The government should be required to pay the defense's attorney's reasonable attorney fees whenever losing a criminal jury trial.
The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.
After not so many votes...
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(1) I'm Pro; my opponent is Con.
(2) No new arguments in the final round.
(3) Characters limited to 8,000 characters per speech (i.e. Pro gets 8,000 characters in Pro's R1, Con gets 8,000 characters in Con's R1, and so on) -- anything above 8,000 characters should not be considered by judges; if a speech exceeds 8,100 characters, it is an auto-loss for the debater whose speech exceeded that amount. Characters include spaces.
(5) Judges should award a tie on "sources," "conduct," and "spelling and grammar" points.
(6) Any effort to avoid debating the issue (the government should not be required to pay the defense's attorney's fees) is ill-advised.
(7) If there is any confusion about the topic, potential contenders are welcome to address me in the comment section and I shall do my best to clarify any loose ends before beginning the debate.
(8) Have fun! Life's too short not to!
Government – Today’s debate shall be conducted within the context of the United States government and its various states, since the examples therein best illustrate why the principles I am advocating should always be enforced.
Picture this: You’re at a party and are having a good time with your friends. You don’t have to worry about what you’re gonna have for dinner tonight as someone’s cooking on the grill! As you’re waiting for the food to get ready, you look at your cellphone and see you’ve got an email indicating that that job interview you had last week went great and you’re about to get hired to work at the six figure salary job you’ve been dreaming about for a long time. Everything is going great for you!
And just when you think it can’t get even greater, it does! You see someone walk through the front door. It is the object of your affections! It is that pretty girl (for those not interested in women, we’ll say ‘good looking dude’ instead) you’ve been pining after for months now! We’ll call her Kira. Kira walks right through the doors, gracing the party with her presence. You’re initially timid about talking to Kira, but after being pushed by your friends to take a shot, you and Kira start talking and things get even better from there. Before you know it, you and Kira decide to slip into the back bedroom and have some adult fan, with you feeling even better as Kira shouting your name in ecstasy. And as its time for everybody to leave, Kira gives you her phone number and you can’t help but feel elated about the turn you’re life is taking!
The very next day, you decide to send Kira a text message . You haven’t heard from Kira and decide to send her a playful text message “I wanna hear you shout my name some more.” Kira doesn’t respond, so you figure she must be busy or something.
Another day passes by and you hear a knock on your front door. You go to open it, only to see several police officers – one officer telling you that he has a warrant for your arrest and that you have the right to remain silent. Next thing you know, you’re in the county jail with multiple felony charges: 4 counts of Aggravated Rape, 1, 1 count of Rape and 2 counts of Especially Aggravated Kidnapping. Somehow, you make bail.
You check your email for a moment, only to fall to your knees in depression as you realize that that six-figure job you were going to get is no longer being offered in light of your criminal charges. Not only that, but you were also fired from your currernt job since they want nothing to do with a “rapist.” So now you have no source of income whatsoever.
You get to your first court date and see you’ve been appointed a public defender. The public defender talks to you outside the courtroom, telling you that they’ve reviewed the file in the case and that it appears that Kira is claiming that you raped her at the party. You tell the public defender that’s ridiculous, but he tells you that she called the police the next day, crying over the phone and telling them in great detail what you did her; how you even had the audacity to send her a text message afterwards bragging about how you made her scream for her life. You plea to the public defender in great detail, telling him that you would never do something like that, but the public defender simply tells you that he’s got another client to talk to and that he’ll talk more with you later.
Eventually, after several more court dates, your public defender gets what is called “discovery” [in laymens terms, any relevant evidence the prosecution has in its possession]. Your public defender goes over the discovery with you and you sigh in relief and you realize that the only evidence the prosecution has is Kira’s statements, the text message, a steak knife that was left in the bedroom you and Kira had sex in and the fact that you’ve admitted to pinning after her for months prior to the party. You even start laughing about it, somewhat overjoyed that this nightmare is about to end.
Your public defender, however, sees no such humor. Quite the opposite in fact. Your public defender tells you that you had better take the prosecution’s plea deal. You ask him what he’s talking about and he tells you that the prosecutor is offering to drop your charges down to Aggravated Sexual Assault if you agree to serve a 15 years sentence (60% of which will be served on probation. You tell the public defender “NO!” and say you want to take the case to trial since there’s no evidence of your guilt. The public defender shakes his head and tells you that Kira’s statements is all the evidence that is needed to convict you. You grow extremely outraged, insisting that you could have everybody at the party testify about what happened there, that everybody testify about how they didn’t hear any screaming and how everybody saw Kira leave without crying for help or anything, but the Public Defender insists that he’s seen plenty of people get convicted for the victim’s statements alone and that you’d be risking 60 years in jail if convicted.
You sob inexplicably as you sit in a corner, contemplating the most soul shattering decision of your life.
Folks, I present to you the Criminal Justice System! A system where the government will prosecute innocent people , a system where criminal defense lawyers are tragically underfunded  and a system where the government has almost nothing to lose. It is THAT kind of system that leads us to miscarriages of justice like the one I just described. One of the many measures that must be taken to prevent such injustices is the requirement that the government should foot the bill (within reason) when they lose a criminal jury trial. Here, I offer two simple justifications:
Contention #1: [Criminal Defense Lawyers would be able to better represent indigent defendants]
One of the biggest issues with the Criminal Justice System is the fact that defense attorneys are statistically underfunded. Scenarios like the one I described above are commonplace because a criminal defendant is statistically going to wind up with an attorney whose office is overworked, understaffed and under-resourced.
My plan accomplishes two things in this regard: (1) It encourages public defenders and court appointed attorneys to diligently take these cases trial, with the understanding that the fees they’ll obtain upon victory can be used to replenish their own war chests. (2) It encourages ordinarily expensive private attorneys to represent poor defendants, granting people who cannot afford said lawyers in the first place much better legal representation in the process.
Contention #2: [The Government would be discouraged from trying cases they weren’t positively sure they could win]
The sad reality is that we can’t simply trust the government to act in good faith, recognize common sense and refrain from prosecuting people in the scenario I described . The sad reality is that the government needs strong incentives not to charge people for crimes common sense would dictate as being ridiculous and the possibility of losing alone simply isn’t enough. Therefore, a healthy criminal justice system must be one where the government is required to pay the defense lawyer’s reasonable fees upon losing the case. Under this kind of framework, the government is encouraged to study their cases more methodically and only take a case to trial when it is willing to risk the financial burden of paying the defense’s attorney fees.
And that’ll do it for now!
- The moral and legal fallacy of imprisoning and/or convicting an innocent is far more imperative to avoid than the freedom of those that should be imprisoned and/or convicted of their crime(s).
- The government is inherently corrupt if left to their own devices.
- The irrational assumption that this will cause the government to be more careful with the cases as opposed to making the nation bankrupt instead since there’s nothing about this policy which stops them being just as careless and willing to pay that money as if the policy didn’t exist.
- Justice being based on gambling is inevitable, blackmailing to government to gamble more passive and tight doesn’t increase overall moral/safety profit for society it only inhibits the capacity to risk on shaky cases to put away very careful, intelligent criminals.
- Directly linked to concept 1, the shakier the case is, the more powerful the criminal by and large.
- If Pro is able to prove enough of a deficit in the current skill-level, workload-consuming-rate and/or general emphasis put on public defence attorneys to serve those they represent, it is the public defense attorney training program as well as punishment vs reward system in place for such lawyers that should be dealt with, not at all the concept of paying off private attorneys with public funds; this is inherently wrong and deceptive about what differentiates a public office from a private one.
- Since this policy isn’t coupled with the opposite (that the ones prosecuting should have the government pay for their attorney if they win), it is going to skew things completely in favour of criminals no matter how you look at it.
CON starts off by making three conclusory assertions in regards to what I am proposing. I address all three of them throughout my rebuttals with the exception that (1) my plan would bankrupt the country and (2) my plan wouldn’t stop the government malfeasance he is defending. CON will need to present an actual argument (and evidence) before we even entertain the first one! As to the second one, non-elected prosecutors would get fired and elected prosecutors would lose elections for wasting so much tax-payer money. In cases of openly willful malfeasance, the judge can order that the money be taken directly out of the prosecutor’s budget or forfeit their right to absolute immunity and get sued for their stupidity.
CON starts off by conceding that it is overall worse for an innocent person to be incarcerated than a guilty person to walk free, but then goes on to basically argue the opposite. He talks about serial killers being allowed to walk free, serial molesters, thieves and whatnot. His idea is that these dangerous people are roaming the streets and how my plan is basically inhibiting the government’s capacity to prosecute careful, intelligent criminals.
Here’s the thing CON is not getting. It is overall worse for one innocent to be convicted as opposed to ten guilty people being acquitted, but what this age-old adage is really saying is that 1 tyrannical government with the ability to deprive even a single innocent man/woman of their liberty is far more dangerous than 10, 100 or even 1000 serial killers could ever be and history proves this. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mussolini, Hussein. Men whose regimes were a cancer on the world, but there they were and there men like them and the regimes they lead will always be.
A criminal jury trial is a response to this reality. A reality men like Thomas Jefferson saw firsthand under the rule of King George III. And as Mr. Jefferson once said, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” A jury is the ultimate acknowledgment of the reality that is government tyranny, is a “legal check on [said] tyranny and thus a hallmark of and safeguard for a truly free people.”
The problem we face in modern times is that the prospect of a jury trial alone is not sufficient to keep the government’s tyranny in check. The articles I provided in R1 (cites 1 – 4) are demonstrative of this. Innocent people go to jail in droves and contrary to CON’s sentiments, it isn’t a result of the government wanting to “catch crafty criminals”, but because of political ambitions and because they have very little incentive not to. The example provided from the article titled “The Innocence Deniers” is most telling and speaks to great length on what measures prosecutors will take to hide/destroy evidence as well as do everything they can to undermine exonerating evidence.
CON talks a lot about wanting to catch crafty criminals, but a jury trial is not the mechanism to catching so-called “crafty criminals.” Good police work and good investigatory tactics is how you catch crafty criminals. CON wants to put the failings of bad/stupid/lazy police work (which is what we see in my Attention Getter) on the backs of law abiding citizens like you and I.
Re: CON Contention #2: [The shakier the case is, the more powerful the criminal!].
Or the shakier the case, the greater indication of the so-called criminal’s innocence. So rather than waste time prosecuting innocent people and paying attorney fees for the government’s ineptitude, how about focusing those resources of building your cases and dropping them when you realize there’s no case to be built?
Re: CON Contention #3: [We should increase Public Defense Funds instead!]
I’m glad CON agrees that the public defense industry should receive better funding, but this concession is a serious tactical error since the premise of my contention is boiled down to “More Money = More incentive.” And so I would not only take the increased funding CON proposed, but I’ll take the attorney fees proposal as well, making the defense all the more capable of opposing the government in its obstinate quest to send people to jail regardless of guilt or innocence. The latter of which the government can avoid simply by not prosecuting cases they don’t have enough evidence to win.
Furthermore, CON’s false dichotomy about picking between disbanding funding the public defense industry and “letting private attorneys compete” is absurd, laughable and irrelevant. Absurd because (i) wanting to get paid and wanting to help people is not mutually exclusive and (ii) wanting the ability to afford a sufficient number of staff members, investigators, expert witnesses, research interns and demonstrative exhibits is not “inherently corrupt.” Laughable because a system that is pretensed on “having a right to an attorney” isn’t inherently capitalistic. Irrelevant because having a well-funded defense and discouraging the government from prosecuting bad cases can be achieved either way (alternative wouldn’t be a good idea for independent reasons).
Re: CON Contention #4: This plan is going to skew things completely in favor of criminals no matter how you look at it!]
Of course it will! That’s how the criminal justice system is SUPPOSED to work. In the United States, we have the presumption of innocence, we have the right to a grand jury, we have the requirement that the government provide the defense with all of its evidence before trial, we have the right to a jury trial, we have the requirement that the government prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, we have the right to appeal the case if convicted and we have the right to post-conviction relief. What CON does not get is that the system is SUPPOSED to be SLANTED in favor of the defendant because we REJECT tyranny and we REJECT a system where innocent people can be punished for crimes they did NOT commit. Yet sadly in modern times, the system is somehow slanted AGAINST defendants. My plan is an additional safeguard that serves to tilt the system back in the direction it belongs.
Furthermore, CON ask what motive a high-flying attorney has to take the case knowing that he would not get compensated if the government drops it, but private attorneys take similar risks all the time with contingent-fee based cases and already (under the current system) get compensated as would any court appointed attorney for the pre-trial phase of the case. Now if CON wants to additionally make a case for increased court-appointed funding for the private attorneys who take these cases and settle, I’m all ears, but like the rest of CON’s case, that does NOTHING to negate the resolution and NOTHING to get around the fact that behind the litany of weak excuses is the fact that CON is being an enabler for government tyranny.
 See above
- Since the resolution ignores the opposite, this entire process is unfairly going to benefit criminals walking free and I mean much more than it is going to help free-framed people prevent the framing working (because if they are really being framed, the evidence is going to be planted so a better lawyer well... It's iffy if it will help or not).
- The criminals with shakier cases are ones who have carefully planned things out, they are hardly the ones who need better lawyers but I will admit that in those rare cases where the shaky case really is one where the defendant is innocent, they could use the best representation out there but this is why my next point holds so much ground.
- If there is a root corruption and failure of the public defence office and those representing the poor, it follows that the solution would be to improve training, funding and motive to perform well within the public defence office... Not to completely remove the need for the office and publicly fund privately-competing lawyers that is going to make life both unfair and rig the entire system of capitalism within the attorney field to favour firms (and those working in firms) that specialise in defending in criminal cases. There are a multitude of law firm types and even among the 'criminal law' specialising types, only half specialise in the defending (https://hirealawyer.findlaw.com/choosing-the-right-lawyer/types-of-law-firms.html).
One thing you’ll notice about CON’s case is that he does not dispute the primary evil I have cited within the Criminal Justice System and that is the fact that innocent people are regularly convicted for crimes they did not commit and that the government has little to no misgivings about this reality; a fact I have proven with clear and convincing evidence (see PRO cites 1 – 4 in R1 and cites 3 – 4 in R2).
Instead, all CON has to offer us is a vague and nebulous rationale in regards to the governments’ need to catch crafty criminals, a proposal to increase funding at the Public Defender’s office and concerns that my plan would skew the justice system in favor of the defendant. At best, CON has offered some means of making public defenders better equipped to represent innocent defendants, but nothing that truly deals with the problem at the root, which is the government’s decision to file charges on cases with weak evidence in the first place. My plan both discourages and punishes the government from initiating such prosecutions and thus does a much better job at addressing a serious problem CON does not contest. For that reason alone, you have more than enough justification to vote PRO!
Two things I’d like to note about CON’s R2:
First, CON’s R2 rebuttal and very brief and does not really address anything I said in my R2. Sometimes, people don’t have the time to invest in these online debates and that’s perfectly understandable. All the same, should CON decide to go back and provide a more substantive response to anything I said in R2, you as the voter are to disregard it since new arguments are expressly forbidden pursuant to Rule #2 in my debate description. Were CON to wait until his R3 to provide a more substantive rebuttal, I would be robbed of the opportunity to substantively engage CON’s rebuttals to things regarding issues brought up in his R1.
Second, although CON makes an issue about my conduct in R2, his concerns here are a nonstarter because (i) Rule #5 prohibits voters are awarding anything besides a tie on sources, conduct and spelling/grammar; (ii) Tit for tat. CON called my case nonsense and disgusting in his R1. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Re: CON Contention #1: [The government would be inhibited in its capacity to risk on shaky cases to put away very careful, intelligent criminals!]
In R2, CON does not add anything new to this contention and does not really dispute anything I’ve said. What is particularly troublesome for CON’s case is that my plan is a necessary legal check and balance on government tyranny and that a jury trial is not even the mechanism for catching the intelligent and crafty criminals he talks about. Again, good police and good investigations. The failings of bad police work should not be shouldered on the backs of law abiding citizens like you and I.
Re: CON Contention #2: [The shakier the case is, the more powerful the criminal!].
I asked CON why the government can’t simply focus its resources on building their cases and dropping them when the investigation goes nowhere and CON has given us no answer.
Re: CON Contention #3: [We should increase Public Defense Funds instead!]
I proposed that we increase public defender AND go alongside my plan and CON has given us no answer. I addressed his irrelevant false dichotomy on how my plan allegedly rigs the entire system of capitalism, but CON has given us no answer there either. The bottom-line here is that the better funded a public defender’s office is, the better it is able to perform and that public defender’s offices throughout the country are drastically underfunded. These notions about capitalism don’t even make sense since the criminal justice system is premised on people having the right to counsel, which is why people are given free lawyers in the first place. If CON’s quibble is about who exactly is doing the work, that is not dispositive to this debate.
Re: CON Contention #4: This plan is going to skew things completely in favor of criminals no matter how you look at it!]
CON has said nothing to address the fact that system is SUPPOSED to be skewed in favor of the defense. He does briefly address one’s presumption of innocence, but says nothing about the fact that the presumption of innocence is a burden the government is required to overcome and that said presumption would (by his logic) “skew things completely in favor of criminals no matter how you look at it!” As I pointed out last round, the criminal justice system is full of things that are designed to do that. And yet despite the litany of advantages criminal defendants are supposed to have, the system is still skewed in favor of the government (see PRO R2 cite 4).
CON briefly addresses people who are framed (going so far as to say that the evidence in such cases is going to be planted), but that’s not generally what’s going on when the government prosecutes an innocent person. In cases like the one I described in my attention getter, there is generally no evidence of ‘planted evidence.” The sad reality of the Criminal Justice System is that people can get convicted based on witness testimony alone. That is what nearly happened in the case I submitted in R1 Cite #11.
Re: CON Contention #5 (additional point made in CON R2): The resolution won’t help poor people get better representation!
CON says my plan wouldn’t help poor people get better representation because poor people wouldn’t be able to afford the lawyers in the first place. This is false. The government would pay the lawyers upon a not guilty verdict by the jury. Lawyers are already well accustomed to working on contingent-fee arrangements in other cases, so this is nothing new. What’s more, the current system already pays private court-appointed attorneys, which is why I said that “if CON wants to additionally make a case for increased court-appointed funding for the private attorneys who take these cases and settle, I’m all ears . . .”
CON also takes about struggles the semi-poor would face in having to “pull out many gambles such as mortgages and loans”, but a contingent-fee arrangement involves no such risk whatsoever to the client and thus CON’s concerns are without merit.
CON also says that the losers, under my plan, would cause a lot of debt, but much like his earlier assertion about bankruptcy, he provides no evidence to support this. One thing my plan does do is discourage the government from taking stupid cases (like the one in the Attention Getter) to trial, thus debt would be something the government would have the means of preventing in the first place.
When we last left off in our little tale in R1, you were explicably sobbing about having to decide between serving a 15 year sentence or risking 60 at a jury trial. Sobbing which lasted for hours. Sobbing mixed with pain and despair. And sobbing . . . that came to an abrupt end.
You open your eyes, realizing that it was merely all a dream. That you didn’t lose your job, that you didn’t lose all of your money bonding yourself out of a jail, that no one is accusing you of a reprehensible crime and that your life wasn’t essentially over. You even get a reply text from Kira, asking you when would be a good time to hang out later in the evening. A text you're hesitant to respond to initially in light of the nightmare you just suffered, but one you answer nonetheless with a sigh of relief. Chuckling in delight, you relish in the fact that a world where the government can destroy you for crimes you did not commit is only the stuff of nightmares. What’s more, you relish in the fact that you live in a society that has zero tolerance for that kind of behavior from the government.
A society that you, DART members, won’t live in until we take the necessary steps to live there. My plan is the first step forward in that direction!
"Trial costs already discourage prosecution "
I beg to differ. See the Knoxville, Tennessee rape case I cited. There, in addition to the rape case being premised on an accusation alone, the victim actually destroyed crucial evidence. A no brainier on cases not to waste taxpayer on, right? Nope. For many people, it takes actually being on the wrong end of a prosecution / FBI investigation to realize just how utterly f*cked up our judicial system is and how much money they will not hesitate to waste on sheer nonsense.
"Better representation for indigent defendants can be achieved more directly by hiring more public defenders and providing them with greater resources."
Which States are incredibly reluctant to do even with the threat of lawsuits. I would propose both solutions for reasons cited in the debate.
"Given all the injustice in the world - Why is this particular injustice important to you?"
Because most people have no idea it's happening and the news media downplays it beyond belief. I didn't know about it either until I saw it firsthand.
"Should the taxpayers have foot the $5 million legal bill for OJ's defense?"
Not only should the taxpayers foot the $5 million legal bill for OJ's defense, but they should subsequently fire the incompetent DAs who caused them to pay the bill in the first place. I'd also say that the demonstrable police corruption shown and proven by the OJ defense time would be well worth the price of $5 million and that the awareness raised towards men like the disgraced Detective Mark Furhman has surely fundamentally changed how the LAPD operates.
Trial costs already discourage prosecution and public defenders are salaried state employees. Better representation for indigent defendants can be achieved more directly by hiring more public defenders and providing them with greater resources. The resolution only indirectly furthers the stated policy interests, but there is an unstated interest that is directly furthered by the resolution - Justice. It's unfair when an innocent defendant pays for a prosecutor's mistake. Query: Given all the injustice in the world - Why is this particular injustice important to you? Should the taxpayers have foot the $5 million legal bill for OJ's defense?
I said everything I had to say anyway.
Thanks for the debate! Was fun!
I won't mention this in the debate, but I just got a client who the police arrested for assault despite substantial evidence (such as her bleeding profusely and the alleged victim barely having a scratch) that the victim was trying to kill her and her son with a knife. Sometimes (at least in America), you're taking a big risk just by calling the cops. And sometimes, getting charged is a matter who can call the cops first.
I had checked my character counter prior to posting my R1 and it was 7981 characters. After seeing your R1, I checked the character limit on my R1 and it was 7981 characters when I pasted it into word unformatted. I then checked again by pasting it with the formatting (which I don't usually do) and it was 8035 characters. Don't know why that is, but I have no problem providing evidence (probably video recording of me going into word and hitting the character count button) and making a policy argument on the issue.
On the other hand, I don't care about sources being counted in the character limit, so I'm fine stipulating that they are not counted . . . especially given the weird discrepancy in how stuff is being counted.
Thanks for clarifying!
should not further**********
they should discontinue their involvement
"You sob inexplicably as you sit in a corner"? I'd say that's some very explicable sobbing. 🙃