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Is capital punishment ethically wrong

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/10/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 546 times Debate No: 71425
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




I personally believe it is morally and ethically wrong. Capital punishment dates all the way back to the age of tyranny when king Henry the eighth and Vladimir the impaler were in power. Additionally, every 10 in 1000 people executed are innocent and even with such "stern" punishment, it is a statistic fact that capital punishment does not deter criminal from committing illegalities. Furthermore, capital punishment is theoretical a form of torture which incidentally is a crime against humanity. However, US president Barack Obama did once state "capital punishment is only for the most egregious of crimes", but what are the most egregious of crimes - in China, watching a banned tv soap opera is considered an egregious crime and capital offense.

Not only is capital punishment barbaric but it is incoherent too, it costs more - prisoners are either always buried or cremated and there is usually an autopsy conducted with a coroner's inquest. Also, it is difficult to sentence - there needs to be a total of three trials and a death warrant issued by the judiciary branch of government.

In addition, it is a statistic fact that the majority of the world's population are against capital punishment.

In conclusion, my opinion strictly directs toward the stigma that capital punishment is incoherent, barbaric, subhuman, and ultimately evil.


I gladly accept the opportunity to offer my own take on capital punishment and the moral implications attached to it.

Capital punishment, otherwise known as taking human life for cause (justified or not) has certainly been around for longer than the time of King Henry. The one thing Human beings have established is our ability to justify the killing of fellow human beings. The question the way I see it is not the act of ending a life itself but the reason or cause that led to that life ending to determine the moral implications to apply to it. For example, a person who kills to save their own life or the life of a loved one is certainly not evil.

So this brings us to intent. If a person or Government is using capital punishment for nefarious reasons then of course that specific use of capital punishment is evil or wrong. If instead the person or Government is using the capital punishment serving the greater good or society then the use of capital punishment is moral.

How do we measure or determine intent? That is murky and difficult to determine sometimes because it requires us to set aside our own opinions and look at the act itself and why it was done as well as the purpose it was serving. In the American use of capital punishment we take only the most egregious and heinous examples and set them aside for possible punishments to include capital punishment. This is done not only for the actual harm the criminal caused to the victim (s) but also to the great harm caused to their loved ones and society as a whole.

The Government has a responsibility to provide if not the reality of security, the illusion of security to keep the masses happy. One of the ways Government does this is by severely and publicly punishing bad deeds that get the most people in society upset. Even those who are against capital punishment should agree that capital punishment does provide closure to many people in distress over what some "bad person" has done to society and allows them to move on.

Some cases are easily defined such as Ted Bundy who's last victim was a little girl that I went to school with. After that incident my community went into hyper vigilance, parents patrolling the streets with their guns and all strangers seen with distrust and open hostility creating a opportunity for very bad things to happen as society in general felt scared for the safety of their children. This little girl was abducted from her school and the things done to her are not something polite people can discuss. Ted Bundy was a true monster and society "NEEDED" him to be executed to preserve the peace of society.

Less easy examples are much harder to define such as Obama's expanded drone program that is reported to be executing more innocents than actual terrorists. Society is demanding action to be taken to fight against the rise of radical Islam but the method of drones is less clear as to it's effectiveness to the average person.

Things like cost of trials and such are irrelevant to the moral question, our Government spends more on opinion polls and surveys than what we spend on capital punishment litigation. If the action is determined to be right then the cost is simply the cost and there is no point in dwelling on the cost.

Errors of the past are also irrelevant. We killed a lot of people developing and perfecting vaccinations for diseases in the past, do those early mistakes mean we should never vaccinate children today? Like the development of vaccinations, America has made massive changes to the process to allow capital punishment and protect against wrongful convictions to include DNA evidence that makes the process much more reliable. We have long and detailed appeal processes to further protect against mistakes happening. Can we improve it further? Yes we can and we will, our legal system just like the medical field is always changing and improving because we want to do better.

Lastly, I make a point that even a mistake in the application of capital punishment can still be moral for society. Going back to my example of the Obama expanded drone program we can see that at the very least society can view the President working hard to defend Americans against terrorists. This appearance of action can provide a calming effect on Americans who feel fear of a possible new terrorist attacks in the World and even at home. We Americans have allowed a massive change in privacy rights and given our Government permission to snoop into everything because of that same fear so clearly this is a big fear and anything done to reduce or eliminate that fear from the masses could be seen as moral. If the same scared masses were to have their fears unanswered, the mob mentality could set in and cause them to do very bad things, we have seen this happen many times in history so eliminating that threat is moral.
Debate Round No. 1


Before I begin, I must let you know that I am most deeply sorry for the loss of someone you were close to who was taken by Ted Bundy - someone who was pure evil in human form. You have my utmost sympathy and condolences, I would never truly understand the pain and anguish you must have endured.

Since this has turned into a very delicate matter, I will state that my following committee of words is not intended to come as being incendiary, defamatory, opinionated or prejudiced in any way, shape or form.

There is one inevitable truth that some people in this world are nefarious and sick such as Ted Bundy, who's execution can actually be justified. However, as you stated capital punishment was what needed to be done to remove Bundy from society, but does permanent incarceration not already do that? For instance, another infamous and subhuman serial killer known as Jeffrey Dahmer, with as little detail as I can include, he raped, murdered, raped again and consumed his victims - one including a fourteen year-old boy. These crimes were sickening and undoubtedly shocked the nation, although, Dahmer dud not face capital punishment but instead a life sentence where he remained imprisoned and did not kill again. Another infamous killer, Charles Manson, has remained in prison for well over 40 years and has not killed anyone since. The third and final killer I will include, Martin Bryant, an Australian rampage shooter who was responsible for the deaths of 35 innocent people - one including a three year-old girl. Bryant was sentenced to 35 life sentences plus an additional 1,035 years in prison, he has remained in prison for 19 years and since then he has not killed once.

As for the stigma of people dying from vaccines, is this permissible? I personally rebuke vaccines as I do not see how antibodies can be created in the human body so quickly.

As for Obama's stricter penalties for terrorists, which in my mind isn't a bad thing since terrorists are despicable, sordid and a travesty of the human race, but doesn't America already have sufficient retribution for terrorists (I don't know if retribution is the correct word there but it conveys an idea of my thesis). To further explain, after 9/11, which was caused by Al Queada, America went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan because attacking another country's infrastructure and killing close to a million of its civilians is an act or war. Ever since 9/11, turmoil has been constantly erupting in the two middle-eastern countries. Isn't this already sound penalties?

As for the American government allegedly spending more money on polls and surveys than capital punishment, isn't the heightening of terrorism penalties and the manufacturing to create more drones a far more sumptuous option?

Once again I most state that this is merely my opinion and due to to the delicacy of this debate I will once again state that I have no intentions of being incendiary, defamatory or prejudiced.


Thank you for your condolences, I am happy that my experiences from such a young age are not typical for American children. And that is part of my point. Polite societies work very hard to develop systems to protect us from these kinds of events but unfortunately they do not always work for prevention.

Yes, in some cases a lifetime in prison does provide a good measure of relief for society, but as we also have seen is convicted murders who get paroled and murder again, or who escape (Ted Bundy escaped police custody to go and kill the girl I knew) prison and kill again as long as they live. Capital punishment is the only grantee that a killer can't kill again.

I would argue also that being put to death is a greater deterrent to other members of society. There is an old saying that locks only keep honest people honest, criminals will always get in. Well our locks on certain behaviors are our laws and the penalties that help to keep honest people honest because they do not want to face those penalties.

I do not think you understood my point about Obama's drone program. Obama is condemning some people to death without any due process. Based on many more non-terrorists are being killed than actual terrorists. but you do prove one of my points, you say yourself that the capital punishment imposed on those you perceive to be, using your own words, "which in my mind isn't a bad thing" as good use of capital punishment.

So you agree that in some cases capital punishment is moral, and ethical, are you admitting your own position in this debate is wrong?
Debate Round No. 2


Due to the nature of Bundy's crimes he would never be given parole as you clearly stated that he escaped from police custody which is in itself a federal crime and will only further his prison sentence.

As an 18 year-old going into law, I have read tirelessly about the cases of numerous serial killers to benefit my understanding of the justice system and never had I read about a serial killer being released on parole. Furthermore, if a serial killer was to escape from a maximum security prison and possibly in solitary confinement he/she would be tracked down by the special forces, especially nowadays with technology advancements where an ip trace can easily catch a criminal or even with the use of drones.

Additionally, my previous insinuation on the statistical fact that every 10 in 1000 people executed are innocent, what happens if someone is framed for a crime, in that incidence there is one mantra that I have heard from numerous individuals "you only get as much justice as you can afford" which in the incidence of being framed for a crime, this mantra does acquire some truth.

The saying that you cited "locks only keep honest people honest" does have some truth to it but as I previously stated, the judiciary and executive branch of government would have no ambitions of releasing a convicted serial killer back into society.

Your insinuation on Barack Obama's drone program has a committee of words stating "Obama is condemning some people to death without any due process", are you stating that with this new program, America will see a proliferation in unjust death sentences?

As for the cited sentence from my previous post, I was stating that stricter penalties for terrorists is not a bad idea but I still do not believe it is permissible to sentence them to death.


While I did offer a serial killer as one example of real monsters being part of society, this is supposed to be a debate on the moral grounds for capital punishment and there are a lot more 1 time horrible killers than serial killers. We have seen thousands of example of killers in general escaping or getting paroled then killing again, the only way to stop a killer permanently is you execute them.

Anything short of execution and there is always a chance they kill again.

I will again address your using old data of previous mistakes in capital punishment with my point of early mistakes in vaccinations that have killed thousands of people, even today there are rare cases of vaccinations hurting and killing those who are vaccinated. So if your argument is stuck in the distant past and ignoring all improvements made this can relate to vaccinations as well meaning we should never vaccinate anyone..... right?

I say no, we should not toss out modern improvements because old actions had mistakes.

Framed for a crime? Let's not confuse this debate of real moral issues connected to real use of capital punishment with fantasy and blockbuster movies. Only about 3% of all criminal cases ever make it to trial, less than 1% of those end up as a case where capital punishment is on the table. The cases are so incredibly rare that the chances of a true criminal case being a product of a complex and perfect frame is zero. Today there is always other supportive evidence that a frame job is impossible unless everyone from the victim to the Judge is in on the conspiracy. The problem with conspiracies is in today's world, there is a lot of money to be made if one of the conspirators squeals, there is no loyalty, only self preservation and money so that keeps the system from being able to maintain a mass conspiracy.

You seem to be stuck in an understanding of our legal system from 30 years ago where all of the things you mention were in fact a common problem, and like vaccinations we have come a long way and have fixed our mistakes, today with things like DNA evidence we can wave goodbye to those days and move on to better days.

Yes, locks keep honest people honest, and laws are the locks on bad behaviors that keep normal people from doing things like murder. Only the truly evil cross that line and kill and evil does not follow rules or laws, it must be faced with firm and unrelenting resolve.

Only capital punishment can stop cases like Steven Prat, a convicted killer released from prison who bludgeoned his 64-year-old mother to death when he was released and it happened during his release party. Or let's consider the case of Scottie Thompson who only served 24 of the 45 year sentence, was released early from prison and killed again while wearing an ankle monitor, beating his 20 year old victim that he had just met that day to death.

Nice try my friend but you clearly said that Obama using capital punishment to kill suspected terrorists was good, let me quote you again, "Obama's stricter penalties for terrorists, which in my mind isn't a bad thing since terrorists are despicable". Isn't a bad thing? I clearly said Obama was killing people and you said it "isn't a bad thing".

Let me clarify, I am talking about cases like this:

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was just 16 years old and an American Citizen, he was not a terrorist and had never hinted at attacking anyone. He had last seen his father who was definitely not a good guy two years before his own death.

But my own point in using this example is that even when mistakes are made in the use of capital punishments help the people at home feel safe and justified as even you have clearly shown support of the use of capital punishment against those you see as " despicable, sordid and a travesty of the human race" to use your own words.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Ragnar 2 years ago
Given the many codes of ethics, it might be both.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by browley14 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I am against capital punishment and will probably remain that way for my entire life. But Con made some good arguments for it.