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October beginner's tournament: The USA should get rid of the death penalty

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/30/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 11 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,047 times Debate No: 81647
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (25)
Votes (1)




In the USA there are currently 31 states with the death penalty and 19 without (1). The death penalty is a very controversial topic. Many people believe the USA should keep the death penalty while others want to abolish it.

I as pro am going to argue that all states in the US should have the death penalty. The burden of proof is shared.

The participants have 72 hours to write their posts and the character limit is 10.000.

This debate is part of the second round of the October beginner's tournament.


Death penalty: punishment by execution (2)


1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be individually provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. Both debaters accept the definitions of the defined terms
7. For all undefined terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the logical context of the resolution and this debate
8. Violation of any of these rules means the conduct point should be given to the opposition


Round 1: acceptance (no arguments)
Round 2: presenting arguments (no rebuttals)
Round 3: rebuttals (no defenses just yet)
Round 4: defenses (no new arguments)





Thanks for initiating the debate, and I look forward to an educational discourse.

The B.O.P. is shared. I must provide tangible evidence as to why the U.S. should get rid of the death penalty, and Con should provide tangible evidence as to why the U.S. should keep its current policy.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank TheProphett for accepting the debate and Hayd for organizing the beginner's tournament this debate is a part of. Now I’ll present my arguments for why the USA shouldn't ban the death penalty.

The death penalty is almost always used as a punishment for murder (1). So in this debate I’m going to focus on murders.

Murder is a very serious crime. You take the life of one or more people and you also cause lots of grief to the friends and families of the people who are murdered. Since the damage of a murder is so big, we must do all we can to make sure the amount of murders gets minimized.

Unfortunately it’s very hard to prevent all murders. So we should also look at ways to minimize the damage to society once a murder does happen. I’m going to explain how the death penalty will minimize the damage to society with my arguments.

Argument 1: the death penalty prevents murders

The sad reality is that murders happen. In 2014 almost 12.000 murders happened in the USA (2). So, are we somehow able to use those murders from the past to prevent murders in the future? The answer is yes. To quote from a 2003 study done at the Emory University: “Our results suggest that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect; each execution results, on average, in 18 fewer murders - with a margin of error of plus or minus 10.” (3)

This is one way the death penalty prevents crime, but there's another one I'll present in my next argument.

Argument 2: the death penalty is a tool to help the police in investigations

In many countries a culprit gets a lower punishment when he cooperates with the police. If a country has the death penalty the police can sweep the death penalty off the table if the culprit cooperates. This is a pretty effective way to get more information out of the culprit. For example, where he hid the body of the victim.

Getting information like this means the police has to spend less time on investigating. The time saved means the police has more time for other tasks. For example, direct patrols. By patrolling in the areas and on the times with the highest risks of serious crimes the amount of serious crimes can be reduced (4).

So by having the death penalty and using it many murders and other crimes can be prevented. But the death penalty doesn’t just prevent suffering from future crimes. It also reduces suffering from the murders that already happened. This brings me to my third argument.

Argument 3: the death penalty provides relief for the victims

In a murder there are many victims. The most obvious are the people who got murdered. But there are more. The friends and families of the victim are also victims. They are suffering from a lot of grief, but also rage towards the culprit. When the culprit gets the death penalty, the bereaved can finally start to experience peace. Allow me to make this more tangible with a story:

Ann Pace of Jackson stood alone with a sign bearing pictures of her daughter who was killed by a man named Derrick Todd Lee in 2002. Charlotte Murray Pace was 22. Her mother described her four years, so far, of waiting for Lee’s execution as “hideous.” While she said Lee’s death may not bring closure, she thinks it may bring peace. “I have this constant awareness of him breathing air, visiting with his family, doing all those things that he denied so many people, that he denied my daughter,” Pace said. “(Once he is dead), he will not be at my table. He will not be in my head. Then, it will be all about Murray and not about him.” (5)

These three arguments show that having the death penalty reduces crime, makes it easier for the bereaved to find peace and saves the police time. I will now hand the debate over to pro, so he can argue why the US should ban the death penalty.





Introduction: Firstly, I would like to thank my opponent for debating this topic with me, and I would like to thank Hayd for hosting this tournament. Congratulations to my opponent for advancing to the next round, and I wish you the best of luck. May the best debater win!

Cost and Efficiency: The death penalty is a notoriously costly form of punishment for criminal offenders. Some may view the death penalty as a form of retribution for the victims’ families, but the expense at which the prisons and states use the death penalty is preposterous. Death Penalty Info (1) says that, “Texas, with over 300 people on death row, is spending an estimated $2.3 million per case, but its murder rate remains one of the highest in the country,” and , “In financially strapped California, one report estimated that the state could save $90 million each year by abolishing capital punishment.” The cost created by the death penalty is outrageous, and implementing it in states that currently do not have it would be preposterously costly, considering the fact that a death penalty case in Texas costs three times as much as holding an offender in a maximum security cell for 40 years. In Florida, it costs six time as much to execute a prisoner rather than incarcerating the offender for life. This process is widely publicised as a remedy to criminal violence, but a plethora of studies suggest otherwise. Amnesty USA (2) states that, “In April 2012, The National Research Council concluded that studies claiming that the death penalty affects murder rates were "fundamentally flawed" because they did not consider the effects of noncapital punishments and used "incomplete or implausible models." A 2009 survey of criminologists revealed that over 88% believed the death penalty was NOT a deterrent to murder.” Also, deterrence rates have not shown much correlation between the death penalty and murder rates.

Amnesty USA states, “The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime.” Therefore, drawing from the graph and earlier evidence, the death penalty is not worth the cost for a virtually ineffective system. It is impossible to use the death penalty as a deterrence, because most murderous crimes often source from substance-related influence, being taken in grips of fear and rage, panicking from committing other acts of criminality, or mental illness. What one person does in “the heat of the moment” is not predictable, to say the least, and the death penalty is not an effective deterrent measure in the prevention of violent crimes. In conclusion, the death penalty is not worth the cost, because of the ineffectivity that results from it.

Innocent Lives: There is always a factor of innocence that plays a role in the persecution of criminals. While they may be a suspect, there are often cases of false imprisonment. In regards to the death penalty, false imprisonment is a serious ordeal. Innocent people are being put on death row, and facing the threat of death for crimes they did not commit. Since 1983, there have been several cases in which there was strong evidence, if not tangible, of people who were executed under false persecution. Death Penalty Info (3) reports that there were 11 cases of execution in cases where there was very strong evidence in the innocence of the accused. This is astounding, considering the fact that the death penalty is supposed to be a tool of justice for violent offenders. Our justice system relies on the principle that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Is it just that people are put on death row and executed, without clear evidence stacked against them? I think not. In a just society, the accused should have almost insurmountable evidence against them to be incarcerated, let alone executed. The reliability of the capital punishment system is utterly sad, especially considering the burden it puts on states who have to bear the cost.

Conclusion: I stand with my claims that the USA should get rid of the death penalty, for its absurd cost, relative ineffectiveness, and the endangerment of innocent lives that it poses. Once again, I would like to thank my opponent for undertaking this debate with me, and I hope it turns out to be an enlightening discourse. I hand it over to you, Con!





Debate Round No. 2


I thank pro for giving his arguments. But since I’m favoring the death penalty I’m going to rebut his arguments in this round by asking some critical questions about his arguments.

1: How expensive is the death penalty compared to the the alternative?

My opponent already answered this question in his argument. To quote from him:

“… a death penalty case in Texas costs three times as much as holding an offender in a maximum security cell for 40 years. In Florida, it costs six time as much to execute a prisoner rather than incarcerating the offender for life.”

Three times as much? Six times a much? That’s indeed a lot. But are these extremes also existing in other states?

No. In Washington each death penalty case costs on average $3.07 million and one without the death penalty costs $2.01 million (1). That’s about 50% more.
In Nevada it’s $1.03 million to $1.3 million for a death penalty case VS $775.000 for a non-death penalty case(1). That’s again about 50% more.

However, the fact that death penalty cases cost more stays. But this brings me to my next question:

2: Why are death penalty cases more expensive?

Extra costs always happen for a reason. Allow me to quote the auditor who calculated the costs of the death penalty in Nevada:

"Adjudicating death penalty cases takes more time and resources compared to murder cases where the death penalty sentence is not pursued as an option. These cases are more costly because there are procedural safeguards in place to ensure the sentence is just and free from error." (1)

Ensuring the sentence is just and free from error. That’s why the costs are higher. After all, punishing innocent people is considered very, very bad. This is so bad pro devoted a big chunk of his round 2 post to this issue.

But wait! Even though extra time and resources are used to ensure the sentence is free and just, why are there multiple cases where executed people were possibly innocent (round 2, pro, source 3)? This brings me to my next question:

3: If we get rid of the death penalty, what’s the alternative?

The alternative is pretty obvious. Imprisoning the culprit for a long time. But what was the problem again? Oh yeah, the problem was that we’re punishing innocent people. Will that get solved with banning the death penalty? No.

If we ban the death penalty we will no longer execute innocent people. We will now imprison those innocent people for a long time. Is that truly an improvement? If you ask me it isn’t.

Also, do you remember my second question? Where I said that in death penalty cases there are extra safeguards in place to ensure the sentence is just and free from error? Once we get rid of the death penalty, we also get rid of those extra safeguards. Therefore we will have more cases in which innocent people accidentally get imprisoned for a long time. To put it in one sentence: banning the death penalty means more innocent people get punished.

To recap, in multiple states the costs of a death penalty case aren’t way higher than the costs of imprisoning the prisoners for long times. The extra costs can be explained by the fact that people want to make sure the punishment is fair and just. So a minimum amount of innocent people gets punished. This doesn’t happen with the alternative of imprisoning the culprits for a long time. Not only that, but without the death penalty we’re going to punish more innocent people.

With this I end my rebuttals and hand the debate over to pro.






I would like to thank my opponent for contributing further to this debate, and I hope it proves to be a fun one. In this round, I will provide a critique of my opponent’s argument (rebuttal). May the best debater win!

Contention 1: the death penalty prevents murders

To start out his contention, my opponent states that almost 12,000 murders happened in the U.S. last year. Then, he provides a quote from Emory University that states that for every execution from capital punishment, an average of 18 fewer murders are committed, give or take 10. Firstly, I find no evidence of the provided statistic (12,000 murders) in my opponent’s source to date. This is a completely false assertion too, as the total murder in 2014 totalled at about (1) 14,000. Secondly, the quote my opponent provides has little or none significance in regards to the point he is trying to prove. The quote inserted into his argument does not provide any evidence as to why we can use previous murders to prevent future ones. Secondly, I checked his source, and the actual text shows that every execution results in the deterrence of at least 8 murders, with a 95% confidence level. The death penalty does not effectively affect the murder rates throughout the country, and the sources from my previous argument prove that. Also, people are often put on death row for lengthy amounts of time, and that time is increasing.

(2) The time prisoners stay on death row has been significantly increasing over the years, as seen on the graph. Right now, the average prisoner on death row spends 15.8 years before their execution. If the executions resulting from capital punishment are a strong deterrent, then how are they going to take their full effect throughout the nation if the prisoners are often abandoned for 15 years and then executed? The death penalty is an ineffective policy, and it is not a successful deterrent of murders in our nation, and I have provided many more tangible sources that provide empirical evidence to support this point.

Contention 2: the death penalty is a tool to help police in investigations

To start of his contention, my opponent states that in “many countries” a culprit gets a lesser form of punishment if he/she cooperates with the police. I would just like to point out that we are talking about the United States in this particular debate, not any other country in the world. Next, my opponent asserts that capital punishment can be used as a bargaining chip in serious cases to coerce suspects into cooperation with police. While this may be effective in solving the intricacies of some cases, this is morally questionable, if not indefensible. In essence, my opponent is defending the death penalty by saying that if police threaten suspects with death, they will be able to get more information out of them. I think, that in a just society, death threats should not be a means of interrogation. Secondly, my opponent uses the bargaining chip argument to state that using capital punishment as a threat is a time saver for cops. My opponent completely brushes off the moral implications of this statement, and fails to provide any resolutional substance as to why this is one of the reasons the death penalty should be implemented across the United States and kept in operation. In summary, threatening death to glean information out of suspects is wrong, and if that is what the death penalty is for, then it should be gotten rid of and abolished.

Contention 3: the death penalty provides relief for victims

The focus of this contention is on the feeling of vengeance for the families of victims that results from the execution of suspects. Relief for the families of victims comes at the price of shorter prison sentences, and there cannot be any median. We should not focus on enacting vengeance on behalf of grief-stricken families, and instead make sure that their killers are locked up in prisons for the rest of their lives, closed off from the outside world, and unable to do harm to anyone or anything else. These are the core principles behind even having prisons, and the death penalty is just an egregious way of enacting vengeance on violent criminals. Our duty to our people is not to be a harbinger of death, but an upholder of justice. A quid-pro-quo approach to justice is not what any just society would take, and it taints the pillars on which our justice system is built. If we are to accurately and unabashedly carry out justice in our nation, suspects who have been accused of committing the most violent of crimes should be brought before a court, tried, and if found guilty, put into jail for life. Knowing that the enactor of harm and violence is completely closed off from the outside world and unable to do any more harm is closure enough for those grieving. Life imprisonment is superior to capital punishment because instead of the execution of a murderous criminal, they are locked up, unable to cause any more harm or hurt anyone else. The difference between capital punishment and life imprisonment is that execution of offenders is not an ideal solution to criminal activity, and is essentially the government killing off criminals for revenge. Vengeance goes against our standard code of justice because our judicial process is about equality and fairness in the deciding of criminal sentencing. Undermining the long lasting equality in the justice system and implementing the death penalty throughout the United States is detrimental, not only to fairness, but to morality. Morality plays a big part in the judicial process, and having capital punishment forces those in the jury to act emotionally and think on the side of the victim, and how much grief they have been caused. Violent murders resulting in sentencing of capital punishment is often decided with feelings, because those in the jury cannot help but think about if their loved ones or friends had been the victims of these crimes. This is where unfairness and inequality come into play in regards to capital punishment, because it is hard not to take the emotional route and subjectively prefer the case of the victim. The point of trials is to determine guilt or innocence, and capital punishment greatly hinders that ability.

Overview: Throughout his arguments, my opponent provides arguments devoid of both logical reasoning and morality. Deterrence, death threats as a bargaining chip, and closure for victims’ families are all examples of this. These arguments provide little to no substance in regards to the resolution, in which my opponent is supposed to argue why the death penalty should be kept, and why it should be implemented into states that do not currently have it (the U.S. does not have capital punishment in every state). For these reasons, I stand with my critique of my opponent’s arguments.


Once again, I would like to thank my opponent for partaking in this debate with me, and I hand it over to you Con!




Debate Round No. 3


First of all I'd like to thank pro for his rebuttals and that he pointed out he wanted the character limit to get raised to 10.000. It turns out I could use it as well. I also want to thank YYW for being my mentor during this tournament. In this round I'm going to defend against pro’s rebuttals and show why the USA should have the death penalty in all states.

1) The death penalty prevents murderers

Pro points out three things in his rebuttal.

He first addresses that there are more than 14.000 murders every year even though I said it was 12.000. The source I used listed the amount of murders per state. The total of them all was roughly 12.000. It's strange the total is different from what the source of my opponent says. Since the opponent of pro is more reliable I believe his source is correct. However, the 12.000 VS 14.000 murders discussion isn't important. It was used to give more context; putting a cherry on top of my argument. Pro damaged the cherry, but the argument itself still stands.

In his second point pro addresses my argument by attacking this quote: “Our results suggest that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect; each execution results, on average, in 18 fewer murders - with a margin of error of plus or minus 10.” (round 2, con, source 3) Pro claims this quote doesn't provide evidence to back up my case. However, this is an empty attack. If the death penalty has a deterrent effect we can punish killers with the death penalty. The deterrent effect makes sure that murderers in the future are prevented. Since murders are bad, preventing murders is good. Therefore the death penalty is good. Pro also claims my source says the death penalty deterred at least 8 murders with a 95% confidence level. It looks like pro made a mistake with statistics, which is understandable, because statistics is complicated. The source is saying the deterrent effect of one death penalty is between the 8 and 28 fewer murders with a 95% certainty. Pro forgot the top limit of 28.

Then pro refers back to his arguments in round 2. Over there he claimed the death penalty is expensive and ineffective. I already addressed the costs in round 3, but since the effectiveness is more a rebuttal than an argument I didn't address it in round 3. I’ll defend the effectiveness in this round. Pro presents three reasons why the death penalty is ineffective. First of all he points out that Amnesty USA believes the research that’s done so far to figure out if the death penalty has a deterrent effect is flawed. But just because past research is flawed doesn't mean there is no deterrent effect. The second reason is that 88% of the criminologists believe the death penalty doesn't have a deterrent effect. However, this is an argument from authority and it isn't empirical evidence. Arguments from authority are not the most powerful, because the authorities can make mistakes. The third reason pro presents is a graph that shows that states with the death penalty have, on average, more murders per 100.000. But because correlation isn't causation it’s dangerous to draw conclusions from this.

The third attempt pro makes to refute my argument is showing that the time between sentencing and execution has increased through the years. However, this won't influence the deterrent effect a lot. After all, the news mainly reports about the punishment killers get and the execution. The time in between isn't mentioned a lot. Therefore it won't influence the deterrent effect a lot.

2) The death penalty is a tool to help police in investigations

Pro starts by pointing out that this debate is about the USA and not ‘many countries’. He's right about that, but since the USA is included in the ‘many countries’ his rebuttal isn't rebutting much.

He then continues by admitting that using the death penalty as a threat is in some cases an effective way to save time in investigations. However, pro thinks it's unethical. But ethics is very complicated. Many people disagree about what is and isn't moral. Pro and I also disagree. I think using the death penalty in negotiations is ethical, because this saves the cops time. This saved time can in turn be used for other tasks (eg: patrolling). These other tasks can prevent crime. Since crimes cause suffering and suffering is bad, preventing crime is good. So the death penalty is moral, because it can indirectly prevent suffering. But this ignores pro’s version of morality. Because pro didn't show why his version of morality is more important than mine, it can be swept aside easily.

The third point pro tries to make is that my argument isn't connected to the resolution. This is another empty attack. I already pointed out above how the death penalty indirectly prevents suffering, which is a moral thing to do.

3) The death penalty provides relief for victims

Pro is under the impression I favor the death penalty, because I want vengeance for the families of the victims. But the thing is I never used the word vengeance. So the majority of the rebuttal pro made isn't rebutting what I said. But it's probably required to elaborate why I'm not advocating for vengeance.

Vengeance is about looking back. Somebody harmed you in the past and to make things even you want to harm the killer. The death penalty is a tool to move forward. It's a very traumatizing experience if somebody who is close to you gets murdered. Things like that will drag you down. It's hard to move forward when you know the killer is still breathing air. But once the killer is executed you can close the book and let most of the burdens go. Now you will know for certain the killer will never hurt somebody else again.

But that's not everything pro argued. He also argued imprisonment is better than the death penalty with this sentence: ...and instead make sure that their killers are locked up in prisons for the rest of their lives, closed off from the outside world, and unable to do harm to anyone or anything else. This is not much of an argument against the death penalty and in favor of locking up the killer for the rest of his life. With the death penalty the killer is also locked up in prison for the rest of his life, closed off from the outside world, and unable to do harm to anyone or anything else.

Some time later pro said: Knowing that the enactor of harm and violence is completely closed off from the outside world and unable to do any more harm is closure enough for those grieving. Pro doesn't have the authority to determine what is and isn't enough closure for those grieving. Neither do I. Only the people who are grieving can tell what is and isn't enough closure. People like Ann Pace, the woman from the story I told in the second round. According to her the death penalty helps her get peace.

A bit further pro says: ... (The death penalty) is essentially the government killing off criminals for revenge. This isn't true. If the government wanted revenge they would want to give as many killers the death penalty. However, in my second argument I mentioned that the police can drop the death penalty in exchange for information. This is evidence that the government allows killers to avoid the death penalty, which in turn means the government doesn't want to take revenge.

The last quote in this paragraph I'm going to defend against is this: Violent murders resulting in sentencing of capital punishment is often decided with feelings, because those in the jury cannot help but think about if their loved ones or friends had been the victims of these crimes. This is where unfairness and inequality come into play in regards to capital punishment, because it is hard not to take the emotional route and subjectively prefer the case of the victim. Pro believes the decisions judges make are heavily influenced by emotions and that this will be less without the death penalty. However, judges are only allowed to determine if the defendant is guilty or not. The punishment isn't relevant. Therefore getting rid of the death penalty isn't going to change a thing over here.

4) Overview

Pro end with this overview: Throughout his arguments, my opponent provides arguments devoid of both logical reasoning and morality… These arguments provide little to no substance in regards to the resolution… This overview isn't very polite. Pro claims my arguments neither have logical reasoning nor morality. They are both there. This is therefore an empty argument. The second claim about how my arguments don't link to the resolution is just as empty.


A lot has happened in this debate and pro has proved to be a great opponent even though some of his rebuttals weren’t the strongest. But there can be only one winner, so I'll summarize the debate from my point of view to point out why the voters should vote for me.

My arguments:

- The death penalty has a deterrent effect. This point was fiercely attacked, so the judges are allowed to determine what to do with this argument
- The police can use the death penalty as a tool in negotiations. This saves time, which in turn can get used to prevent other crimes
- The death penalty helps the grieving to find peace and move forward

Pro’s arguments:

- The death penalty is expensive. This was refused by pointing out the costs aren't way higher in all states and by showing the extra costs are used to make the case more just and free from errors
- Innocent people get executed. This was not only tried, but even turned by pointing out the alternative is that the innocent people get thrown in prison and that the extra safeguards caused by the higher costs minimize the amount of innocent people getting punished

I hope the voters had fun reading the debate so far and I'll now hand the debate over to pro so he can write the last part.




Thank you to my opponent for engaging in this difficult debate with me. Not only have you proved to be a remarkable opponent, but you have forced me to increase my knowledge on aspects of our world that I would normally not go and search on my own, and I thank you for that. I can see this debate going to either one of us, judging on how this round turns out.

1. How expensive is the death penalty compared to the alternative?

My opponent, in this contention, brings up the fact that while it may be significantly more expensive in some states to execute inmates than incarcerating them for life, it is not true for others (1) (In texas, it costs three times as much to execute an inmate instead of holding them in a maximum security cell for 40 years, and three times as much in Florida to execute an inmate instead of jailing them for life). Different states are bound to have different costs, varying on the state budget and method of execution. What my opponent does not consider is that millions would be saved if we held violent offenders instead of executing them. Next, my opponent continues to downplay the money saved by eliminating capital punishment. Avoiding the facts, my opponent ignores the accumulative cost that the death penalty incurs (yes, more or less so in some states than others). Ignoring the facts and trying to mitigate the cost argument by comparing states to others is ineffective and irrelevant, because regardless of the cost difference, there is still money to be saved in eliminating the death penalty, and money to be wasted while it is still in effect.

2. Why are death penalty cases more expensive?

The focus of my opponent’s contention is to try and prove, misguidedly, that death penalty cases are more expensive because the people behind the scenes are trying to ensure that sentencing is free from error, and providing more room for vindication; this is irrelevant. His quote also perpetuates the idea that capital punishment cases are more expensive because of procedural safeguards to ensure that there is no error in the sentencing. My opponent does not consider the fact that regardless of how hard he tries, the death penalty, in all aspects, incurs more cost and wastes more money than incarcerating offenders. Also, on a side note, I have argued previously that there is a larger window for vindication without capital punishment sentences, where, on average, a prisoner has 15 years before they are executed. Why is ensuring the death of violent offenders so important, when we could have less costly trials, and less costly cases, and jail the offenders at a lower accumulative cost? Without any substantiated evidence and little value to back up his assertions, I do not see how my argument has been challenged. If there is no room for error, and all capital punishment cases are so just and accurate, then how come there are so many appeals for resentencing (see next argument)? If there wasn’t any error in these cases, then falsely convicted offenders would not fear the death penalty. Life without parole sentences offer the opportunity to prove their innocence and vindicate themselves.

3. If we get rid of the death penalty, what’s the alternative?

This rebuttal contention is focused on the insignificant alternatives to the death penalty, which my opponent did not name nor back up with evidence. Yes, innocent and presumed innocent people have been executed, and with the abolition of the death penalty, we will no longer execute these people. If we are able to jail accused offenders instead of putting them on death row, there is still time for the reconsideration of their cases and the redistribution of justice. I do not see how giving falsely accused prisoners a greater chance to clear their name is in any way of lesser value than being put on death row and possibly executed. There is, in fact, evidence that points to the faulty sentencing of death row cases. In a quote from PNAS (2), “Table 1 displays the status of the 7,482 death-sentenced defendants we studied as of December 31, 2004, the final day of our study period. On that date, 12.6% of these defendants had been executed, 1.6% were exonerated, 4% died of suicide or natural causes while on death row, 46.1% remained on death row, and 35.8% were removed from death row but remained in prison after their capital sentences or the underlying convictions were reversed or modified.” (“Table 1” can be found on page two of provided source) Judging by the statistics provided by PNAS, it looks like there is a lot of room for error, considering the fact that of 7,482 death row inmates, 35.8% had been lifted from death row. Capital Punishment is not a sentencing to be thrown around lightly, and abolishing it would remove the room for error that could result in the executions of innocent men and women. Instead of executing inmates, we should imprison them for prolonged sentences, so that they are able to be cut off from the outside world; incapable of doing any more harm. This way, if there are any offenders that were accused of egregious crimes but are in fact innocent, they are not put on death row under the threat of possible execution, and they are able to clear their names. I would like to note that in the previous round, my opponent has agreed that sentencing offenders for life would have an equal impact when compared to executing them, since it isolates them completely. My opponent provides NO evidence to support his claim that banning the death penalty would persecute more innocent people. Honestly, I have no idea where he got this, and I would like to shine some light on the complete and total lack of reasoning and evidence to back up this claim. In fact, banning the death penalty would in fact prevent the imprisonment and possible execution of innocent people for one logical reason; prison sentencing instead of possible execution provides innocent people to appeal their sentencing and possibly clear their name of the applied accusations.

1.) The death penalty prevents murders

In this contention, my opponent focuses on making bland assertions and defenses that are of little or no resolutional value. I did in fact provide substantial evidence to show the lack of deterrence, but my opponent refuses to acknowledge it. Secondly, criminologists are not an unreliable source, they are the best in the field in their area of expertise, and would know the exacts of the inner workings of justice. Saying that criminologists are irreputable is irrelevant, because “authority” are the people who deal with these kinds of crimes and sentencing day by day. Deterrence will be unable to accumulate and effectively take hold, due to the space between sentencing and execution. The death penalty is too expensive to execute and jail prisoners for an average of 15 years, and the preventative efforts will not take hold. Lastly, my opponent makes the startlingly intelligent remark that since the time between execution and sentencing is not mentioned in “news reports mainly”, therefore it does not affect deterrence. This is a fallacy in logic, for your faulty reasoning is clearly evident, and I have provided evidence to support my claims, whereas you make these unsubstantiated claims that attempt but fail to circumvent common sense.

2) The death penalty is a tool for police investigations

The purpose of the debate was to focus on the capital punishment policies in the U.S., and I felt that I needed to clarify that “many countries” does not specifically pertain to the debate topic. Secondly, my opponent continues to label the death penalty as a time saving bargaining chip. Ethics are complicated, and yes many people will not agree. However, threatening death to coerce suspects into cooperating in specifying the specifics of the crimes committed is morally unjustifiable. My version of morality is in fact more important because it focuses on the moral standards of modern societies, not the subjugated opinions of individuals. Sweeping aside the fact that police are using capital punishment as bargaining chips is ignorant and completely ignoring the ethics that surround the issue. This is why my view of morality in regards to capital punishment is superior.

3) The death penalty provides relief for victims

Criticising my use of the word vengeance is irrelevant, considering the fact that vengeance is exactly the kind of relief the victims are feeling when the criminal who harmed their loved one is executed by death penalty. Therefore, this claim against my statements is irrelevant. If we want to delve into the morality of the death penalty, which you have failed to do previously, then let’s do it. Vengeance is something someone feels after revenge has been exacted. Execution from capital punishment, which is the wording I used, is not something to move forward. In a just society, people should not await the execution of offenders to relieve themselves of grief. It isn’t the past part that is conflicting with morality, it is the fact that enacting vengeance is the way to end grief. How can we label ourselves a just moral society when this is the norm? Imprisoning offenders for life is in fact a challenge to the death penalty, because it is the alternative. Also, according to what one person says, we are supposed to believe that enacting vengeance is the best way of relief? If this is true, we have no right to call ourselves just or moral. Finally, in federal courts, the jury decides the indictment of offenders, not the judge.

Overview: Throughout the duration of his arguments, my opponent makes claims falsely asserted, with little or no evidence to back them up. He significantly downplays common statistics with faulty reasoning, and his rebuttals did not effectively challenge my arguments. His ignorance of morality and logic must be accounted for. These reasons, combined with what is self evident and what I have pointed out, is why you should vote Pro!

  1. Pro R2
Debate Round No. 4
25 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Stefanwaal 11 months ago
At the begin of this debate I was undecided about the death penalty. But after round 2 I started to question how rational the death penalty was. Near the end I even considered myself the devils attorney (which got a second meaning after TheProphett started talking about the lack of morality in my arguments :P).

I didn't dare to say this out loud before the end of the debate since questioning your own reasoning isn't good for your reliability.
Posted by bsh1 11 months ago
Stefan, it wouldn't have changed my RFD because I am not clear on how many executions occur in a year (nebulous), and it's still not a big impact. It's a drop in the bucket compared to 12,000-14,000 murders.
Posted by Stefanwaal 11 months ago
Thanks for the vote bsh1. The deterrent effect was actually 8-28 PER EXECUTION according to my source. Since there are multiple executions per year the deterrent effect is bigger. But since I didn't weight the strength of this argument properly I suppose it was easy to miss that detail.
Posted by TheProphett 11 months ago
Wow, thanks for the vote!
Posted by bsh1 11 months ago
All of this analysis leads me to this essential point: I am not persuaded that Con's impacts outweigh Pro's. If I were a policymaker and were looking at these proposals, I wouldn't spend millions more on a program whose best assets are either very small or extremely nebulous. Pragmatically, it makes sense to go with avoiding the clear, big harm than going with the vague, small benefits.Thus, I vote Pro.

It was a good debate. Pro could probably use more data and less emotion to construct his arguments. Con could probably be more thorough in his refutations and be more strategic in what he rebuts versus mitigates, and both could definitely should do more comparative analysis betwixt the relative strength of their collective set of arguments and their opponent's collective set of arguments. But, it was a good debate nonetheless. Hopefully, my RFD was clear, and offered you both useful feedback and commentary. Good luck moving forward!
Posted by bsh1 11 months ago
RFD Part 5

So, Con needs to show that the DP is useful enough to justify incurring the costs that Pro demonstrates the DP has. Frankly, I am not convinced that a weak deterrent which saves--at most--28 people per year, and which probably saves less due to the points Pro raised (Amnesty, correlation) is sufficient to outweigh the costs. Saving millions could empower governments to do a lot with that money, and "a lot" could end up improving or save more than 28 lives. Plus, those 28 lives are at least somewhat offset by the nebulous risk of some innocent deaths, though Pro didn't do nearly enough to show me how much that 28 was offset, so I am going to treat it as if it were only slightly offset. Still, that again reduces Con's impact.

Now, if we factor in the "tool" argument, Con regains some momentum. But, again, I am left totally in the dark about how many cases this tool would help solve, and how many people this tool might protect or how many criminals it might keep out of the community. It's purely a theoretical impact, and theory is necessarily more ambiguous than empirical data. When I am weighing things under a pragmatic standard, it is certainly difficult to assign weight to arguments if I don't actually know their pragmatic effects. In this case, I can only guess at those effects, which undermines the strength of this argument. I am always going to prefer concrete harms to theoretical benefits when I am applying a pragmatic lens to render a decision.
Posted by bsh1 11 months ago
RFD Part 4

Frameworks are essential in moral discussions because they are ways to assess or understand morality within the debate. Without a framework, you leave questions of morality to the judge's raw opinions, and judges' should be inserting their opinions into decisions. So, I grant Con his C2. However, none of this evidence is really put in numerical terms--how helpful really is the DP as a tool? It would only work in cases where people face DP cases, it may terrify innocent people into confessing, and it wouldn't work on all criminals. So, I am left asking myself, how much impact does this point have on real-life outcomes? How useful is it really? How many criminals does it help convict? I would've liked numbers from Con on these questions, but such numbers were not forthcoming.

Finally, Con argues that the DP helps the victim's deal with the crime. Pro's arguments again are primarily appeals to emotions and my moral intuitions, both of which are problematic for reasons I've already stated.

Now, since there is no clear moral framework for the debate, and since both debaters put a lot of emphasis on pragmatism, I am going to evaluate the arguments pragmatically, not morally. Pro saves states millions in dollars, and prevents the DP killing innocent people. Con is winning that there is probably a very weak deterrent impact, that there is a nebulously impacted chance that the DP can be used as a tool, and that it helps the victims deal with crime. I am going to dismiss Con's last impact; people's feelings, under a pragmatic standard, do not weigh against massive monetary savings and reducing crime/death rates.

The clearest impact in this debate is the monetary one. I am certain that the DP is at least 50% more expensive. To pragmatically justify such huge costs, you need to have convincing reasons. Weak reasons are not sufficient to pragmatically justify huge expenditures of that nature, when decent alternatives are present.
Posted by bsh1 11 months ago
RFD Part 3

Moving on to Con's case, this is where I find most of the meaningful clash. If Con is right, and there is some deterrent effect, 8-28 prevented crimes still doesn't seem like a whole lot, to be honest. I also think Pro casts some doubt on how effective this deterrent really is. I buy that his 88% card is an ad populum fallacy, so I discount that one. But, Amnesty's questioning of past research does make me concerned about whether I can trust the data I am given (including Con's), and the correlation argument, while it doesn't indicate causation necessarily, it does undermine the strength of the link Con tries to draw. Nevertheless, neither of Pro's attacks are strong enough to take out Con's argument--Amnesty isn't questioning the research of the specific study Con cites and correlation =/= causation. So, I grant Con that it's possible there is a weak deterrent effect.

Pro now does what Con did when Con rebutted Pro's case--Pro concedes the point. Pro agrees that police can use the risk of the death penalty as an interrogation tool. However, Pro attempts to negate the impact by saying that these kinds of threats are immoral. But, to assess morality and justice, I need some kind of theoretical framework to evaluate whether an action is moral or immoral. For instance, utilitarianism says morality is "the greatest good for the greatest number." By this moral framework, the DP as a tool is 100% moral, in this context. Other moral frameworks would reach different conclusions. Neither debater at any point offers a moral framework for me to interpret moral arguments; without some objective way for me to decide what is or is not moral, any arguments about what is or is not moral are essentially appeals to my moral intuitions as a judge. Pro is basically saying, "judge, look, this is clearly wrong." But this is--at it's core--an appeal to emotion, not an argument grounded in justificatory reasoning. So, I can't evaluate it.
Posted by bsh1 11 months ago
RFD Part 2

So, as additional feedback, Con should've tried to refute, not just mitigate, Pro's assertions. Surely, there are counterplans out there that could bring DP costs in line with regular trials. For Pro, he could've quantified his impacts better--Pro did talk about the prevalence of falsely punishing innocents in R4, but a lot of this evidence was new in the last round, which kind of sandbags your opponent, so I am not sure I can evaluate it (though, me not evaluating the numbers themselves doesn't mean I don't grant Pro that the DP results in innocent deaths). Pro could've also made two good argument: (1) money saved from ending the DP could be spent on police forces, thereby reducing crime, and (2) many people die from wrongful executions, mitigating the benefits of potential deterrence.

On (2), Con said 8-28 murders were prevented due to the DP, but, evidence shows [] that, on average, 5 people per year for the last 22 years have been wrongly killed due to the DP, and those are just the ones we know about/can reasonably infer, so the number is likely higher. Those 5 people represent between 62.5% and 17.9% of the people Con claims deterrence saves. This substantially mitigates Con's impacts. However, I don't see Pro offering this data, so it's not something I can consider.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by bsh1 11 months ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in the comments. Good debate! [Disclaimer: Hayd and Pro asked me to vote on this debate.]