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Capital Punishment Should be Abolished

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Started: 7/25/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,896 times Debate No: 78108
Debate Rounds (4)
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This debate is for Lee001’s July Beginner’s Tournament Round 2. I as Pro will be arguing that Capital Punishment should be abolished. My opponent, Toviyah as Con will be arguing that Capital Punishment should not be abolished.

Full Topic
The law of Capital Punishment should be abolished from the United States.

Round Structure
R1 Acceptance
R2 Opening Arguments
R3 Rebuttals
R4 Defend Arguments

Capital Punishment- Also referred to as ‘The Death Penalty’, is the legal authorization by the government to execute someone as a punishment for a crime they committed.
Execute- to formally carry out a sentence of death.
Death-Row- a prison block for prisoners that are sentenced to death.
Criminal- a person who has committed a crime.
Abolish- to formally put an end to something.

A forfeiture is an automatic loss.
No new arguments in any rounds except R2.
Maintain a respectful manner throughout entire debate.
No “kritiks”
BoP is shared.
Breaking these rules will result in a loss.

By accepting the debate, you accept all rules and conditions, I look forward to an interesting debate!


I accept the debate. I hope it is most interesting!
Debate Round No. 1


When we are talking about Capital Punishment we are referring to the system enforced by the US government as it is today. It is by burden to prove that we should abolish this system, and it is my opponent’s burden to defend the current system.

The chief issue in this debate is whether Capital Punishment is justified. Is Capital Punishment a moral course of action? Is Capital Punishment justice or revenge? These are the issues that my opponent and I must address.

C1) The Right to Life

Capital Punishment is a violation of the most basic of human rights, it violates the most fundamental principle under human rights law; the right to life.

The right to life is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), ratified by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Article 3 specifies the right to life as a human right:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
(see Article 3)

As long as the government has the right to take their citizens lives, they maintain the power to deny all other rights that are prescribed to us by the Declaration.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Our founding fathers listed the right to life first for a reason. The right to life underpins every right we have; it is the fundamental building block of all our rights. Without life, you cannot attain liberty. Without liberty, you cannot pursue happiness. Without the right to life, nothing else matters.

Capital Punishment is not only a human rights violation, it also negates the purpose of government.

As the Declaration outlines, and the philosopher John Locke writes, the central role of government is to protect the property of its citizens (property being life, liberty and property).

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions… (and) when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

Capital Punishment violates our most fundamental human rights and negates the role of government, to protect our rights.

C2) Innocence

Whenever irreversible acts are being committed, irreversible consequences arise. We can never be 100% sure a criminal is guilty of a crime, so committing an irreversible act is bound to end in tragedy.

Between 1973 and 2015, 148 innocent citizens were exonerated and released from death-row.

"Whether or not any innocent defendants have actually been executed, abundant evidence accumulated in recent years has resulted in the exoneration of an unacceptable number of defendants found guilty of capital offenses. The risk of executing innocent defendants can be entirely eliminated by treating any penalty more severe than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as constitutionally excessive."
U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (Baze v. Rees)

"...Since the reinstatement of the modern death penalty, 87 people have been freed from death row because they were later proven innocent. That is a demonstrated error rate of 1 innocent person for every 7 persons executed. When the consequences are life and death, we need to demand the same standard for our system of justice as we would for our airlines...It is a central pillar of our criminal justice system that it is better that many guilty people go free than that one innocent should suffer...Let us reflect to ensure that we are being just. Let us pause to be certain we do not kill a single innocent person. This is really not too much to ask for a civilized society."
-Russ Feingold (US Senator) Introducing the "National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2000"

Although the possibility an innocent person will be executed is small, the fact that there is a possibility at all, is reason enough to abolish Capital Punishment as a faulty system.

C3) Prejudice

Capital Punishment enforces corrupt racial bias in its decisions; it targets people of color.
The National Death-Row population is 42% black, while the national black population is only 13.6%. The disproportion is represented by the graph.

David C. Baldus did a comprehensive study of victims on death row, the published results showed the racist intentions. Out of the 667 homicides in Philadelphia between 1983 and 1993, black defendants were 4 times more likely to receive a death sentence than whites.

Also, the same study found that defendants who were charged with killing whites are 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants charged with killing blacks.

Capital Punishment targets those of color and executes victims through racial bias. It is a faulty system and should be abolished immediately to prevent future racial executions.

B) Lawyer Quality

Most of the time, it does not depend on the crime you did, it depends on the quality of your lawyer to determine whether or not one is sentenced to death.

"I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial? People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty."
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,April 9, 2001

“There have even been instances in which lawyers appointed to a death case were so inexperienced that they were completely unprepared for the sentencing phase of the trial. Other appointed attorneys have slept through parts of the trial, or arrived at the court under the influence of alcohol.”

Death Sentences are not determined by the crime, but the quality of the lawyers. The Death Penalty is a broken system and should be abolished immediately.

I conclude that we should abolish Capital Punishment because it violation of rights, it kills innocent people, morality unjustified, and is racially biased. I would like to thank my opponent for debating me and wish them the best of luck in their opening arguments.


Thanks Pro! Onto the arguments. I shall present two arguments in favour of the death penalty. Firstly, I will argue that the principles of retribution justify Capital Punishment (AKA, the death penalty), and secondly, that Capital Punishment acts as a deterrent to further crime being committed.

Retribution/Lex talionis

Firstly, the death penalty creates a morally more satisfactory state of affairs. This may be seen by explicating the principle that by committing a moral evil, one creates a moral debt to the victim. This is true under any moral theory aside from moral nihilism (but if nihilism is assumed, the debate is null) - even subjectivist theories - and so should be accepted in any case. Provided the act gives harm to the victim, a damage by way of harm (either harms of repression or harms of reduction, as analysed by constitutive criminology [1]) is made. In other words, when one commits a crime, one creates a moral debt. To restore equilibrium, and a fortiori a moral state of affairs, this debt needs to be paid, and thus, some form of retributive punishment needs to be administered - as Morris states, "exacting the debt" [2]. If a truly moral state of affairs is acieved, lex talionis should be polity, in which case, the retribution matches the debt. A death should result in death. Thus, the death penalty is justified for at least those crimes where there has been a loss of life. As Kant pithily explains: “whatever undeserved evil you inflict upon another within the people, that you inflict upon yourself"[3].
Furthermore, Hampton elucidates:

"If I have value equal to that of my assailant, then that must be made manifest after I have been victimized. By victimizing me, the wrongdoer has declared himself elevated with respect to me, acting as a superior who is permitted to use me for his purposes. A false moral claim has been made… The retributivist demands that the false claim be corrected. The lord must be humbled to show that he isn't the lord of the victim." She continues: "Retributive punishment is the defeat of the wrongdoer at the hands of the victim (either directly or indirectly through an agent of the victim's, e.g., the state) that symbolizes the correct relative value of wrongdoer and victim. It is a symbol that is conceptually required to reaffirm a victim's equal worth in the face of a challenge to it."

No other form of punishment achieves this end. For a great deal of crimes, namely, those that result either in death or else are so morally atrocious that they are equivalent to the loss of life, nothing but death would be proper retribution: not even life imprisonment can compensate for loss of life. Thus, one cannot then resort to other forms of punishment such as incarceration as retribution. Only the death penalty can suffice.
Why should we accept the above? It is evident firstly as I mentioned above: almost every moral theory posits that evil is a real thing, inflicted upon the victim, and by extension, should be balanced. Secondly, convention and emotional response from individuals points towards this. Calls for retribution for crimes are unbelievably widespread - murderers, pedophiles, rapists - indeed, such right realist theories are in popular opinion at the moment, with over half of the US population in support of capital punishment [5]. While this entails conventionalism at best, the sheer uniformity of opinion means that it can be accepted as a properly basic belief, with a prima facie justification for its veracity.


The second argument comes from the idea that the death penalty prevents further crime being committed in the future, since it gives a sanction to the perpetrator of the crime. When considering whether to commit a crime or not, the perpetrator makes a rational choice, as explicated by opportunity theory [6] (Cornish and Clarke): in committing a crime, the criminal makes a choice - i.e., whether or not to commit the crime - this much is certain. In any decision, however, one must, either correctly or incorrectly, weigh the benefits against the costs as to arrive at an informed decision which benefits the individual. Crime is no different, and can be seen by the scale of utilitarian crimes.
Now punishment acts as a cost to criminal behaviour. Surely, for the most efficacious criminal polity, the harshest punishment acts as the strongest deterrent. If the cost of committing a crime is death as opposed to incarceration, criminals - not only those committing murder, but those committing all moral misdeeds - will decide not to commit the crime in the first place. Thus, the death penalty should be imposed simply due to how it deters other crime from being committed. It matters not whether it is in itself immoral (though I would contest - see above). What matters is its effect. Not to go all pragmatic, but this alone justifies the death penalty. The stats support this. For instance, Dezhbakhsh, Rubin and Shepherd found that in 3,000 US counties, for every 1 execution there were 18 fewer murders. [7]
Another way to look at this is given by Duff (2001 and 2011), who offers a communication theory whereby punishment - especially harsh punishment - is necessary to communicate censure for wrongdoing, to the moral community. When the execution of criminals is advertised by the mass media, everyone is alerted to the abominable nature of the act such that it warrants death. This communicates to the moral community that murder, high treason, etc. is intrinsically wrong. In doing so, the moral community, striving to conform to accepted rules and norms, will indeed conform and step away from criminal acts. Think of it simply: unless the point that murder is wrong of the highest order is communicated in one form or another, one shall do it. Only the death penalty - not the measly competing punishments like life imprisonment - achieves this. Indeed, crime should be lowered the most possible. Thus the most extreme communication - death - is surely therefore the best policy to pursue.
If the above is successful and properly communicated, very few deaths of immoral individuals (from the death penalty) can prevent a far higher number of innocent deaths. This is surely a morally more acceptable scenario than the alternative, and indeed can help prevent more crime from being committed in the Long-run.

I have shown not only why the death penalty is morally virtuous on its own accord, but also why even if it is not, it serves a greater cause of deterring crime. Taken cumulatively, the above constitutes a strong argument for the death penalty.

[2] Morris, “Persons and Punishment”, The Monist, 52: 475–501.
[3] Kant, 1797, The Metaphysics of Morals, M. Gregor (trans.), New York: Cambridge University Press (1991).
[4] Murphy and Hampton 1988: 125–126
[7] Dezhbakhsh, Rubin and Shepherd, "Does Capital Punishment Have a Deterrent Effect? New Evidence from Postmoratorium Panel Data", American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 344-376
Debate Round No. 2


R1) Retribution/Lex Talionis

In this Contention, Con explains how Lex Talionis is true, and therefore justifiable retribution. Lex Talionis is

the principle or law of retaliation that a punishment inflicted should correspond in degree and kind to the offense of the wrongdoer, as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; retributive justice.

This moral philosophy was proposed by Hammurabi, a Babylonian king of the twentieth century B.C.E. as he engraved the ‘code’ on a block of black diorite, regarded as the earliest legal code known to history. An excerpt:

"If a man has caused a man of rank to lose an eye, one of his own eyes must be struck out. If he has shattered the limb of a man of rank, let his own limb be broken. If he has knocked out the tooth of a man of rank, his tooth must be knocked out."

Con elaborates ‘when an antagonist harms a victim, the antagonist then creates a moral debt to the victim.’ Take this situation from the Law of Hammurabi:

"If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death. If it kills the son of the owner, then the son of that builder shall be put to death."

According to Con, since the builder killed the owner’s son, the builder creates a moral debt to the owner. Since the builder has killed the owner’s son, it follows that the owner should kill the builder’s son, to fulfill the debt. This is the fundamental ideology behind Lex Talionis. This kind of justice system is not necessary to an advanced and civilized society as ours.

This moral philosophy is not found practiced in other justice circumstances; we do not punish rapists by raping them, we do not punish arsonists by burning down their houses, we do not punish those guilty of assault by beating them up. This moral philosophy is outdated and not practiced in the justice system.

If Con’s contention is true, and Capital Punishment is retribution; then every murderer should be murdered to fulfill the moral debt. Yet this is not what you find in the current system of Capital Punishment.

“From 1973, when Connecticut passed a death penalty law, to 2007, 4,686 murders were committed in the state. Of those, 205 were death-eligible cases (capital murders that include the killing of a police officer, murder for hire, murder-rape and murder committed during a kidnapping) that resulted in some kind of conviction, either through a plea bargain or conviction at trial. The arbitrariness started at the charging level: nearly a third of these death-eligible cases were not charged as capital offenses as they could have been, but as lesser crimes. Sixty-six defendants were convicted of capital murder, 29 went to a hearing for a death sentence, nine death sentences were sustained and one person was executed.”

Con’s contention is only true if every murderer is murdered via Capital Punishment, yet this is simply not true.
To conclude, Con’s claim that Capital Punishment is justified because it is a form of retribution is false as we do not find this in the current system today, and Lex Talionis is outdated, unnecessary and false.

R2) Deterrent

In this argument Con makes the claim that Capital Punishment deters future crime and is therefore justified.

Con says that according to opportunity theory, the criminal makes a decision whether or not to commit the crime by weighing the benefits and the costs. Therefore it follows that making a severe cost (Death Penalty) criminals would not choose to commit crime and Capital Punishment would serve as a deterrent. Evidence proves otherwise.

In a 2009 study, police chiefs were confronted with the statement ‘murderers think about the range of possible punishments before committing homicides’ only 24% agreed. Pg. 10

Concluding that, “The death penalty does little to prevent violent crimes because perpetrators rarely consider the consequences when engaged in violence.”

Now referring to Con’s statistic that for every ‘1 execution there were 18 fewer murders’ This statistic is proven to be inaccurate.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation analyzed studies by Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul H. Rubin, and Joanna H. Shepherd (where Con got his statistic) and concluded:

“The committee concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, the committee recommends that these studies not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide.”

Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan also analyzed the papers and concluded:

“These new studies are fraught with technical and conceptual errors: inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all the relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on key variables in key states, the tyranny of a few outlier states and years, weak to non-existent tests of concurrent effects of incarceration, statistical confounding of murder rates with death sentences, failure to consider the general performance of the criminal justice system, and the absence of any direct test of deterrence.”
See Pg. 2

Con then concludes that a death sentence reminds the community that murder and high treason are wrong. This claim is completely false. We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. States with the death penalty have a higher murder rate than states without the death penalty.

A study conducted in California found that the annual increase in homicides was twice as high during years Capital Punishment was enforced than when it wasn’t.

Con’s claim that Capital Punishment deters crime is not only false, but it seems to represent a negative correlation; Capital Punishment increases crime.

If Con is right, and that certain death does dissuade criminals, then there would be no difference in how well criminals are dissuaded by the death penalty vs. life in prison. In both cases life is imminent, the difference is that the death penalty is delayed by the appeals system and life in prison is delayed by life expectancy. Life in prison is just as sure a means of ending a life as the death penalty, except there is more time to overturn a false sentence via the presentation of new evidence. Con has to show that the death penalty trumps life imprisonment is the eyes of rational thinking criminals.

This does not mean that the majority of criminals prefer life imprisonment; preference does not indicate the level of deterrence. If death is a source of deterrence, then life imprisonment equally deters. If spectacle is a source of deterrence, then we can make a spectacle of life imprisonment just as easily.


I have answered my opponent’s argument’s therefore completing my Round 3 duty. I wish my opponent the best of luck in the rest of the debate, thank you!


Thanks Pro! Onto the Rebuttals.

Human Rights

Here, Pro states that capital punishment is a violation of human rights. I have two issues with this. Firstly, it seems to be that by committing a crime, and in particular a serious crime, you volitionally choose to give up your human rights. In taking away the human rights of victims, as explained in my opening argument, you exact a debt, which can be remedied only by losing your own rights. Thus a simple argument may be made that no criminal has complete human rights, not least those who take away life.
Secondly, any appeal to human rights leads straight into problems, such that punishment in any form would be considered a violation. For instance, incarcerating someone at all, for any amount of time, anywhere, breaches articles 3 (esp. "liberty, and security of person"), 5, 21 (1, 2,), 23, 25 (1), and 30 of the human rights act [1]. And thus in essence, my opponent, by appealing to human rights, is stating that no punishment can be used at all for criminals. When human rights is appealed to, any punishment at all breaches human rights. This, however, is an absurd position - criminals must be punished in one way or another if not merely to perform the functions of the criminal justice system - and thus commits the fallacy of "proving too much".

Here my opponent argues that the possibility that capital punishment executes innocents is reason for its abolition (though one qualm I have lies with the stats cited - viz. those exonerated, rather than those proved innocent after execution). This, I believe, is offset by the function of the death penalty as a deterrent. From a purely mathematical point of view, even if there were a small handful of innocent deaths, one can prevent a whole lot more innocent deaths as it works as a deterrent for other crimes (thus I redirect the reader to the sub-debate concerning my argument on capital punishment as deterrence). While the loss of innocent life is indeed a vice, the point is that it is morally justified even so. Provided one divorces oneself from emotivism and takes a pragmatic approach, I don't think this can be avoided.
However, perhaps the most pressing issue is that Pro's argument does not entail that the death penalty should be abolished as per the resolution: at most, it suggests that it should be reformed. For, The death penalty can still exist and not execute any innocent individuals - if there are any, of course, given that the majority of the genuinely innocent on death row are exonerated anyway, as Pro points out. All that is required is a reform of the existing system. For instance, there can be more stringent hearings and evidence - with a death penalty administered only when we are indeed 100% certain, e.g. If there is video/CCTV evidence, a confession, or the like. In any case, innocent criminals - if it is even possible for such a concept to exist at all - is not reason to 'abolish' capital punishment.

Now Pro argues that since capital punishment discriminates against ethnic minorities, it should be abolished. However, it is a known fact that across all crimes, including homicide, blacks are the most common perpetrator by proportion - accounting, for instance, for 49.4% of all homicides (nonnegligent) [2] despite being 13.6% of the US population. Whites, by contrast, account for 48.2% of all homicides (nonnegligent) [3] despite being 77.7% of the population. Thus, we should not be surprised when we see a higher proportion of blacks on death row. The exact figures are 43% White and 41% Black [5]. In light of the above stats, this suggests that the death penalty is remarkably accurate - even favourable - to minority ethnics! We should thus clearly reject Pro's argument.
As for the claim that "black defendants were 4 times more likely to receive a death sentence than whites.", as shown above this must be false, but in any case, can be explained by the more violent nature of black compared to white crime [4]
Moreover, in addition to all this, the argument does not for one second entail that capital punishment should be abolished. At most, it suggests that it should be reformed: judges and the police should be better educated with regard to discrimination, perhaps. But racism in the CJS does not mean that it should be abolished. To the contrary, it merely needs to be reformed.

Finally, Pro claims that whether one faces death depends on the quality of one's lawyer. However, this seems impertinent to the discussion: whether your lawyer is good or not does not impact on the justification of the death penalty as argued in my opening argument - I refer the reader to the sub-debate on innocence. The point is that judges would not sentence someone to death unless the plaintiff gave sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt, of which, cannot be evaded in a court of law even with the best defendant there is. In any case, there have, of course, been several re-trials whereby those with incompetent lawyers have retried with new ones, thus evading the issue. Finally, again, even if true, this may be resolved by reform of the legal system and the lawyers given to those facing murder charges, rather than abolition.

I have shown why Pro's arguments fall short, especially in light of the statistics and especially when reform, rather than abolition of capital punishment is just as a viable polity.


[3] ibid
[4] ibid
Debate Round No. 3


Human Rights

In this argument, Con basically claims that since a criminal takes another’s life, they forfeit their own rights in return. My opponent misunderstands the meaning of “unalienable” rights.

unalienable: impossible to take away or give up (Merriam-Webster)

These rights are “endowed” to us by our creator, they are inseparable from us; they are a part of our humanity. The government did not give them, and therefore cannot take them away, no matter the circumstance. It is the government’s sole duty to protect your rights, no matter what you do, that is why they are unalienable rights.

Con then says that punishment in all forms is a violation of human rights. I would remind my opponent that Capital Punishment is a form of punishment, and therefore (as Con explained for me) is a violation of human rights.


In this contention I argued that any risk is too great that an innocent will be executed via Capital Punishment. Con in turn claims that deterrence offsets this risk as deterrence would make up for the innocent lives taken by Capital Punishment.

This is not a numbers game, or a mathematical equation. Even if Con is right (which he isn’t), and Capital Punishment does deter crime, this does not prove that his side is more just. Con uses this ‘we should sacrifice the few for the many’ mentality, and that this ideology inherently overrides the interests of those directly affected by the imposition of what Con calls is justice. We shouldn't value life on the basis of numbers, but rather whether the justice system is imposing penalties that directly devalue those lives.

Con then wraps up by proposing reform of Capital Punishment. My opponent’s burden of proof is that we should keep the current system of Capital Punishment, therefore my opponent must defend the current system, proposing new regulation does nothing for him, it is completely useless for Con’s case. But more importantly, what the voters must realize is that no amount of reform will ever give The Death Penalty a 100% success rate. There will always, no matter what, be a chance of execution of innocents, and this chance is too large when innocent lives are in danger.

I now leave you with a quote,

“You can release an innocent man from prison, but you can’t release him from the grave.”
-Scott Langley


In this contention, Con focuses on one statistic, while dropping all others. Let me clarify my evidence; what the study did was compare two murders that are extremely similar, one by a black person, and one by a white. In this these cases, a black criminal was 4 times more likely to receive a death sentence than a white person that committed the same crime. Con challenges this very statistic, and claims that this is due to ‘blacks being more violent’. Con clearly misread the statistic.

Con then again suggests reform, which I already explained is useless in the previous contention.


Before I start on this argument at all, I have to address something that Con said.

However, this seems impertinent to the discussion: whether your lawyer is good or not does not impact on the justification of the death penalty as argued in my opening argument…

This is completely relevant to the debate, and I am saddened by the fact that my opponent could not recognize that.

The fact that criminals are issued inadequate representation when on the subject of death shows how much of a broken system Capital Punishment. It follows that since this is such a broken system, it should be abolished.

Con then argues that judges do not sentence criminals to death unless there is sufficient evidence that leaves no doubt of the criminal’s guilt, and therefore representation would not matter. This statement is completely false and is not found in the justice system.

Soffar was arrested in 1980 for an infamous robbery-murder at a Houston bowling alley. After trying to turn in an acquaintance for the bowling-alley murders, Soffar eventually implicated himself after being subjected to a three-day marathon of aggressive, unrecorded interrogation, which culminated in a false confession, typed by police, that the officers convinced a worn down Soffar to sign…In 1981, Soffar went to trial represented by a Houston lawyer known both for having slept through his clients’ capital-murder trials and for having stacked up a long list of clients sentenced to death. Based on his statements, Soffar was convicted and sentenced to death.

In June 2012, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the death sentence of ACLU client Manuel Velez, ruling it was based on the false testimony of a state expert. The court found that both the expert, A.P. Merillat – whose false testimony resulted in the reversal two years ago of the death sentence given to another ACLU client – and the prosecutor, should have known the testimony was false, but presented it anyway, leading to an unjust death sentence.

Evidence above proves that criminals are sent to death row based off inadequate evidence, contrary to Con’s claim.

Con then says that several cases have been repealed because of faulty lawyers and that this somehow fixes the issue. It does not, if you would have read my statistics you would have seen the amount of cases that are completed and filed away, and then later the lawyer is fired because of inappropriate behavior. These are the kind of people that are a major factor in cases involving life and death.

Near the end, Con suggests again that the system can be reformed and therefore this problem would be fixed. My opponent forgets that his job is to defend the current system of Capital Punishment, by abandoning this system and suggesting reform as he has done, he has thus abandoned his burden of proof.


This is my last round of argumentation. I thank my opponent for debating this topic with me, it has been very insightful and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. May the best debater win! Thank you!

Actual R2 Graph:



Thanks Pro, onto the final round!

I will quote the pertinent parts of my opponent's argument to ensure a focused response.

Retribution/Lex Talionis

Firstly Pro argues:
'Con’s contention is only true if every murderer is murdered via Capital Punishment, yet this is simply not true.'
However, it does not detract from the fact that those who murder are justly murdered In and of themselves: while the ideal would be for every murderer to be justly killed by capital punishment, this has no bearing on whether the death penalty is morally justified as it exists. In other words, The purpose of the argument is to show that those who are killed by capital punishment are justly killed - not, as Pro states, to show that capital punishment as it exists is perfect in every way. One may show that some capital punishment is better than no capital punishment and still argue against the resolution.

"We do not punish rapists by raping them, we do not punish arsonists by burning down their houses, we do not punish those guilty of assault by beating them up. This moral philosophy is outdated and not practiced in the justice system."

The main thrust of the argument is not necessarily the 'eye for an eye' mentality (although in some cases this is necessary) but rather retribution in proportion to the debt. If someone, as Pro states, rapes another, then we need not rape them but rather punish them proportionally to the damage incurred by rape. Likewise with arson or assault. This is why we can administer the death penalty for crimes other than murder, e.g. War crimes or high treason. As a result, my opponent focuses his response on lex talionis in the strictest sense, while my argument rests more on a general retribution.
Moreover, the fact that a certain moral code is "outdated and not practiced" in a certain society has very little bearing on its moral status. It may well be that lex talionis is outdated. But does this mean that it cannot be justified? Unless we resort to conventionalism, then Pro's argument is null. But since conventionalism cannot be assumed true in a debate about (objective) ethics, we should treat my opponent's response with severe suspicion.

"In a 2009 study, police chiefs were confronted with the statement ‘murderers think about the range of possible punishments before committing homicides’ only 24% agreed. Pg. 10"..."Concluding that, “The death penalty does little to prevent violent crimes because perpetrators rarely consider the consequences when engaged in violence.”"

I have two qualms with this: first, I would question how one should accurately attain such a statistic to begin with - for intention is introspective, thus particular and known only by the criminal, and yet it was the police chiefs who were asked the question. This makes the stat a patent social construction of the police force and their stereotypes concerning criminals, rather than the reality of the situation.
Second, I think that the stat is entirely consistent with my own position. For, if only 24% of murderers thought of punishment before perpetrating, then this means that the majority of those who eventually did commit murderer were not affected by deterrents. This is, however, what one should expect from capital punishment: we would have a serious problem for capital punishment if the majority of murderers did think about punishment yet committed anyway: that would mean that it didn't work as a deterrent. However, of those following through with the crime, a small level considering the punishments is what one should expect if it did act as a deterrent. Pro's stat therefore, if anything, detriments his position. Indeed, the point of my argument was not to show that any single punishment can extirpate all crime as a deterrent, but rather that it should significantly reduce crime of certain sorts.

"Now referring to Con’s statistic that for every ‘1 execution there were 18 fewer murders’ This statistic is proven to be inaccurate..." "The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation analyzed studies by Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul H. Rubin, and Joanna H. Shepherd (where Con got his statistic) and concluded..."

Unfortunately I think here that it is one person's word against another's, and thus would be futile to argue one way or the other - the best I can do is to cite more studies to support the motion but keeping in mind that in such a qualitative topic, it is almost impossible to verify or falsify - thus necessitating theorising. Here are examples of supporting studies:

- Professor Shepherd at monthly data from 1977 to 1999, stating that each execution, is associated with three fewer murders - both crimes of passion and murders by intimates. [1]

- Professors H. Naci Mocan and R. Kaj Gittings of the University of Colorado at Denver, using state-level data from 1977 to 1997, found that for each additional execution, on average, about five murders were deterred. [2]

- Zimmerman found that each additional execution, on average, results in 14 fewer murders. [3]

Though I understand this is merely reiterating the same point, and each is likely to have corresponding critiques, it at least establishes the strength of my position.

"States with the death penalty have a higher murder rate than states without the death penalty"... "Con’s claim that Capital Punishment deters crime is not only false, but it seems to represent a negative correlation; Capital Punishment increases crime."

The main point I have in response here is that correlation does not imply causation. I have no idea what the statistics are like: although it may well be the case that murder rates are highest in states without the death penalty, there may be other factors other than the deterrent effect which contribute to crime. Indeed, there could be a much higher need for the death penalty where murder rates are higher, leading to such a statistic. In any case, a strong causal relation - not simply correlation - needs to be established.

"If Con is right, and that certain death does dissuade criminals, then there would be no difference in how well criminals are dissuaded by the death penalty vs. life in prison. In both cases life is imminent, the difference is that the death penalty is delayed by the appeals system and life in prison is delayed by life expectancy. Life in prison is just as sure a means of ending a life as the death penalty, except there is more time to overturn a false sentence via the presentation of new evidence. Con has to show that the death penalty trumps life imprisonment is the eyes of rational thinking criminals."

Finally Pro asks the difference between life incarceration and the death penalty. The difference, I should suspect, lies in the act of being executed, the life being cut short and forced rather than left to natural processes. Indeed, the mere fact of lost years of life seems to be sufficient deterrent for rational thinking criminals. Thus, the death penalty is clearly a greater deterrent than the death penalty.

I just want to say thanks to hayd for this most entertaining debate! He is truly a good debater, and I wish him the best for the future.


[1] Joanna M. Shepherd: "Murders of Passion, Execution Delays, and the Deterrence of Capital Punishment", Journal of Legal Studies, vol.33 (2004) pp. 283-321

[2] H. Naci Mocan and R. Kaj Gittings: &Getting Off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment", Journal of Law and Economics, vol.46 (2) (2003) pp. 453-478

[3] Zimmerman: "State Executions, Deterrence and the Incidence of Murder", Journal of Applied Economics, vol. 7 (1) (2004) pp. 163-193
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by greatkitteh 2 years ago
Lol at true Korea being Purple.
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago
I'm so sorry for not having the time to vote on this :(
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
Well... that's disappointing. Should have had at least one vote.
Posted by Lee001 3 years ago
I'd recommend asking 2-3 people voting on this soon...I need to get the last round up.
Posted by Lee001 3 years ago
Notify me when this is at voting period. Thank you.
Posted by Toviyah 3 years ago
I will post, just might be a little close cut :) sorry. An np about the graph! I though it looked out of place lol
Posted by Hayd 3 years ago
Woops wrong graph, my apologies, I will post the real one next round.
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