Death Penalty Should Be Abolished
Debate Rounds (3)
1. For an execution to take place, its costs the tax payers. It is significantly more expensive to execute someone than to put them in jail for like without possibility for parole.
2. There is no proof that capital punishment reduces crime. States without the death penalty typically have lower murder rates. The south has the highest murder rate with 80% of the U.S executions.
3. Bad lawyers also play a role in this. A lawyer is obviously the one that shows or proves that you were innocent. If an innocent person has a bad lawyer simply because that cant afford a top of the line, this could lead to wrongful conviction, simply because of a lawyer.
But the Framers of our Constitution and their intellectual forefathers seemingly did not believe that the death penalty ran counter to natural law and the individual's inalienable right to life. This is evident by the fact that, following the English Revolution of 1688, the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights in 1791, and the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868, the death penalty continued to be regularly imposed and enforced. Capital punishment is a form of punishment that pre-dates the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the United States Bill of Rights and that, throughout history, has existed across all societies and cultures (see, e.g., the Israelites and Ancient Egyptians). It is an institution that was eventually adopted as a fixed precept of the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition. The United States, as heir to that tradition, has continued its employment. Moreover, the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution explicitly provide for the deprivation of life by the government so long as there is "due process of law." Thus, it would appear that inalienable rights such as "life" are not really inalienable. That is to say, the individual can indeed be deprived of his natural right to life by other men under certain circumstances. But what are those circumstances?
According to John Locke, whose writings many of the Framers regarded as highly influential, in the state of nature, each man is the enforcer of natural law i.e. each man has the absolute natural right to exact the retribution he sees fit when another violates his natural rights. In Locke's state of nature, when another man kills your child or steals your property, it's entirely up to you about whether and how you should retaliate. This principle is derived from Locke's first and most fundamental natural right: the right of self-preservation. The problem with this state of affairs, however, is threefold: 1.) the big and strong would be able to victimize the small and weak without fear of retaliation; 2.) there would be a perpetual back and forth of vigilante justice to the point that no one's rights are protected; and 3.) eventually, the small and weak would band together to resist the big and strong, resulting in mob rule. To solve these issues, Locke posited, people agreed to exit the state of nature and create a "social contract" whereby each person voluntarily relinquished his or her natural right to use force against another to enforce the natural law to a chosen, neutral, third-party arbitrator we now refer to as "the State" in exchange for added security. The State would now be the enforcer of natural law and would be the sole arbitor of whether the use of force by members of the society against others is justified. This "social contract" is what we call "civil society."
Therefore, at least according to Locke (and to some extent, Thomas Hobbes), membership in the civil society is conditioned upon one's promise not to use force against his neighbor and to defer such use of force to the State. By using unjustified force against another in violation of the State's monopoly, one has essentially breached the social contract and relinquished his membership in the civil society; one has fallen back into the primitive state of nature and has repudiated the rights afforded to him by the social contract. It is a fundamental tenet of law (and fairness) that one should not benefit from his wrongful conduct. In this context, a man cannot, on the one hand, demand the protections afforded by the social contract while, on the other hand, violating the contractual rights of others.
From this perspective, it is easy to justify capital punishment. In Locke's state of nature, a person who murders another will likely be murdered himself in retaliation by relatives or friends of the victim. This is how natural law is enforced in a state of nature. But in a civil society, the State steps into the shoes of the victim or the victim's family and carries out the retaliation itself. The death penalty, therefore, is merely the State enforcing natural law.
Having set forth the principled and philosophical basis for capital punishment, I will now turn my attention to addressing the practical aspects of the death penalty; specifically, those issues raised by my opponent in his/her opening argument.
First, my opponent argues in favor of abolishing the death penalty because it is too expensive when compared to life in prison without the possibility of parole. What my opponent fails to address, however, is why cost should even be a factor in determining the appropriate punishment. A short period of supervised probation, like life without parole, is also cheaper than the death penalty. By my opponent's logic, therefore, a short period of supervised probation for a mass murderer should be preferred over life without parole because it's less expensive. My opponent regretfully overlooks arguably the single most important factor in determining a just punishment: "proportionality," i.e. whether the punishment fits the crime. Certainly, one would be hard pressed to argue that a period of probation for an intentional mass murderer would be a proportional or just penalty. Similarly, imposing the death penalty for simple marijuana possession would be equally disproportionate and unjust. If "justice" is what we want from our criminal JUSTICE system, then cost cannot be a relevant factor in determining the appropriate sentence for a particular crime.
Second, my opponent argues that there is scant proof of the death penalty's deterrent effect. To this observation, I have two responses. First, it is virtually impossible to ascertain how many crimes have been deterred by the death penalty or any other criminal penalty for that matter. Moreover, at least from a utilitarian perspective, the true aim of criminal punishment, including the death penalty, should be to deter those at the margins. There are some who would NEVER murder no matter what the penalty and there are those who WOULD ALWAYS murder regardless of the penalty. The law, instead, focuses on those at the margins; those whose decisions MIGHT be affected by the possible consequences. Thus, even if the death penalty deters only one murderer, it has done its job if the goal is to protect the greatest number of lives. My second response would be that the death penalty, as it exists today, is less effective because of the onerous appeals process and other limitations present in capital cases. The reason the death penalty is expensive and maybe not all that effective as a deterrent is because: 1.) millions of dollars are spent by the State dealing with a bifurcated trial and a never-ending appeals process; and 2.) the death penalty is rarely, if ever, carried out swiftly.
Third, my opponent argues that "bad lawyers" play a role in "this." His/her argument appears to be that bad lawyers can lead to wrongful convictions which can lead to innocent people being put to death. While there may be some truth to this assertion, the fact of the matter is that there are legal mechanisms in place (for example, post-conviction relief statutes and the appeals process) to prevent and correct wrongful convictions resulting from ineffective and/or incompetent counsel. To be sure, no system is perfect because all systems are man-made and man is not perfect. But the system we have, while not perfect, is the best we know of so far.
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