Round 1: Frankidealist35 vs americandingbat: Courting A Verdict?

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posted on Feb, 15 2009 @ 09:11 PM
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The topic for this debate is “The Media Has Made It Virtually Impossible For A Celebrity To Receive A Fair Trial.”

Frankidealist35 will be arguing the pro position and will open the debate.
americandingbat will argue the con position.

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posted on Feb, 15 2009 @ 11:25 PM
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Research for—it is impossible for people to have a jury trial with the presence of the media

I live in the United States of America, and, here in the United States something that is very frequently pressed upon us when we’re in school is that people here are given fair trials. One concern that I have and that other people have is what influence the media has on trials. Over the last 4 or so years we’ve noticed an interesting change in political culture, and, in culture in general. We’re seeing more and more people come under scrutiny under the public eye. Yes, they’re celebrities— or these people are famous politicians—and they’re finally being held accountable for what they’re doing—they’re getting what they deserve. Democracy here in America is working! But—wait a second. These people are humans too. Would we want the media to be intruding in our lives all the time, would we want the paparazzi following us all the time, would we want all of this to happen to us? It’s fun to watch—I’ll give you that—but for this debate I’m going to be arguing from the humanitarian aspect. People like New York Government Spitzer and people like Charles Barkley and Alex Rodriguez need to be held accountable for their actions. Lance Armstrong—used steroids… yes all of these people need to be held accountable for what they’re doing.

I however will present a different point of view. The media automatically makes the public assume that someone has a guilty verdict. Rod Blagojevich—innocent or not—was certainly not given a fair trial, and, much of that had to do with the media. Recently, as we are aware of, the media here in America was all over it, and Rod Blagojevich was kicked out of his governership of Chicago. The media seemed to celebrate him getting kicked out as if they were watching a sports game. It all seemed to be fun and games. I think that the public ought to know what’s going on. But, I think that media coverage over jury trials, have, prevented people to have a jury trial, let alone, a fair trial like how they’re supposed to because of their ever so intrusion on their daily lives or their personal aspect.

First of all, I should say that I’m a sports fan, so I know all about how these athletes are under the law too, but you just have to wonder—when is enough enough? A star like Michael Vick could have their career ruined by media coverage on a certain trial. They automatically assumed that Michael Vick was guilty, after, he beat his dogs. It ruined his career. Not that he wasn’t guilty, but, what I’ve noticed that what the media does—they try to ruin high profile athletes, celebrities, or they try to seem to have an omnipowerful presence when it comes to these court cases that seem to get national attention. Take Kobe Bryant for example— the media had completely unfair coverage of him, his image of a superstar athlete was tarnished for a while, and the media made it to seem like he was a rapist. Maybe he was just cheating on his wife—like a regular guy cheats on their wife—who knows what was going on with his mind that day. The media made it to seem like he was a rapist—that he was just a criminal thug like the rest of those rapists and they tried to ruin the image of the NBA. Whenever an athlete or whenever a celebrity comes under the public eye their image gets ruined and it’s bad for the sports. I think that the media’s behavior is inappropriate with how they deal with these kinds of public things.

Here we are innocent until we’re proven guilty. We’re not Great Britain or any other nation where they don’t have our laws or our rule of laws. I feel that the media makes it impossible for a person who has a public image like an athlete or a celebrity like Kobe Bryant to make their case about why they did what they did. The media has too much of a powerful influence on what goes on, and, the media needs to step out of the court system and let things go on as they should.

That is my view. I hope to prove in my debate exactly what factors in the media make it hard for people to have a fair trial and jury, and, just in what cases, the media has gone too far just because they’ve wanted something to talk about.



posted on Feb, 16 2009 @ 09:45 PM
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A brief word of gratitude to MemoryShock, Semperfortis, and the other moderators of this forum for devoting their time and effort to nurturing this little corner of ATS where more than anywhere else we strive to Deny Ignorance with openmindedness, civility, and respect.

 


Like my opponent, I am from the United States of America, and will be focusing in this debate on the institutions and values of the legal system as it exists here. This will entail looking at the rights provided for in the Constitution and the Amendments, examining the thought of legal commentators from the Federalist Papers to the present day, and observing how the legal process has worked in actual cases.

My opponent has provided examples of three famous men who he thinks have been unfairly treated in their dealings with the law and the media. What he has not provided is any evidence that any of these three men was prevented from having a fair trial because of the media coverage. And let us be clear – the issue at stake is not whether or not the media leaps to conclusions, or prejudices the public opinion, but whether any such actions make it virtually impossible for the celebrity to receive a fair trial.


Rod Blagojevich—innocent or not—was certainly not given a fair trial, and, much of that had to do with the media. Recently, as we are aware of, the media here in America was all over it, and Rod Blagojevich was kicked out of his governership of Chicago.


Rod Blagojevich was impeached, convicted on the impeachment charges, removed from his position as governor of Illinois and barred from holding public office in the state of Illinois in the future.

He has not yet had a criminal trial on the charges being investigated, fair or unfair.
1.1


A star like Michael Vick could have their career ruined by media coverage on a certain trial. They automatically assumed that Michael Vick was guilty, after, he beat his dogs. It ruined his career.


This debate is not about the media’s penchant for mudslinging, or its gleeful malice in exposing the alleged crimes of the rich and famous. This debate is about whether the media prevents celebrities from getting a fair trial.

Michael Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his dog fighting ranch, is currently serving time in federal prison and is apparently negotiating a guilty plea with the state of Virginia on related charges. Furthermore, three other men – not celebrities – also pleaded guilty in the case. Vick was not denied a fair trial due to his celebrity – he was guilty and chose to make a deal rather than face a jury!
1.2


Take Kobe Bryant for example— the media had completely unfair coverage of him, his image of a superstar athlete was tarnished for a while, and the media made it to seem like he was a rapist. Maybe he was just cheating on his wife—like a regular guy cheats on their wife—who knows what was going on with his mind that day.


My opponent’s final example is almost absurd enough to be funny.

Was Kobe Bryant denied a fair trial because of his celebrity status? His case never went to trial, because as jury selection began the woman accusing him of rape decided she did not want to go through the trauma of testifying against him. By that point court error had already released her name to the public, released sealed transcripts about her sexual history to the media, and the judge had ruled that Colorado’s Rape Shield law (which normally prevents a woman’s sexual history being used in the trial) should not apply in the case. Mr. Bryant has since settled a civil case brought by the woman, with payment of an undisclosed amount of money to her in damages.

On this topic, Mr. Bryant says,


After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.

2

Leaving aside how a woman can only “feel” that she didn’t consent (it seems to me that the very definition of consent requires her to be aware of giving consent), I very much hope that the “regular guy who cheats on his wife” doesn’t experience miscommunication on the issue in the way Mr. Bryant did.

 


So my opponent will have to come up with better evidence than Mr. Bryant, Mr. Vick, and Mr. Blagojevich before he can show that the judicial process is compromised by modern media coverage of celebrity trials.

In the meantime, let us look a little at the judicial institutions in the United States of America, with particular attention to their application in criminal law.

The fundamental right often cited is that as citizens we are entitled to a timely public trial before a jury of our peers. This right is enshrined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution, and elaborated in Amendments 5, 6, 7, and 14.

Here is the text of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The source I am using is a pdf file of the Analysis and Interpretation of the Constitution: Annotations of Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, Senate Document No. 108-17, 2002 Edition and is available at gpoaccess.gov.


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

3

Over the course of this debate I will be examining the institution of trial by jury, both as it was originally practiced and as it has evolved over the centuries. I will show evidence that “fairness” is not in fact a characteristic of trial by jury now, if indeed it ever was; and therefore that the media cannot be blamed for preventing celebrities from receiving a “fair” trial.

Moreover, there is available to defendants the option to waive their right to trial by jury in favor of trial before a judge – I will argue that this is in practice the option that offers a “fair” trial, and that this option is not affected by media attention.

Thank you readers and judges for your attention, and I will turn the debate over to my opponent at this point.



posted on Feb, 17 2009 @ 11:10 AM
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My Rebuttal:

My opponent would like you to think that my argument is that these celebrities in the media aren't given a fair trial because of the media. He has pointed out how (a) Kobe Bryant's case didn't go to a criminal court, and, (b) Rod Blagojevich wasn't tried yet, of course he's pointed out this about Michael Vick




Michael Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his dog fighting ranch, is currently serving time in federal prison and is apparently negotiating a guilty plea with the state of Virginia on related charges. Furthermore, three other men – not celebrities – also pleaded guilty in the case. Vick was not denied a fair trial due to his celebrity – he was guilty and chose to make a deal rather than face a jury!


My opponent is correct in that Michael Vick pleaded guilty to his charges, that Kobe Bryant's case never went to a criminal court and that he gave the person whom accused him of rape some damages, etc. But he is incorrect on the part about Rod Blagojevich-- Rod Blagojevich was tried in a court, but, he left because his trial wasn't fair. Everyone was against Rod Blagojevich and the trial against him certainly wasn't fair-- first of all allow me to bring up the fact that all of this evidence that has been obtained against Rod Blagojevich was illegal.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A lawyer for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told state lawmakers Thursday that the federal wiretaps at the heart of the pay-to-play allegations against his client were illegally obtained, and therefore should be kept out of any impeachment proceedings.
The wiretaps are crucial to the federal charges filed against Blagojevich last week. Prosecutors say they caught the Democratic governor discussing efforts to auction off Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat and pressure a hospital executive for campaign donations.

www.usatoday.com...

Regardless of whether or not you like Rod Blagojevich, whether or not you're a sympathizer to him or not, the media is all against him, and, this evidence they have against him is illegal. But, there is NO WAY now that the evidence against him is out now, that he can get a fair trial.

Now, let me quote my opponent.

This debate is not about the media’s penchant for mudslinging, or its gleeful malice in exposing the alleged crimes of the rich and famous. This debate is about whether the media prevents celebrities from getting a fair trial.

My opponent claims that this debate is NOT about the media's penchant for mudslinging or its gleeful malice of the alleged crimes of the rich and famous but my opponent is IGNORING the fact that these two things overlap consistently. The media is supposed to be there as a watchdog of the famous, the rich, or, for the politicians that do wrong However, my argument is based upon the fact that the media gets everyone against someone, and then, at that point, celebrity or not, it's impossible for them to have a fair trial.

Do you know what a character assassination is? I found this good source that explains what a character assassination is and then in a moment I will explain how the media attempted to do a character assassination on Kobe Bryant, preventing him from getting a fair trial, and, on Rod Blagojevich.


Would you hire such a person—someone who shamelessly praised and exalted himself while slinging mud at the character and reputations of others? Of course not. Anyone who sought employment like this would sentence himself to a continuous spot in the unemployment line!

Yet many politicians run for office (seek to be hired by the voting public) by slinging mud at their opponents. Few, it seems, shy away from touting their own virtues while launching verbal attacks with wild accusations, rumors and innuendo against their rivals—all in hopes of attaining office by virtually any means necessary. And, the mindset goes, if that calls for tarnishing the reputation of others—tearing down their hopes and dreams, and even ripping apart marriages and families—then so be it. Everyone and everything is considered fair game.


www.realtruth.org...
That is from the source.

My opponent says this about Kobe Bryant,


My opponent’s final example is almost absurd enough to be funny.

On this topic, Mr. Bryant says,

After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.



Leaving aside how a woman can only “feel” that she didn’t consent (it seems to me that the very definition of consent requires her to be aware of giving consent), I very much hope that the “regular guy who cheats on his wife” doesn’t experience miscommunication on the issue in the way Mr. Bryant did.

You're assuming that Kobe Bryant is guilty of the fact. Were you not around when this was taking place? The media was all over Kobe Bryant and assassinating his character. They made it appear as though he was a rapist. But let me present a different view. This trial didn't go to court because of the media. The media was on the side of this women, although, she hadn't proved that she'd been raped, and, they instantly took the side of the accused because that's what the media does with public figures. To the media, public figures=bad, and, that is what occured here. The media attempted to assassinate Kobe Bryant's character and ruin him. I believe that if Kobe Bryant went to court he would have never gotten a fair trial because even if it were proven that he was not guilty of rape as he said, then, the media would make it out to be that he was a rapist, when it may or may have not been so. So, you see, the media does have a lot of control over the perception the public has over public figures.

So, my opponent wants you to think that even with the new age of the media, that somehow celebrities are allowed speedy trials. Let me remind you of what he said here.


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense

That is true in theory, yes, that courts are supposed to give people a fair and speedy trial. But with knowing what I just pointed out, knowing that the media does character assassinations, knowing the media's foul tactics... how can we possibly say that the media gives everyone a speedy trial... or to have a fair trial? Our court administers justice... and the justice is supposed to be in the role of the courts... not the role of the media.



posted on Feb, 17 2009 @ 07:26 PM
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Rebuttals:

1.

Everyone was against Rod Blagojevich and the trial against him certainly wasn't fair-- first of all allow me to bring up the fact that all of this evidence that has been obtained against Rod Blagojevich was illegal.


The question at issue is not whether the evidence the government obtained against Rod Blagojevich was obtained legally, nor whether the media is sympathetic to the man. The article to which my opponent linked is hardly to the point, since it discusses the impeachment hearing of the former governor – as I stated in my opening post, the case has not yet reached the point of a criminal trial.

2.

You're assuming that Kobe Bryant is guilty of the fact. Were you not around when this was taking place? The media was all over Kobe Bryant and assassinating his character. They made it appear as though he was a rapist.


I would prefer to think that it is my semi-informed opinion that Mr. Bryant is a rapist, but if my opponent insists then I will concede that I’m making an assumption. And furthermore, since I have no personal knowledge of either Mr. Bryant or the woman who alleges he raped her, I have formed that opinion on the basis of what I have read in the media. As a matter for another debate, I could argue that the phrase “I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter” could be taken as a confession to rape, but that would be a fight for another time.

For this debate, my distrust of the stories pro basketball players tell about their female conquests is utterly immaterial. If I had been in the jury pool as Mr. Bryant’s trial began, I would no doubt have been excluded “for cause” as soon as I said that I had heard of the case and believed he was most likely guilty.

3.

My opponent would like you to think that my argument is that these celebrities in the media aren't given a fair trial because of the media.


The topic of this debate is after all, “The Media Has Made It Virtually Impossible For A Celebrity To Receive A Fair Trial.”

4.

Regardless of whether or not you like Rod Blagojevich, whether or not you're a sympathizer to him or not, the media is all against him, and, this evidence they have against him is illegal. But, there is NO WAY now that the evidence against him is out now, that he can get a fair trial.


With respect to my opponent, this is exactly what he must prove during this debate – simply asserting it is not sufficient.

5.

That is true in theory, yes, that courts are supposed to give people a fair and speedy trial. But with knowing what I just pointed out, knowing that the media does character assassinations, knowing the media's foul tactics... how can we possibly say that the media gives everyone a speedy trial... or to have a fair trial? Our court administers justice... and the justice is supposed to be in the role of the courts... not the role of the media.


I would not say that the media gives anyone a fair trial, although they sometimes make speedy judgments.

But, thanks to the U.S. Constitution, and in particular to the Sixth Amendment which I cited, we are not tried in the media, or in the “court of public opinion”, or by a monarch – we are guaranteed a trial in the judicial system, before a jury unless we choose to waive that right, in which case we will be tried before a judge. And that includes celebrities.

My opponent would like to cloud the issue by playing on our sympathy for those whose fall from grace can be followed in the tabloid press. I will not play that game. This debate is about whether it is possible for a celebrity to receive a fair trial in the judicial system, and if not whether the media is responsible.

 


Is Trial by Jury “Fair”?

In an article first published in 1995 in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial, but written forty years earlier, professor of law Bertel M. Sparks argues for the continuing importance of the institution of trial by jury despite criticism:


The jury is also a means of bringing flexibility into the courtroom. The judge must be impartial. He must be impersonal. He must administer the law as he finds it. All this is said to the jury. The jury has been criticized by the allegation that it does not apply the law but is swayed by the emotional appeal of the particular case. The very fact that it is so swayed is one of its crowning features.

Trial by Jury vs. Trial by Judge

The jury is the human aspect of the legal system. It is a tool to ensure that the will of the people is represented in the courtroom. As such, it is inherently unpredictable, flexible, subjective. Many limits have been put on its subjectivity to ensure that it doesn’t degenerate into prejudice – among them the rules about how the jury pool must be representative of the overall population, the voir dire process in which jurors who cannot set aside their preconceptions are eliminated, the judge’s instructions to the jury at the end of the trial, ensuring that the men and women of the panel understand the points of law in the case. But none of that changes the basis that makes the jury system so unique and so important – its humanity, its unfairness.

In my following posts, I will explore some other aspects of the unfairness of juries, including the increasingly popular practice of “scientific jury selection” and the question of whether a panel of non-experts is qualified to evaluate the highly technical testimony that often plays a role in a modern criminal trial.

But for now, I will leave on this note: a jury of our peers is inherently “unfair” – it is not an emotionless machine that can strictly interpret and apply the letter of the law. And it is this “unfairness” that makes it work.

Thank you.



posted on Feb, 18 2009 @ 06:47 AM
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Hi, I would like to use my 24 hour extension for todaay thanks.



posted on Feb, 19 2009 @ 10:19 AM
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My opponent here likes to ignore factual statements I make and to respond to them by saying that things that I talk about are NOT important to the total picture of the debate. First of all, media does make it hard to have an impartial trial by jury system. Judges are swayed by the media. Judges are swayed by what people say on message boards and the opinions people say does have an effect on their decision as to what they do in court.

My opponent would like you to believe that these things are unimportant to the debate, and that these things are just “mudslinging done by the media”, but allow for me to present to you a different point of view.


Through social media, litigators now have unprecedented access to the public's conversations, attitudes and opinions, giving valuable insight into the cognitive filter that influences the fact-finder's perceptions.
Through tracking the social media on message boards, in readers' discussions, in the news media and in blogs, litigators can study attitudes about a subject, client or case. They can learn unknown or little-known attitudes and opinions, leading to more informed jury research and, therefore, a wiser trial strategy. There is an abundance of reader reactions to news stories on blogs and in online comments that provides a whole new access to what the potential jury pool is twww.law.com... about cases that have been publicized.


Now, there have been cases that have also been affected by the media—not just celebrities that are affected by the media—but actual people. From the source you can also see a few other cases,



Jessica Binkerd, 22, was sentenced to five years by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill for a fatal DUI accident. During the trial, Binkerd was advised by her defense attorney, Steve Balash, to remove incriminating photos of herself on her Myspace.
Searching individual jurors can be challenging -- juror names are not always available to counsel and, when they are, there often is very little time before trial to search those names.

www.law.com...

There are more examples on the website but my point is that although my opponent makes it seem that trials are fair the media can affect trials, and, what happens in a court room. Thus affecting the final verdict, and, although these opinions from the media cannot be ascertained as proof, they decide the verdict based on them anyways.

My opponent keeps on dodging the point I make about Rod Blagjoevich—



The question at issue is not whether the evidence the government obtained against Rod Blagojevich was obtained legally, nor whether the media is sympathetic to the man. The article to which my opponent linked is hardly to the point, since it discusses the impeachment hearing of the former governor – as I stated in my opening post, the case has not yet reached the point of a criminal trial.

My point here was not that he hasn’t gone to a criminal trial yet, but my point was that Rod Blagojevich was kicked out of the state governership by the hungry press that was hungry for a story, and by all the people in his state government who were against him. It’s not whether there was a criminal trial or not. There were impeachment hearings, and, during the impeachment hearings, they used the illegally obtained evidence against him, and, the media already made it out to seem that he was guilty, hence, regardless of whether he was guilty or not—the impeachment hearings (a trial) wasn’t fair.

Look at what my opponent says about Mr. Bryant


I would prefer to think that it is my semi-informed opinion that Mr. Bryant is a rapist, but if my opponent insists then I will concede that I’m making an assumption. And furthermore, since I have no personal knowledge of either Mr. Bryant or the woman who alleges he raped her, I have formed that opinion on the basis of what I have read in the media. As a matter for another debate, I could argue that the phrase “I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter” could be taken as a confession to rape, but that would be a fight for another time.

My opponent also keeps on dodging the point I raise about Bryant. Kobe Bryant is not a rapist—as he has not been reported to rape anyone since that incident—yet my opponent assumes that he is a rapist based off of what he has seen in the mainstream media. That’s what I was talking about before, that the media has this tendency to do character assassinations on famous figure, and my opponent clearly without realizing is a victim of this.



For this debate, my distrust of the stories pro basketball players tell about their female conquests is utterly immaterial. If I had been in the jury pool as Mr. Bryant’s trial began, I would no doubt have been excluded “for cause” as soon as I said that I had heard of the case and believed he was most likely guilty.

My opponent here is believing that his belief about not trusting pro basketball players is immaterial to the debate. But in reality that is what the whole debate is about isn’t it? Isn’t it about whether celebrities can get a fair trial? If you automatically assume that basketball players are guilty—before proven innocent— like my opponent here is doing, then, you are admitting that the media does make it impossible to have verdict. All people are to the right to due process by the 6th amendment, and my opponent here is being hypocritical by assuming that Kobe Bryant and others like him are automatically guilty because they’re basketball players.



I would not say that the media gives anyone a fair trial, although they sometimes make speedy judgments.

But, thanks to the U.S. Constitution, and in particular to the Sixth Amendment which I cited, we are not tried in the media, or in the “court of public opinion”, or by a monarch – we are guaranteed a trial in the judicial system, before a jury unless we choose to waive that right, in which case we will be tried before a judge. And that includes celebrities.

My opponent would like to cloud the issue by playing on our sympathy for those whose fall from grace can be followed in the tabloid press. I will not play that game. This debate is about whether it is possible for a celebrity to receive a fair trial in the judicial system, and if not whether the media is responsible.

I’ve already proved that the media influences certain jurors. Jurors pick up opinions from different people within the media, and therefore, it makes it harder to have an impartial trial by jury when the jurors and litigators are always influenced by other media. My opponent thinks that I’m trying to sympathize with these celebrities when I merely am trying to show that our justice system is sometimes taken for granted, and that sometimes, the jury system is NOT impartial and thus cannot guarantee a verdict.



The jury is the human aspect of the legal system. It is a tool to ensure that the will of the people is represented in the courtroom. As such, it is inherently unpredictable, flexible, subjective. Many limits have been put on its subjectivity to ensure that it doesn’t degenerate into prejudice – among them the rules about how the jury pool must be representative of the overall population, the voir dire process in which jurors who cannot set aside their preconceptions are eliminated, the judge’s instructions to the jury at the end of the trial, ensuring that the men and women of the panel understand the points of law in the case. But none of that changes the basis that makes the jury system so unique and so important – its humanity, its unfairness.

Your OJ example is a bad example because there has been other criticism that all of the judges on the court were white, so, they were racist towards OJ (despite the fact that he may have been guilty). That affected their impartial judgment towards the case, and, kept them from getting a verdict.

Note, my opponent here talks the talk, but does simply not walk the walk. My opponent says that the legal justice system is fair, yet, he places judgment upon people whom he doesn’t even know.

So, I believe that while the justice system in theory is fair and in theory people have due process, that, much of the time it can and is broken, and, that there needs to be a lot of work done on the justice system because the media—is gaining too much influence over jury trials.



posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 10:48 AM
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Rebuttals

1.

My point here was not that he hasn’t gone to a criminal trial yet.…There were impeachment hearings, and, during the impeachment hearings, they used the illegally obtained evidence against him, and, the media already made it out to seem that he was guilty, hence, regardless of whether he was guilty or not—the impeachment hearings (a trial) wasn’t fair.


Impeachment hearings, as a function of the legislative branch rather than the judicial branch of government, are outside the scope of this debate. The rules of evidence are different, the burden of proof is different, the judgment process is obviously different–since the politician is being judged by a panel of his peers who are involved in the issue. There really is no valid way to compare impeachment hearings with a criminal trial in terms of fairness.

2.

My opponent also keeps on dodging the point I raise about Bryant. Kobe Bryant is not a rapist—as he has not been reported to rape anyone since that incident—yet my opponent assumes that he is a rapist based off of what he has seen in the mainstream media.


This is not entirely true. Mr. Bryant is innocent of rape in the eyes of the law – that does not mean automatically that he is not a rapist in the commonly-used sense of “one who has had sexual relations with another person without that person’s consent.” It means that he cannot be penalized by the State, and that he is protected from certain forms of employment and other discrimination. It does not mean that a private individual is not free to believe whatever he or she wants to believe about Mr. Bryant. I have squarely faced my opponent’s charge that the media affects how people view celebrities and that the media coverage of the accusation against Mr. Bryant caused many people to believe that he was in fact a rapist before the charges were brought to court.

The media convinced me Mr. Bryant was a rapist, and the dismissal of his case did not persuade me otherwise. But I am not the law, and I do not represent our government or our legal system. This confusion between public opinion and legal institutions is seen in my opponent’s next paragraph as well:

3.

My opponent here is believing that his belief about not trusting pro basketball players is immaterial to the debate. But in reality that is what the whole debate is about isn’t it? Isn’t it about whether celebrities can get a fair trial? If you automatically assume that basketball players are guilty—before proven innocent— like my opponent here is doing, then, you are admitting that the media does make it impossible to have verdict.


But the fact that I have assumed Mr. Bryant to be guilty without having seen proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in no way means that he could not have received a fair trial. It only means that I would not be an appropriate juror in such a trial. Luckily, the entire judicial system of the United States does not rest on my participation or opinion.

I imagine that there are probably people in the U.S. with the exact opposite point of view from me; who heard about the case in the media and jumped to the conclusion that not only had the encounter been consensual, but that the complainant had probably intended to cry rape all along in order to secure a lucrative payment of gag money. People with that opinion would not make appropriate jurors for the trial either.

And I am sure there are people in the U.S. who have not made up their minds about whether or not Mr. Bryant was guilty. There are probably even people who do not follow basketball and thus would have no idea who Mr. Bryant is. Those are the people who would be appropriate jury members if the case had come to trial.

4.

Judges are swayed by the media. Judges are swayed by what people say on message boards and the opinions people say does have an effect on their decision as to what they do in court.


By and large, I think this statement is not true, and I would challenge my opponent to provide evidence that there is a systemic problem with judges’ decisions and rulings being influenced by either the news media or the “blogosphere”.

If this does sometimes happen–and judges are human, so they do sometimes make errors–there is an extensive system of appeals that is designed to remedy the situation. But a judge is trained in the law, and is trained in application of the law. It is his duty to apply the law as he finds it, without bias or consideration of facts outside the purview of the case.

If a celebrity, having waived his right to trial by jury, were tried by a judge who allowed information from the media to impact his decision, the celebrity would have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court.

5.

My opponent thinks that I’m trying to sympathize with these celebrities when I merely am trying to show that our justice system is sometimes taken for granted, and that sometimes, the jury system is NOT impartial and thus cannot guarantee a verdict.


What seems to have been missed is that I am arguing that the jury system is never fair. Not for celebrities, not for anyone. The media cannot be blamed for the unfairness of the jury system with respect to celebrities, because the jury system is based in unfairness.

In my last post I argued that this is a strength of the jury system. I am glad to take this opportunity to reiterate that position, before I turn to some of the less savory evidence of the unfairness of juries. The institution of trial by jury is a crucial support to freedom in our country because it introduces an element of flexibility into the system, and because the sanctity of the jury deliberations ensures that the decision of a fellow citizen’s guilt or innocence ultimately lays in the hands of his fellow citizens who can within reason apply the law as they understand it–the representation of the will of the people in the courtroom.

 


My opponent has pointed out that new means of social networking have opened up avenues of research into public perception of a trial that are only beginning to be fully exploited. One of his sources specifically addresses the issue of jury research and jury selection, which it was my intention to introduce in this post.

As I said, I am now turning to some of the more questionable aspects of the unfairness of juries. So-called “Scientific Jury Selection” is a relatively new field of study, which involves the analysis of what sort of juror is most likely to favor one’s client, and the strategies used to get such members onto the panel. The analysis of social networking media sites is its latest form, but it also includes psychological and sociological profiling to evaluate potential jurors.1

The profession of jury consultant may be a new one, but the idea that the composition of the jury plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of a trial is not. The famous lawyer Clarence Darrow remarked


It goes without saying that lawyers always do their utmost to get men on the jury who are apt to decide in favor of their clients. It is not the experience of jurors, neither is it their brain power that is the potent influence in their decisions. A skillful lawyer does not tire himself hunting for learning or intelligence in the box; if he knows much about man and his malting, he knows that all beings act from emotions and instincts, and that reason is not a motive factor. If deliberation counts for anything, it is to retard decision. The nature of the man himself is the element that determines the juror's bias for or against his fellow-man. Assuming that a juror is not a half-wit, his intellect can always furnish fairly good reasons for following his instincts and emotions.
2

He continued on for quite a while–in a manner that is frankly a little shocking to the twenty-first century ear, imparting wisdom learned in his practice on such matters as why Jews and agnostics make desirable jury members for the defense, but Presbyterians, Baptists, and Lutherans (particularly if Scandinavian) should be rejected immediately. Christian Scientists, he informs his audience, he has never experimented with.

We may cringe at such blatant stereotyping now, but in a more nuanced version this is exactly what hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid to jury consultants these days to do: to determine how to get a jury that is not fair, but rather biased in your favor.

The voir dire process, for those who have not been through it, is the process in which a panel of jurors is selected for a given case out of a pool of potential jurors. During this process, attorneys for both sides are allowed a certain number of “peremptory challenges”–which means that they can refuse a certain number of potential jurors without stating a reason. In addition, each side is allowed unlimited “challenges for cause”–meaning that they can refuse anyone who demonstrates bias that cannot be put aside to render a verdict based on the evidence in court.

In theory, if the jury system were actually fair, it would not matter what kind of people were seated on the jury as long as they were able to to judge the case on its merits. Any random sample of the population would be satisfactory as long as they were able to understand the law and the case, and did not have a personal stake in it. But in fact, if a defendant truly wants a fair trial involving the direct application of the letter of the law with as little bias as possible, he would be well advised to choose a bench trial over a jury trial. A jury trial is chosen in hopes that a panel of his fellow citizens will see the matter in a specific light.



posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 11:23 PM
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My opponent believes that media coverage does not affect the verdict of the case. What I have found through my research is quite the opposite. Lots of these studies were done that proves that media doesn't have an effect on jury trials were poorly done, and, there are statistics showing that the more media coverage in a case, the stricter the punishment given to the guilty person by the jurors. Now, before I dissect my opponent's post, I will provide my sources, and, I hope that I will prove my point here.




"Since the Supreme Court's ruling in the Sam Sheppard case in the 1960s, many people have assumed that the defendant can't get a fair trial if there has been a lot of pre-trial publicity," Loges said. "And certainly, the vast majority of pretrial publicity is negative to the defense. But the courts have developed ways of dealing with the publicity factor that makes it a non-issue, as long as attorneys and judges avail themselves of those remedies.

"If there is one factor where publicity may have an influence it is in sentencing," Loges added. "In general, the more publicity a trial gets, the stiffer the sentence. This may be due to the nature of the crime. Other studies have shown that judges don't want to be viewed as being soft on crime, so there is an incentive for stricter sentencing."


www.scienceblog.com...

Here is a source which I want to use for my argument... it explains how the media can affect the way people think about things like gathering evidence, and, certainly that the media does have an influence on the trial. It talks about how much influence the media has, and, that people are becoming too careless with thinking they know everything since they watch shows like CSI...
www.trutv.com...

I think that it's important to the debate.
Anyways...



Impeachment hearings, as a function of the legislative branch rather than the judicial branch of government, are outside the scope of this debate. The rules of evidence are different, the burden of proof is different, the judgment process is obviously different–since the politician is being judged by a panel of his peers who are involved in the issue. There really is no valid way to compare impeachment hearings with a criminal trial in terms of fairness.

The topic of the debate is to find out whether or not celebrities get a fair trial. I don't know why you are so hesitant to the points that I make about Rod Blagojevich. Rod Blagojevich was presumed to be guilty and all he really was just doing was playing politics as usual. Yet the media played with them, poked holes in his defense arguments, and, really pushed pressure on the Illinois state senate to impeach him. I don't see how you could ignore this.




This is not entirely true. Mr. Bryant is innocent of rape in the eyes of the law – that does not mean automatically that he is not a rapist in the commonly-used sense of “one who has had sexual relations with another person without that person’s consent.” It means that he cannot be penalized by the State, and that he is protected from certain forms of employment and other discrimination. It does not mean that a private individual is not free to believe whatever he or she wants to believe about Mr. Bryant. I have squarely faced my opponent’s charge that the media affects how people view celebrities and that the media coverage of the accusation against Mr. Bryant caused many people to believe that he was in fact a rapist before the charges were brought to court.

The media convinced me Mr. Bryant was a rapist, and the dismissal of his case did not persuade me otherwise. But I am not the law, and I do not represent our government or our legal system. This confusion between public opinion and legal institutions is seen in my opponent’s next paragraph as well:

First of all, my opponent argues that Mr. Bryant is a rapist, and, that he is only presumed innocent under the eyes of the law. My argument is not here whether Mr. Bryant is guilty or not, but, I'm talking about the perception which the media paints of this figure, Kobe Bryant in the eyes of many. People like my opponent have no problem with accepting images that basketball stars like Bryant are rapists despite that he hasn't done that anymore if he did it once, because, it confirms their previous perceptions of basketball players. I think that with my opponent I've already proven how easily people are affected to think certain ways with the way the media frames things. My opponent just believed what the media told him without knowing much about Mr. Bryant, and, is ignoring the evidence that he hasn't done anything since, so what does that say about what the media's influence could be on potential trials?

But, wait, let's see what else my opponent has to say.


But the fact that I have assumed Mr. Bryant to be guilty without having seen proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in no way means that he could not have received a fair trial. It only means that I would not be an appropriate juror in such a trial. Luckily, the entire judicial system of the United States does not rest on my participation or opinion.

I imagine that there are probably people in the U.S. with the exact opposite point of view from me; who heard about the case in the media and jumped to the conclusion that not only had the encounter been consensual, but that the complainant had probably intended to cry rape all along in order to secure a lucrative payment of gag money. People with that opinion would not make appropriate jurors for the trial either.

And I am sure there are people in the U.S. who have not made up their minds about whether or not Mr. Bryant was guilty. There are probably even people who do not follow basketball and thus would have no idea who Mr. Bryant is. Those are the people who would be appropriate jury members if the case had come to trial.

It is true, yes, that other people may have had different views from my opponent about Mr. Bryant. My opponent also says that they would have given him a fair trial. But, this might or might not be the case. In the article that I showed you before it points out statistics that say that the more intensive the media coverage in a certain trial the more stricter the punishment would be, so, I do have doubts that Mr. Bryant might be given a fair trial.


By and large, I think this statement is not true, and I would challenge my opponent to provide evidence that there is a systemic problem with judges’ decisions and rulings being influenced by either the news media or the “blogosphere”.

If this does sometimes happen–and judges are human, so they do sometimes make errors–there is an extensive system of appeals that is designed to remedy the situation. But a judge is trained in the law, and is trained in application of the law. It is his duty to apply the law as he finds it, without bias or consideration of facts outside the purview of the case.

If a celebrity, having waived his right to trial by jury, were tried by a judge who allowed information from the media to impact his decision, the celebrity would have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court.

Jurors are affected by news they see. The jurors, like us, are human. They are affected by the opinions online. I have read numerous sources that all basically talk about how the jurors are affected by what people talk about online. They can get different kinds of opinions. Then, with the media, people who are involved in the case can talk to the media, and the media tends to poke holes in the arguments of both sides, so, that's certainly going to affect the people in the case here. My opponent seems to think that these people in the juries don't have opinions, but, it is my view that the jurors are human, and like us they are affected by things. I think what we should be asking is how to preserve the integrity of trials in the new age of the media.

Now, I want to turn my audience to the bottom part of my opponent's post. Here my opponent ADMITS that you don't really get a guilty verdict anyways, or, that it isn't meant to be fair. He then goes on to say that they WANT things to be pointed out in a specific manner to the media.



In theory, if the jury system were actually fair, it would not matter what kind of people were seated on the jury as long as they were able to to judge the case on its merits. Any random sample of the population would be satisfactory as long as they were able to understand the law and the case, and did not have a personal stake in it. But in fact, if a defendant truly wants a fair trial involving the direct application of the letter of the law with as little bias as possible, he would be well advised to choose a bench trial over a jury trial. A jury trial is chosen in hopes that a panel of his fellow citizens will see the matter in a specific light.

I think my opponent has self destructed in his last post. He has talked about how people try to buy the jury, or, not that, but to get it in their favor. How it's not fair. I think he has in a sense admitted that yes, the media, does therefore influence things. Once you can get the media in your side then you can probably have a lot more influence within the trial. The sixth amendment allows for people to have a impartial trial. My opponent argues that trials are never fair. If my opponent is arguing from the constitution then I believe that my opponent has failed to do so. So, it is with these facts that I have provided, my research, my experience, that leads me to believe that the media affects the jury, and, that limits should be placed upon actions by the jury during a case, so that the trial remains fair and impartial to the victim in the case or the accused.

[edit on 20-2-2009 by MemoryShock]



posted on Feb, 21 2009 @ 06:05 PM
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I would like to take my 24-hour extension at this point.



posted on Feb, 22 2009 @ 11:25 PM
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Rebuttal

1)

My opponent believes that media coverage does not affect the verdict of the case. What I have found through my research is quite the opposite.


I would thank my opponent not to attribute ideas to me that I have never expressed. Perhaps media coverage affects the verdict of the case, perhaps it does not. It is just one of the many factors that go into a jury verdict outside of the strict letter of the law and the evidence presented in the case.

Jury trials are unfair. That has been my position all along. We cannot blame the media for celebrity trials being unfair, if no jury trial is unfair. If a celebrity wants a fair trial, he or she can petition to waive the right to trial by jury and have a bench trial. And my opponent has given no evidence that the verdict pronounced by a judge in a bench trial would be affected by media coverage.

Just as a point of curiosity, I would note that the source that my opponent uses to support his assertion that “what [he] has found through [his] research is quite the opposite” actually says:


The difference between the odds of being found guilty in the no-publicity and high-publicity trials is not statistically significant, the researchers say.
1

It is true that his source found that trials given more publicity resulted in harsher sentencing if the defendant was found guilty but it is not true that more publicity affected the verdict – guilty or not guilty.

Moreover, the researchers admit that the difference in sentencing might well simply reflect that more egregious crimes receive both more air time and longer sentences.

2)

The topic of the debate is to find out whether or not celebrities get a fair trial. I don't know why you are so hesitant to the points that I make about Rod Blagojevich. Rod Blagojevich was presumed to be guilty and all he really was just doing was playing politics as usual. Yet the media played with them, poked holes in his defense arguments, and, really pushed pressure on the Illinois state senate to impeach him. I don't see how you could ignore this.


Rod Blagojevich has yet to face any criminal charges. I’m not sure how I can make this point any clearer. We are debating whether or not the media makes it impossible for a celebrity to get a fair trial. Mr. Blagojevich has not had a criminal trial at all. Impeachment proceedings are very different from a criminal trial – although he was removed from the governorship, he remains a free man and innocent in the eyes of the law.

3)

First of all, my opponent argues that Mr. Bryant is a rapist, and, that he is only presumed innocent under the eyes of the law. My argument is not here whether Mr. Bryant is guilty or not, but, I'm talking about the perception which the media paints of this figure, Kobe Bryant in the eyes of many.


My opponent can argue that the media portrayed Mr. Bryant as guilty of rape as long and as hard as he wants, and I will only keep agreeing with him. But he was not denied a fair trial because of this. He was not brought to trial because his accuser decided at the last minute that she did not want to testify against him.

4)

Jurors are affected by news they see. The jurors, like us, are human. They are affected by the opinions online. I have read numerous sources that all basically talk about how the jurors are affected by what people talk about online. They can get different kinds of opinions.


This apparently is my opponent’s rebuttal to my assertion that judges are able to rule fairly in a trial, disregarding media or online coverage.

Throughout this debate, my opponent has tried to confuse the audience by using the words “judge” and “juror” as though they were interchangeable. They are not.

5)

Now, I want to turn my audience to the bottom part of my opponent's post. Here my opponent ADMITS that you don't really get a guilty verdict anyways, or, that it isn't meant to be fair. He then goes on to say that they WANT things to be pointed out in a specific manner to the media.


More confusion, but a glimmer of light: I do indeed admit that a jury trial isn’t meant to be fair; this is an important part of the case I am trying to present.

To prove my side of this debate, it would be enough for me to simply point out the holes in my opponent’s argument to. He has the burden of proving that celebrities cannot receive a fair trial, and that the media is the cause of this situation. He has not done this; perhaps his most obvious failure is that he has never once addressed the bench trial alternative, choosing instead to focus on what I believe, or what the public generally believes.

But I would like to demonstrate something more in this debate, something that I think gets overlooked and even subjected to negative spin.

The institution of trial by jury is inherently unfair. And we should not try to change that.

 


Right to a Fair and Impartial Jury?

The phrase “fair and impartial” is often tossed around in discussions of our rights as given by the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, people often talk about a “fair and impartial jury of our peers.”

Yet this phrase never appears in the Constitution or its Amendments. Rather, the Sixth Amendment guarantees


the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
2.1


So let’s think about this a little. Consider the definitions of “fair” that might apply:


fair
–adjective
1. free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge.
2. legitimately sought, pursued, done, given, etc.; proper under the rules: a fair fight.
3

The first of these, “free from bias,” is obviously the same as “impartial.” But the use of the phrase “fair and impartial” suggests that the two are different but related concepts – otherwise it would be redundant. So the more likely definition is “proper under the rules, legitimately done.”

What is required of a jury is not “fairness” but “impartiality.” The annotated Constitution and Amendments sponsored by the U.S. Senate says this of impartiality:


Impartiality is a two-fold requirement. First, ‘‘the selection of a petit jury from a representative cross section of the community is an essential component of the Sixth Amendment.’’ This requirement applies only to jury panels or venires from which petit
juries are chosen, and not to the composition of the petit juries themselves.…

Second, there must be assurance that the jurors chosen are unbiased, i.e., willing to decide the case on the basis of the evidence presented.
2.2

The requirement that a juror be impartial means that he or she must not have a personal interest in the case. There must not be a bias in the composition of the jury pool – that is, it must represent a cross-section of the population of the area where the trial is held.

The notion of “fairness” is better applied to the overall proceeding: the rules of “due process” as outlined in the fifth, sixth and fourteenth Amendments ensure “fair play” in the trial. A trial is fair when these rules are adhered to: that the trial is timely and public, that the right to an impartial jury is not breached, that the trial be held in an appropriate location, that the defendant have the right to confront witnesses, that he or she have access to legal counsel, that the rules of evidence are followed.

It is the judge’s role to safeguard the fairness of the trial; which includes overseeing the seating of an impartial jury. But so long as the jury is impartial, its verdict does not have to follow the letter of the law – it can make an “unfair” decision without rendering the trial itself unfair.

There is a process called “jury nullification” which is protected by the sanctity and confidentiality of the jury deliberation process. If a jury reaches a verdict of not guilty, due process – specifically the principle of double jeopardy – means that the defendant cannot be retried on the same charges. This holds even though the jury does not have to defend or give reason for its decision.

 


We are close to the end of this debate; only closing arguments remain. The concepts I have introduced in this reply are not easy, so I will end here. To summarize my argument thus far:

1) There is no constitutional guarantee of a fair jury; only an impartial one.
2) The fairness of a trial – its adherence to the guidelines given in the Constitution and the U.S. Code – is guaranteed by the judge.
3) No evidence has been introduced in this debate that a judge’s competence is compromised by publicity surrounding a trial.
4) Thus, while it may be true that publicity is among the myriad of factors that inform a jury decision, this does not render the trial unfair – it is only one reflection of the fundamental unfairness of juries.

In my closing statement, I will primarily focus on further exposition of these points. For now, I will turn the debate back over to my opponent for his concluding remarks. Thank you.



posted on Feb, 23 2009 @ 02:25 PM
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So, I thank Memoryshock for letting me and my opponent debate. I will close with a few points.

My opponent clearly thinks that I have not proved my point. My opponent says that all jury trials are unfair and that I am trying to confuse you with words, and, that the media doesn't affect the way the jurors or the judges think. I am not attempting to confuse those of you with my wordplay.

I've provided enough evidence that the media does influence what goes on. What I was doing with my previous source when I linked to the guy that talked about the book I wasn't linking to that source to talk about what the opinion piece on it was but I was quoting something that the author of that book said. It was basically talking about how the media does influence trials and also studies done to try to prove that media doesn't affect decisions that judges make or the jury are particularly horribly biased.

My opponent also thinks that all trials are unfair. I disagree with this. If all trials were unfair then what would the purpose be of the justice system? The justice system is fair in that it gives everyone an equal chance. It doesn't exactly administer righteous justice. What it does is that it gives both parties, the accused, and the prosecutor, a fair shot. Neither side is supposed to have the advantage. My opponent has ignored throughout the entire debate me whenever I spoke about Rog Blagojevich-- dismissing it as not being a criminal trial... but it's an impeachment hearing. The point that I was making was that whenever the media is all against someone like in that case-- and-- say you've got all the people in the jury talking to the media-- then you're bound to not have a fair trial. It's no wonder why Rod Blagojevich left.

My opponent doesn't think too kindly of Mr. Bryant, yes, I am aware of this. But what he has done is that he hasn't argued on the points that I have made regarding character assassination. My opponent seems to think that the media doesn't do character assassinations or that when they do character assassinations that they have no influence at all in the courtroom. Then, my opponent goes on to state that trials are unfair. Let's think to what he said in the beginning.



Over the course of this debate I will be examining the institution of trial by jury, both as it was originally practiced and as it has evolved over the centuries. I will show evidence that “fairness” is not in fact a characteristic of trial by jury now, if indeed it ever was; and therefore that the media cannot be blamed for preventing celebrities from receiving a “fair” trial.

Moreover, there is available to defendants the option to waive their right to trial by jury in favor of trial before a judge – I will argue that this is in practice the option that offers a “fair” trial, and that this option is not affected by media attention.

He said that the practice is fair, then, he goes on to say that the trial by jury system isn't fair. So then what is it? If trials are only fair if you waive your rights then it isn't a fair trial at all! My opponent's logic is silly. He thinks that trials aren't fair, that they aren't supposed to be fair, and they're only fair because you can waiver your rights. I think this is an absurd and cynical way to look at the justice system. I believe that the trial system is SUPPOSED to be fair and that celebrities and other media figures DESERVE a fair trial, and, that to be a fair trial it has to be IMPARTIAL, and that bias-free judgment is lost when the jurors or the judges speak to the media, or, when the media pokes holes in the argument and does what not.

My opponent seems to think that this won't influence the verdict of the case, or, that if it does, that the trial system is unfair anyways so it doesn't matter. But it is my stance that the trial system IS fair, meaning, it's IMPARTIAL, meaning the judges aren't biased against people testifying.

I thought that my opponent had a pretty good argument... but I don't know how much my opponent knows about the justice system. It's supposed to be fair. You're innocent until you're proven guilty. The media needs not to play the role of the judges. Then when it does it takes away the impartiality.

I now hand over the debate to my opponent to make his closing point...



posted on Feb, 24 2009 @ 05:48 AM
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Final Rebuttals

1)

I've provided enough evidence that the media does influence what goes on. What I was doing with my previous source when I linked to the guy that talked about the book I wasn't linking to that source to talk about what the opinion piece on it was but I was quoting something that the author of that book said.


In this case, I would urge readers to follow the link and see what is actually said in the review piece. The source is a review article about a book written by William Loges of Oregon State University on the impact of publicity on trial outcomes.

As summarized in the review article, the book actually makes almost the opposite argument from what my opponent is claiming: the article describes how the new study finds that pre-trial media coverage has little or no effect on verdict, that this is in contrast to earlier studies that had suggested there was an effect, and that those earlier studies were flawed in that they examined mostly mock trials in which students represented jury members rather than actual criminal trials.

The only impact they found was that lawyers may fight harder in higher-publicity trials, and judges may impose longer sentences on defendants found guilty. But even this, as I said in an earlier post, the authors admit can be attributed to the fact that if a trial received a lot of publicity it is likely that the crime involved was in some way worse than usual – making a longer than usual sentence perfectly fitting.

2)

My opponent has ignored throughout the entire debate me whenever I spoke about Rog Blagojevich-- dismissing it as not being a criminal trial... but it's an impeachment hearing.


Again, I have not ignored my opponent on the matter of Mr. Blagojevich; I have pointed out several times exactly why that case is irrelevant to the current debate.

3)

My opponent doesn't think too kindly of Mr. Bryant, yes, I am aware of this. But what he has done is that he hasn't argued on the points that I have made regarding character assassination. My opponent seems to think that the media doesn't do character assassinations or that when they do character assassinations that they have no influence at all in the courtroom.


I think I have been quite clear that I think that the media is guilty of what my opponent is calling “character assassination,” and I have not argued that they have no effect in the courtroom. I have argued that they have no effect on the judges – and my opponent has done nothing to counter this position. As far as whether the media has an impact on the jurors, it is my belief that to argue it doesn’t would be absurd.

Even if the coverage of the specific case by the media does not affect the jurors, they will have read or seen media coverage of other trials, they will have been affected by media coverage of people involved in the trial, or media stereotyping of groups that the people involved belong to. In short, the media affects all of our judgment. Here on ATS it is likely that the effect media coverage has may be negative – that seeing the mainstream media portray an issue in one light will actually make us likely to look for the other side of the issue. But that is also an effect.


My opponent also thinks that all trials are unfair. I disagree with this. If all trials were unfair then what would the purpose be of the justice system? The justice system is fair in that it gives everyone an equal chance. It doesn't exactly administer righteous justice. What it does is that it gives both parties, the accused, and the prosecutor, a fair shot. Neither side is supposed to have the advantage.


I do not think that all trials are unfair; I think that all juries are unfair. I think that all juries are composed of people whose opinions are informed by an entire lifetime of experiences outside the courtroom, and that they bring all these experiences into the jury box with them. This is the right and proper thing to happen, because it guarantees that the law will be applied by a panel of citizens who live in the real world, not by an emotionless robot incapable of taking nuance into account.

A jury must be unbiased – no juror should have a personal stake in the case, and no juror should have an opinion about either side of the case that would prevent them from judging guilt or innocence based on the facts of the case. To ensure this there is a body of case law demonstrating what constitutes bias in a juror, and the practice of voir dire in which both sides have an opportunity to strike from the jury any potential juror who does have such a conflict of interest.

As for the assertion that in a jury trial neither side is supposed to have the advantage – this is clearly false. A guilty verdict requires a unanimous jury – if even one juror does not concur, the result is either a verdict of not guilty or a mistrial. This bias, combined with the hope that jurors will be sympathetic to the defense case, is why so many defendants prefer a jury trial to a bench trial.

 


The topic given for this debate was “The Media Has Made It Virtually Impossible For A Celebrity To Receive A Fair Trial.” Oddly, the only three actual celebrities my opponent has asked us to look at are men who have not had criminal trials at all. One may yet face criminal prosecution but so far has only faced legislative penalty; one has submitted guilty pleas as part of plea bargains with both federal and state courts; one had his case dismissed because the main witness did not want to testify.

A source my opponent submitted, supposedly to support his case, in fact makes clear that a well-designed study of jury verdicts found that there was no statistically significant difference in rates of conviction in highly publicized versus unpublicized cases.

The only acknowledgement my opponent has made of the ability of a defendant to opt for a bench trial came in his closing when he said that if a defendant must waive his right to a jury trial to get a fair hearing, the trial is not fair. I will address this point in a moment, but first I would point out that this in fact acknowledges that opting for a bench trial would result in a fair hearing.

In short, my opponent has done a reasonable job of presenting a case that the media is biased and that it affects public opinion about celebrities. He has done nothing to show that this effect is carried into the courtroom.

And finally, he has done nothing to rebut my examples of ways that a jury is inherently unfair, or how that benefits our judicial system.

In calling a jury unfair, I mean to say that the jurors will always interpret the law and the case with relation to their own personal experience. This is in contrast to a judge, who will endeavor to ignore any outside circumstances and determine in a strict way how the law applies in a given case.

Because a jury is unfair regardless of whether the case involves a celebrity or not, it is superfluous to blame the media for causing the unfairness of a jury in a celebrity case. The media has not made it virtually impossible for a celebrity to face a fair jury; it is always impossible to find a fair jury. Humans are subjective creatures.

And it remains possible for a celebrity to have a fair trial in the sense of a trial that follows the due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Fourteenth Amendments. This is overseen by the judge – and my opponent has submitted no evidence that a judge’s rulings in a case are affected by media coverage.

 


Perhaps the most interesting thing that I have discovered in my research for this debate is jury nullification – the right of the jury to refuse to apply a law that they think is unjust. This right is guaranteed in case law and practically speaking is guaranteed by the Constitutional requirements that a jury verdict be unanimous, that jury deliberations be confidential, and that a defendant who has been found not guilty by a jury cannot be retried on the same charges.

This is exactly the sort of power that I submit makes it so important to have a jury that can represent the will of the people rather than a perfectly fair jury that can apply the letter of the law. This is the kind of reservation of rights to the individual that this country was founded on, and the sort of suspicion of authority that has kept this country great.

However, this right has faced challenges; most importantly, courts have ruled that a jury does not have to be apprised of this right. Indeed the trend for the past hundred years or so has been to emphasize that the jury should only decide on facts, should not judge the law. This twisting of the Constitutional right to trial by jury strongly favors the status quo and the maintenance of power both legislative and judicial in the hands of those who already hold it.

For this reason alone, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to argue this point. And I hope that I have persuaded readers that “fairness” is not the ideal characteristic of a jury. That while a jury must remain unbiased, it must also remain human and aware of the larger picture.

 


Thanks to Frankidealist35 for being my opponent in this debate, thanks to MemoryShock for setting it up and moderating, and thanks to our readers and judges.



posted on Feb, 28 2009 @ 12:07 PM
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americandingbat has won through majority decision and will advance to the Second Round. The Judges comments:



Interesting debate. I thought the topic was original, and not widely discussed. It had the potential to be a slugfest, and judging by the way these two fighters addressed each other, I would say it succeeded.
I like to score debates like a fight, since debaters are fighters:

Round 1: The Introductions
9-8 americandingbat

I never judge anyone too harshly on their intros. Personally, I think most tend to overdo their opening statements, and I like when fighters keep them short and sweet. Both fighters managed to do that, even amercandingbat’s post which also contained a rebuttal.
However, I have to give the edge to americandingbat for a strong rebuttal. Also, Frankidealist35’s post seemed to lack content. I think opening statements should be mostly opinion, with the attitude of stressing the important points that the fighter is going to addressing in the following posts. However, that does not mean there should be a lack of content. Throw in a famous quote, a “startling statistic”, or something.

Grab our attention somehow.

Round 2: Rebuttals and Support
9-8 americandingbat

While I understand the point Frankidealist35 was making, I am not swayed by it. At all. We all know the media is unfair to everyone, so at some point, the debate needed to move away from that, and into proving that it causes mistrials.

However, americandingbat definitely lost a point with me by admitted bias against Bryant. He was not convicted, and therefore, he’s innocent. Because it never went to trial, the only opinion you can possibly have on it is from the media; and since the press clearly affected your opinion, you have almost proven your opponent’s point.

Otherwise, a strong rebuttal again from dingbat.

Round 3: Rebuttals and Support
9-9 Draw

Again, I saw Frankidealist35’s point when he brought up social network sites, but again, I was disappointed when it was never tied into the actual debate. The debate is not whether media can influence people, or whether media is unfair, but rather, whether trials are being upset by the overwhelming use of opinion and rhetoric by the media.

However, he did capitalize by pointing out americandingbat’s mistake of admitting bias, and americandingbat again attempted to justify it to no avail (in my opinion). Because of this, and this alone, I have this round as a draw.

Round 4: Rebuttals and Support
10-9 americandingbat

I was excited when this round started off on a strong note. Frankidealist35 came out firing with a scientific study showing that the media can negatively affect the outcome of a case.

Unfortunately for him, however, americandingbat was more thorough and quick to point out that the study found that only the sentencing was affected. I must say, I was prepared to give this to Frankidealist35, and I was completely caught off guard when americandingbat stole the show with that tidbit.

Well done.

Round 5: Closing Statements
10-9 americandingbat

A strong finish from americandingbat closed up the debate from me. That totals:
americandingbat: 47
Frankidealist35: 43

Overall, great debate, and I hope to see both of you back again.




OPENING STATEMENTS.

americandingbat (ADB) takes the opening statement round without a doubt by showing how Frankidealist35's (FI) examples were poorly selected and not particularly relevant to the discussion. She excelled in poking holes in his case examples.

+1 ADB.

ROUND ONE.

FI attempts to defend his examples but is unable to sufficiently do so in my opinion. However he does raise a good point when he states in reply to ADB's claim that this debate is not about mudslinging when he says:


My opponent claims that this debate is NOT about the media's penchant for mudslinging or its gleeful malice of the alleged crimes of the rich and famous but my opponent is IGNORING the fact that these two things overlap consistently.


He also brings up a good point about character assassinations.

I was surprised to see ADB admit the following:


And furthermore, since I have no personal knowledge of either Mr. Bryant or the woman who alleges he raped her, I have formed that opinion on the basis of what I have read in the media.

She somewhat redeems herself by saying the following:


If I had been in the jury pool as Mr. Bryant’s trial began, I would no doubt have been excluded “for cause” as soon as I said that I had heard of the case and believed he was most likely guilty.


This is very true but it leads to many other questions about media exposure after jury selection (since juries are not always sequestered) or dishonest jurors who do not necessarily come clean during jury selection.
This admission of being influenced by the media hurts ADB's position in my opinion so this round goes to FI.

+1 FI.

ROUND TWO.

FI doesn't miss the chance to call attention to ADB's remarks I mentioned above about receiving her knowledge of the Bryant case via the media. He also does a good job pointing out ADB's bias of basketball players that comes from... the media.

I cannot help but feel ADB harms her own case once again by stating:


The media convinced me Mr. Bryant was a rapist, and the dismissal of his case did not persuade me otherwise.


That is, in essence, an agreement with FI's case.

For the record I see this debate focusing too much on specific and poor examples instead of the general debate topic. In any case, this round goes to FI.

+1 FI.

ROUND THREE.

FI finally steps away from specific examples and begins to address the general issue by providing evidence that indeed the media influences juries, right or wrong. This is the direction I believe the debate should have gone from the start so this was great he brings it back to the general evidence and topic. He also addresses ADB's thoughts on the Bryant case then brings up what I was also thinking: human nature. He makes an excellent point by showing the difference between how things should be and how things actually go due to human nature.

I must agree with FI when he says the following:


I think my opponent has self destructed in his last post.


But not so fast. ADB takes us down an interesting path by questioning the veracity of ALL jury trials. Although some might see this as a desperation shot, this is actually a clever tactic. Is it really the media influencing the case or is it a matter of juries themselves being an improper method of determining guilt or innocence?

Because I feel both debaters did a good job in their own respects (FI and his evidence, ADB and her questioning trials as a whole), this round will result in a tie.

+1 FI and +1 ADB.

This round would have gone to ADB if she had poked the holes in FI's article instead of waiting until her closing statement. So for now, this round is a tie.

CLOSING STATEMENTS.

FI addresses ADB's issues about the general issue of fair trials and does a good enough job although his thoughts appeared scattered and not well delivered. He had several characters left in his closing where he could have expounded on this further but instead finished a little soon, in my opinion.

Then ADB comes alive and kicks the legs out of FI's previous evidence by pointing out the fact:


The difference between the odds of being found guilty in the no-publicity and high-publicity trials is not statistically significant, the researchers say.


I would have liked for ADB to have pointed this out sooner but it's still acceptable she brought it up in her closing statement. The article certainly seems to support ADB's position instead of FI's. ADB then confirms my own concerns once again by pointing out the odd fact the three examples FI used never even went to trial. This closing round goes to ADB.

+1 ADB.

GENERAL ASSESSMENT.
I was a little surprised by the way this debate went. The focused examples were odd as, again, they never even went to trial. I also feel way too much time was spent addressing these examples instead of general issue. ADB did a good job explaining away these examples as poor as of her first official debate post so it came across as a waste of time to continue to dwell on them for the entire course of the debate. FI had many strong points he could have addressed in this debate and upon originally reading the debate topic, it seemed FI had the advantage of an obvious win. But in my opinion, he failed to do so. The general tone of the debate affords ADB +1.

POINT TALLY AND CONCLUSION.
Opening: ADB
Round One: FI
Round Two: FI
Round Three: FI & ADB
Closing: ADB
General: ADB
FI: 3
ADB: 4

My judgment goes to americandingbat as the winner although I would like to congratulate both debaters on an entertaining read.





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