The Instigator
Con (against)
1 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
9 Points

Capital Punishment

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/31/2012 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,500 times Debate No: 25381
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (14)
Votes (4)




My contention is that the death penalty should not be a form of criminal punishment in the United States. Pro will argue for its continued use.

First round is acceptance.

Please only take this if you are willing to spend your time on it.

Rules (Automatic loss if broken) -

Arguments must have original material within them, no mindless plagiarism.

No semantic arguments, it is quite clear what is meant by capital punishment and there is no need for a definition.

No forfeits.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting my debate.

A) Capital Punishment does not work as a deterrent

My first point is a counter to one which I expect Pro to make, namely that the threat of capital punishment deters criminals from committing future murders. Time and time again this has been proved incorrect, evidence of which can be seen in this graph which shows the murder rate for each state per 100,000 citizens. (1) These statistics were provided by the FBI and the US Census.

The New York Times describe how "Year after year, homicide rates in states with the death penalty roughly mirrored the rates in states without capital punishment, with death penalty states 48 percent to 101 percent higher." They also state how they looked into "contiguous and demographically similar states" such as Massachusetts (3.7 per 100,000), Rhode Island (4.2 per 100,000) and Connecticut (4.9 per 100,000) between the years of 1977 to 1997. Connecticut having a worse homicide rate than both of the others despite their use of capital punishment. (2)

B) Wrongful conviction is irreversible in cases involving capital punishment

Between the years of 1973-2012 there have been 140 exonerations in 26 different States. Twelve of which took place in 2003. (3) 140 men who were almost unjustly killed by the state, some of which were found completely innocent and went home the next day. The U.S. has only executed 1,099 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in 1976 (10), if the exonerations were added on to this figure it shows a very high of percentage of 11.3% of convictions were later found to be false. I don't think you can dispute that this is a worryingly high rate. Wrongful convictions are always going to be an unfortunate part of criminal prosecution and although they will in many cases steal years from an individuals life, that individual can still later be found innocent and walk away. This is not true in cases of capital punishment, due to the definite and severe nature of capital punishment, innocent victims will remain murdered by the state long after evidence of their wrongful conviction surfaces.
Due to the fact that the courts almost never reopen cases after execution we have no idea how many possibly innocent people have been executed. However, a list of cases with strong evidence for posthumous innocence can be found here (4).

One of the primary reasons for wrongful conviction is the appointment of 'public defenders' who are often inexperienced and ill-equipped for cases of the severity of one resulting in capital punishment. In this video (5) Professor of Law Brandon Garrett explains why public defenders are so inadequate and the effect this has on justice. Over ninety percent of defendants on death row cannot afford an experienced criminal defense attorney (6) and therefore it is the poor who suffer most under capital punishment, this, along with the fact that crime is always going to be a primarily economic problem means that it creates a perfect storm for wrongful conviction. Murders happen more in poorer areas, poorer people are wrongly accused, they cannot afford adequate attorneys to defend them and wrongful executions are the result. You may say that this would happen in cases of life sentences too, which you would be true in stating, but at least in those cases there would be time for new evidence, confessions or facts to come to light, this would not be true in cases of the death penalty.

C) Capital punishment is unconstitutional

Cruel - Causing pain or suffering. (7)
As I'm sure you know the 8th amendment of the United States constitution forbids "cruel and unusual" punishment. My contention is that capital punishment as performed in the United States is indeed cruel and therefore unconstitutional. Evidence of this includes the 43 botched executions in the past thirty years (8), in some of which victims were subjected to intense pain which could easily fit the definition of cruel. Also, a study in The Lancet found that 88% of inmates receiving the lethal injection was given a lower amount of anaesthesia than someone would be given during surgery, with 43% having concentrations consistent with awareness. (9) Due to the fact that these unconstitutional executions do happen frequently and seemingly unstoppably it makes capital punishment as a whole an unconstitutional practise, it is not okay for a method to break amendments sometimes or occasionally, it should never do so. You would never hear about a prisoner getting a 'botched' sentence in prison where they stayed too long and if an investigation broke the fourth amendment prohibiting unlawful searches it would be grounds for the case to be thrown out of court. Therefore I conclude that capital punishment is unconstitutional due to its inherent and frequent cruelty.

D) The Executioner

What many advocates of the death penalty seem to forget is that someone needs to actually preside over the process of execution and administer the injection which will result in the death of another human being. The moral implications on this individual, as you can imagine, will be severe. Prolific executioner Jerry Givens describes how "I performed the execution. So you might suffer a little. I'm going to suffer a lot, because I performed the job." (10) This is an incredible weight on a human being which, naturally, will affect him for the rest of his life.
Another problem is that many states require a doctor or at least an anaesthesiologist to be present to avoid any mistakes, such as those which I cited previously. But due to the fact the the Hippocratic oath which medical professionals take stipulates that they "will do no harm" very few of them are willing to oversee executions. ABC News describes how "state attorneys reportedly told the judge that authorities in Missouri had sent certified letters to 298 qualified anesthesiologists who lived anywhere near the state's death chamber. They were turned down by every single one, according to a report in The New York Times." (10) This has led many states to simply abandon guidelines which require medical professionals to be present (10) this, in turn, creates a vicious circle in which further botched executions are carried out, with the accompanying unconstitutional label, so doctors are sought, who refuse, and the state is back at square one. Either doctors will have to give up their Hippocratic oath so as to carry out humane executions which, for obvious reasons, will never happen or capital punishment should be outlawed, so the constitution is upheld.




My opponent’s case is actually extremely weak. He put all of his faith into cross sectional data (in other words, comparing states). However statistically these analyses are discredited. Lets use an analogy—guns effects on crime—and cross sectional analysis. Suppose the countries with the highest crime adopt the strictest gun control. Even if these restrictions lowered crime, it would appear otherwise. Economists refer to this as the endogenity problem. The adoption of a policy is a reaction to other events, in this case crime. In other words, states adopt these laws because they have high crime, and don’t have high crime because of the death penalty. The only way to correctly look at the data and assume one or the other hypothesis is to isolate the influence of crime on the adoption of the law. My opponent’s case is extremely weak.

When doing such variable datasets (control for the variable, my opponent doesn’t and his studies are therefore bogus) we see a deterrent effect. Even in times of high crime we would have less deaths then if the state kept its abolitionist policies. Shepard finds that states that have the DP indeed deter. However, he finds those with more common death penalty usage (like Texas) have a stronger deterrent effect then those who use the DP less. Shepard notes:

“I am definitely against the death penalty on lots of different grounds... But I do believe that people respond to incentives.” His results noted the death penalty only deters if a state has executed at least nine people since 1977. He further noted, “Deterrence cannot be achieved with a half-hearted execution program.” In other words, more death penalty not less produces a benefit [1].

My opponent also cites the famous Nytimes study, but as John Lott notes:

“When the death penalty was suspended nationwide from 1968 to 1976, the murder rate in these 12 states still was lower than in most other states. What is much more important is that the states that reinstituted the death penalty had about a 38 percent larger drop in murder rates by 1998.” In other words, states with the DP had larger drops in crime even when using my opponent’s data! This is one credible way to use cross sectional analysis. And when it is used a deterrent effect arises. He further notes, “Generally, the studies over the last decade that examined how the murder rates in each state changed as they changed their execution rate found that each execution saved the lives of roughly 15 to 18 potential murder victims. Overall, the rise in executions during the 1990s accounts for about 12 to 14 percent of the overall drop in murders.”[2]

As we can see, the DP surely acts as a deterrent.


My opponent argues poor people are discriminated against… He admits they commit crime more often. In other words, this form of profiling (after using proper evidence) shows overall no innocents executed by the DP. My opponent cites the DPIC multiple times in this section, however their list is highly flawed. The list made no distinction between legal and actual innocence. We all know the difference. Much of the time the defendants are given clemency or are let out based on a pardon or legal technicality. In other words, most of the list is false as many of those aquitted where actually guilty but got out based on a technicality [3].

Ward A. Cambell, an attorney general, notes: “In fact, it is arguable that at least 68 of the 102 defendants on the List should not be on the List at all leaving only 34 released defendants with claims of actual innocence less than of 1% of the 6,930 defendants sentenced to death between 1973 and 2000.” In other words, 68 of these where let out based on a technicality. In other words, the DP has over a 99% accuracy rate! Further, the sources for the DPIC list is very weak. Cambell refutes the main studies they cite. Many of the studies used pre-Furman data before the DP was forced to have higher evidence standards. In other words, the DP is more certain now then it was before Furman, and using this data skews the results. Further, many of the studies the DPIC cited actually agree innocent execution is rare giving the DP an over 99% accuracy rate. He further notes, “As noted, the DPIC currently limits the cases on the List to those in which a prisoner has been acquitted on retrial or charges have been formally dismissed. However, the DPIC List also includes other cases in which the conviction was reversed because of legally insufficient evidence or because the prisoner ultimately pled to a lesser charge. As will be shown, inserting these cases on the List is misleading in terms of assessing whether truly innocent defendants have been convicted and sentenced to death. In actuality, the DPIC List includes a number of “false exonerations” [4].

As we can see, my opponent’s argument is hugely misleading. In other words, over half of those on the list where truly guilty. Meaning the DP has a 99.6% accuracy rate. Further, the death penalty prevents recidivism and therefore saves many innocent lives. Dudley Sharp notes, “Murderers that we have allowed to murder again, recidivist murderers, MIGHT number around 28,000 since 1973, based upon existing studies.” Basically we see the amount of lives saved hugely outweighs the weak innocents claim which I have shown to be false anyway. He further notes, “28 studies, beginning in 2000, find for a deterrent effect, ranging from 1-28 innocent lives spared per execution, or totals from 1,254 - 35,112 innocent lives saved”[5]. Innocents are, on balance, helped by the DP.

My opponent claims poor people are wrongly executed. Poor black males are usually those that commit the most crime [6]. So it would make sense to use DNA tests, hopefully witnesses etc. in order to find the murderer. And it makes sense slight bias is given towards those who are poor and black, they commit 56% of the murders in this country.


This point is also weak. Many judges who oppose the DP even say things like: “Whatever the arguments may be against capital punishment, both on moral grounds and on grounds and in terms of accomplishing the purposes of punishment.... the death penalty has been employed throughout our history, and in a day when it is still widely accepted, it cannot be said to violate the connectional concept of cruelty.” Further, the fifth amendment supports the DP.

“...a capital, or otherwise infamous crime... twice put in jeopardy of life or limb...

...nor be deprived of life...without due process of law...”[7]

In other words, you can be executed as long as you get “due process” of law, and you get more then that on death row as they have very high evidence standards. My favorite justice, Scalia, notes, “No fewer than three of the Justices with whom I have served (Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun) have maintained that the death penalty is unconstitutional, even though its use is explicitly contemplated in the Constitution. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments says that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law; and the Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment says that no person shall be held to answer for a capital crime without grand-jury indictment.”[7] Basically, as long as due process is given, you cannot argue unconstitutionality.

The executioner

Its his choice to be in that job, so I don’t see how this is a downside. If he wants to do this its his fault…


My case for deterence and recidivism are in the rebuttals. It shows net benefit.


Debate Round No. 2


The picture I attempted to post last round didn't work, I apologise. It can be found in my sources, please do look at it as it is key:

A) Death Penalty as a deterrent rebuttal

Pro twice describes my argument for this as "extremely weak," I think this description was a little harsh but I do admit that it was a little thin on the ground. This is purely because I thought evidence against Capital Punishment as a deterrent was so vast and conclusive that he would hardly contest it, I was wrong about this and will adjust accordingly.

A great portion of Pro's response case to mine consists of complaining that I compared states, offering no other alternative and then comparing states himself. If you are going to condemn a method as "bogus" then don't use it yourself. I do not accept Pro's condemnation of the system of comparing states with and without the death penalty, as it's the only real way to demonstrate the difference with actual statistical evidence, Pro does not get to make evidence disappear simply because he does not like it.

The only statistic that Pro did provide was one via a Fox News article stating that after the '68-'76 prohibition of DP, homicides in death penalty states had gone down by 38%. This is completely insignificant as it is not compared with other states and fails to recognise the fact that 1998 had the lowest homicide rate for the entire US for 28 years, with only 16,914! (1) That means that all states would've had a significant reduction! In Pro's argument his only citations are this faulty statistic along with an irrelevant quote by lawyer Joanna Shepard which contributes no facts, just another subjective opinion. I might use Pro's old line back at him and state for the record that his so called 'rebuttal' was extremely weak.

Pro observes the fact that I used the NY Times study but does not refute/dispute it, therefore it still stands.

Here is further evidence of the utter inaccuracy that is the claim of DP deterrence. “For 2010, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.6, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 2.9. For 2009, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.9, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 2.8. For 2008, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 5.2, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.3.” (2) These statistics, (the data of which was provided by the FBI and US Census) arbitrarily take the three year period of 2008-2010 and demonstrate conclusively with the sound figures provided that states with the death penalty do not have a lower murder rate and therefore it does not work as a deterrent. Even the Fox News article which Pro referred to (3) acknowledges the NY Times findings that “10 of the 12 states without capital punishment have homicide rates below the national average ... while half the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above the national average.” They conclude this by asserting in a typical Fox News fashion that the 12 states have enjoyed low murder rates unrelated to the death penalty. This is absolutely true, their low murder rates are unrelated to DP and unless DP states have suicidal criminals then these states also have unrelated homicide rates. This is because, be it a life in prison or DP, criminals take the risk regardless.

This data that Fox News themselves recognise conclusively proves that capital punishment does not work as a deterrent.

Furthermore, a follow-up NY Times article showed “The homicide rate in North Dakota, which does not have the death penalty, was lower than the homicide rate in South Dakota, which does have it, according to F.B.I. statistics for 1998. Massachusetts, which abolished capital punishment in 1984, has a lower rate than Connecticut, which has six people on death row; the homicide rate in West Virginia is 30 percent below that of Virginia, which has one of the highest execution rates in the country.” (6) These facts show neighbouring states with differing capital punishment laws, they are economically similar and comparing them eliminates as many extraneous variables as you're ever going to. So what are their findings? DP states do not have lower murder rates than their non-DP neighbours.

Due to the fact that Pro was unable to prove otherwise or negate my evidence, the point stands!

B) Innocents Rebuttal

Due to the character count I will keep this short and sweet. The basis of Pro's argument is that my list of exonerations is misleading due to the fact that some of the exonerations were not on the basis of actual innocence. This study provided by a University of Law provides a compelling case for 86 exonerated persons, each of which have strong cases for their innocence, complete with a list of reasons behind their wrongful accusations. (4) This means that 61% of the DP exonerated persons were completely innocent and would've been killed by the state for a non-existent crime, a fate which could've been avoided during a prison sentence in which innocence would have time to be proven.

Pro goes on to bizarrely state that DP has a 99% accuracy rate. This is an ill-thought out argument as DP is only the conclusion of the conviction and obviously has no part in the actual court process, I'm sure trials which result in prison sentences also have a similar success rate, there's no reason they would not. Therefore this argument is not for DP in any way, it simply shows that the US court system has a very high accuracy rate. If there was no DP then those who were in the unfortunate minority of wrongly accused would not be dead, but would instead be able to prove their innocence during their sentence.

Pro's point about recidivism is redundant when you consider the similarly permanent nature of it's alternative, life in prison without parole. When the perpetrator clearly deserves it and presents a significant threat to society then he should get a longer sentence, this I am all for. I know Pro is going to respond with “Life doesn't always mean life.” But most Americans are very poorly informed when it comes to the sentences given out and don't realise that "two-thirds of the states utilize sentences for first degree murder which guarantee that the inmate will never be eligible for release. Most of the remaining states forbid considering parole for at least 25 years." (5) As Harry Connick, Sr., District Attorney in Louisiana said “"When a guy gets to be 60, he's not gonna rip and run a lot. Not like he used to." (5)

C) Constitution Rebuttal
Pro clearly misunderstood my point entirely here. If you actually read my post you will see that I was not stating that the constitution forbids DP but that it prohibits “Cruel punishment.” I then went on to show the amount of botched executions which could easily be classed as cruel and their enduring nature due to lack of medical professionals willing to supervise. I also sourced a study which shows a horrendously low anaesthetic level which could also be easily deemed to be cruel. The conclusion I drew, and still continue to draw, is that DP in it's current form is unconstitutional. This point has not been refuted and stands.

I'd like to finish my post by asking Pro this, if all murder cases which would usually result in Capital Punishment resulted in a life sentence without parole, would this not be enough? Must the state also lower itself morally by taking petty revenge on those who commit murder and drop to the level of the killer?

Sources found in comments.




My opponent persists with extremely weak claims, and cherry picks data from my John Lott article. My opponent agrees with the statement comparing states is weak, yet persists with his claims and then claims I am a hypocrite. However, his argument of “you did it too!!” is actually false.

My opponent first argues I continued to compare states after I said it was inaccurate, but this is not the case. I never compared the states. The study I cited used data from each state and NEVER compared them. For example, it uses data and trends from Texas and concludes the outcome of deterrence on that state. Then continues to the next state. Then tallies the score. The study found in states with less execution has no effect on crime (this is in states only where DP exists). He finds states, like Texas and Virginia, which have high execution rates, reap an overall benefit from the death penalty. “Thus the result from earlier economics papers: on average, an execution in the United States deters crime.” He later argues a half-baked death penalty does not to the job, and only states with high execution rates save lives. Again, this means more execution not less is needed [1].

My opponent then essentially cherry picks from my source. The source did indicate states without DP had lower crime rates, but my opponent misses the next paragraph (and missing this paragraph like it doesn’t exist is dishonest), “This simple comparison really doesn’t prove anything. The 12 states without the death penalty have long enjoyed relatively low murder rates due to factors unrelated to capital punishment.” In other words, the death penalty is NOT the reason these states have higher/lower crime rates. My source did nothing for your case unless you fail to read the following passages. The source further notes, “When the death penalty was suspended nationwide from 1968 to 1976, the murder rate in these 12 states still was lower than in most other states. What is much more important is that the states that reinstituted the death penalty had about a 38 percent larger drop in murder rates by 1998.” This actually lends credence to the deterrence hypothesis as the DP states have larger drops in crime then those without a DP. And it also lends a rebuttal to your case as even when the DP is abolished they still have lower crime, meaning the DP is not related to this correlation my opponent is using as the bastion for his whole argument [2]. And yes, all states have had a reduction, but the level of the reduction is important. All states had a decrease in crime, correct, however if one state has a larger reduction then another then some other factor is involved. John Lott says guns and the DP are the reason. Merely saying all states have had a reduction is irrelevant. The level of reduction is significant to this debate.

My opponent then again starts comparing states, but looks at regional comparisons. However, these articles still prove a deterrence hypothesis. In many of these comparisons, many differences come out. Mainly we see in these northeastern and Virginian states population and urbanization rates are very different. It is still statistically a fact trends are the best way to determine something’s effectiveness. And when using these trends, it is noted the states with the most DP have the largest drop in crime. This is a classic and strong way to determine crime (states with or without trends comparing is an accurate way to look at it). And let me say it again: states with the most DP have the largest drops in crime [3].

And these comparisons, even if regional, are extremely weak. Isaac Ehrlich noted on the study, “a throwback to the vintage 1960s statistical analyses done by criminologists who compared murder rates in neighboring states where capital punishment was either legal or illegal. …The statistics involved in such comparisons have long been recognized as devoid of scientific merit.” He further said the reason these articles cannot be trusted is because no factors are controlled for. For example, the arrest rates, conviction rates, drug usage rates, population rate, urbanization rate, type of legal system (certain laws change things a lot), gun laws, etc. all differ even in neighboring states. As no trends are taken into account nor regression to account for these variables, Ehrlich is right, these comparisons lack any scientific merit [4].


My opponent’s list is again flawed! 17 of those 86 where let out due to government misconduct (police being cruel, or some other technicality) meaning 69 of those where truly innocent. False confession also has the definition of coming from one who is mentally retarded, ill, or was tortured by the police. In two of those instances, the murderer might have been guilty. Meaning he wasn’t really “innocent”, he was more let out (again) on a technicality. Due to the fact it doesn’t have a good breakdown lets minus 4 of the eight, though it may have been higher or lower, that’s a good mid point. 65 now. And this is a similar number my source reported last round meaning the DP has a 99.6% accuracy rate. About 6000 people have been executed. So really, the amount innocent is miniscule. And the “study” my opponent used was actually one of my rebuttals too [5]. The other innocents saved is worth it for around 65 truly innocents.

Yes, the court system has a high accuracy rate. This means the innocent problem is not really a problem, and the lives saved > those lost. I don’t see how this is a rebuttal as it conceded the DP is accurate and all I need to prove is 66 lives have been saved from the DP. This has already been done. I have shown last round nearly 40,000 lives would be saved from recidivism, and thousands more saved from deterrence. Net benefit from the DP.

My opponent then argues LWOP is, indeed, LWOP. And sure, a 60 year old man isn’t in the best shape. However it has been shown many of these murderers who have gotten parole in 20 years (it is common) or get pardoned by a governor (common too) have high recidivism rates. Lowe actually shows many examples of old men strangling and killing many teenage women and sometimes children [6]. Further, many of these murderers aren’t in an average. One study noted, “Of the roughly 52,000 state prison inmates serving time for murder in 1984, an estimated 810 had previously been convicted of murder and had killed 821 persons following their previous murder convictions. Executing each of these inmates would have saved 821 lives.”[7] In other words, they serve the time and go right back to killing. This older study shows 821 lives saved. The source further indicates extending the time right up to Furman 10,000 people (higher estimate) would have been saved. Using different data then the study just cited, estimations note 28,000 lives saved from recidivism based on the few that escape, get paroled, get pardoned, etc. Even if we use the 821 low estimates, the overall benefit is extremely high [8]. Remember the deterrence value, 35,000 saved.


Ah, thanks, I see. However, the point is flawed. First, many of the cases you cite are electrocution or other methods, which are no longer in use and, therefore, are irrelevant. Second, none of the pain was arbitrary as proper veins are needed for the execution. And cruel and unusual means it must be rejected by [most] of society (in this case the US). It is not rejected. Using the definition of cruel and unusual in the US, it simply doesn’t fit [9].

The state has the right to provide justice to the murderer. It may be ones personal revenge (child wants dad dead for killing grandma for example), however the purpose the state usually uses the DP is to ensure safety by preventing recidivism or by providing deterrence, or justice if the murder was really grotesque (rape, strangling, and burning of a child for example). Why not have an option, even if they rarely use it, to kill a murderer?

See comments for sources

Debate Round No. 3



First off, let's get one thing straight that you'd already be aware of if you'd read my previous post, my entire case from the start has been that DP does not affect homicide rates. It does not affect it in DP states and obviously does not affect it in non-DP states, criminals do not care. You accuse me of cherry-picking from your Fox News article, but actually if you'd fully read my post you'll see that I agree with the part you wrongly accused me of leaving out.

Now, onto my argument...

The entire foundation of Pro's argument for deterrence is based on three things:

  1. The refutation of any state/regional comparison due to extraneous variables.

  2. More execution equals greater deterrence.

  3. A lone Fox News article stating that from an unspecified year between 1968-1976 and the year 1998 there has been a 38% drop in the murder rate of unspecified DP states.

I still do not agree with Pro's condemnation of state-comparison due to extraneous variables, due to the fact that even more variables are encountered when you consider the fact that you are comparing different time periods, crime in 1968 and crime in 1998 are obviously far from comparable. All of the variables you cited (“the arrest rates, conviction rates, drug usage rates, population rate, urbanization rate, type of legal system, gun laws, etc”) have changed vastly over time within the states, just as they do geographically.

Nevertheless, I will conform to Pro's inane rules and base my argument only on individual states and their trends over time.

Just so everybody knows DP prohibition means the time between 1968 – 1976 in which no executions took place in the US.

According to your deterrent logic Texas, as America's most prolific executor (1), should show a significant drop in homicide since the DP prohibition. In 1972, a year I'm choosing due to the fact that it was the median homicide-rate year of the prohibition, the murder rate was 1,440. (2) In 1996 the murder rate was 1,447. Through the entire 1980's and up until 1994 the murder rate topped 2,000 (with the exception of 1987.) 1998 was the year Fox News cited as the one in which the 38% drop had occurred. If states which use DP most get the biggest deterrence effect then Texas should've received at least 38%, but at 1,346 it was hardly substantial. It was marginally less than 1972 but more than 1970 (1,299). I am using your type of statistics and rules here to prove my argument. In fact, 1997 was the first year since 1972 where the homicide rate has been lower! That means that in the 25 years of DP in the biggest DP user the homicide rate was higher than during prohibition! (2) This evidence against deterrence is beyond conclusive.


This argument Pro is posing is pretty low. He maintains that due to the fact that only 69 truly innocent individuals that we know of could have been murdered by the state since 1973 then this is acceptable. Of course it isn't, this 'if you want to make an omelette you have to break some eggs' attitude shrugs off the possible executions of 69 people by the apparent 'justice' system. We have no idea how many innocents have actually been executed for no crime other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time as the cases of executed individuals are almost never reopened.

Pro reverts back to the 99% argument, seemingly having missed my point in my previous post. My point was that the 99% should not be claimed for DP as a plus but instead the US court system. It's not DP has a 99% accuracy rate, it's the US courts have a 99% accuracy rate. Of course, if life without parole was the option instead of DP then the amount of people killed unjustly would be 0, those who were wrongly accused could fight for their freedom without a death sentence hanging over their heads and more innocents wouldn't continue to go under the radar. I suppose the question is: Do you believe the inevitable execution of dozens of innocent people is worth it so that the state can take revenge on murderers by murdering them back instead of a simple life sentence?

According to the source you provided, 52,000 prisoners were serving time for murder in 1984, 810 murdered again when they were released, that's 1.5% of them. Also, sources show that of the roughly 22,000 murders a year in the US, only 150 of the murderers receive the death penalty. (3) If you apply the established 1.5% to this 150 then you see that
only 2.25 recidivist murders occur per year in the entire US!

The crux of Pro's argument seems to be that if that 810 had got DP then they would not have murdered again, this is true. However, to be sure that you get that 810 within the 52,000 then you would need to execute every single one. So if all of those 52,000 were executed for their murders it would mean the 821 murder victims were saved but it would still mean 51,190 potentially rehabilitated individuals would be killed as a preventative measure for a recidivism that never would have happened. Is this a sensible argument? No!


Dignity - The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect. (9)

Actually, contrary to what you claimed, electrocution and the gas chamber are still in use in the United States. Nine states still hold electrocution as a method and four states still hold the gas chamber as a secondary method (4), therefore the twelve botched executions by these methods are still relevant, along with the overwhelming 31 by lethal injection.

The biggest mistake you continue to make with your argument is that you're arguing for the method as it is supposed to be carried out and not as it often is carried out. I am going to list the four principles Justice Brennan cited as the defining of Cruel and Unusual Punishment:

  • The "essential predicate" is "that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity," especially torture.

  • A severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in an arbitrary fashion.

  • A severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society.

  • A severe punishment that is patently unnecessary. (5)

As I cited in my previous post, a study in The Lancet found that "88% of inmates receiving the lethal injection were given a lower amount of anaesthesia than someone would be given during surgery, with 43% having concentrations consistent with awareness." (6) After the anaesthesia phase a drug called pancuronium bromide is administered (7), which completely paralyses every muscle in the individuals body rendering them unable to even breathe. Carol Vera, a woman who underwent an operation on her eyes, was given pancuronium bromide to paralyse her when she had not been properly sedated. She described the feeling of the drug being injected as like “ignited jet fuel going through your body.” (8) Therefore, given the fact that 88% of prisoners are not even given enough anaesthesia as required for surgery and 43% are completely awake, this provides a horrifying picture of just how cruel lethal injection is. Also, due to the lack of medical professionals willing to supervise (proven in previous post), this faulty method will continue.

This method, due to it's inherently cruel nature, certainly does not meet the "essential predicate" of treating someone with respect. With the varying rate of anaesthesia, as well as it being often being performed completely wrongly as cited in the "botched executions" list, it could also certainly be deemed to be carried out in an arbitrary fashion. It's obvious that giving someone intense tortuous pain during execution would be rejected throughout society, putting someone in such pain could also very easily be deemed unnecessary, seeing as DP's objective is to humanely kill, not torture.

Sources in comments.




My opponent’s three-point summary and attack is weak. My opponent has conceded his points are weak and, therefore, he has no case. As he has no case at all and my case is based on many studies my case stands superior.

My opponent’s first rebuttal (trying to give my no case so its even—a failed attempt) argued to many variables are encountered in my article. He misrepresents the article; he calls it fox news in order to gain support due to hatred for FOX. It should be labeled “John Lott” as he is the writer and is an economist who has extensively studied the DP in his 2007 book freedomnomics and other areas of crime in other studies. My opponent overlooks an important fact; John Lott actually cited an academic study. The studies he cited had large controls for these variables, so the look at trends was then controlled by the variables and, therefore, making the data accurate. His data which he gained from econometric models from his book, “Overall, the rise in executions during the 1990s accounts for about 12 to 14 percent of the overall drop in murders.”[1]. So my opponents rebuttal fails when you mention he controlled for the variables.

No states had a drop in crime in the eighties; my opponent’s analysis lacks any regression (unlike my data) to account for variables. Crime in the eighties was quite high due to the fact the crack-cocaine epidemic began. Incarnation rates where also quite low. Dudley Sharp, when he examined the evidence, found if the DP had been abolished crime would have been higher. He notes as the DP was re-legalized, crime rates where lower then they could have been. You can only get conclusions in the 1990s when data on guns, the DP, and abortion was collected. And all scholars note the 1990s is the only time the data was acceptable to make theories. Sharp also looks at data in Texas, which my opponent singles out. It was shown Texas had the fastest falling crime rate in this time, and Texas went from having one of the highest crime rates to having crime rates lower to those in Michigan. In other words, using the trends from the study (not mere comparisons) cross-sectional data proves the deterrence hypothesis [2].

My opponent also ignored my previous argument of most studies find deterrence. 17 studies have found deterrence since 1996 (other estimates say 27, however it depends on how you define study) and 5 find no difference, 2 are inconclusive [3].

Evidence strongly supports deterrence.

Innocence & recidivism

Again, the 69 claims is an estimate. Even the 69 are in dispute. Mainly because there is much proof clemency was given to them. Proof of the system working is that those proven innocent nearly all the time are let free, and those proven not worthy of death get let LWOP. A better analysis done concludes since 1900, 29 innocents have been killed. Here is the problem: there was no Furman regulation by 1900, so only executions in the modern era should be counted. Studies that gave critique lowered the number to 11. The number based on other analyses has been effectively put to zero. Yes, zero. It’s possible a few have been executed, but the number is defiantly low. What is interesting is all the data makers on the subject argue this about their results, “We agree with our critics that we have not proved these executed defendants to be innocent; we never claimed that we had.”[4]

Here is the run down: At maximum 70, using DPIC data which has been shown to be fraudulent by scholars, and using corrected data the number is 0-11, closer to zero.

And even if we assume that 11 are the right number, the DP has a net benefit. This I have argued the whole time, note my opponent ignored my deterrence argument here! He never incorporated it above! I showed multiple studies showing it saves 3-18 lives, and Zimmerman 2003 noted each execution saved 14 lives! This means thousands saved, more then the 11 killed [5]. And what did my opponent ignore… ah yes, the DP saves the argument 40,000 lives. This outweighs all arguments today folks.

The 99% claim is valid because it shows the innocents executed are minimal compared to those saved. And the DP likely has a lower innocent rate as it forces stronger evidence upon the prosecution. I also believed I showed last round innocents are more likely to die in LWOP as that is what they usually do (plea-bargian), and more of them are killed in jail then those executed… And if I did not say that last round, then I ask the jury to ignore it.

My opponent is correct about the 800 my claims. However, this is actually a misrepresentation of the evidence. 821 murders occurred because they where let out of LWOP (notice my opponent dropped my case about life not being life), and they where then jailed. HOWEVER, THIS IGNORES THE SECOND HALF OF THE ARGUNMENT. The 821 numbers was killing innocents outside of jail. It is estimated since Furman recidivism has killed 10,000 people, and using the 821 numbers if you add those killing other inmates the number is 1000. So about 1000-10,000 depending on data method [6].

Now, my opponent argues the 800 number is illogical for the 5,000 executed. False argument. The 800 number is per year! And the 1,000 number is also per year. The 10,000 number is 1971-1997. So, as a preventative measure, the amount of lives saved seems logical. And as those executed are guilty, its unfair to compare them to 800 innocents.


Only 3 states have electrocution, and only two use it as a primary method. Virginia more commonly uses injection [7]. And my opponent totally misrepresents the data! The states with gas chambers have, “Wyoming authorizes lethal gas if lethal injection is ever held to be unconstitutional. However, the gas chamber facility at the old state prison in Rawlins is no longer usable.” [7]. Lethal injection is the main way to execute. Electrocution is only allowed in Kentucky, and there it can be reformed to Lethal Injection and make it constitutional. Reform not abolition.

My opponents argument moves from botched execution to “It hurts!”. However, he cannot win the debate with only that! See all those bullets he listed? All of them must be checked to claim unconstitutional. 4 and 5 are not checked with that rebuttal. And the third and second are not checked if he is rebutted. He already loses as two remain unfulfilled. But lets knock the other two off. “T he evidence, including the immediate autopsy of executed serial murderer/rapist Michael Ross, supports that there is no pain within the lethal injection process.”[8]

It doesn’t hurt, why? They don’t need that much anesthesia. That’s why they use less, arguing they use less does not mean it hurts. Your conclusion from that is speculation, many studies have shown that speculation to be false and the DP is painless [8].

4 points unchecked, and therefore does not fufill the reqirement. (Is it 4 points or 5? I know that it not rejected and, therefore, cannot be unconstitutional, and two others are unchecked with my rebuttal above). And my opponents source indicates ALL OF THE PRINCIPLES MUST BE VIOLATED, my opponent never proves this and the point is null and void.


dropped point. I win it automatically.


Saves 40,000 lives, big plus. Saves 1000 lives from recidivism each year (using studies, not DPIC biased data), and 10,000 overall (slightly higher now). It is not unconstitutional. Little proof any innocent has been executed. Vote CON, and save lives :)

A few fun graphs (Not a new argunment as it uses the same data from round 3 and 4)

The 27 studies looked into this and after controlling for variables saw this to be valid ^


Debate Round No. 4
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
I have failed to have more sources :(



I've lost my routine
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
Let's see if source king won DO NOT USE THIS IN YOUR VOTE:

9+9+6 = 24

10+6+8 = 24


What happened to me D:
Posted by DontTreadOnMe 5 years ago
I wish i could vote, damn you PHONE!
Posted by alex1094 5 years ago
I wanted to respond to that but I didn't have the character count, thought I'd just drop it.
Posted by AlwaysMoreThanYou 5 years ago
I just thought I'd mention that Pro's rebuttal of the "The Executioner" in Round 2 is probably one of the best rebuttals I've ever seen.
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
Round 3:

[1] Joanna M. Shepard, "Deterrence versus brutalization: Capital Punishments differing impacts among states" Michigan Law Review, (2005).
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
Oh, here is source seven:

Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
Sorry if my case was weak, when I get back to ABQ I will have a less annoying keyboard and will quote less.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by imabench 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: mercy point :P
Vote Placed by Ron-Paul 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro made a really strong case and successfully refuted all of con's arguments. Pro did well, but con did better.
Vote Placed by Koopin 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Both debaters had good sources from what I could see. Obviously I didn't read all of them. I've been following this debate. Both guys did well, but 16kadams kept his arguement strong till the end.
Vote Placed by 1Historygenius 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This was quite an easy debate. Pro was able to refute all of Con's points and make a good case.