The new topic for November to December was posted a while back by TFA, sorry for the late post. Anyways, seeing as how all of these tournaments are about to begin for the topic, I suppose now is as appropriate as ever.
"Resolved: In the United States criminal justice system, jury nullification ought to be used in the face of perceived injustice."
What is "Jury Nullification"?
Before continuing discussion it is very important to understand what jury nullification even is. According to Wex Law Dictionary, jury nullification is:
"A jury's knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury's sense of justice, morality, or fairness.
Jury nullification is a discretionary act, and is not a legally sanctioned function of the jury. It is considered to be inconsistent with the jury's duty to return a verdict based solely on the law and the facts of the case. The jury does not have a right to nulification, and counsel is not permitted to present the concept of jury nullification to the jury. However, jury verdicts of acquittal are unassailable even where the verdict is inconsistent with the weight of the evidence and instruction of the law."
Now how does the jury actually do this "discretionary" act? If a person is guilty of said law or policy, and the jury finds the law to be 'contrary to the jury's sense of justice, morality, or fairness,' then they will simply find the person not guilty so that they are not punished.
The Jury System
The right to trial by jury is secured through the 6th amendment of the United States, which provides: "the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to be tried by an impartial jury, the right to be informed of the charges, the right to confront and call witnesses, and the right to an attorney." [Source]
The 6th amendment isn't the only amendment through which jury rights are addressed, but also through the 7th amendment, which states "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." [Source]
This amendment is not like others, seeing as it is not applied to the states:
"Unlike most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights, the Seventh Amendment has never been applied to the states. The Supreme Court stated in Walker v. Sauvinet (1875),Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad v. Bombolis (1916) and Hardware Dealers' Mut. Fire Ins. Co. of Wisconsin v. Glidden Co. (1931) that states were not required to provide jury trials in civil cases. Nonetheless, most states voluntarily guarantee the right to a civil jury trial, and they must do so in certain state court cases that are decided under federal law." [Source]
(Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations.)
If anyone is unfamiliar with the exact mechanics of a jury system, any legal citizen above 18 years old may serve on jury unless they "[are] unable to read, write, and understand the English language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to fill out satisfactorily the juror qualification form," or have criminal charges pending against them or have been imprisoned for more than one year by a federal court. Through the "Jury Selection and Service Act," they select these jurors.
There are two types of juries, a trial jury and a grand jury. A trial jury, which is also known as a petit jury, decides whether the defendant committed the crime charged in a criminal case. Trial juries: Consist of 6-12 people, their trials are generally public, but jury deliberations are private. The defendants have the right to appear, testify, and call witnesses on their behalf. The final outcome is a verdict, in favor of plaintiff or defendant in a civil case, or guilty/not guilty in a criminal case. "A grand jury is presented with evidence from the U.S. attorney, the prosecutor in federal criminal cases. The grand jury determines whether there is “probable cause” to believe the individual has committed a crime and should be put on trial. If the grand jury determines there is enough evidence, an indictment will be issued against the defendant. The grand jury consists of 16-23 people, and their proceedings are not open to the public. Defendants and their attorneys do not have the right to appear before the grand jury." [Source]
Parameters of the Resolution
Ought to be Used
Now, it is important to understand that juries do have the power to nullify as they please, seeing as how they don't have to present why they make a verdict, so the resolution limits us to talking about the explicit morality of the action and whether juries should use it.
Criminal Justice System
Well, if you want some up to date cards here is this: [Obama's Weekly Address: It's Time to Reform Our Criminal Just System] (That's from 3 days ago!)
This is the prosecution of people who break laws and commit crimes. Pretty simple.
Oh boy, this is the thing that gives the neg a lot of ground. As opposed to just saying "injustice" like those topic selectors had the full capability of doing, they put 'perceived', which means it could be injustice, or it could not, it just depends on the specific jury. That's beautiful in so many ways for the negative in the next two months.
Some Little Ideas
So, as according to the 6th amendment, we must have an 'impartial' jury. If this were truly the case, the jury wouldn't be impressing their personal bias onto a criminal case as they are required, but instead letting their bias and thoughts rain all over it, destroying the justice system the 6th amendment attempts to create.
Of course, it's arguable that this may be the point of a jury. To bring justice to criminals, and if justice lies in not following the law, then that is what must be done.
It's also arguable that juries are flawed and can have bias based on geographical location. So say, if a court occurred in the North concerning the running away of property (i.e. slaves) and he attempted to sue his former slave owner for attempting to re-enslave him, and it was the law of the land that the property must return to it's owner when it ran away, then the Northern jury must return that slave to his owner against their moral beliefs in the negative world. In the affirmative, this slave could be saved by these northerners from his desolate life of enslavement through justice, and later justice would be brought fully through the Emancipation Proclamation and the reconstruction of the Union. Of course, do juries represent justice? Do they even have the qualifications to make that stance? Well, it's arguable that with the powers given, a jury does represent a form of justice, a last resort beyond law to protect the innocent. It's also arguable that they are just a mechanism to stop the elite from overpowering the law, and not a form of judges that can judge as they so please.
Also, should a jury be given the authority to represent the wants of a nation? Can they accurately represent that? Probably not, and isn't that the purpose of the law? To accurately represent the wants and laws of the majority of people through democracy? Doesn't jury nullification DESTROY democracy?
Anyways, just a little introduction to the resolution that may have some errors and flaws, I wrote this little thing in an hour, so don't take it as the word.
Tell me what you guys think below about the resolution! I am very excited to hear everyone's responses!