Capital Punishment Should Not Be Practiced as a Form of Legal Discipline
Recently I challenged Logical-Master to a debate concerning whether or not medicinal marijuana should be legalized; however, he later communicated to me that he possessed little interest in debating such a topic. Therefore, as a compromise, I would like to instead challenge Logical-Master to debate the subject of capital punishment.
Furthermore, as PRO, I will be defending the assertion that capital punishment should not be practiced as a form of legal discipline; as such, I accept the full burden of proof.
I also extend my sincere appreciation in advance to Logical-Master for accepting this challenge; hopefully we can make this out to be an interesting and intellectually stimulating debate.
(2) Opening Statements
(1) No forfeiting
(2) No plagiarism
(3) No semantics
(4) No arguing in the comment section
A violation of any of the above mentioned rules shall result in an automatic loss of conduct points.
I thank the instigator for issuing this challenge.
Observations / Stipulations:
#1. I reserve the right to discuss any and all issues relating to definitions within the comment section before the debate comences. Should consensus not be reached, they shall be included in the debate. I urge that consensus be reached as these kinds of arguments are never substantive to the actual matter at hand.
#2. I reserve the right to discuss any and all issues relating to the burden of proof within the comment section before the debate commences. Should consensus not be reached, they shall be included in the debate. I urge that consensus be reached as these kinds of arguments are never substantive to the actual matter at hand.
#3. Discussion regarding the legitimacy of these stipulations should be included in the comment secion before the actual debate commences.
#4. Any other stipulations which the instigator may desire are open to discussion before the debate commences.
First and foremost, I would like to once again thank Logical-Master for accepting to debate this very important topic. As far as it concerns the formidability of my opponent, his ELO ranking speaks for itself; needless to say, I am very excited to be debating someone of Logical-Master's reputation. Therefore, with that, allow me to dive right into my contentions.
Capital Punishment Presents Unwarranted Risks:
One of the most detrimental consequences of capital punishment is the unintentional murder of innocent human beings. Besides the fact that literally hundreds of people have been found innocent after being sentenced to death row , the justice system has exhibited a consistent tendency to discriminate against racial minorities and impoverished citizens . As can be clearly seen from the graph below, when the victim of a homicide crime is white, the offender is more likely to receive the death penalty:
Provided by http://www.amnestyusa.org...
As if such information wasn't sufficient on its own, Amnesty International has reported that:
"In a 1990 report, the non-partisan U.S. General Accounting Office found 'a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty.' The study concluded that a defendant was several times more likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim was white. This has been confirmed by the findings of many other studies that, holding all other factors constant, the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim ."
Furthermore, Amnesty International has also reported the following facts:
1) "A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American ."
2) "A January 2003 study released by the University of Maryland concluded that race and geography are major factors in death penalty decisions. Specifically, prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when the race of the victim is white and are less likely to seek a death sentence when the victim is African-American ."
3) "A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. In addition, killers of white victims are treated more severely than people who kill minorities, when it comes to deciding what charges to bring ."
4) "Almost all death row inmates could not afford their own attorney at trial. Court-appointed attorneys often lack the experience necessary for capital trials and are overworked and underpaid. In the most extreme cases, some [court-appointed attorneys] have slept through parts of trials or have arrived under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol ."
Considering the above mentioned facts, I submit that human bias, prejudice, and fallibility present an unsurpassable obstacle in eliminating the possibility of sentencing an innocent human being to death, as well as instituting a socioeconomically fair form of capital punishment.
Capital Punishment Fails as a Deterrent:
Many people who favor the utilization of capital punishment commonly claim that such a form of legal discipline aids in deterring would-be capital offenders; however, despite this bold assertion, the evidence actually reveals a very different reality; in fact, States which have abandoned the practice of capital punishment consistently exhibit lower crime rates as a whole .
Individual States have also observed personal decreases in capital offenses when they choose to cease employing the death penalty. For example, as can be seen from the graph below, the State of California enjoyed a significantly lower rate of homicides in the years when capital punishment was not utilized (the same has also been observed in Oklahoma):
Provided by http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
As the above graph states, evidence is highly indicative of the fact that when capital punishment is utilized, the so-called "brutalization effect" is triggered among society, ultimately resulting in more crime, particularly capital offenses.
Moreover, States which refuse to employ the death penalty are not the only entities which enjoy lower crime rates; rather, entire nations as a whole evidently benefit from the abandonment of the practice. For example, as can be seen from the following graph, the United States possesses significantly higher crime rates compared to nations which do not employ capital punishment:
Provided by http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
In fact, Amnesty International has reported that Canadian crime rates have decreased 27% since the nation abandoned capital punishment in 1976 . To date, the United States is the only modernized nation which has not done away with the death penalty.
Considering all of this information, it's not surprising to learn that the experts tend to overwhelmingly support my position; for example, a research study conducted by Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock in 2009 revealed that out of all the nation's most prominent criminologists, 88% concluded that capital punishment is not successful as a deterrent .
Capital Punishment Is Overly Expensive:
Contrary to popular belief, the death penalty is not more cost effective than other non-death alternatives, including life in prison without parole. For example, in Maryland, death penalty cases cost 3 times the amount of non-death penalty cases .
Furthermore, California spends $137 million dollars every year with their current death penalty system; however, if they were to utilize a system which did not employ the death penalty, the State would only spend $11.5 million dollars a year .
In fact, according to a report released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the United States as a whole would have saved a significant $1.6 billion dollars between the years of 1982 and 1997 if the death penalty had been abandoned .
Amnesty International has reported that due to its excessively expensive nature, the death penalty ultimately results in "reducing the resources available for crime prevention, mental health treatment, education and rehabilitation, meaningful victims' services, and drug treatment programs. [The death penalty also ends up diverting spending from] existing components of the criminal justice system, such as prosecutions of drug crimes, domestic violence, and child abuse ."
Therefore, considering all of the above information, I submit that the death penalty should not be utilized as a form of legal discipline.
Logical-Master forfeited this round.
Note: Due to DDO-related technical problems, Con was unable to post his round 2 arguments; as such, the voters are not to deprive him of conduct points. As Con was unable to post his arguments here, he has posted them on Google CS at http://www.tinyurl.com...; I will be responding to those arguments herein.
Criminal Justice Theories:
Here my opponent attempts to make his case by providing us with the four theories of criminal justice -- restraint, education (rehabilitation), retribution, and deterrence; furthermore, he asserts that if the fulfillment of even one such theory relies on the utilization of capital punishment, he has effectively proven his case; however, as I hope to demonstrate, capital punishment is not at all necessary to fulfill such theories.
I'm confident that both I and my opponent can agree that sentencing capital offenders to life in prison without parole is sufficient enough to restrain criminals from harming the public; however, my opponent argues is that the death penalty is necessary for restraining capital offenders from harming their fellow inmates.
However, for my opponent's point to be valid at all, he would need to establish unequivocally that capital offenders (on average) are more dangerous among general prison populations than their non-capital-offender counterparts; fortunately for my case, however, the evidence tends to point directly against such an assertion.
A very impressive study conducted by Dr. Mark Cunningham and Dr. Jon Sorensen and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law effectively demonstrated that capital offenders are not more violent among general populations than their fellow inmates. The abstract of the published study states that "during postconviction prison tenures averaging 4.4 years, none of the capital defendants was cited for accomplished serious assaults...Rates of misconduct among the capital offenders were equivalent to those among all inmates ."
Therefore, my opponent's assertion that capital offenders are too dangerous to place among general prison populations is a demonstrably false assumption.
Although my opponent states that the second theory of criminal justice is education, it's usually called "rehabilitation ."
Moreover, contrary to what my opponent suggests, the rehabilitation theory has nothing to do with educating the public on society's view of criminal offenses; rather, it solely entails "reform[ing] offenders by bringing about change in their future behaviour, both in the interests of society and of the offenders themselves "; as such, capital punishment can in no wise fulfill such a principle inasmuch as it completely obliterates all potential attempts at rehabilitating offenders.
Here my opponent attempts to make the case that, at times, retribution demands the use of capital punishment; however, who is to say that life in prison without parole is not just retribution for capital offenders? Surely losing the rest of your life in prison is fair recompense for any and all capital crimes.
Obviously my opponent and I could engage in an endless philosophical discussion as to what is just and not; however, as it stands, I see no a priori reason to assume that losing the rest of your life via a prison sentence and losing the rest of your life via a euthanasia shot are any different in terms of justice.
I have presented numerous arguments against the assertion that capital punishment serves as any kind of a deterrent. Ultimately, there exists conflicting (yet equally authoritative) evidence on both sides of this debate.
In the end, all that can be said for certain is that we have contradictory and inconsistent data; as such, it can in no wise be claimed that capital punishment is proven to work as a deterrent; nevertheless, I would go so far as to assert that the evidence leans (perhaps only slightly) in my favor:
1) California and Oklahoma experienced a decrease in crime when they did not employ capital punishment 
2) States which do not employ the death penalty consistently exhibit lower crime rates 
3) Canada's crime rates have dropped 27% since abandoning the death penalty 
4) Countries which have abandoned capital punishment consistently exhibit lower crime rates than the US 
5) The experts overwhelmingly agree that capital punishment does not work as a deterrent 
I imagine my opponent and I will continue to debate this issue; the voters will ultimately decide who presented the stronger case.
Sustaining: Capital Punishment Presents Unwarranted Risks:
Here my opponent tries to refute my case that human bias, prejudice, and fallibility present a legitimate obstacle for the practice capital punishment to be executed (excuse the pun) safely; in his attempt to debunk my assertions, my opponent claims that such arguments are red herrings, ad hocs, and misleading statements.
Despite my opponent's claims, however, I believe I have effectively demonstrated that socioeconomic factors play a key role in determining whether or not an offender will be sentenced to death row; such a fact makes death row an unfair and unsafe method of legal discipline. Allow me to reiterate my previous contentions:
1) Offenders are several times more likely to be executed if the victim was white, and studies have consistently demonstrated this 
2) Studies show that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American 
3) Almost all death row inmates could not afford their own attorney at trial 
My assertions are not red herrings, ad hocs, and misleading statements; rather, they effectively demonstrate that humans are too flawed and fallible to fairly and justly exercise capital punishment; indeed, why should it ever be assumed that humans are capable of justly determining who should live and should die? As the ACLU states:
"Although there has been much attention surrounding the use of DNA testing, only 13 death row inmates of 113 have been exonerated by use of DNA. Many people falsely believe that DNA testing is a panacea that guarantees innocent people will not be put to death. However, it is important to note that DNA testing is not always able to determine the killer. In many cases, there is no physical evidence to test. DNA testing can be a critical tool for proving innocence, but it is still only available in a fraction of cases. For instance, five of the seventeen people released from death row were released because DNA evidence revealed their innocence ."
Sentencing an innocent individual to death is a very real possibility; ending the death penalty altogether is simply the best way to end that possibility.
My opponent also argues that it's very difficult to get an individual sentenced to death row; however, the simple fact of the matter is that despite how careful and tedious the justice system is, there is always room for human error and incompetence -- that's simply reality.
Sustaining: Capital Punishment Fails as a Deterrent:
Due to my character limit, I'll have to try and address my opponent's contentions on this matter next round, as I simply haven't enough room left to cover this point adequately; however, I believe the arguments I've hitherto raised in this round and in my previous one will suffice for now.
Sustaining: Capital Punishment is Overly Expensive:
Here my opponent argues that because the four theories of criminal justice rely on capital punishment, the costs are justified; however, as I believe I've effectively demonstrated, capital punishment is not in fact needed to fulfill any of the theory of criminal justice; as such, I believe my opponent's argument here is moot.
My sources will be posted in the comment section, as I've nearly exhausted my character limit.
In light of PRO's understanding in technical difficulties I experienced, I waive any rights I might have to acquiring the conduct point. With that said, onto the debate!
Criminal Justice Theories:
PRO claims that for my point to be valid at all, I would need to establish unequivocally that capital offenders (on average) are more dangerous among general prison populations than their non-capital-offender counterparts.
First, I need not unequivocally establish this. Once more, the purpose of the restraint theory is to protect society from dangerous criminals . PRO concedes that capital offenders are dangerous. Whether they are more dangerous than other inmates is irrelevant. The fact that they are dangerous means that they should be restrained pursuant to the restraint theory. Mere life sentencing does not allow this if they can continue being a danger in prison.
Second, establishing this is actually quite simple. The capital offenders go to prison because they have committed capital offenses. These kinds of inmates have already caused the most damage to society. In allowing them to roam free in prison and create additional violence (which Pro’s own article affirms), they cause even more damage. Even if the violence they produce equates to the amount of violence produced by other criminals, capital offenders will always have the leg up on other inmates in terms of the overall damage they’ve caused against society. Therefore, the solution is to restrain them after sentencing with the death penalty, rather than allowing them aggregate the damage they cause.
Pro is incorrect. Education and rehabilitation are two different theories . For those who don’t have access to the law review article I provided affirming this, I’ve uploaded the article to google docs . As I have made no mention of the rehabilitation theory in my case, you may disregard PRO’s rebuttal here.
Pro claims that losing the rest of one’s life in prison is fair recompense for any and all capital crimes. This is false. Once again, recall the constant violence and criminal activity within the prison environment . Capital offenders are simply being awarded by being allowed the live out the remainder of their lives in an environment that tolerates and promotes their distaste for the law. What kind of justice is that for the victims, much less society? I could go on and on about the countless horror stories regarding prison rape/assault. There are entire documentaries on this subject which our government doesn’t seem capable of effectively controlling.
He claims to see no priori reason to assume that a life sentence and the death penalty are any different in terms of justice. I just provided one. I leave this up to you, the voters.
(1)As shown by my chart, the entire country has been experiencing a decrease in homicides at the same rate there has been executions since capital punishment has been reinstated throughout the majority of the states. To associate the decrease as being the result of abolishing the death penalty is far too presumptuous.
(2)Once again, PRO’s data is misleading. Merely by taking a gander at the statistical data PRO offers, it’s clear that most states have been exhibiting less and less crime (not just the ones that brandish the death penalty). What is the cause of this decrease in the trend? Look no further than the nationwide chart I provided in the previous round. Since capital punishment has been reinstated, rates of homicide have been consistently decreasing. The fact that some states have exhibited less crime simply shows that capital punishment has served its purpose for these states and that it is no longer needed.
There are also a wide variety of additional factors to consider when implementing capital punishment. Once again, research shows that the amount of years between sentencing and execution significantly influences the deterrent effect .
(3)See the article I provided in the previous round . Canada’s violent crime rate is much higher than the United States’, despite the majority of our country legislating the death penalty.
(4)See above. The United States isn’t even in the top 10.
(5)Again, this is a simple appeal to authority. We’re not here to discuss what a majority of the unnamed supposedly prominent experts think.
Re: Sustaining: Capital Punishment Presents Unwarranted Risks:
PRO continues to try and uphold his position that capital punishment should be abolished because of unwarranted risks to the judicial system. For the most part, his rebuttal does nothing to address the shortcomings I cited to this contention.
1)It’s completely irrelevant. Banning capital punishment won’t stop racism. Pro’s arguments are better suited to abolishing the entire justice system. Furthermore, if you’ll recall Pro’s words earlier in this round, he claimed that he saw no difference between a life sentence and the death penalty in terms of the administration of justice. Meaning according to his own words, even if we were to abolish capital punishment and go with his solution (to make life sentences the highest penalty), we’d still possess an equally corrupt system. Minorities would spend their entire lives in a lawless violent institution getting raped, assaulted and killed.
2)He fails to address the alternative theory I provided. Once more, the culture conflict theory suggests that these crimes aren’t committed because of racism, but because of cultural confliction. As we live in a society that embraces multiculturalism, it’s clear that multiculturalism and its affects are what in need of observation.
3)He fails to demonstrate why the current amount of legislation is insufficient to address any and all disadvantages to the defense. The prosecution has an extraordinarily high burden and must jump through all sorts of hoops to successfully win a death penalty case. As a result of that, there have been less than 10,000 inmates sentenced to death row since the 70s . Once more, we have over 14 times that amount facing life sentences . The system is not even remotely unfair to defendants
PRO is correct in his assessment that humans are flawed and biased. Indeed, it is a tragic miscarriage of justice when even one innocent person receives ANY kind of sentence. Nonetheless, we must consider the alternative. Pro says that because of the mere possibility that one innocent could be sentenced to death, we should abolish capital punishment entirely. Why not abolish the entire system? If the entire system is guided by biased/flawed humans, doesn't this line reason justify such an approach? Lots of innocent people have been sentenced for crimes they did not commit. The issue of human flaws/bias is an issue throughout the entire system.
There’s going to be room for human error no matter what system we’re dealing with. No system is perfect nor will there ever be a perfect system. This is because humans aren’t perfect. Unless PRO is insisting that we abolish all systems on this basis, his claims are inconsistent.
Re: Sustaining: Capital Punishment is Overly Expensive:
As I’ve demonstrated, pursuant to any one of the criminal justice theories, capital punishment is well worth the expenses needed for it. To add, the expenses serve the very to counteract the very criticisms PRO has made of this beneficial institution. In granting the prosecution a high burden to fulfill in its capital cases, the chance of convicting an innocent is greatly reduced.
Criminal Justice Theories:
Criminal Justice Theories:
Once again, should you even be persuaded by even one of my criminal justice theory arguments, my affirmative case holds.
To demonstrate, imagine that each offense is classified like below:
Capital Crimes = 10
Non-Capital Crimes = 5
Prison Violence = 5
Capital-Crimes + Prison Violence = 15. Non-Capital Crimes + Prison Violence = 10. Looking at things from the amount of damage already caused, capital offenders will always have a leg up against non-capital offenders, hence making Pro’s study irrelevant. Capital Punishment lowers the overall amount of damage to society, pursuant to the Restraint Theory.
Pro says he sees no reason to assume that alternative methods of educating the public would be less efficient in informing the public of societies ‘stance on issues. On the contrary, there is ample reason. The phrase “actions speaker louder than words” comes to mind. Keep in mind what the education theory sets out to accomplish. Tis not enough simply to explain to society that we do not tolerate murder. The education theory provides that this lesson should be demonstrated to society. The publicity of a criminal trial, conviction and punishment accomplishes just that.
Here, the lesson society learns is that the crimes most detrimental to society warrant the worst kind of punishment. In abolishing the death penalty and issuing everyone a life sentence, this isn’t accomplished. Rather, a wide variety of lesser crimes sufficient for life sentences are equated to the crimes reserved for capital punishment.
Sustaining: Capital Punishment Presents Unwarranted Risks:
PRO insists that he is simply arguing that that life in prison without parole fulfills justice just as efficiently as the death penalty, and is therefore a safer and more desirable alternative than capital punishment. As I’ve noted throughout this debate, due to the dangers inherent within the prison system, sentencing innocent men/women to a life term is simply sentencing them to being raped, assaulted or even killed. Sentencing citizens to prison has can and has resulted in much injustice to innocents. Prison violence is rampant throughout American prisons, thus PRO’s concern for ‘safety’ is unpersuasive.
PRO is confused about my multicultural argument. What I’m saying is that pursuant to the culture conflict theory, those of different cultures are inclined to violate the rules of a culture
PRO once again points out the despite the protections built into the judicial system to lower the chance of error, the fact remains that literally hundreds of individuals have been found innocent. As I’ve demonstrated, however, the number of innocents in comparison to the overall number is quite vast. Pursuant to PRO’s own source, a mere 140 individuals have been found innocent since 1973. On the other hand, as I’ve pointed out, nearly 10,000 have been issued the death penalty since the 1970s. In other words, the rate of error is below 2%.
At the end of the day, pursuant to PRO’s own reasoning, there are going to be imperfections in the system no matter what we do. Innocents are going to be found guilty. The best we can do is reduce odds of this happening to as low a number as possible.
2) PRO concedes to there being insufficient evidence to support the “brutalization effect”, but holds that there is insufficient evidence to believe that capital punishment serves a deterrent. As I’ve shown, this is false. There is plenty of evidence.
3) I again state that the consensus of experts is irrelevant. It’d be one thing if PRO provided reasoning behind their beliefs and requested I refute it. However, all he has done is tell us what the experts believe. What these so-called experts think is irrelevant. First, PRO is appealing to what a majority of the so-called experts thinks. Ad populam. Second, I submit that in light of the arguments I’ve provided, the experts are dead wrong.
For the reasons provided, PRO's case fails. I therefore strongly urge a vote towards CON. However, note that I've waived conduct points (see R3). Thus, I request you award PRO conduct.
. . . cheers to Bodhivaka for this exciting debate and cheers to DDO for reading!
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