The Instigator
The_Silent_Consensus
Pro (for)
Winning
36 Points
The Contender
clsmooth
Con (against)
Losing
27 Points

Death penalty should remain

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Vote Here
Pro Tied Con
Who did you agree with before the debate?
Who did you agree with after the debate?
Who had better conduct?
Who had better spelling and grammar?
Who made more convincing arguments?
Who used the most reliable sources?
Reasons for your voting decision
1,000 Characters Remaining
The voting period for this debate does not end.
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/30/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,830 times Debate No: 1173
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (3)
Votes (21)

 

The_Silent_Consensus

Pro

Off the bat, I will concede that the death penalty doesn't deter and costs more than life without parole

That aside, we should punish people with what they deserve, regardless of cost. Justice should not be up for sale to the lowest bidder.

Right now, I am going to respond to 7 typical anti-death penalty arguments:

1. Some say that the death penalty is wrong, and life in prison is worse anyway.

I'm sorry but you can't argue on one hand that the death penalty is wrong and then argue that life in prison is worse but appropriate. How on earth is "appropriate" worse than "wrong"? Is the death penalty wrong or is life in prison worse? One can't have it both ways.

2. How can we say killing is wrong if we kill?

I'm sorry but that is absurd. Carrying out a sentence has no comparison to committing a crime against another person. The death penalty does not translate to "It's okay to murder." If it does, then putting someone in jail says "it's okay to hold people against their will" or imposing fines says "it's okay to steal" or requiring community service says, "it's okay to have slaves." You see my point. It is a punishment due to something that the criminal did. It is completely consistent AND understood that it is punishment; it is not an example of what's okay. How's this for a change: what kind of a message are we sending if we are telling society that, you can commit things like mass murder, torturing someone to death, child murder, etc… and still live?

3. As a follow-up to that, some may argue that in the states that don't have it, the murder rate is lower, and the same is true in some countries that don't have it.

Those who say that are confusing cause and effect. Put simply, they have no death penalty because they have a lower murder rate, NOT the other way around

4. That brings me to another argument. Some argue that we're on par with countries like Iran because they have the death penalty while countries like Canada and Britain don't.

That's a 2-dimensional way of looking at it. First the obvious, countries like Iran apply it arbitrarily, we apply it justly under the law. Second, countries in Europe have to abolish it to be a part of the European Union. Lastly, a lot of those countries' citizens still support the death penalty, it's just their elitist governments that don't. All in all, to compare us to Iran in this case is apples and oranges. We apply the death penalty justly under the law; they apply it arbitrarily. We impose it after the person has been convicted and appeals have been exhausted, they impose it on the spot.

5. Some may say that the death penalty is racist.

The majority of those executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 have been white, while blacks have committed the majority of murders. If it's racist in that sense, it's racist against whites. Some may then say that doing something to a white person is more likely to you the death penalty, than doing that exact same thing to a black person. While there is truth to that, isn't that a symptom of a bigger problem? That bigger problem is inconsistency and racism in our judicial system. Abolishing the death penalty is not going to solve that. We need to take steps to ensure consistency in sentences, that's not in question. Even if the problem of racism is just with the death penalty, we should fix that and not abolish the death penalty entirely. Put simply, if your water system needs repairing, would you instead decide to move houses entirely?

6. Some may also argue that there is the possibility of innocence.

Once again, isn't that just a symptom of a bigger problem? That bigger problem is mistakes in the judicial system. Again, abolishing the death penalty does nothing to solve that. We should have plenty of safeguards in place; all people convicted deserve every opportunity to challenge it. In fact, if we are to abolish the death penalty because of the possibility of innocence, we are further fostering mistakes made by the judicial system. Since life in prison is subject to way less safeguards, won't more innocent people be wrongly sentenced? Also, won't the jury be less careful if someone's life is not on the line? Don't get me wrong, it is true that there are people who have been wrongly convicted and then sentenced to death. How about we implement ways to further ensure that the person we are executing is guilty instead of abolishing the death penalty entirely?

7. Another argument is that it violates the 8th amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Well it is definitely not unusual, and in fact, it's more unusual not to have the death penalty. Second, The founding fathers wrote the constitution and they had no problem with the death penalty. The final blow to that argument is the 5th Amendment says "nor shall anyone be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." It's saying that with due process of law, you can be deprived of life, and you're either alive or dead, there are no shades of gray. Putting people in jail deprives them of liberty, not life. So, with the combination of that part of the 5th Amendment and the 8th Amendment, it can be said that the constitution requires it to be carried out in the most humane way. All in all, if the death penalty was supposed to be banned by the constitution as cruel and unusual, that clear contradiction in the Fifth Amendment would not be there.

The death penalty is a matter of justice. For the sake of this, let's assume that prison does not have TV's, or any of that fun stuff. Let's even go as far as life in solitary confinement with no visitors. The argument to have the death penalty instead of that is the criminal should not end up better off than the victim, and if he does, it sends the message that the criminal's life is more valuable than the victim's. The fact that the person is still able to see the sunrise and sunset, remember the good times he's had, and live to be even just one more year old when their victim will stay one age forever is saying that the criminal's life is more valuable than their victim's.

That aside, people get used to things. Think of it as a glass of water, if you change the amount of water in there, it will rock back and forth for a while, but eventually, it all levels out. Conditions in life are the same way. While someone in solitary confinement goes crazy, if he doesn't despise it, it's not a reasonable punishment for murder. We can't control the criminal's attitude. We can't ensure he has a bad time. They get used to it, and then they still get to live. That's no punishment a crime like murder!
clsmooth

Con

First, I must alert the readers to the fact that this was not an "open" debate -- The Silent Consensus challenged me. This being the case, I assume he knows that I am not 100% "morally opposed" to the death penalty in literally all cases. The evidence was here in this debate, where I took the opposing view: http://www.debate.org...

That said, the topic of the debate is "Death penalty should remain." I disagree that it should remain as it is. In fact, I am only in favor of the death penalty under the most extreme circumstances (i.e. the condemned admits to the crime, the family of the victim wants the condemned to be executed).

My opponent concedes the biggest reason people (mistakenly) support the death penalty: The deterrent factor. He admits that the death penalty is not a deterrent against violent crime. This shows that my opponent is a man of reason and facts -- not blind emotion. However, given the fact that the death penalty is not a deterrent (conceded), then it becomes just a punishment of blind emotion. It doesn't deter crime, it just makes society feel better about itself. Fine, but at what cost? My opponent also admits that it is more costly to put a man to death than to put him in prison for life. That's the financial cost of the "feel good" factor of state executions -- but what about the human cost? I'm not talking about the lives of legitimate child molesters and murderers, but if even one man in a thousand who's put to death is innocent, how do you monetize that cost? Is that human life worth the "feel good"? I don't think so.

I will address some of my opponent's points, however, the pre-arguments he constructed are not necessarily my views.

1. What's "appropriate" to me in a punishment is (1) reducing recidivism (i.e. making sure the criminal does not perpetrate the same crime again), (2) compensating the victim of the crime, (3) ensuring that innocents are not falsely convicted, or if they are, that they have a proper means of redress. The death penalty most certainly reduces recidivism, so on that measure, it is effective. But does it compensate the victim? If the victim is dead, then no. But what of the victim's family? If we are talking about murder cases, I think the victim's family should have a large say in the appropriate punishment. Where applicable, the perpetrator's property, assets, and labor should be seized to compensate for loss of income and mental anguish. The last of which cannot be done if the criminal is put to death.

2. I do not agree that killing is wrong in all cases. Most certainly, it is not wrong in self defense. The morality of the death penalty is debatable, perhaps, but that is not the subject of this debate. I do not "concede" the point here, because I never made it in the first place.

3. The point you make here is illogical. If the death penalty is not a deterrent, then why would countries with a high murder rate need the death penalty, while countries with a low murder rate not need it? This has no basis in logic whatsoever. If it is merely about justice, then cause/effect is irrelevant, and there should be no disparity between countries with and without the death penalty. Your logic is severely flawed here.

4. You say we apply the death penalty "justly." Please see the point below.

5. You admit that there's racism in our judicial system. How then can the death penalty be applied "justly"? Also, women are much less likely to be condemned to death then men, and rich people get life in prison (or get off all together) while poor people get fried. These are the facts, and you lose point #4.

6. You say abolishing the death penalty does nothing to fix problems in the justice system, BUT IT DOES ENSURE THAT NO INNOCENT MAN WILL BE PUT TO DEATH BY THE GOVERNMENT in the meantime. Your arguments have a very callous disregard for the sanctity of human life. I agree that some people deserve to die, but not at the expense of the innocent. To the one man in a thousand who is wrongly executed, the failure rate is 100%. Just imagine if it were you.

7. This argument is absurd, and I would never make it. The death penalty is clearly constitutional. That doesn't mean its advisable.

Now that I've answered your mock arguments, let me make my real argument, and it is simple: The death penalty is the tool of tyrants and dictators to silence political opponents. Its institutionalization makes it easier for the day when such is the case in the U.S. Maybe that day will never come, but we should not help usher it in by desensitizing people to capital punishment. Abolishing the death penalty would be a major roadblock against tyranny.
Debate Round No. 1
The_Silent_Consensus

Pro

Thank you for accepting my challenge

Maybe I should have made the title longer. I think the death penalty should remain in existence, I'm not necessarily defending everything about the status quo

I have to disagree about it being blind emotion. Revenge and retribution are not the same thing (i.e. a parent punishing a child with a spanking, assuming it's not in the heat of the moment, is different from a child hitting another in revenge). If one has criminally and intentionally taken an innocent life, they've forfeited their own. It's ultimately about the idea that the criminal should not end up better off than the victim

I used to have the very same view of "even if 1 in 1,000 are innocent and executed, it's worth abolishing the death penalty." Ultimately, here's why I changed: I wondered since when are we supposed to set punishment guidelines based on "what if the person is innocent?" With that logic, we can't even jail people. While they can later get exonerated, they won't get those years back. I'm sure you agree, if the person's innocent, then no punishment is appropriate.

As for your criteria of punishment, here's what I then ask about "reduce recidivism": Can you justify giving someone a punishment harsher than what is deserved for the crime committed under the guise of "reducing potential recidivism?" I agree about victim's family, by the way

I agree with you that cause/effect should be irrelevant, although if the death penalty increased the murder rate, that could be a convincing argument to abolish it.

As for "justly," I meant it in the sense of the person being convicted and all appeals being exhausted, and the person having his/her right to due process. The disparities in sentencing are not exclusive to the death penalty, as you know

Another point about the possibility of innocence: I think that the stories of how people have been exonerated later show the success of our system, not the failure of it. Granted, it's a failure that the wrongful conviction happens in the first place, but the fact that they end up getting exonerated has to count for something

Agreed that constitutional =/= advisable. I was not trying to make the point that they are the same thing

I would say that the death penalty, as could be applied, could be used as a tool of tyrants to silence political enemies. I'm not here to defend that. I'm only here to defend the use of it on those who have committed the worst of the worst crimes against others. I'm not talking about when murder is done out of passion or other possible mitigating elements. I'm talking about when one person calculatedly and cold-bloodedly murders another, motivated by his/her own profit and interest. If the evidence is overwhelmingly clear (beyond what is necessary to sentence someone to life in prison) that the person is guilty, if we are not willing to implement the death penalty in those cases, then we are expressing contempt for human life and failure to understand the magnitude of the crime
clsmooth

Con

What is the purpose of "retribution"? If you admit that capital punishment is not a deterrent (which you do), then who benefits from this "retribution"? Society doesn't experience fewer murders, at least not any fewer than would be experienced if the murderer were confined to life in prison. So it is just the "mental satisfaction" of society for playing God and putting someone to death. I think this is perverse and the sign of a declining culture. Society can say to itself, "We kill bad people," thus delineating right and wrong, but to no real benefit. This "goodness" is illusory.

If the wrongful murder conviction rate was, say, 1%, and the penalty was life in prison, then those wrongly convicted could spend their time and energies reversing the decision and bringing the truth to light. In the end, even if they spent years in jail, they would have what was left of their freedom, and they most certainly should be able to bring suit against those who wrongly convicted them. Compensation could be made. But the death penalty is irreversible. It allows the state to cover up false convictions, since the condemned can no longer plead his case. The death penalty disposes of the problem and promotes sloppiness in the justice system.

What would be an acceptable wrongful-execution rate? You say 1/1000 is acceptable. How about 1/100? How about 10%? 50%? 95%? Where is the line. The only acceptable line is 0%. The death penalty should be reserved for only those cases where the perpetrator admits to the crime or there is 100% irrefutable evidence (i.e. video documentation), AND the victims' families want the death penalty to be enacted. Otherwise, convicted murderers should be made to pay restitution and serve appropriate sentences, most commonly life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Societal acceptance of the death penalty as an appropriate means of punishment only hastens the day when it can be used as a political tool to silence dissent. In the history of governments, has the death penalty ever been used by a nation and not ultimately applied to these political uses? I don't think so. Will the United States be the first country to not go down this road? I hope so, but judging from history and the current path of our government, I would say it's unlikely. Thus, I think the death penalty should be abolished at the federal level, and by the individual states.
Debate Round No. 2
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by JOEYMER21 9 years ago
JOEYMER21
If 1 in 1000 or even 1 in 10000 facing the death penalty are innocent then it must be abolished.
The only thing gained after imposing the death penalty is a second mourning family.
Posted by buttercupx224 9 years ago
buttercupx224
Killing someone is more expensive than letting them rot in prison for 50 year.
it really is
Posted by Thoreau 9 years ago
Thoreau
A 2 round debate with THAT kind of introduction?
21 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by gogott 9 years ago
gogott
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by sully 9 years ago
sully
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by mikelwallace 9 years ago
mikelwallace
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by dixielover 9 years ago
dixielover
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by blond_guy 9 years ago
blond_guy
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by JOEYMER21 9 years ago
JOEYMER21
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by Fisherking 9 years ago
Fisherking
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by Randomknowledge 9 years ago
Randomknowledge
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by mrmatt505 9 years ago
mrmatt505
The_Silent_ConsensusclsmoothTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03