The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Death penalty should be implemented in our society

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/25/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 14,933 times Debate No: 32953
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)





Death penalty: execution administered to criminals found guilty for murder (generally first degree).

First round acceptance.


I accept this debate. Please proceed with your arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


1. Deterrence

The Chief the chief argument for the death penalty is its ability to save lives. Indeed, a strong consensus among modern studies has found the death penalty can deter crime [1.]

To understand why the death penalty would deter crime is to understand deterrence theory.

Criminals, like humans, are rational actors. They make choices based on what the costs and benefits are. In Economics economists have seen this in all of their research. The higher the cost the less people buy that product. Economists are experts in human behavior and how people will act under certain conditions, and are often the best at determining why people do certain things, and how to stop them from doing these things. Crime goes down when the punishment gets stiffer. Hundreds of empirical studies exist to prove this point. The rebuttal to this will often be criminals, or those committing murder, are not rational actors and cannot be deterred by stiffer punishment. However, juveniles, who are less rational actors, are also affected by stiffer penalties [2.]

The early empirical research on the subject by Issac Ehrlich has demonstrated strong deterrent effects by the death penalty, and has responded to most criticism of his work. Meanwhile, other studies have come out to prove the deterrent hypothesis. Some economists noted how the models used in the studies were not robust, but the authors of the studies in question have refuted these analysis’s and noted they actually tried to reduce the deterrent effect by various tests but have found these results simply don’t go away. They are robust and correct [2].

The consensus amongst the research is growing stronger by the day. In the 1960s, studies found criminals acted as rational actors which would then imply stiffer penalties (like the DP) would reduce crime [3.]. Ehrlich, in his original studies, decided to expand upon this early research on penalties and see if it applied to the death penalty. Ehrlich found the death penalty saved at least three lives per execution [4.]

Newer research confirms these findings, generally showing that the death penalty saves 3-18 lives. The Heritage Foundation sums up the evidence, “In summary, the recent studies using panel data techniques have confirmed what we learned decades ago: Capital punishment does, in fact, save lives. Each additional execution appears to deter between three and 18 murders. While opponents of capital punishment allege that it is unfairly used against African-Americans, each additional execution deters the murder of 1.5 African-Americans. Further moratoria, commuted sentences, and death row removals appear to increase the incidence of murder.” [5.]

Many studies by criminologists use models which exclude lagged variables (as the death penalty is often publicized to the public, and therefore criminals, after the execution and before the execution). These early studies by criminologists, therefore, use methods which would not accurately describe the death penalty. They also uses simplistic state-comparison models which inadequately controlled for other variables. Studies that account for these variables and account for lag find a strong deterrent effect [6.]

There is also proof that shortening the amount of time on death row and executing more people on death row increase the deterrent effect [6].

Testimony before congress noted studies that do not find deterrence generally have weak regression models, and updated research proves the deterrent effect. All studies that use data from before and after the death penalty ban and re-legalization find that the death penalty provides a strong deterrent [7.]

In short, the death penalty deters crime.

2. Justice

Many prisons have great facilities, air conditioning, and are indeed resorts. Although one can argue that this is just for many criminals, jails are nice areas nonetheless [8.].

Murderers are some of the worst criminals (with only rapists debatably as bad or worse). Murderers don’t deserve a comfy bed, phones, etc. For people who believe in proportionality, anything less than the death penalty would be unjust. We cannot inflict deterrence or correction to those who do not deserve punishment. Then, the main issue in justice system is retribution. Although the state may uphold death penalty laws because of their deterrent effects, the reason we must morally uphold the death penalty because it is what criminals deserve [9.]

My opponent would likely agree with the idea of proportionality. If this is correct, than criminals get what they deserve, meaning the death penalty would be morally superior to LWOP.

Further, the deterrent effect which I established builds upon the death penalty. The death penalty is a life-life trade off, and we must determine if the lives of innocents are worth more than those guilty. If this is the case, losing a guilty life through the death penalty (assuming the death penalty saves innocent lives) merely shows the death penalty, regardless of proportionality, has a moral benefit for saving other innocents that would otherwise have been murdered. With states which choose life over death, they then condemn many innocents to death inadvertently. The choice of life for a murderer, then, is morally objectionable at least—and near heinous at worst. Then this moderate view of capital punishment should lead us to conclude the death penalty is preferable [10.]


The death penalty is preferable on its deterrence ability alone—and necessary on its moral proportionality basis alone. The death penalty saves lives and is morally preferable. Vote PRO.





My opponent begins by talking about Issac Ehrlich's 1975 American Economic Review paper in which he analyzed U.S. time series data on homicides and execution from 1933-1969, finding that each execution yielded 8 fewer homicides. However, this paper has many problems with it. His result were somewhat puzzling with the fact that an 80 percent drop in the execution rate from the late 1930's until 1960 had been accompanied by falling murder rates. A subsequent re-analysis by Peter Passell and John Taylor showed that Ehrlich’s estimates were entirely driven by attributing a sharp jump in murders from 1963-69 to the post-1962 drop in executions. But Ehrlich’s own model showed no correlation between executions and murder if one simply lopped off the last seven years of his data. [] This is why the paper has met strong criticism from an expert panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences in 1978 and the Yale Law Journal.

In actuality, Most experts and studies actually show that the death penalty has either no deterrence effect or the opposite effect.

In an article in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University describes numerous serious errors in recent deterrence studies, including improper statistical analyses and missing data and variables that are necessary to give a full picture of the criminal justice system. Fagan writes, “There is no reliable, scientifically sound evidence that [shows that executions] can exert a deterrent effect…. These flaws and omissions in a body of scientific evidence render it unreliable as a basis for law or policy that generate life-and-death decisions. To accept it uncritically invites errors that have the most severe human costs.” [] Also, In testimony before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Fagan analyzed recent studies that claimed that capital punishment deters murders. He stated that the studies "fall apart under close scrutiny." Fagan noted that the studies are fraught with technical and conceptual errors, including inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on key variables in key states, weak to non-existent tests of concurrent effects of incarceration, and other deficiencies. "A close reading of the new deterrence studies shows quite clearly that they fail to touch this scientific bar, let alone cross it," Fagan said as he told members of the committee that the recent deterrence studies fell well short of the demanding standards of social science research. []

According to a recent study by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock of the University of Colorado found that 88% of the nation’s leading criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. The criminologists surveyed included - 1) Fellows in the American Society of Criminology (ASC), (2) Winners of the ASC’s Sutherland Award, the highest award given by that organization for contributions to criminological theory, or (3) Presidents of the ASC between 1997 and the present. Those presidents before 1997 had been included in the prior survey. Respondents were asked to base their answers on existing empirical research, not their views on capital punishment. []

If readers just look at the pure numbers of murders in states with and without the death penalty, you can clearly see that the death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent compared to states without the death penalty:

Murder rates are from the FBI's "Crime in the United States" and are per 100,000 population.

In short, there is no proof of deterrence.


The Lancet, a British peer-reviewed medical journal, stated in an Apr. 16, 2005 editorial titled "Medical Collusion in the Death Penalty: An American Atrocity," the death penalty does not always value retribution:
"What justification can there be for capital punishment at all? The two main arguments for the death penalty are deterrence and retribution. Few experts believe that the threat of capital punishment is an effective deterrent. That leaves retribution. But to justify capital punishment, the retribution must be meted out fairly, and that is clearly not the case. In only about 1% of murders do prosecutors seek the death penalty. Whether you receive the death penalty depends not on what you have done, but where you committed your crime, what colour your skin is, and how much money you have."
If anything less than the death penalty was unjust, why wouldn't every murder be sentenced to death?


As I have already demonstrated, the death penalty doesn't deter crime nor does it always seek retribution. I will now move onto the cost of it and the risk of killing innocents.


Most people today who know about the court system can agree that there is quite a bit a delay and cost associated with the death penalty because of more trial preparation, much longer time to get to trial, much longer jury selections and trials, much more complicated and far more frequent appeals, and continuous motions, have increased the cost of capital punishment so that it is now many times the cost of keeping a prisoner in prison for life.

This is why a 2003 legislative audit in Kansas found that the estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70% more than the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. Death penalty case costs were counted through to execution (median cost $1.26 million). Non-death penalty case costs were counted through to the end of incarceration (median cost $740,000). In Tennessee, death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment. In Maryland death penalty cases cost 3 times more than non-death penalty cases, or $3 million for a single case. In California the current system costs $137 million per year; it would cost $11.5 million for a system without the death penalty. [] There are many more cases like these and if more are needed, then I can supply more. But the reader can clearly see that the Death penalty cost more than non-death penalty cases.

Killing Innocents:

In 2001, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School analyzed the cases of 86 death row exonerees. They found a number of reasons why innocent people are wrongly convicted in capital cases. The reasons included:

Eyewitness error - from confusion or faulty memory.
Government misconduct - by both the police and the prosecution
Junk science - mishandled evidence or use of unqualified "experts"
Snitch testimony - often given in exchange for a reduction in sentence
False confessions - resulting from mental illness or retardation, as well as from police torture
Other - hearsay, questionable circumstantial evidence, etc.

These reasons are why, since the reinstatement of the death penalty, 140 men and women have been released from Death Row nationally, some only minutes away from execution. Moreover, in the past two years evidence has come to light which indicates that four men may have been wrongfully executed in recent years for crimes they did not commit. []

This alone should prove that the death penalty has no place in our society. For when our criminal justice system kills their own innocent citizens, it is wrong. A government does not get to murder it's citizens who did nothing wrong.

In Conclusion:

The Death Penalty doesn't deter crime, it doesn't always seek proportional retribution, it cost more than non-death penalty cases and it has the high risk of killing innocents; thus, it has no place in our society.
Debate Round No. 2


1. Deterrence

My opponent cites Donahue and Wolfers (DW) and their summary of their weak rebuttal to deterrent papers. Their work relies on Passel and Taylors work. I would first note Passel and Taylor do not in any way criticize Ehrlich’s statistical technique. Ehrlich responded to their criticism. Ehrlich notes how his regression models account for those time periods, and when accounted for a strong deterrent effect exists. Ehrlich gets them in the soft spot: the FBI recalculated their previous results and changes the definitions which had a profound effect on those early crime rates. Ehrlich attempted to correct those variables, Passel and Taylor did not, sufficiently rebutting their overall analysis [1. Isaac Ehrlich. The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Reply. The American Economic Review , Vol. 67, No. 3 (Jun., 1977).]

But Ehrlich responds to Yale, “In their efforts to obscure the empirical findings, they [the yale study] have selectively deleted observations, utilized an inferior regression specification, considered irrelevant variables and correlations, and revealed in the process misunderstanding of elementary statistical concepts…” [2. Issac Ehrlich. Deterrence: Evidence and Inference. Yale Law Journal Vol. 85, No. 2 (Dec., 1975).]

My opponent then cites a study and testimony by Fagan. Testimony by Joanna Shepard notes “Using improved data and more sophisticated regression techniques, thirteen papers have been written in the economics literature in the past decade. Their conclusion is unanimous: all of the modern papers find a significant deterrent effect.” [3.

DW and Fagan claim deterrent studies failed to make their models robust, meaning they prove nothing. It seems my opponent ignored how I explained last round death penalty OPPONENTS Naci Mocan and Kaj Gittings actually tried to get rid of the deterrent hypothesis; the pesky sucker didn’t go away [4.] This re-analysis has a few graphs I should include because they make my case ever stronger:

My opponent then cites a study by criminologists claiming 88% of criminologists oppose the DP. This result they report is misleading. The study proves my point, “100% (or 77) of the criminologists agree that the death penalty may deter some.” [5.]

Radelet and Lacock’s 88% number comes from the question “significant reduction” in murder rates, but how do you define significant? This then becomes criminologists having to guess. The 88% number is inflated with questions of political ideology which has no relation to deterrence. And THEN 61% of the criminologists said the recent studies do prove the DP's deterrent effect [5].

My opponent finishes off with cross sectional data. I always see this, and it always makes me wonder a bit, is the death penalty info center (sounds non- DP proponents have met this argument on nearly level.

(1) Wesley Lowe notes, “every state in the union is different. These differences include the populations, number of cities, and yes, the crime rates. Strongly urbanized states are more likely to have higher crime rates than states that are more rural, such as those that lack capital punishment.” [6.]

(2) Economist and crime expert John Lott writes, “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.” [7.]

(3) Wesley Lowe further notes, “The states that have capital punishment are compelled to have it due to their higher crime rates, not the other way around.”[6]

Although not perfect, it is better than my opponent’s data. Here’s what happens when other factors are corrected for: [8.]

2. Morality

My opponent made a lot of assertions. Blacks commit 47% of the murders and whites 35%. This is not to say African American’s are intrinsically violent, but this fact merely shows the fact African American’s are execute more often shouldn’t be a surprise [9.] Poor people are more likely to murder, and they are given public attorneys when they cannot afford one. These public attorneys are often better than private one[10.]

3. Cost

Virginia has very short wait times and nearly everyone on death row will be executed once put there. Virginia’s DP cost is much lower than life without parole [11.]

My opponents data ignores plea bargains. Death penalty has been shown by many studies to affect the plea bargain rates. One report noted, “significantly more defendants plea bargain to a life in states where the death penalty is available.” [12.] A shorter summary of the study notes, “The most widely cited estimates ignore or minimize an important cost-saving effect of having the death penalty available. … The greater cost of trials where the prosecution does seek the death penalty is offset, at least in part, by the savings from avoiding trial altogether in cases where the defendant pleads guilty.” [13.]

A neutral academic did a literature review on costs. They found every study claiming the DP to cost more is highly flawed. Studies with strong methodology find “the evidence suggests that the costs associated with the death penalty are similar to those associated with life sentences.” [14. Jon Sorensen and Rocky Lean Pilgrim. Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas during the modern era. University of Texas Press, 2006.]

An analysis of a 6 year DP period shows the DP is cheaper than LWOP [15.] I did my own calculations (my opponent can PM me for them if he would like), to 11 years (average time n death row). For 11 years it is 2.1 DP vs 3 million for LWOP. As stated, the anti-DP studies ignore plea bargains as well as medical care. Medical care is more common on LWOP because you have more prisoners. [16.]

Mend it don't end it

4. Innocents

The DPIC list is wrong. Dudley Sharp notes, “it is important to preserve the distinction between acquittal and innocence, which is regularly obfuscated in news media headlines.” [17.]

A longer critique from former AG of California finds the DPIC list pretty weak, and false, to say the least. Ward A Campbell found the same issues as Sharp above. Actually innocent (via DNA) is not the same as legally acquitted, and most on that list are only legally innocent, though usually actually guilty. Botched trials, not overwhelming evidence (like OJ Simpson. Hey, he would be innocent according to the list) would make them not-guilty. But in reality, they are. Campbell found when this is properly accounted for, only 34 of those on the list should be there, meaning less than .5% of those sentenced to death are actually guilty. [18.]

Joshua Marquis found, “a "rightful" conviction rate of 99.72%.” [19.] Marquis in testimony goes through multiple of the people on the list (who are also famous “innocents”) and finds that, factually, most of these people are actually guilty [20.] According to the DPIC, there have been 1328 execution since the DP was re-legalized [21.] Assuming everyone on that list was guilty, 143 were falsely executed, 0.1%. The death penalty has a 99.9 percent success rate. Now, using the number of 50 we get 0.03% false conviction rate, or 99.97 correct conviction rate.


The facts don’t support DP abolition. The DP is cheaper, saves lives, is not racist, nor classist, and does not kill enough innocents to be worthy of a legal change.


I am sorry, but due to commitments with school and my saxophone playing, I am forced to concede this debate to my opponent. I hate to have a loss, but I never could get my argument together in the time frame.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks for the debate! It was fun! :)


Same to you sir! :)
Maybe we can finish this debate when I have more time!
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by jzonda415 4 years ago
It is not.
Posted by 16kadams 4 years ago
Your argument is over 8000 characters

Guess Ill do the same
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by thett3 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con told me to vote Pro