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Death Penalty

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/13/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,332 times Debate No: 14030
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




Error: Humans are too prone to error to decide who should receive the sentence of capital punishment
•The fear that an innocent person might be executed has long haunted jurors and lawyers and judges. During America's Colonial period, dozens of crimes were punishable by death, including horse thievery, blasphemy, "man-stealing," and highway robbery. After independence, the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty was gradually reduced, but doubts persisted over whether legal procedures were sufficient to prevent an innocent person from being executed. In 1868, John Stuart Mill made one of the most eloquent defenses of capital punishment, arguing that executing a murderer did not display a wanton disregard for life but, rather, proof of its value. "We show, on the contrary, most emphatically our regard for it by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself," he said. For Mill, there was one counterargument that carried weight—"that if by an error of justice an innocent person is put to death, the mistake can never be corrected" (Grann, David, 2009).
•Seventeen people have been exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. These seventeen people have served a combined 209 years in prison – including 187 years on death row for crimes they did not commit ("The Innocent and the Death Penalty", n.d.).
•At least 130 men and women who have been released from death row after evidence revealed they were not guilty of the crimes of which they were accused ("Innocent Lives in the Balance", n.d.)
•"In Nebraska, since 1973, nearly 64% of all death penalty trials have been reversed because of error requiring a new trial or new sentencing proceeding" ("Innocent Lives in the Balance", n.d.).
•In 2000, after thirteen people on death row in Illinois were exonerated, George Ryan, who was then governor of the state, suspended the death penalty. Though he had been a long time advocate of capital punishment, he declared that he could no longer support a system that has "come so close to the ultimate nightmare—the state's taking of innocent life." Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has said that the "execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event" (Grann, David, 2009).
•In his 2002 book "The Death Penalty," Stuart Banner observes, "The prospect of killing an innocent person seemed to be the one thing that could cause people to rethink their support for capital punishment. Some who were not troubled by statistical arguments against the death penalty—claims about deterrence or racial disparities—were deeply troubled that such an extreme injustice might occur in an individual case" (Grann, David, 2009).
•Most indigent inmates, who constitute the bulk of those on death row, lack the resources to track down new witnesses or dig up fresh evidence. They must depend on court-appointed lawyers, many of whom are "unqualified, irresponsible, or overburdened," as a study by the Texas Defender Service, a nonprofit organization, put it. In 2000, a Dallas Morning News investigation revealed that roughly a quarter of the inmates condemned to death in Texas were represented by court-appointed attorneys who had, at some point in their careers, been "reprimanded, placed on probation, suspended or banned from practicing law by the State Bar" (Grann, David, 2009).
•"Unavoidably, different courts, prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges and juries produce different penalties even when crimes seem comparable" (van den Haag, 1985, p. 306).
•As the former Nebraska governor, Frank B. Morrison, Sr. puts it, "I have known many presidents, governors, judges, legislators, and policymakers—including myself—and have never known a person wise enough to decide who should live and who should die" ("The Death Penalty in Nebraska", n.d.).

Cost: Death penalty cases cost taxpayers an excessive amount of money each year.
•In New Jersey alone, the state spent $253 million on the death penalty system between 1983 and 2007, executing a total of 0 inmates (Hargesheimer and Ruchala, 2008, pg. 1)
•"The average cost of a single death penalty case, from arrest to execution, ranges from $1 million to $3 million.
oOther studies have estimated this cost as high as $7 million (Davidsaver, 2007, pg. 1).
•The average cost for a case of life-imprisonment is roughly $500,000 (Davidsaver, 2007, pg. 1).
•The state of Texas has the least amount of protections and a fast process, but still has high costs.
oDeath penalty sentences totals to three times more than 40 years of life in maximum security prison.
•In Nebraska between 1973 and 1999, taxpayers paid the cost of 89 cases of death penalty.
o95% are now sentenced with life imprisonment, adding the cost of life imprisonment to the death penalty trial costs. ("Wasteful and Inefficient", n.d.)
•"Each execution in Nebraska since 1973 is conservatively estimated to have cost $15 million.
•"A study found that the costs of the death penalty are borne primarily by increasing taxes and decreasing services like police and highway spending, with county budgets bearing the brunt of the burden ("Wasteful and Inefficient", n.d.)
•Recently in 2009, New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson signed a bill outlawing capital punishment in the state. Supporters say it will save the state over $1 million per year by replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole (AFP).

Inhumane: Lethal injection is an agonizing method of execution, and is in no way humane.
•Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the United States.
oReplaces hanging, firing squad, gas chamber, and electrocution (PloS Medicine Editors, 2007, p. 603).
o788 out of 956 people were executed by lethal injection since 1976 ("The Lancet, 005, p. 1361).
•In 2006, 52 out of 53 executions in the United States were handled by lethal injection (PloS Medicine Editors, 2007, p. 603).
•Three steps involved in lethal injection drug
oSuppresses the breathing
oParalyzes the body
oElectrolyte potassium causes cardiac arrest (PloS Medicine Editors, 2007, p. 603).
•Past data from PloS Medicine Editors has proven that the first two steps do not function properly.
oThe victim asphyxiates while unconscious and unable to move (PloS Medicine Editors, 2007, p. 603).
oDuring last step the victims feel the burning of the electrolyte potassium.
oToxologist reports indicate that post-mortem thiopental blood concentration from 43 out of 49 (88%) executed inmates were lower than what you need for surgery, so 21 (43%) of the victims were awake ("The Lancet", 2005, p. 1361).
oDr. Leonidas Koniaris of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has found evidence that suggests that during the use of the three-drug lethal injection, "43% of prisoners might still be conscious, although totally paralyzed, when the potassium chloride rips through their veins on the way to stopping their heart" (Koniaris, as cited in "Amateur night", 2006).
•"Hospira provides these products because they improve or save lives and markets them solely for use as indicated on the product labeling," Kees Groenhout, clinical research and development vice president, said in a March 31 letter to Ohio, obtained by the AP. "As such, we do not support the use of any of our products in capital punishment procedures" ("Lethal Injection" retrieved from / ?id=1101012).
•A letter from Kees Groenhout, VP of Clinical Research and Development, Hospira, Inc. sent to State Departments of Correction (found @ 9_24_ 2010.pdf) states that the company producing thiopental sodium does not condone the use of its drug in lethal injection.


Hello Kbug and everybody reading this. Thank you for the opportunity to have this debate and I wish my opponent good luck.

The death penalty is probably one of the most serious issues in society. It is never easy to put somebody to death. After all, it should be up to God alone to decide who lives and who dies. My opponent and I can agree on that much. When evil threatens society, however, it is often up to individuals who are imperfect to decide who deserves to die, if anyone.

I agree with the quote from John Stuart Mill "arguing that executing a murderer did not display a wanton disregard for life but, rather, proof of its value." Life demands respect and if people go so far as to kill another human being or even more, then they must be abolished from society. In the past ten years, we have been confronting terrorism who are made of people who would like to kill as many people in the world that they can and die doing that act. We all remember September 11, when 3,000 Americans dies because some man in a cave decided that is the way it should be. He ordered his minions to execute as many people as they could. Think about that. How does society respond to that type of evil?

Take your common murderer. Perhaps, he is a serial murderer who kills 10 or 20 people. Even at that, how does society respond to that kind evil? Let me paint a picture for the reader of a hypothetical serial killer. The killer likes to track young women between the ages of 17-25. He usually prowls neighborhoods in southern California. At one o'clock in the morning, he breaks into a woman's house and he wakes her up. First, he struggles with her and eventually pulls down her panties and rapes her with maximal penetration. Then, he beats her in the face. Because he is a twisted animal, he grabs the iron from the living room and burns her all over her body. She is still alive at this point. He beats some more in the private area blood is flowing throughout the room by now. That is not enough, he takes out a knife and begins to slash her with a vengeance through the point where her intestines and other organs begin to come out and there are all over the room. He stabs her over 200 times. This horror happened to 15 women over 18 months.

Even though this is a hypothetical case, that is not too far fetched from the real world. How does society punish that crime? If you lock him up, the taxpayers are keeping him alive by feeding him and housing him when that food could go to the hungry and the land could go to the homeless or the handicapped. My opponent pretends like these crimes are just bad behavior and they do not deserve to choke to death -- or do they? What do you think the families that are left behind who do not know what to make of it. Their 27 year-old daughter was brutality murdered while the killer lives. What is the justice in that?

There have been mistakes in the past, but with DNA evidence now those errors are getting smaller. To house a prisoner for life some estimate to be $5,530,000 while to execute someone cost $1,910,000 [1]. Our justice system is probably the most just in the world to the point of being ridiculous. Killers can appeal for 10 years before actually being executed. If we limit appeals we would drive down the cost of execution even more.

So, this is my opening argument. Evil people should not be allowed to live once they are deemed unfit to live a civil. What my opponent arguing even though she cited many facts, she misses the point of the death penalty. She can cite all the academic claims in the world, but it comes down to how do you punish most effectively those who would take innocent lives. This is a philosophical debate more than it is a scientific one. I urge the reader to consider heavily how would they react if somebody they loved was murdered so viciously. I will leave it at that and look forward to my opponents response.

Debate Round No. 1


My first counter-argument stems from your statement saying, "I urge the reader to consider heavily how would they react if somebody they loved was murdered so viciously." We will say the young woman who was raped, tortured, and murdered is my sister, and after 10 years of appealing in courts I have had about my wits end to the system and want some sort of justice done because so far I haven't seen any. Is it better to let these families sit through years of agony as they way for their loved one to rest peacefully? Or would life-imprisonment be a more swift and just punishment? And what is the purpose of bringing two families into pain? Isn't one family suffering enough? Because when the death penalty is enforced that brings in not only the victim of the crime's family, but also the family of the criminal. The case made most often against this point is that the criminal has received a just punishment, but his family was innocent in his crime, does two suffering families make it any less easier for society to accept those people who have committed these heinous crimes? Also by taking away the vast amounts of dollars spent on the death penalty, those funds can be used instead for prevention of crimes and victim healing instead of court hearings and appeals.
And if this debate is not a factual one, why are you bringing up the cost of the death penalty from a source that is clearly biased?
According to the Kansas Performance Audit Report ( the cost of a capital punishment case is 70% higher than non-capital cases.
The mistakes in past capital punishment cases have names (
Kirk Bloodsworth, Rolando Cruz and Frank Lee Smith to name a few. My personal favorite being Curtis McCarty who i have had the privilege and honor to not only hear him talk about his experience in person, but also the chance to talk with him personally. The mistake of a forensics woman tampering with evidence not only kept McCarty in jail as an innocent man, but also later on after McCarty was exonerated, prevented further testing since evidence was tampered with and the young woman who was attacked, her family will never see any sort of justice since now all evidence is not allowed in court.
Men like McCarty have lost much of their lives to prison, and still suffer today from many results of prison life.
Prison life is not a picnic for these men and women who commit these terrible crimes, it is a solution to the problem that is a just punishment as well as a cheaper one. The idea that they must live on our tax dollars eating and sleeping is made to sound like a camping trip, but prison is not a family vacation. The time spent in prison could be a time of rehabilitation for these human beings who we do not have the right to condemn to death, and instead find ways to help them while keeping them away from society which they have proven themselves a danger too.


Let me start off with a few more statements about the death penalty and lethal injection.

Arguments for the death penalty.

"Incapacitation of the criminal. Capital punishment permanently removes the worst criminals from society and should prove much safer for the rest of us than long term or permanent incarceration. It is self evident that dead criminals cannot commit any further crimes, either within prison or after escaping or after being released from it. Cost. Money is not an inexhaustible commodity and the government may very well better spend our (limited) resources on the old, the young and the sick etc., rather than on the long term imprisonment of murderers, rapists, etc. Anti-capital punishment campaigners in the U.S. cite the higher cost of executing someone over life in prison, but this, whilst true for America, has to do with the endless appeals and delays in carrying out death sentences that are allowed under the U.S. legal system where the average time spent on death row is over 12 years. In Britain in the 20th century, the average time in the condemned cell was from 3 to 8 weeks and only one appeal was permitted. Retribution. Execution is a very real punishment rather than some form of "rehabilitative" treatment, the criminal is made to suffer in proportion to the offence. Although whether there is a place in a modern society for the old fashioned principal of "lex talens" (an eye for an eye), is a matter of personal opinion. Retribution is seen by many as an acceptable reason for the death penalty according to my survey results. Deterrence. Does the death penalty deter? It is hard to prove one way or the other because in most retentionist countries the number of people actually executed per year (as compared to those sentenced to death) is usually a very small proportion. It would, however, seem that in those countries (e.g. Singapore) which almost always carry out death sentences, there is far less serious crime. This tends to indicate that the death penalty is a deterrent, but only where execution is a virtual certainty. The death penalty is much more likely to be a deterrent where the crime requires planning and the potential criminal has time to think about the possible consequences…" (1).

Ronald Reagan advocated lethal injection in 1973, comparing it to "putting a horse to sleep" (2) Following this line of thought, it may be the most compassionate thing to do for the prisoner. If they truly are evil, they cannot be happy. Why keep them locked up like a caged animal never to see the light of day again. If that's true, wouldn't they be better off dead?.

The medical profession makes it difficult for physicians to assist in giving lethal injection through ethical prohibition. Still there are a number of physicians from different specialties who do not mind doing such work. A survey of 1000 medical doctors found "..,.many of the respondents in this study indicated they thought it was acceptable for physicians to participate in the various components of lethal injection, even to the extent of injecting lethal drugs" (2915, 3). It is my hope that if such trends continue, along with advances in medicine, will produce better executions with less complications. This would make the procedure more humane.


Kbug made some plausible arguments, but she is wrong on the merits. She did not answer many of the arguments of the last round, including terrorism. She did not answer the basic thesis that if someone murders someone else or a whole group of people that they forfeit their own life. Kbug also made the case for me that we should expedite such criminal cases by saying the following:

"We will say the young woman who was raped, tortured, and murdered is my sister, and after 10 years of appealing in courts I have had about my wits end to the system and want some sort of justice done because so far I haven't seen any. Is it better to let these families sit through years of agony as they way for their loved one to rest peacefully?"

I agree! This does not, however discredit my argument that the death penalty should be a viable option for the death penalty to exist for hennas crimes. Let's figure out how to shorten the time between appeals with more accurate DNA evidence to make sure the right guy is executed and get on with it already! Cut down the 10 year appeals process and allow closure to occur in a timely fashion for everyone involved.

My opponent is correct that there are two families that suffer when the death penalty is carried out. The family of the victim and the family of the accused. It is a horrible situation for both. We must not forget, however, who is responsible for putting those families in that position - the criminal.

Kbug argues "Prison life is not a picnic for these men and women who commit these terrible crimes." She also reports "Men like McCarty have lost much of their lives to prison, and still suffer today from many results of prison life." Perhaps death row is a little different from other units, but I found cases where the inmates "run the asylum."

Case 1: "Prisoner David, a former inmate at the California Mens Colony, describes himself as a comedy sketch writer. He is now incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, Calif., and while he maintains his innocence and attempts to prove it by researching at the prison library, he has learned to channel his frustration with the prison and legal systems through online postings" (4).

Case 2: Ralph Sowell, a crack dealer doing 21 years at East Jersey State Prison, boasts about dealing. "I've been selling drugs ever since I came to prison, and I've never been caught," he says. "You can make approximately $3,500 to $4,000 a week here selling drugs. Anything they sell on the street is triple in here. A $10 bag of dope on the streets goes for as much as $40 in here. And everybody wants a piece of the pie" (5).

I am sorry that Mr. McCarthy and others are falsely accused, but the point is some prisons are too lenient. I also believe the truly innocent are probably the most adversely affected by the experience. The truly guilty do not care and cannot be rehabilitated. So again you have proven nothing except to state the obvious that it is terrible to be falsely accused.

I would only argue that is one source of many that people can go to for information. They have just as much right to exist as your sources. Your resources may be biased as well, which I will rebut in the next round due to space.

You commented "The idea that they must live on our tax dollars eating and sleeping is made to sound like a camping trip, but prison is not a family vacation." This is a silly and sarcastic statement that does not move the debate forward. There are many philosophical issues that affect how people spend their money, such as what charity to support or what services government should provide. I only said that these issues are beyond science and economics although they have to be considered. Ultimately it is about values….values….values! This is where philosophy predominates.

My opponent failed to support her position and only made weak attempts at damaging the credibility of my arguments. Look forward to the third round.
3 Farber, N. Davis, E.B. Weiner, J. Jordon, J. Boyer, E.G. & Ubel, P.A. (2000). Physicians' Attitudes About Involvement in Lethal Injection for Capital Punishment. Archives of Internal Medicine. October (160). pp. 2912-2916
5 Wynn, J. Cozzone, C. Gray, G. Levin, A. Levin, M. & Pinkerson, D. (1996). Junk in the Joint: The Real Dope on the Prison Scene. Prison Magazine. February. pp. 48-51, 54-55.
Debate Round No. 2


kbug10 forfeited this round.


For my final arguments, like in the second round, I would like to present even further arguments for the death penalty. They are the following:

Berry states "A fact that is conveniently overlooked by anti-capital punishment campaigners is that we are all ultimately going to die. In many cases, we will know of this in advance and suffer great pain and emotional anguish in the process. This is particularly true of those diagnosed as having terminal cancer. It is apparently acceptable to be "sentenced to death" by one's family doctor without having committed any crime at all but totally unacceptable to be sentenced to death by a judge having been convicted of murder or drug trafficking" (the crimes for which the majority of executions worldwide are carried out) after a fair and careful trial" (1)

She continues "I have never personally believed that any form of death, let alone execution, is either instant or painless, so which method of capital punishment should a modern "civilised" society use? Should our worst criminals be given a completely pain free death even if the technology exists to provide one, or should a degree of physical suffering be part of the punishment? Whatever method is selected should have some deterrent value whilst not deliberately causing a slow or agonising death" (1).

Another site says "The number of people sentenced to death in 2001 was 155, the smallest number since 1979, and an almost 50% drop from the average number of death sentences in 1994-99" and "The number of people under sentence of death declined in 2001, the first decrease in 25 years" and "Overall, the average time between sentencing and execution for those executed between 1977 and 2001 was 10 years and 3 months" (2).

The following statistics prove the death penalty is a publicly desirable method of punishment (3):

Gallup Polls
Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?

ForAgainstNo Opinion

2007 Oct 4-769%27%04%
2006 May 2-565%28%07%
2005 Oct 13-1664%30%06%
2005 May 2-574%23%03%
2004 May 2-471%26%03%
2003 Oct 6-864%32%04%
2003 May 19-2170%28%02%
2003 May 5-774%24%02%
1937 Dec 1-660%33%07%


Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder?

FavorOpposeNot Sure
2005 March69%24%08%
2003 June69%23%08%
2001 June68%22%10%
2001 Apr66%23%11%
2000 June68%24%08%
2000 Feb67%22%11%
1998 Jan74%18%08%
1997 June73%18%09%
1997 May76%17%07%


Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?

FavorOpposeDon't Know
2005 April65%26%09%
2001 Apr63%28%09%
2000 June63%27%10%
2000 Jan64%27%09%
1998 Aug69%27%04%
1996 Aug77%19%04%

Over time we have seen steady numbers in the United States for the death penalty. It has been said that "It is reasonable to assume that if a majority is in favour of a particular thing in a democracy, their wishes should be seriously considered with equal consideration given to the downside of their views" (1). The majority is not always correct, but in a democracy like ours morality demands that there is an underlying theme when people agree, which may point to some objective truth if there is such a reality.


My opponent made a technical error in the last round and I ran out of space before I could respond adequately. So, I would like to do this now. Kbug seems to think that life in prison would be preferable to capital punishment because one avoids possible pain and suffering, which could be inhumane and maybe even be considered torture.

I would like use the logic against her. For example, Amnesty International (AI) and the United Nations (UN) defines torture as the following: "The UN Convention Against Torture defines torture as "the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering for purposes such as obtaining information or a confession, or punishing, intimidating or coercing someone." (4). AI goes on to say "Torture is always illegal. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." (4)

This is pretty broad and they include the word "mental." So, if an inmate in prison misses his freedom and gets depressed over it, under that definition the prisoner technically being tortured, not just for a few minutes (if there were complications with lethal injection), but for life. So, I question, which is more inhumane? This shows that Kbug contradicts herself and blows up a big portion of her argument.

Let me go on to this editorial in PloS that Kbug mentions in her opening statement. She also claimed in her second round rebuttal that I used a biased source, trying to discredit its credibility. I would like to now link the two statements. The authors of that editorial said "Each of the editors of PLoS Medicine opposes the death penalty" (5). These authors admitted they are biased. What do you know! Kbug used a biased source herself.

By nature, humans are biased creatures. We each have a tendency to think what we want to think and we will only believe something outside of our comfort zone to a degree. Each person has a lens that they see reality. It is hard to define "true objectivity." So, am I biased? Yes, and that is okay. This is a debate. She did not provide any evidence that would prove my source is inaccurate, other than their name appears to be "biased." So, Kbug again, has been disingenuous by implying that a group with a certain point of view ought not to be credible. Kbug, you are the one here who is not credible.

The PloS editorial also reads "Accordingly, in lethal injection procedures intravenous access has often been attempted (with frequent failures) by untrained staff, the execution mixture has precipitated and blocked IV tubes, and lethal doses have been unreliably calculated (5). This is a fine attempt at trying to discredit the death penalty, but this observation just implies that sloppy work has been done. It does not disqualify the method of execution as a valid method of punishment for society. If doctors were allowed to make the procedure better, then such complaints would not occur.

My opponent forfeited this round. We don't know why. Usually when people are confident in their argument they come back and finish. Could it be she realized I might be right or maybe she was over her head and cannot debate successfully? We will never know, but I ask the reader to consider this possibility when they go and vote.

My opponent did not meet the resolution, she quit in the middle of the debate and she proposed very weak and disingenuous arguments at times. Do not let her win. Vote pro. Thank you.

(1) Berry, E.




Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by KevinW 7 years ago
I agree that while our justice system is the most just in the world, that does not mean there are not flaws. Five years or ten is too long on death row. I stand by position to shorten the number of appeals and execute in a timely manner. The DNA evidence should the the standard in these cases.
Posted by SoSilly 7 years ago
'Our justice system is probably the most just in the world to the point of being ridiculous.' - Yet there are people that have been in prison for a least 5 years without trial.
Posted by vardas0antras 7 years ago
Pro did a splendid job ! I hope to see more debates of his (as long as Im not the rival). Anyhow I'm a bit saddened that this debate isn't popular.
Posted by ChristianM 7 years ago
Easy win is easy.
Posted by kbug10 7 years ago
in one of my classes our final assignment is a final debate and this is my groups topic. Thought we'd run a test run to see what type of rebutes we're going to get
Posted by gavin.ogden 7 years ago
I just finished a debate on this topic, and already I might start another. Hmmm......
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by THE_OPINIONATOR 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:05