convicted. Plea bargaining also helps to solve thousands of cases. According to the St. John's Journal of Legal Commentary, "The Commission conducted a study of 130 narcotics defendants who provided substantial assistance. The study revealed that the assistance these defendants provided resulted in twenty-one trial convictions and fifty-nine guilty pleas. Additionally, cooperator testimony has helped to solve 250 gang-related murders, and helped to convict 300 persons in the Southern District of
New York." If something helps solve thousands of cases, and is the only means to get reliable evidence against the leaders in crime, does it make sense to say that it undermines the criminal justice system?
Therefore, plea bargaining does not undermine the criminal justice system. The resolution has been negated. Please vote con.
sithxo

Pro

I the pro side will prove that plea bargaining undermines the criminal justice system by using the mission statement of the U.S department of justice as the very foundation of the system. The mission statement of the Department of Justice states "To enforce and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans."

1.Plea bargaining distorts justice by wrongfully pressuring defendants into guilty pleas.
2.Plea bargaining contends with the fundamental value of equity of the criminal justice system.
3.Plea bargaining contends with the fundamental value of just punishment of the criminal justice system.
Plea bargaining distorts justice by wrongfully pressuring defendants into guilty pleas
In the criminal justice system, various economic burdens, such as costs of pretrial detention, bail bonds, legal fees, and the resources required for hearings and trials, exist that decrease a defendant's willingness to go to court, and increase their probability of pleading guilty. In the U.S criminal justice system 78% of crimes are misdemeanors or DUI's, and 94 to 95% of defendant's plead guilty in these cases because of the economic burdens of bail and the temptation of a plea bargain. This practice wrongfully pressures defendants to plead guilty by giving them an irrefutable ultimatum that distorts the true administration of justice. In fact if all defendants had the economic ability to make bail, fewer than 6.8% of defendants would plead guilty. Furthermore many psychological effects pressure a person to plead guilty. The prisoner's theory is one of those psychological pressures that force two defendants to plead guilty in the hopes they would get a lesser penalty if they provide information against the other co-defendant. This pressure again takes advantage of the mental state of the defendant and does not get a willfully given confession of guilt. Another psychological effect on defendants is the gambling mind-state. According to research in Prospect Theory, most people are inclined to gamble to avoid sure losses and inclined to avoid risking the loss of sure gains. This means people are naturally inclined to take the sure plea bargain than gamble their conviction in court. Pressure is also put on the prosecution, public defenders, and flat-fee defense lawyers to force clients to plea. This pressure is created by the desire to make more money with more clients for defense lawyers, and by the desire to handle large workloads quickly by prosecutors. Finally, the psychological state of confusion adds to a defendants desire to plea. In U.S v. Ruiz, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not require prosecutors to inform defendants during the plea bargaining negotiations of evidence that would lead to the impeachment of the prosecution's witness. This means that even if a witness was drunk at the time of the crime the defendant entering into the plea deal wouldn't know it. Also prosecutors are not required to name all of the evidence against the defendant during bargaining. The confusion and fear caused by not knowing the full case against a person clearly would push them to plea instead of risk the possibility of a tougher sentence. In the case Brady v. U.S, the Supreme Court ruled that plea bargaining was acceptable if it was entered with full knowledge and willingness. Clearly we see the various forms of pressure and the withholding of information do not follow this requirement.
Plea bargaining contends with the fundamental value of equity of the criminal justice system.
Many of the practices of plea bargaining place more value on the worth of the defendant and the quality of the defense lawyer than the fundamental value of equity. In the practice of fact bargaining, defendants plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for information on other defendants. This practice creates great disparities between high profile defendants and simple misdemeanor defendants. According to the Harvard Law Review co-operation perverts distributive justice because higher-level defendants may have more information and so may be more likely to receive cooperation discounts. Also the quality and price of the defense lawyer greatly effects the terms of the plea bargain. Lawyers are greatly influenced by the fiscal benefits of a case and their workload. This again creates great disparities in equity. Appointed lawyers can make more money with less time and effort by pushing clients to plea. Furthermore many public defenders are overburdened by hundreds of cases per year. This high volume of cases prevents these attorneys from creating strong defenses and further pushes them to encourage a plea bargain. In contrast to these public defenders, privately retained lawyers who receive generous hourly rates and have incentives to bill more hours and to fight matters out generally receive better plea bargain deals for their clients because prosecutors don't want to experience a drawn out litigation process. Furthermore prosecutors don't offer plea bargains equally based on the value of the case. Prosecutors offer less favorable pleas in high-profile cases than in comparable low-profile cases in hopes of winning publicized convictions, such as in the cases of Enron and Michael Vick. These various situations and circumstances create inequality in the criminal justice system that contends with the fundamental value of equity.
Plea bargaining contends with the fundamental value of just punishment of the criminal justice system.
The foundation of the criminal justice system states that its goal is to seek "just punishment". The very nature of plea bargaining weakens this foundation. The practice of charge bargaining and fact bargaining purposely alter the facts of a case to create a more convenient justice. When justice is not fairly administered, it creates discourse within the public. According to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, the greater the public disapproval toward the criminal act, the greater the public disapproval for a negotiated out-of-court settlement. The Journal goes on to say that a negative view of the judicial system and its common practices may adversely affect the public's trust in it, which, consequently may undermine public readiness to obey the law. This means that as more serious cases are plea bargained to avoid "just punishment", the public not only begin to hold negative views on plea bargaining, but they hold negative views of the entire judicial system which leads to the undermining of the public's readiness to obey the law.
Plea bargaining by nature undermines the foundation of the criminal justice system. The various economic and psychological burdens placed on defendants unjustly coerce a guilty plea from defendants which contends with the fundamental ideal of a willing confession of guilt. Plea bargaining contends with the fundamental value of equity in the criminal justice system. Based on the skill and pay of the lawyer and the caliber of the case justice is administered unequally for the same types of crimes. Finally plea bargaining contends with the fundamental tenet of just punishment. When this idea is avoided by plea bargaining, it creates distrust within the public which inadvertently undermines their willingness to obey the law. Plea bargaining is not a choice. It is a practice that punishes defendants for exercising their rights to a trial. This is exemplified perfectly in the case of Shadu Green. Green was charged with a series of misdemeanors and has been granted bail. Unfortunately like many Americans he can't afford to pay it so he remained in prison. His quote perfectly exemplifies the "justice" of plea bargaining, "It's not a choice, because if you don't have money you have to stay here. It's ruining your life either way you put it."
For these reasons I urge a Pro
Debate Round No. 1
merciless

Con

merciless forfeited this round.
sithxo

Pro

sithxo forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
merciless

Con

I apologize for forfeiting the second round. I was unable to access this site during the weekend.

I will start with the cross fire, and then move on to my second speech. I will answer my opponent's crossfire in the comments section.

Crossfire:
1) If such burdens as detention, bail, legal fees, and resources exist, is that a problem with the practice of plea bargaining or the trial system?
2) You say that if everyone could afford to pay bail, less than 6.8% would plead guilty. I don't know from which source you got this from, but even if this is true, is it a problem with plea bargaining or the trial system?
3) You say that psychological pressures exist that force a defendant to plead guilty ("does not get a willfully given confession of guilt"). The defendant is free to accept or decline a plea bargain, and he has the assistance of his defense attorney, how is the defendant forced to plead guilty in any way?
4) You say that defendants are unjustly coerced into pleading guilty by economic and psychological burdens. Because plea bargains help to alleviate economic burdens, people are coerced to accept them? Because defendants want to avoid heavy punishment, they are forced to plead guilty?
5) You say that plea bargaining does away with just punishment, but I stated in my 3rd contention that plea bargaining is the only way to convict notorious crime ring leaders. Which would you rather have: just punishment for a petty accomplice, or just punishment for those who really deserve it, the crime ring leaders?

My opponent believes that plea bargaining coerces defendants into pleading guilty, that plea bargaining is unequal, and that plea bargaining is unjust. He states that "most people are inclined to gamble to avoid sure losses and inclined to avoid risking the loss of sure gains", which means that people that think they have a good chance of acquittal will go to trial, and those that believe they will surely be convicted will accept a plea bargain. There is no coercion involved. Defendants may make a bad decision, but if they do that is because of their own poor judgment, not because of anything coercive. Economic burdens may be an incentive for defendants to enter into a plea bargain, but they by no means coerce the defendant into pleading guilty. The alternative for the defendant is to spend x months in jail to await his trial. The defendant that just wants to get it over with will, but is not forced to, accept a plea bargain. Psychological burdens may exist for the defendant, as confronting an official and facing the reputation damaging punishment that the judicial system offers can be intimidating, but they by no means coerce the defendant into pleading guilty, especially since they have the assistance of their defense attorney.
My opponent also states that plea bargaining undermines equity in the judicial system, but according to Sociology and You (sociology textbook), there exists something called victim discounting, where the important person who commits a crime against a less important person gets less prison time than the less important person that commits a crime against an important person. Something that doesn't exist can't be undermined. He states that "appointed lawyers can make more money with less time and effort by pushing clients to plea. Furthermore many public defenders are overburdened by hundreds of cases per year." I concur. Some lawyers may slack off and just push their clients to plead guilty, but ultimately it's up to the client whether or not to plea. Also, since public defenders are overburdened, the abolition of plea bargaining will keep them overburdened, and possibly more overburdened. Then they can't defend anyone well. Thus, plea bargaining is essential if our courts are to function smoothly.
My opponent also believes that plea bargaining lets the defendant avoid just punishment, but without plea bargaining, just punishment can't be administered to the people who really deserve it: the crime ring leaders. Is it just to convict only first-time offenders, or those that commit petty crimes, and let organized crime thrive without prosecution?

Therefore I urge a CON ballot.

New sources for this round:
Sociology and You
http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
sithxo

Pro

sithxo forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by ismailmian 4 years ago
ismailmian
Can anybody please tell me which issue of the Harvard Law Association Pro got the information that -
"Harvard Law Review co-operation perverts distributive justice because higher-level defendants may have more information and so may be more likely to receive cooperation discounts."
I need it ASAP for an essay I am doing and any help will be appreciated.
Posted by anonymouse 6 years ago
anonymouse
Where did Pro get his sources that 94-95% of defendents plead guilty?

"In the U.S criminal justice system 78% of crimes are misdemeanors or DUI's, and 94 to 95% of defendant's plead guilty in these cases because of the economic burdens of bail and the temptation of a plea bargain."
Posted by wiseovvl 6 years ago
wiseovvl
I love this website, great debate so far guys.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by King_of_Contradiction 6 years ago
King_of_Contradiction
mercilesssithxoTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:43