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America's Debate > Archive > Assorted Issues Archive > [A] Big Trials and Legal Cases
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Victoria Silverwolf
Is the Adversarial system used in trials in the United States -- the Defense versus the Prosecution -- better than other systems? Or would it be better to have an Inquisitorial system, in which the court plays a more active role in seeking out the truth?

Here are good introductions to the two systems:

The Adversarial System

The Inquisitorial System

Does the Inquisitorial system give the court too much power, at the expense of the defendant? Or does the Adversarial system lead to abuse of the legal system, at the expense of justice?
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Platypus
I generally favor an inquisitorial system. Sure, there is a potential for abuse by the court, but there are statutory safeguards and appeals processes for that in either model. The same abuses can and do occur under an adversarial system, asymmetrically favoring the side with the more skilled lawyers. In general, the adversarial system favors the wealthy, who can hire more and better lawyers, hire expert witnesses, hire private investigators, file motions and request subpoenas to create a burden on those with fixed work hours and/or limited leisure time, etc. A wealthy litigant can simply bury a poor one in paperwork, resulting in a case won on something other than its intrinsic merit.

Yes, trials under an inquisitorial system can be unfair. Trials under an adversarial system are practically guaranteed to be unfair, by design.
johnlocke
I like the Adversarial System much better for the same reason Platypus likes the Inquisitional System.

I think that it would be much easier to bribe judges than to bog people down and spend them out of court or into jail. That's just my opinion, but even after you do all the things like hire better lawyers, expert testimony, PI's etc. you still have to have a convincing story, whereas in my opinion it would just be easier to pay off a judge or "Inquisitor" to rule your way over the whole thing, which as I stated previosly, would be easier to do.
KnightOfEpsilon
What about the involvement of a jury? That's a key characteristic of the adversary system, right? In a jury trial, the lawyers try to convince the jury, NOT the judge. In an inquisitorial system with no jury and only one person calling the shots (the judge), the defendant is at a huge disadvantage. The burden of proof falls solely on the defendant, who has to prove to the judge that he/she is not guilty.

Also, by having a trial by jury, you essentially have a broader spectrum of people deciding the case, as opposed to the lone judge. The jury's role prevents the single-mindedness, and maybe even recklessness, of the judge if he/she were given authority to decide the case.

On that note, it's no wonder why the United States Supreme Court is a panel of NINE JUSTICES, remarkably resembling a jury. True, the Chief Justice holds a higher tier than the other eight justices, but the point is that no one person is in control of the Supreme Court.

Btw, I'm a high school senior researching the adversary vs. inquisitorial issue for the "We the People" National Civic Education Competition. Do you think my viewpoint is well-justified?
Hugo
Theoretically the adverserial system provides more protection for the defendant. The prosecutors office is suppossed to be seeking justice ahile the defense lawyer is representing the defendant. Unfortunately many times the prosecutor seems more interested in getting a guilty verdict than seeing justice is served.
CruisingRam
I would like to see a hybird system personally- with some punishments for the prosecutors and judges for bad-faith behaviors. I also like the idea of a Hienliens "fair witness" idea- a person that works for neither side but simply attempts to state facts that they see. (I am a big Hienlien fan, and though I frequently don't agree with his extremism, I like some of his base ideas) I would like to see the removal of the 5th amendment, but with some checks and balances. I would like to have the current adversary system, but the public defender must be given the same budget as the prosecutor, with an entire anti-police force, basically a type of public investigator that investigates the procedure and logic of the police. This would be a great check to prosecutor and police wrongdoing and lazy behavior, plus would find a lot of the errors in the capital murder cases that make the best argument against the death penalty, a very good one at that.

I would like to see a set of questions that are debated by the prosecutor and the defender must debate on to make sure they are not "leading" questions or infer guilt just by the question "is this the first time you have been pregnant, yes or no" and you ask this question of a man, he is wrong either way LOL- but no way NOT to answer them, no "I take the fifth"- and taking the fifth is an admission of guilt.

I have had some time to think about this sitting in court with defendents LOL
kerry4prez
your viewpoint is completely justified...can you imagine a system in which a <a href="http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=single&v=55">single</a> man has complete power to determine justice...it is completely unjust...

Just consider a few statistics...

The french department of justice found that a far greater number of convictions were later over tunrned in their system (2.3 percent of the time) than in our system (0.17 percent of the time). Inquisitorial judges are biased...and with no one to check their powers they are allowed to be.

This issue is being presented in front of the french constitutional court in a few months...you may want to look into that

btw..what is the "We the People" National Civic <a href="http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=Education&v=55">Education</a> Competition and is there anything more i can do to help?
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