The Instigator
Cermank
Pro (for)
Losing
4 Points
The Contender
thett3
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

On balance, Death Penalty as a punishment has a negative impact on the society

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
thett3
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/27/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 12,366 times Debate No: 38189
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (14)
Votes (3)

 

Cermank

Pro

I’d like to thank my opponent for agreeing to debate this resolution. I hope we both have an enriching debate.

I am going to argue that on balance, death penalty has a negative impact on the society. i.e the presumed improvement in law and order is not offset by the social costs of the decision.

Let us start by taking a case which I believe would be universally abhorrent. Assume a person A kills innocent girls/ women by luring them into his villa. And then eats their cannibalized body parts after killing them. [1]

Nobody in a right state of mind can have any sympathy with the perpetrator. We, in collective conscience believe he deserves the worst of the worse punishments, the point of no return, to signal our deep disgust with his actions. He deserves death, as the war-cry went, in this particular case. Let’s assume that A is guilty, and we KNOW this beyond reasonable doubt, for the sake of the argument.

There are a few problems here. Would killing him numb the pain of the numerous girls that were killed? Unfortunately not, for they are gone. Perhaps his death would ‘bring peace’ to the families of the dead? By what kind of arithmetic would it diminish someone’s pain? Can you really measure the quantum of pain, and the quantum of reduction? Can the death of the girls be recompensated by the death of the perpetrator delivered cold by a hangman? Is an instant death a punishment worse than being socially excluded, and forced to relive his crimes, day after day?

Why, and by what mechanism- is death an effective justice?

Let’s us look at the concepts driving our understanding of death penalty being a sort of ‘just’ punishment.

How death penalty is carried out in various countries, is by being based on an effectively ‘rarest of the rare’ condition. Most of the countries recognize that death by state has a limited place in a civilized society. For a state to decide that a person has revoked his right to live, he has to commit a crime so heinous that such a judgment can be legitimized. Death penalty cases in US, for example, the use of death penalty as a punishment has severely declined in the last six years [2]. As has the public support for death penalty [3]. In India, the death penalty has to be handed out contingent on the fact that the case falls in the ‘rarest of the rare case’ category. It is no longer a punishment handed out lightly.

That judgment is reserved for the state to decide. So it is not sufficient that a person has died for the perpetrator to be granted death penalty, he has to die in a way horrible enough to invoke public fury, to justify that the death demanded another death. So a cheating wife who died because her husband shot her after the discovery might not by handed out death penalty (crime of passion), but a person who died because an insurgent killed her is eligible for it, because the latter is, for a lack of better word, rarer. The collective conscience condemns it. Even though for a family, the death is exactly the same. The pain is exactly the same. It’s just that the society has decided, by an arbitrary ranking of pain on an opaque measuring glass that the latter is more horrible, and deserves a more severe punishment. To measure a death based on a progressive scale of horror is both arbitrary and ultimately futile.

The notion of ‘worth’ is constructed more by social and political exigencies (which inevitably foreground the ephemeral cost-benefit analysis of a given decision rather than universally testable claims to justice) than by any real response to pain or wrongdoing. A man who rapes + kills in an insurgency operation in Afghanistan, (Or Kashmir/ North-East India) for example, might not even be brought to trial- but a person who does the same thing in a city would be killed. The call for the highest of the highest punishment is frought with arbitrary standards that systematically devalue life of a certain individuals.

However we CANNOT know beyond doubt the guilt of a person. Death penalty is bad because even if the state convicts one guilty person based on some incriminating evidences, the penalty sets up a precedent for others to be convicted for the same level of charges, increasing the level of false convictions. A court case is two humans trying to prove who’s the guilty one based on some circumstantial evidences they found. There is a high level of uncertainty. There have been numerous instances of people being found innocent after they have been conviced, based on technological advancement. In case a person has been awarded a life sentence, there is still a possibility of him being released honourably, for him to tie the threads of his life. There is a scope for recompensation. That is forever cancelled once the state kills them off. Also, more importantly, the false convictions feed off the momentum generated by the public outcry that calls for calming the *outrage of collective conscience*. Unfortunately, the monster forever stays hungry.

Since 1973, 124 people have been exonerated and freed from death row. About half of these exonerations took place in the past ten years. Many other people on death row have been freed from prison through newly discovered DNA evidence, also in the past decade. The reasons for misidentification remains faulty eye witnesses, ineffective lawyers, withheld evidences, false confessions. Sometimes we forget that the judgment process consists of two humans effectively trying to rebuild what happened in the past through the eyes of stakeholders in the case. The whole process is shaky. To drive the point home: This is the list of people exonerated posthumously or were later found to be wrongfully convicted AFTER being punished with death penalty.[5]

Perhaps devaluing certain lives would be a cost we would be willing to pay, if it lead to measurable deterrence impact? Unfortunately, empirical evidence is not conclusive on that count.


The literature on this impact has been consistently non conclusive. While most deterrence research has found that the death penalty has virtually the same effect as long-term imprisonment on homicide rates, in the mid-1970's economist Isaac Ehrlich reported that he had uncovered a significant deterrent effect. Although scholars, including a panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, strongly criticized Ehrlich's work for methodological and conceptual shortcomings, it still continues to be cited as a prominent advocacy work. A recent judgment by the National Research Council, however, suggests that the “…research to date is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, these studies should not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide.

What these evidences is that we do not know whether the death penalty has a considerable negative OR positive impact, thus the impact of death penalty has to be looked entirely from the point of view of moral impact on the society and the unintended consequence on the society.


Summing up, death penalty is regressive for the society because it devalues the life of the individual i.e the very premise of awarding death penalty is ethically unsound. Also, there is a high possibility of innocent being prosecuted, and given the technology is forever progressing, there is a probability of picking up the threads later and recompensating the person to whom the wrongful act is done. IF not, and he’s legitimately guilty, a life imprisonment is a better retributive justice than a death penalty.

From the society’s point of view, the Nithari killer is as good as dead once he’s locked in solitary confinement. The only reason people raised a cry for death penalty was because apparently, they found something ‘just’ in taking an eye for an eye. This collective conscience monster is dangerous, because it feeds off itself, and sensationalist news coverages in the media, killing off innocents both in and outside the case.

thett3

Con

Thanks to Pro for the challenge.

Framework

Note that the resolution is not about if capital punishment is a just punishment, but rather asks us to evaluate it's effect on societies as a whole. This mandates a cost benefit analysis for societies best interest. My argument will thus be based upon the societal effects of capital punishment to determine it's overall worth. I'd also like to apologize in advance for using so much evidence from the US, but as the only "fully developed" Western nation using the death penalty, much of the literature that exists is US specific. My sole contention will be that the death penalty saves innocent lives, which serves the overall betterment of society for obvious reasons.

I. Saves innocents

A) Recidivism

Capital Punishment aids society by preventing harmful criminals from ever killing again. Life imprisonment often fails to keep prisoners from killing again--take for example the case of Clarence Ray Allen, serving a life sentence in California, who colluded with another inmate to murder the witnesses of his crime once paroled[1], resulting in 3 innocent lives taken. Consider also failures in security systems, leading to escapes of dangerous criminals such as the Texas Seven[2] who killed a police officer and damaged property upon escape. It is for this reason that in 2009 in the US 8.6% of those on death row had a prior homicide conviction, and over 5% of those on death row committed their capital crime while in custody or during an escape[3]. For the US, here's a short list of murderers released to kill again, including Kenneth McDuff who killed 9 women after his death sentence was overturned[4]. Why should a society put its citizens at such a risk?

This risk is even higher in poorer countries who cannot afford the extensive and expensive security systems and guards present in the US. The many failures of the US system ought to show us quite clearly the need to permanently take out violent murderers in other countries.

Consider also the death penalty as a bulwark protecting the sentence of life imprisonment(with or without parole). That is, as long as the death penalty stands, life without parole will not be challenged by those wishing to lessen sentences for criminals, as they will prefer to lobby against the death penalty instead. This can be empirically shown in countries lacking capital punishment, many of whom have abolished the sentence of life imprisonment[5]. Compare this to countries practicing the death penalty, none of whom have abolished life imprisonment. Moreover the European human rights court just ruled Life Without Parole a human rights violation[6], and time served for murder in the UK, for example, is significantly shorter than in the US[7], so even assuming that prisoners won't escape or kill in prison, life imprisonment won't be safe if the death penalty is gone. The only way to ensure prisoners never get out is to maintain the death penalty. This means my opponents case doesn't even solve for her alternative to capital punishment, "the Nithari killer...locked in solitary confinement"

B) Deterrence

As Murray Rothbard once argued[8]: "While it is impossible to prove the degree of deterrence, it seems indisputable that some murders would be deterred by the death penalty." Rothbard further argues that the position that capital punishment doesn't deter comes dangerously close to arguing that no penalties deter crime, a "manifestly absurd" view. A myriad of recent studies have concluded a deterrence effect as well. Contra my opponent who cites evidence criticizing studies made in the 1970s as inconclusive on deterrence, the current literature shows clearly that people follow their incentives.

University of Colorado found in 2003 that each execution results in five fewer murders, and a study from Emory University found that each execution led to between 3 and 18 fewer murders[9]. Raw statistics paint a clear picture as well.

As a typical example, the state which utilizes the death penalty most earnestly, Texas, shows us that[10]:

"...[The] murder rate in 1991 was 15.3 per 100,000. By 1999, it had fallen to 6.1—a drop of 60 percent. Within Texas, the most aggressive death penalty prosecutions are in Harris County... Since the resumption of executions in 1982, the annual number of Harris County murders has plummeted from 701 to 241—a 72 percent decrease."

This is county specific data showing us, once again, that people follow their incentives. This is why William Tucker, in his analysis of the deterrence effect concluded that[11]: "To put the matter simply, over the past 40 years, homicides have gone up when executions have gone down and vice versa." While this statistical peddling is an oversimplification of the issue, the fact remains that all the analysis points in one direction to various degrees, all in my favor.

Murderers themselves have even commented on how the threat of execution may have deterred them from their horrific crimes, such as Luis Vera who stated regarding his murder of the tenant of an apartment he was robbing[12]: "I knew I wouldn’t go to the chair."

Reducing crime is the primary social (not justice related) function of criminal justice systems[13].


Opponents case

Now let's turn to my opponents case. For clarity I'll divide it into several points of contention.

Futile

My opponent argues that the death penalty is futile because giving death for certain "horrific" crimes while not giving it for others is arbitrary and devalues life, and that the pain brought on by deaths are the same no matter how it happened. I agree to a point, however this calls into question *all* punishments. Unless my opponent is advocating governments giving mandatory sentences to every person convicted of a crime (a proposition I'll gladly argue against), inequality in sentences for the same crime, or judging the severity of a crime by somewhat arbitrary standards is going to exist always which could also devalue life, or other values ect. I could just as easily argue that since every prison is different and some are worse than others, giving some murderers life in a nice prison (think Norway) compared to a comparatively bad one in the US. Her impact is non unique to the death penalty and indeed is an argument against punishment in general, while offering no alternative to the current systems worldwide.

Moreover, my opponent gives you no way to weigh this. How much does this devalue life? How does it outweigh any positive impacts coming off the death penalty? I argue that failure to implement a policy that will save innocent lives cheapens life more than any abstract point brought up by my opponent.

This is not an a priori argument against the death penalty but rather qualms with the current system. Compare this to my arguments that bring out inherent problems with penalties other than death.

Innocence

This is an easily turnable argument. For one, the very releases she cites are happening due to technological increases. This shows that less innocents will be convicted than would have in the past. Secondly, the impact of innocents being executed is outweighed by the lives saved by executing--remember we're concerned with society, not necessarily justice.

More importantly however, due to the urgency of death penalty cases organizations and governments concerned with freeing innocents focus their efforts on death sentences, as the numbers show. There have been 142 innocents released from death row[14]. The total number of death row prisoners combined with the number executed since 1976 is 4455[15][16]. This amounts to 3.1%. There are 140,610 people serving life sentences in the US[17], and 1045 non death row releases[14]. This amounts to .07% of people sentenced to life imprisonment released on innocence, despite more innocents probably being sentenced to life due to plea deals.

For an innocent, a sentence of death likely means eventual freedom, imprisonment means almost certain death in prison.



http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 1
Cermank

Pro

I thank Con for his timely argument. And I hope the atrocious formatting doesn't take away from the content of the arguments. Pardon my technological incompetence.

Rebuttals:

  1. Guilty can’t ever kill again: Con argued that Capital Punishment helps society by preventing the guilty by ever killing again. A person punished with life imprisonment without parole cannot either, by the same logic. In a state without death penalty as a legitimate punishment, LWOP is the obvious substitute.

    A person who was granted life imprisonment without parole even when there was a possibility of death penalty would probably be given the same punishment when there’d no possibility of the same. Unless Con is arguing the death penalties should be given out more rigorously (which would lead to an increase in innocent being convicted, as an obvious unintended consequence), this doesn’t really give any support to death penalty argument.

    Con supports his contention using examples. However, it should be noted that murderers have the lowest rate of recidivism. In fact, just 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide again. Compare that to recidivism rate among robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%). Even rapists have a higher rate of recidivism at 2.5%. [1] Thus it is fair to assume that the decision mechanism used by the government to ensure that a murderer is granted parole/ limited time imprisonment is working. The risk the society faces has been overweighed by a few high profile sensationalist cases.


Another point my opponent brings up is the failures of security system. Although the problem of security failure is more of an externality than a norm, there are two points to be noted here:

a) A person on a death penalty row would be more desperate to exploit these security failures, given that men intrinsically fear death more. And they have less to lose. Abolition of death penalty, then, would actually be useful here. However, even people on life sentence, if have the capability to exploit these failures, wouldn’t really be averse to use them. The inherent solution here is to improve the security; this doesn’t really say anything about the kind of sentence laid out.

b) A person who has been given the ultimate verdict of death penalty still has years to go before the ultimate execution. Prisoners have to wait years before the final execution takes place due to time consuming appeal procedures mandated in the jurisdiction. The time between sentencing and execution has increased steadily between 1977 and 2010. In 2010, a death row inmate waited an average of 178 months (close to 15 years) between the sentence and the final execution. [2] Thus at any given point of time, there is a high probability that death penalty inmates would escape, the basic problem wouldn’t go away ever, contingent on the fact that the security doesn’t improve. That is the unintended consequence of having a complex and time consuming appeal procedure.


Lastly, my opponent points out that the death penalty acts as a safeguard of the sanctity of life imprisonment, since people focus on abolishing death penalty rather than life imprisonment. The argument has a flavor of slippery slope, since under this particular contention, we aren’t arguing against life imprisonment.

a) The social and cultural contingencies of European Union are widely different from those of other parts of the world.

b) The arguments against death penalty are in an entirely different vein from the arguments against life imprisonment. Abolition of death penalty relies on a strong life imprisonment policy. Even if abolition of death penalty leads to abolition of life imprisonment, that doesn’t strengthen the case for death penalty. IF death penalty is morally abhorrent and socially futile, the fact that it would lead to abolition of life imprisonment doesn’t really say much. It shouldn’t be kept on *just* to keep life imprisonment in place.

2. Deterrence: As I stated in my first round, the studies on deterrence impact have been consistently non-conclusive. On April 2012, National Research Council was asked to assess whether the available evidence provides a scientific basis for answering questions of if and how the death penalty affects homicide rates. The committee examined studies that have been conducted on deterrence and the death penalty since the 1976 Supreme Court decision in Gregg vs. Georgia, which ended a four-year moratorium on executions.
It concluded that “that research to date is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, these studies should not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide. Claims that research demonstrates that capital punishment decreases or increases the homicide rate or has no effect on it should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment.”[3] Thus the deterrence impact my opponent speaks of has already been refuted by the NRC.

For the murderers themselves stating that they didn't kill because of teh hanging sword, for example, there was the basic statistical error of an incomplete and implausible model of potential murderers perception of and the response to the use of capital punishment.

Defense

  1. Futile: Con raises an important point. Why have these qualms with just death penalty? Why not every form of punishment? The answer is because death penalty is the only punishment that fuels off the public cry for justice, and thus has the highest probability of being wrought in political and social contingencies. When a person is being granted death penalty because he’s to be isolated from the society, the aim can be easily fulfilled by punishing him with a LWOP. It is this, and solely this punishment, that tries to gain something extra- it is not enough to isolate him, he has to be killed by the state to *prove a point*, the point that his crime was so heinous that his life isn’t worth living. This arbitrary line is what is decided by the state, and exactly why the devaluation of life comes into picture.


There are no positive impacts coming off from death penalty, the only extra *impact* it has on the society is the political and social demons it satisfies. And it should be noted, again, that the social demons are never satisfied fully. In fact, with one death penalty, a standard for the future referral of death penalties is set, fuelling this collective social desire for murder.

Innocence: It seems that Con is okay with innocents being murdered as long as some guilty are being killed off (even though LWOP would ensure that the guilty people do not interact with the society, and result in essentially the same outcome). It has to noted that we do not know the definable amount of lives being saved by death penalty, given that there is strong research on both sides, and the latest research blew holes in all of them. He agrees that the innocent ARE being killed though, so that’s one argument down.

Secondly, the only reason Life imprisonment isn’t given that much urgency while reopening cases is because death penalty is more urgent. With death penalty being abolished, LWOP would be the highest level of punishment, and would be given due focus. Todays judicial behaviour can't be modelled on a potential future system.

I look forward to the next round.

[1] http://www.bjs.gov...
[2] http://journalistsresource.org...#

[3] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

thett3

Con

Thanks again to Pro, I'll rebuild my case, refute Pros.


I. Saves lives

A) Recidivism

Pro argues that recidivism is lowest among murderers--this is an argument in favor of capital punishment, as the harsh penalties applied to murderers often keep them from killing again (you can cross apply this logic to deterrence--people follow their incentives). She drops all my specific examples, claiming that since they were isolated examples they don't give me any positive ground. Maybe this would be more compelling if Pro's advocacy wasn't based upon even fewer instances. My argument was never that recidivism is widespread, but rather that the only way to ensure it doesn't happen is to apply the death penalty to murderers. Pro argues I gain no ground from this if I don't advocate executing every murderer, but that makes no sense. One of the examples I cited was actually someone who's death sentence was overturned and ended up murdering 9 people. I cited another person who was serving a life sentence and still got three people killed. This is the direct result of imprisonment over death.

Pro drops that poorer nations can't afford extensive security (another positive externality from the death penalty) and makes no argument on people escaping in developed nations. All she says is that people on death row will be more likely to try to escape due to fear of death--I'm glad Pro agrees with me that death is a huge negative incentive, proving the logic of deterrence. I actually agree with Pro here, but I doubt seriously the added incentive has enough of an impact to outweigh my argument, and if it does Pro hasn't proven so. What are the numbers?

Pro argues that the death penalty isn't always instant and that this lessens the impact of deterring escape. This is true, but it's not an a priori argument against the death penalty but rather a very specific attack on one nations system. Pro doesn't impact this. What percent of death row inmates escape due to the added time? I think it's clear where this point flows.

Life imprisonment?

Pro accuses me of the slippery slope fallacy but doesn't question the logic behind it. Without the death penalty to lobby against, people against harsh sentences for criminals will direct their resources to life imprisonment. This is empirically shown by comparing nations that use the death penalty to nations that have abolished life without parole--there is no overlap. Pro argues that the culture of the EU is different from the rest of the world without explaining how it is in relation to punishment, but the countries that abolished life imprisonment include several in South America, Asia, and one in Africa, it doesn't just happen in Europe.

Pro also misunderstands the argument. I'm not saying that the death penalty should be upheld just to keep life imprisonment, rather I'm providing an internal link to show how societies react to the abolition of the death penalty. Again, this means Pro doesn't even solve for her own case.

B) Deterrence

Pro drops all of my logic on this point, extend it all. Remember, people follow their incentives and responses Pro has made to my arguments (like death row inmates trying to escape more) prove the logic of this point. I even cited a murderer who said he committed murder because he "knew [he] wouldn't go to the chair". Like Rothbard argued, it's a manifestly absurd view to argue that punishment does not deter crime and as such it is without a doubt that some crimes are deterred.

I actually agree with my opponents card regarding the studies trying to prove deterrence--there are too many variables to be sure. That's why her card decided it was inconclusive that capital punishment deterred crime based off the studies. I cited the studies to prove that, for the literature that exists, it's all in my favor. Note also that Pro entirely drops the empirical data I cite that goes down to a county specific level. Really the question comes down to which side should we err in favor of? If the death penalty does deter crime (and all the logic, statistics, and studies prove so--even if the studies are measuring something difficult to quantify) and society doesn't use it, then the criminal justice system is failing in it's primary social goal of deterring future crime (dropped by Pro).

Again, we are not necessarily talking about justice but rather the overall effects of capital punishment on society. Saving lives benefits society for obvious reasons, and it's clear who comes out on top here.

Opponents case

a) Futile

Pro argues that the death penalty is unjust because it is "..the only punishment that fuels off the public cry for justice.." which is wholly false. Anyone who's read about or experienced, for example, the United States in the 90's when there was widespread outcry for politicians to get "tough on crime", led to harsher prison sentences, three strikes laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, trying juveniles as adults and, yes, increased use of capital punishment knows this is patently false. I honestly am not understanding Pro's argument here, why is the death penalty alone subject to the issues of devaluing life? Like I argued before, there is always going to be some differences in sentencing to be decided at the jurors/judges discretion. Again her impact is not being solved by her alternative of life imprisonment.

Pro argues that the death penalty is bad when people are killed to "prove a point" that their crimes were so heinous that they shouldn't be alive and somehow this devalues life but doesn't explain how. I could just as easily argue that increased imprisonment for particularly brutal kidnappings devalues freedom. Again, Pro doesn't solve for this impact if it even exists.

b) Innocence

I'm really surprised that Pro dropped a lot of my arguments here. You can extend the argument that incorrect sentencing is decreasing due to technological advances. Pro argues absurdly that life without parole would have the same outcome despite a large chunk of my first contention proving the very opposite, and remember that empirics show us we wont HAVE life without parole without the death penalty so her alternative can't solve. Recall also that since Pro didn't give any numbers on how many people have been executed unjustly she cannot outweigh my impacts. She asserts that I'm "okay with" murdering innocents but I could accuse her of the same by opposing the death penalty despite the recidivism and deterrence impact.

Pro drops all of my statistics, the very meat of my argument. The only thing she offers in return is that if we abolish the death penalty the focus will shift onto life imprisonment cases. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the system works. If there were many social workers trying to prove innocence for each prisoner, we wouldn't have a problem but what we actually have are very few people that care enough to do the research and lobbying required to prove someone innocent. This means that while they can focus their efforts on the few death penalty cases and actually review them well and efficiently, compared to the multitude of life imprisonment cases that would overwhelm their efforts. My point here is that an innocent sentenced to death is highly unlikely to actually be executed, while an innocent shipped off to prison will almost certainly stay there forever as the empirical evidence shows.

People given life imprisonment also only get one automatic appeal compared to many for death penalty cases--they have fewer chances to get their message out and the cost of the death penalty appeals process will prevent countries from ever giving it to all their prisoners sentenced to life. Want to save some innocents from a horrible death in prison? Then we must maintain the death penalty.

Remember also that we aren't talking about the justice aspect of the penal system but the social side. I save more innocents by far than my opponent and as such I benefit society more. That's the resolution we're debating.


Debate Round No. 2
Cermank

Pro

Thanks again to Con.

One of the fundamental aspect to be clear on this debate is the deterrence effect, before going over the recidivism, and the justice aspect.

Con accepted that the studies measuring the deterrence effect are flawed. However, he continues to cite the studies, presumably because of the logic behind it. He proposes that people follow their incentives, and hence they should technically lower the crime rate. Also, he points out that since we are going to err anyway, in favour of one or the other study, it would be beneficial to err in favour of death penalty rather than against. I respond to the argument on three levels:

  1. There is this implicit assumption in Con’s argument that all the literature that exists on the phenomenon is in his favour. That is untrue. The research conducted by Radelet and Akers (1996) and Michael L. Radelet and Traci L. Lacock (2009) that surveyed leading American criminologists concluded this lack of deterrence effect based on the existing research at that time.[1] Notice that the people surveyed were either fellows of American Society of Criminology, recipients of ASC Sutherland’s award, OR were president of ASC between 1997 and the present. Thus there’s a relatively high level of credibility.
  2. On the contention that people follow their incentives, and that one off statement; that is something that the NSC report already addressed, as I’ve already stated. Flawed models. There are a myriad of reasons why a person commits a crime. A terrorist guided by the aura of ‘eternal reward’. For some, death brings freedom. Vinay Sharma, for example, one of the perpetrators of the ghastly 21st December rape in India, asked for death penalty since he was ‘scared of imprisonment’.[2] Jodi Arias, after being convicted of murder, said that she’d prefer death penalty over ‘spend(ing) the rest of my natural life in one place”. ” Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist who carried out the 26/11 Mumbai attacks demanded the state to kill him, rather than imprisoning him.[3].

    Please note that I’m not making an argument for no deterrence impact of death penalty, I’m merely stating that the arguments used by my opponent to forward the deterrence impact are fallacious.
  3. As for the country specific data, [4] “For 2011, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.7, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.1” I actually responded to this in the previous round. The trend has been consistant. a k a Negative impact on the society.

Next, recidivism. Con states that the lowest recidivism rate is an argument for capital punishment, since that relates to them following their incentives. Which would make sense, if it was not for the fact that these are the people who have already committed murders. And were imprisoned for it. And they didn’t commit those crimes again. I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe it points out to the fact that many of the murders are committed in a fit of rage, or as revenge, and the prospect of death is a cost they are willing to take.

Con then accuses me of not providing counter examples, which was perplexing. I can provide examples of people who were arrested for committing murders, and didn’t recommit murder(?), but I already provided statistics for proving the point.

Con misunderstood the ‘give out death to everyone point’ he thought I made. I’m not advocating DP to everyone, I’m stating that IF a person was granted life imprisonment EVEN when he could be granted capital punishment, that implies that the mechanism to hand out death penalty (which Con admits is quite rigorous) bypassed him. This is a cost, an anomaly. It doesn’t really prove anything. One can stop recidivism by a life imprisonment without the possibility of a parole, which effectively rules out any communication with the outside world. DP ALSO does that, true, but with an added cost of killing innocents and setting a precedent. Removing recidivism is impossible because of assymetric information.

Breaking out of prisons, again, isn’t a norm. The prison escapes were a mere 0.5 per 1000 in 2001, for example. [4] Escaping from jails is an extremely insignificant outlier- and doesn’t really strengthen any argument for death penalty.

Even if we entertain that argument, states can save millions of dollars by substituting death penalty by life in prison. The number is $ 11 million a year for North Carolina[6] $90,000 per year per inmate in California [7]. In Garden states before abolition, the cost over 23 years was quarter bln $. And the number of executions were zero. Death penalties are a huge drain on resources, and the cost saved by abolishing them can be very effectively used to improve the security problem in any country. Even in poor countries.

Life imprisonment: Con contends that I did not argue against the logic of his argument here. That if there was no death penalty, people would focus their attention on life imprisonment, and succeed in abolishing it. The assumption here is that it is impossible to find a middle spot, and that because EU deems LWOP immoral, every country with DP abolished would find that too. There is just no evidence of that, most of the countries which abolished Life imprisonment were either colonized or culturally influenced by Spain or Portugal, which is decidedly not true for the rest of the world. About the fact that the average life sentence handed out has been reducing, which is untrue. [8] For violent crimes, it has actually been increasing in UK, which was the example my opponent gave. [9]

Defence

Futile: I’ll break it down. Limited imprisonment implies that a person has done a crime, is punished for it, but is fit to be released in the public after a set time. The number of years in prison for a robbery, for example, is less than the assault, so you need more time to correct for assault. With LWOP, however, you are assured you WILL spend the rest of your life in prison so you are not fit to be released in public, ever. Death penalty achieves the same thing; you won't be released in public ever, so from the society’s POV it is exactly the same, except the state sponsored judgment on the validity of your life. True, there would be differences in the judgment in any system, and hence inherent gradations of crimes that would lead to intrinsic devaluation of certain crimes, but that devaluation is the basis of granting DP. This answers his second contention too. There’s no addition in the severity here from societies POV, just an abstract notion of eye for eye, which is why it is futile.

Innocence: Con argued that the number of innocents being wrongfully convicted is going down (not becoming 0) because of improvement in technology. However, it is but one of the reason for wrongful conviction. Poor lawyers, false witnesses, withheld evidences, false confessions, are still present. DNA evidence is available only in a fraction of capital cases. The following list points out at the haziness and arbitrariness of the judgment process.[10]

B. Con overlooks the dichotomy between life with and without parole. LWOP is equivalent to death penalty from the societies POV, without the inherent judgments and innocents being killed. Also, I apologize but I couldn’t find the stats for non death row releases in the given link. However, we DO know that post DNA, there have been 311 exonerations, out of which just 18 had served time on death row. Thus there is an underestimation of the impact of a technological advance on non death penalties here.[11]

But more importantly, the number of releases are bound to increase once DP is illegalized, as I stated previously.

In closing, death penalty adds no more safety to society than LWOP, systematically devalues life AND does lead to killing innocent people. Sets up a precedent for others to be killed for same level of charges, increasing the false convictions. (Something I realized my opponent didn’t address). Aka a net negative impact to the society.

thett3

Con

Thanks to Pro for the debate.

My case

A) Recidivism

You can extend the argument that lowered recidivism rates in murder are due to harsher penalties. Pro asserts that most murders are committed in a "fit of rage", yet to even qualify for capital murder crimes typically have to be premeditated[1]. Pro's responses to this argument are perplexing. She's failed to argue against any my examples, yet still tries to argue that life imprisonment solves...and yet, as I will reiterate one of my examples was of someone serving a life sentence who still killed 3 people. I also provided statistics showing how the danger of escape or killing in prison is possible, without a response from Pro. For a more extensive list of murderers who murdered again, see R1. Pro gives statistics (way too late in the debate) showing that prison escapes are rare, but you have to prefer mine that study the kinds of criminals condemned to die and shows much higher rates of break outs for these people.

Pro also drops that poorer countries can't afford proper security measures to contain murderers so you can extend that. All she argues is (again way too late in the debate) that the death penalty costs more. First it's unfair for her to make this argument so late into the debate, secondly turn this argument as it proves my logic on life imprisonment and innocence--the costs of appeals are so high that there's no way countries will give them to people given life in prison--this is why they are far less likely to get out if innocent. Third this is an attack on the US system specifically, not an a priori argument against the death penalty. Fourth Pro gains no advantage--she argues this money COULD be used to improve security, but unless abolishing the death penalty will cause states to put more money into security she gains no advantage. Thus this point is callously writing away lives to save money.

Remember, the social purpose of a justice system is to prevent future crime. Life imprisonment is inferior to the death penalty in this regard.

B) Deterrence

Honestly I'm pretty disappointed with Pro for dropping tons of new evidence/arguments against this in the final round. It's a really cheap tactic.

Regardless, Pros arguments fundamentally fail. It's nice that she has a card that surveyed criminologists disagree with the deterrence but unless she had given a compelling logical warrant from one of them that overpowers mine, the mere opinions of a group of people talking about research don't win over the data I've presented. I even cited a murderer who said he committed his murder because he "knew [he] wouldn't go to the chair". Like Rothbard said, it goes without saying that the death penalty deters some murders. Pro argues that people are so afraid of death that they're statistically significantly more likely to try to escape yet doesn't address anywhere that people follow their incentives. She just says "flawed models" as if attacking the research is somehow attacking the logical warrant. Pro doesnt even cite any research contrary to mine. The models are probably flawed because there are so many variables, but if each and every conclusion points the same way (if there are studies showing the opposite Pro didn't show them) then it's clear where this point flows.

Pro again drops the statistical data I presented. The good thing about my data is it compares the metaphorical apples to apples. Her statistic (brought in way too late) comparing the different states in the US is not compelling as the states are all different, sometimes radically so. They have different climates, populations, size, police forces, justice systems, and to try and compare them using one policy is wholly unacceptable. Prefer my comparison of a specific state and a specific county to itself. Again this is not to say that all the decrease can be attributed to the death penalty, but rather that the studies, statistics, untouched warrant of people following their incentives and the actual murderer agreeing with the deterrent effect provide a more compelling rationale to the question of deterrence than anything Pro has offered.

Pro brings up another new argument that some people want the death penalty. First she cites Jodi Arias who immediately after flip flopped and pled for life[2]. More importantly this is an extremely uncompelling argument not least because she gives no statistical data but because death is a huge negative incentive for obvious reasons. If Pro thinks enough people don't mind death to have a significant impact on deterrence she shouldn't have argued that innocents getting executed is bad. To take a quick sample in the US only 1 out of 43 people executed in 2012 wanted the death penalty[3].

Remember that the social purpose of the justice system. It should err on the side of deterrence.

Life imprisonment

Pro still doesnt solve for her own case. She bizarrely argues that the reason non EU countries abolished life imprisonment was because they were influenced by European countries then argues that the EU carries no clout despite European countries having colonized virtually every country in the world. Along with responding too late to my comparison of the UK and the US she fails to understand it. Even if terms in the UK are on the up they're still SIGNIFICANTLY shorter than the US. Like deterrence, the logical warrant behind this argument was dropped as Pro focused her attacks on specific details. At the very least the chances of life imprisonment being abolished significantly increases if the death penalty is gone.

Opponents case

a) Futile

Pro argues that the death penalty is the same from societies viewpoint as life (despite my case proving the very opposite), but she argues this devalues life because it is a "state sponsored judgment on the validity of your life." The problem is she never explained why this devalues life and even if you buy this it's non unique. Life imprisonment is a state sponsored judgement on the validity of your freedom if this is the case.

There is simply no substance to this argument, and it is not properly weighed to determine its impact.

b) Innocence

Pro argues that there are other ways a person could be wrongly convicted. This is true, but unfortunately it's brought up way too late in the debate and she doesn't impact it. The fact is that the chances of executing an innocent are decreasing significantly every year, and the healthy societal effects of the death penalty vastly outweigh this. Pro gives no numbers on how many innocents die so we can't weigh it.

I'm sorry Pro didn't find my numbers about non death row releases. To clarify, the article gave the number of death row exonerations followed by the number of total exonerations, so it was deducted by simple math. Pro makes no response to the statistics I cited. People sentenced to die who are innocent are more likely to get out by a factor of about 44 (.07% of lifers released on innocence compared with 3.1% of those condemned to die). Pro argues that death row inmates are underrepresented in the released from new technology, but 5% of those released on DNA evidence being death sentences and death sentences representing ~2.5% murder convictions[4] shows how OVER represented death row inmates are in those freed. This shows once again how the pressures involved with the death penalty forces extra scrutiny be applied to those cases.

Pro drops my argument about the appeals process and how this will not exist for life prisoners meaning innocents have fewer chances to get their message out. Pro also argues that the effort will shift down to LWOP but she failed to counter my arguments about efficiency. The sheer amount of life prisoners will overwhelm the few people dedicated to proving innocence--this is why they do this so rarely right now. The death penalty also adds a sense of urgency to motivate otherwise unaffiliated people.

Thus if we value the freedom of innocents, and the lives of innocents, we must negate.

http://tinyurl.com...;

Debate Round No. 3
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Eitan_Zohar 3 years ago
Eitan_Zohar
Ah, I intended to... drat.
Posted by ben2974 3 years ago
ben2974
I would argue that society and justice are intertwining issues; justice is something that is interpreted from many angles, and, as a factor among many others, helps carve societal and cultural expectations. If we can change the notion of justice, we will change society.
Posted by Cermank 3 years ago
Cermank
Thanks wrich :)

I'll elaborate on (1) after the voting period ends. Perhaps I should have been clearer on this one.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
CONCLUSION:

This debate got messy rather quickly. PRO's line of argumentation became more and more unclear as the debate progressed. CON's reliance on statistics, many of which were far too specific (statistics from one county??), were difficult to follow.

The main points I got out of the debate:

PRO's case about vindicating innocents favoring LWOP largely survives this debate, although IMHO the argumentation weakened substantially by the end of the debate.

CON's case regarding the slippery slope of elimination of DP => elimination of LWOP went unchallenged, and I found this to be the clearest and most pertinent refutation of PRO's case. With this argument uncontested, any stance PRO takes on LWOP is also refuted. Thus, I score arguments CON.

I found PRO to have been more convincing with sources. By the end of the debate I had fully taken her stance on deterrence, regardless of CON's voluminous objections, so I will award sources PRO. I found CON's repeated references to Rothbard to be, no offense, almost comical. Rothbard is not a criminologist.

Very detailed debate, although IMHO the detail sacrificed clarity as a result. Regardless, it was an interesting read, and I thank PRO/CON for holding this debate.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
20) CON: "That's why her card decided it was inconclusive that capital punishment deterred crime based off the studies. I cited the studies to prove that, for the literature that exists, it's all in my favor."

I don't understand this. The studies are inconclusive, but we can conclude that they favor CON??

21) CON: "Pro drops all of my statistics, the very meat of my argument...My point here is that an innocent sentenced to death is highly unlikely to actually be executed, while an innocent shipped off to prison will almost certainly stay there forever as the empirical evidence shows."

I wrote off most of those statistics as being, well, statistically insignificant. I also do not remember a statistic that showed this exact point.

22) CON: "Want to save some innocents from a horrible death in prison? Then we must maintain the death penalty. "

Hmm...interesting argument, that LWOP is a de facto death penalty.

23) CON: "Remember also that we aren't talking about the justice aspect of the penal system but the social side. I save more innocents by far than my opponent and as such I benefit society more. That's the resolution we're debating."

Wait, what? I thought this was about a cost-benefit analysis.

24) PRO: "Death penalties are a huge drain on resources, and the cost saved by abolishing them can be very effectively used to improve the security problem in any country."

PRO should have brought this up much earlier. As it is, by introducing arguments in the final round, she consents to CON rebutting them with argumentation and sources as well.

25) PRO: "Thus there is an underestimation of the impact of a technological advance on non death penalties here."

This haziness would apply to any process of vindication as well.

26) Overall, the closings did not change my views on this debate.

(conclusion next).
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
12) PRO: "A person on a death penalty row would be more desperate to exploit these security failures, given that men intrinsically fear death more. "

This strengthens CON's point on deterrence.

13) PRO: "Abolition of death penalty relies on a strong life imprisonment policy. "

Per CON's article, this is not true in Europe.

14) PRO: " IF death penalty is morally abhorrent and socially futile, the fact that it would lead to abolition of life imprisonment doesn"t really say much. "

While this is an effective argument, are you abandoning your LWOP position? If so, what about the consequences of letting people guilty of "rarest of the rare" crimes out into the streets?

15) I will side with the NRC as a more credible source than the American Heritage Foundation regarding deterrence, and will conclude based upon strength of sources that evidence on deterrence is inconclusive.

16) CON: "...death penalty is the only punishment that fuels off the public cry for justice...the aim can be easily fulfilled by punishing him with a LWOP."

Contradictory.

17) After PRO's round #3, I found her case on deterrence and innocence to be valid, but still find that CON's point about futility to stand uncontested.

18) CON: "Pro argues that the death penalty isn't always instant and that this lessens the impact of deterring escape. This is true, but it's not an a priori argument against the death penalty but rather a very specific attack on one nations system."

Agree.

19) CON: "Pro accuses me of the slippery slope fallacy but doesn't question the logic behind it. Without the death penalty to lobby against, people against harsh sentences for criminals will direct their resources to life imprisonment. This is empirically shown by comparing nations that use the death penalty to nations that have abolished life without parole--there is no overlap."

Not sure what is meant by "overlap", but I found the slippery slope to be a valid argument.

(con't)
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
4) CON: "It is for this reason that in 2009 in the US 8.6% of those on death row had a prior homicide conviction, and over 5% of those on death row committed their capital crime while in custody or during an escape."

These numbers are surprisingly low and do not benefit CON's position, IMHO.

5) While the Rothbard quote has a common-sense element to it, absent the argument from authority, that is all it is, from an economist no less and not a criminologist.

6) PRO: "My opponent argues that the death penalty is futile because [etc]... I agree to a point, however this calls into question *all* punishments."

Well-argued.

7) PRO: " For one, the very releases she cites are happening due to technological increases. This shows that less innocents will be convicted than would have in the past."

Another solid argument.

8) PRO: "Secondly, the impact of innocents being executed is outweighed by the lives saved by executing--remember we're concerned with society, not necessarily justice. "

LOL, I have to agree, given the resolution.

9) After the opening, I will say that both sides had excellent arguments (although I found sources to be somewhat weak on both sides). I found that CON more deftly argued the resolution. Will await PRO's rebuttal to especially #6, 7, 8.

10) PRO: "Con argued that Capital Punishment helps society by preventing the guilty by ever killing again. A person punished with life imprisonment without parole cannot either, by the same logic."

I will accept this, as I found CON's European human rights violation argument to be weak, given that per his source Europe has outlawed the death penalty as a substitute.

11) PRO: "...Even rapists have a higher rate of recidivism at 2.5%."

Does this take into account LWOP or the death penalty? The argument is not clear in this regard, and so I must dismiss this argument as irrelevant to the resolution.

(con't)
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
Disclosure: I was asked to view this debate by Cermank. I look forward to it - I've read several debates from both debaters and am reasonably assured this one will be one of the higher quality debates I will read on this website.

My initial position on this topic is mildly PRO - I believe in rehabilitation over retribution. On the other hand, I believe that if done in a cost-effective fashion, the death penalty may be overall more useful in certain situations.

I will inform both parties that my RFD is my conclusion - my other comments are more or less stream of consciousness ramblings that help to track my thoughts on the debate in order to reach a more substantive, defensible, and relevant conclusion. If there is anything materially mistaken in my comments that affect my RFD (such as decrying lack of sources when sources are actually present), by all means point that out to me - I consider my RFDs to be the starting point of a discussion, and not set in stone. At any rate, I welcome constructive feedback on anything I write.

---

1) PRO: " A court case is two humans trying to prove who"s the guilty one based on some circumstantial evidences they found. There is a high level of uncertainty."

Perhaps this is the case in India, but in America, guilt is assigned "beyond a reasonable doubt". Circumstantial evidence tends to be seen as weak evidence in comparison to, say, a video recording of a shooting.

2) PRO: *outrage of collective conscience*

Not sure by what is meant by the asterisks. Is this supposed to be in quotations?

3) CON: "Note that the resolution is not about if capital punishment is a just punishment, but rather asks us to evaluate it's effect on societies as a whole. This mandates a cost benefit analysis for societies best interest."

Agree.

(con't)
Posted by Cermank 3 years ago
Cermank
@Eitan: Same :)
Posted by Cermank 3 years ago
Cermank
@Weiler, I didn't source any source I didn't use. I mislabeled [4], I just saw. [4] is [5] and [5] is [4]. It must have got mixed up because I was trying to taper it to the character limit and I used tinyurl initially.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by rross 3 years ago
rross
Cermankthett3Tied
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Total points awarded:23 
Reasons for voting decision: This is an impressive debate. Pro managed to rebut Con's arguments pretty well - especially about deterrence - but IMO this distracted her too much from her main line of argument. Con framed the argument as social impact rather than justice (not contested by Pro), which means that killing wrongly convicted people equates to the death of murder victims, and these two elements seemed to cancel out. Which left Pro's main argument to be about the "collective conscience monster" and the state devaluing life. This argument was never elaborated or properly explained, and I found it unconvincing. About sources. Pro's NRC report was a winner, I thought, and Con conceded that the research he cited was inconclusive because "there are too many variables to be sure". Con's clarity of argument, prose and presentation were better, but Pro was great and fine so I didn't score S&G.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
Cermankthett3Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments.
Vote Placed by bsh1 3 years ago
bsh1
Cermankthett3Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a incredibly well-fought debate. Pro's opening statement was compelling and eloquently crafted. However, all of her subsequent rebuttals fell short. Pro let Con define the main points of contention in the round instead of asserting her own arguments. I felt at points that much of what Pro said was in response to Con, not in positive affirmation of her own points. This set a very defensive tenor to Pro's speeches that hurt Pro in the long run. Con had a crushing technical debate style, and it was interesting to see the two styles compared. Ultimately, Con's logos was more appealing than Pro's ethos, though both did a great job. Plaudits!