Resolved: The Death Penalty Should be Abolished
Death Penalty: "Capital punishment or the death penalty is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime." -- http://en.wikipedia.org...
Although this debate is about the US, examples from other countries can be used, all dat cool stuff.
== Structure ==
R1: Pro can either accept or write his arguments.
R2: Arguments (or rebuttals depending as to how Pro wants to go)
R4: Rebuttals and closing. If Pro argues in R1, he just writes "no round as agreed" or can post Sabaton lyrics.
I accept and look forward to this discussion.
State your case.
I thank my opponent for accepting the debate.
C1) The Death Penalty is a Deterrent
The assumption that the death penalty deters crime is not something new. Economists study how humans work. They study how they react to incentives and punishments. In their research they have determined higher prices reduce consumption, and lower prices increase consumption. In other words, humans are rational creatures. Economists like Gary Becker have found the same applies to criminals as early as the 1960s. Becker argued his models of crime showed how criminals are rational actors, and will change their behavior based upon the cost—punishments—and the benefits . Murray Rothbard agrees with these conclusions, noting “it seems indisputable that some murders would be deterred by the death penalty. Sometimes the liberal argument comes perilously close to maintaining that no punishment deters any crime — a manifestly absurd view that could easily be tested by removing all legal penalties for nonpayment of income tax and seeing if there is any reduction in the taxes paid.” . Thus, we see the theoretical reasons suggest that the death penalty would likely deter *some* crime.
With this in mind, it follows more extreme punishments will decrease crime as criminals fear death. Thus, the death penalty would act as a strong deterrent to crime. But is there any evidence for this?
Early research was conducted by Issac Ehrlich in the 1970s. His work demonstrated a strong deterrent effect in relation to the death penalty. Most arguments against the death penalty—either morally or in relation to its efficacy—fail to take into account the death penalty’s (DP) strong deterrent effect. Ehrlich’s study found each execution prevents 1 – 8 murders .
Recent evidence corroborates these previous conclusions. A strong consensus amongst modern research finds that the DP reduces the rates of homicide. There are at least 17 studies indicating the DP reduces the occurrence of murder, whereas only 5 contest these results. Two are inconclusive—and it must be noted of the studies claiming it is inconclusive, one found a deterrent effect, though waived it as weak .
Death penalty opponents have even concluded the DP reduces murder rates. They describe their findings as merely “a scientific finding which demonstrates that people react to incentives” . Thus, these authors actively waive their opinions and conclude the death penalty reduces homicide. Authors who have a vested ideological interest against the DP provide the strongest argument for its existence.
The vast majority of evidence suggests the death penalty saves lives. Unless my opponent can prove the harms of the death penalty outweigh its strong deterrent effects, he loses the debate.
C2) The Death Penalty Prevents Recidivism
According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), recidivism rates for homicide are actually fairly high. Although basic google searches show you liberal journalists claiming the recidivism rate for murderers are zero, this is blatantly incorrect. 12.5% of those whose greatest offense was homicide were arrested within 6 months. Over 5 years, 51.2% had been arrested again. Of those whose only offence was homicide, the rate was 0.9% . So the worst criminals (say, you robbed, then raped, and then murdered the victim) had extremely high recidivism rates of 51.2%--and that demographic is the most likely to be executed. Of those who only murder, it is about 1%. Although the second number may seem small, it is fairly significant. In New York alone, 230 murderers and sexual predators have been released . This means, using the low 0.9% number, 2 people would have been murdered due to recidivism.
Assuming California and Texas are the only ones with comparable numbers (~200), and the rest only released one, we would have about 677 murderers released each year. This would be about 6 murders due to released murders each year. And this is a low estimate! In California, there have been 1400 murderers in prison for life released over a short 3 year period (466 per year) . As we can see, the amount of people released from prison is actually fairly high and may lead to dozens of unwanted murders from those who repeat their crimes. Even those who were in prison for ‘life’ have been released and inflicting harm on innocent people. One of the most efficient ways to do this is execution.
An anti-death penalty article admits although murders committed by those serving a life without parole sentence is rare, the rate is about 4.1/100,000 (personal calculation based upon their cross-sectional comparisons) . In 2013 there were around 50,000 prisoners serving life without parole sentences . This means every year there are 3 murders committed by those serving life without parole sentences in prison. Although the anti-DP article claims DP would increase these with their cross-sectional data, a conclusion makes no sense—something I would respond to if my opponent chooses to bring it up. But based on this, if more murderers are executed (or even all), 2-3 murders would be prevented each year.
How our society punishes those who harm other people should be proportional as to what crime is committed. A more extreme punishment (e.g. death) should be given to someone who commits atrocious crimes. An example of where the death penalty would be appropriate would be the murder of Kelly Anne Bates. Bates was tortured for four weeks prior to her death. Here eyes were gouged out 3 weeks before her death—being drowned in a bathtub. The autopsy found 150 separate injuries on her body. She suffered burns, a hot iron was applied to her thigh, her warm was broken, she was partially scalped, she was stabbed, and parts of her body was mutilated—including her ears and genitals . The perpetrator was only sentenced to life in prison and would serve at least 20 years—meaning he could potentially be released. I ask my opponent to justify not executing criminals such as this.
Indeed, there is at least some point where execution—which involves taking away the life of a person—would be justified in the case of an atrocity such as this. Should the murderer only serve 20 years in prison, while being fed, clothed, kept warm, and in some cases even obtain companionship? Taking the life away of a person—even criminals—must be treated with great care. However, there are cases where the death penalty is required in order to facilitate justice. Once dead, it is the only guaranteed way they can never kill again. They will have no chance of killing other inmates, people if paroled because they are ‘rehabilitated’, etc. The death penalty is the only sure way to make sure (1) they are harshly punished and (2) the punishment is permanent.
Rothbard, a libertarian cited above, expands this argument. He claims the murderer forfeits his right to life after he commits his crime. He then argues—from a rights perspective—that the victim (or, in this case, those related to the victim) should have the choice as to whether or not the death penalty should be used. The victim had no choice. But he argues the victim or his relatives should have the right to select the punishment—and to deny that right would be to subvert the rights of those involved in the case . Rothbard also suggests people should put how they want a potential murderer to be treated in their will. Thus, liberals can say they do not want executions, and extremists like me can write statements in a blunt manner, “string him up!” Thus, the death penalty is morally justified from a libertarian perspective—one which is meant to ensure rights to all people. And this means, at least in some cases, the death penalty would help promote the rights of the victim.
What also must be noted is that this is a corollary to C1. C1 proves death acts as a deterrent. If my opponent wishes to contest this point or make any moral arguments, he must first prove the harms of the death penalty outweigh the tremendous amount of lives saved. As the Heritage Foundation explains, “If each execution is saving lives, the harms of capital punishment would have to be very great to justify its abolition” .
The DP is morally justified and often is required in order to ensure justice prevails.
My opponent begins with the age old argument that the death penalty deters crime. This has been the most used argument by supporters of the DP for years and he is right, in the 1970's Issac Ehrlich did conduct research on the effects of the death penalty in terms of deterring crime. For a while this was good news for people who supported the DP. Unfortunately for Con as years pass more evidence is made available, much of it contradicting his 1970 studies. Nobel Laureate Lawrence Klein chaired a panel set up by the National Academy of Sciences where most of Ehrlich's research was discredited and considered unfit to shape public policy. 
Aside from this Michael Radelet and Ronald Akers conducted a survey receiving complete questionnaires from 67 out of 71 of former presidents of the three leading professional criminology associations in the United States: American Society of Criminology, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Law and Society Association. The consensus from these questionnaires was that the death penalty could do little to reduce the rate of violent crime. This survey was done in 1996. A similar survey of the most recent members was done in 2008 with identical results.  The criminology experts agree that it is not a deterrent.
Jeffery Fagan of Colombia Law school also determined that much of the data used in studies such as the ones con cited had used flawed data. An excerpt from the article shows his analysis on deterrence, " Execution would have to occur with sufficient frequency and with widespread knowledge among would-be murderers to create a credible threat considering the types of murders that might be eligible for execution. There is no sign of that, nor does it seem likely. For example, there were 16,137 murders in 2004, according to the FBI, but only 125 death sentences were handed out, and 59 persons—most of whom were convicted a decade earlier—were executed. There are no direct tests of deterrence among murderers, nor are there studies showing their awareness of executions in their own state, much less in faraway states. There is no evidence that if aware of the possibility of execution, a potential murderer would rationally decide to forgo homicide and use less lethal forms of violence". 
I would beg the question, why is it that over the years the rate of murders has gone down in states where this is no death penalty, equally or faster than in states with the death penalty? Statistics from the FBI violent crime page shows that the averages for homicide are higher in states with the death penalty than with out. Overall violent crime is down although if Con was correct in his assumption that the DP deters crime, why isn't the crime rate declining faster in states that have the DP? 
Even if Cons data is true in regards to recidivism, this could easily be used in favor of a mandatory sentence of life without parole. It is not specific to the death penalty. Criminals who can leave jail can commit crimes again. Life behind bars and the DP both prevent this. I understand that Con will bring up the fact the life sentences are released from prison sometimes. So are people on death row. It happens. An argument can be made with your statistics for either side and so for each side I see it as moot.
Con makes the case that in terms of justice the DP is the only just punishment for murder. He gives the example of a gruesome murder to appeal to our emotions and gain our sympathy. Most people who support the death penalty will tout similar stories. I'm more interested in reason and not emotion. We all must remember that the money used to kill these inmates is money from all our pockets. I wouldn't call it justice that a state may kill in the name of and with the money of millions who are against the action. Even though Americans have generally favored the DP there are millions of us who do not. It is not fair that peoples money is used to do something they find abhorrent and immoral. Even if you argue that the other side is being forced to pay for that persons meals and so forth, you are also paying for their detention. You are paying for the feeling they will have every morning when they wake up and realize they will never feel the outside world because of what they did. After death people do not know consequence, they do not know right or wrong. They are relieved of their conscience and of their past. If a family who suffered from a violent crime pays for life without parole, the criminal will face that punishment for a lifetime. I'm not going to justify murderers being released because I don't believe any cold blooded killer should be. Life without the possibility of parole is what I advocate in place of the DP.
The DP is also far more expensive to the tax payer. An average death penalty case runs the state up to 470,000 dollars in additional cost for public defenders and prosecutors although depending on the state cases can run into the millions. This does not even account for court costs. Death Row inmates are double the cost of life in prison inmates in terms of housing them. Taking into account how long people stay on the death row the numbers add up. The appeals process adds even more to the cost and there is no way to slow down that process with our justice system today. 
The DP is not only a primitive form of punishment, it can set a precedent that we do not want. The Federal and numerous state government practice the DP and so can also modify how to earn it. As it stands there are a number of States that already have the death penalty as a charge for counts of child rape. Is the death penalty justified then. It has not been tried in the supreme court but in the 1990s the Federal government changed what actions can warrant the death penalty, one being drug trafficking and the other being Attempting, authorizing or advising the killing of any officer, juror,or witness in cases involving a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, regardless of whether such killing actually occurs. . There are already multiple crimes that warrant the death penalty without there being a murder or anybody dead. I find it unwise that we should keep a policy that is tax payer funded and can be defined differently based on who is elected. If we condone it against one group of people now, we condone it against another group later, violent or non violent.
Finally an possibly the most understandable reason to object to the death penalty is the unintentional death sentence. Those people who were wrongfully accused, convicted, and killed. Samuel R. Gross and a team of researchers used the survival analysis model to determine that 4.1% of death row inmates are wrongfully sentenced. Out of the 1,320 executed they concluded that it is almost certain some of them were innocent. Either they are killed, later released based on evidence, or reduced to life in prison and must wait even longer for the justice system to correct itself. If con is to insist that the death penalty is necessary in these cases, he must also hold true that the few innocents killed are just an unfortunate consequence to the benefits of the DP. All the while this does not eliminate the possibility of more innocents being wrongfully sent to death row and the tax payer covering their wrongful conviction onto the most expensive rap sheet of the criminal justice system. 
I ask con to consider that the DP may be more costly, ineffective, and immoral than he had previously thought. Thank you
I thank my opponent for his response.
== Rebuttals ==
My opponent’s argument contradicts his point under recidivism. If you want life sentences to actually be for life, then the risk of locking up an innocent person in jail would also be prevalent--if not more so--under his system.
Second, the study done by Gross does not prove innocents have been executed, but they have been convicted. The study’s sample mainly consisted of people who were exonerated. First, this means any/most innocent people put sentenced to death are let go. And second, they may actually not be innocent. Exonerations occur for many reasons, and innocence is a legal term and not a truth. The evidence may not have been overwhelming, even though it is likely the person was guilty. The reason for a high exoneration rate, as economist John Lott notes, doesn’t imply “the defendant was innocent”, but rather “because so much effort is put into appeals” .
The study itself admits the high exoneration rate means “a substantial proportion of innocent defendants who are sentenced to death are ultimately exonerated, perhaps a majority” . In other words, the study admits most people who are ‘innocent’ and sentenced to death are actually not executed. Indeed, another analysis finds a rightful conviction rate of 99.72% . Due to the fact life cases have less review--fewer appeals--more innocent people may be harmed if the death penalty is abolished.
Studies claiming the DP is costly fail to take into account plea bargains. Before plea bargains are accounted for, the DP costs about 2.6 more as LWOP. But when the they are controlled for, the DP is only about 1.5 times as costly . Cost studies also ignore healthcare costs and rely upon small sample sizes. Similarly, data after 1993 is different than prior data as the definition of a life sentence changed. Studies using large sample sizes have actually concluded the death penalty costs about the same as equivalent LWOP cases .
What also must be noted is the benefit of deterrence, as well. A new study suggests the cost of each murder is about $17 million, and other estimates center around 24 million. In extreme cases, murder can cost $24 million due to “victim costs, criminal justice
costs, lost offender productivity, and public willingness-to-pay costs.”  Thus, if the death penalty deters just one murder, it reduces the cost to society by about 17 - 24 million. If each execution deters 3 murders, it saves $51 million. And some estimates suggests each execution deters 18 murders , or $306 million saved. Thus, even if we assume a high cost of the death penalty of in excess of $3 million , if the DP only prevents one murder (low estimate), $14 million are saved. Thus, if my C1 is proven, this point is also disproven.
Now my opponent claims the DP is bad because it is used for rape. This is unjust, as it would likely increase crime (if the sentence is the same for rape and murder, just murder the victim--no evidence!) But merely because a few states did this does not warrant DP abolition. It means the system should be mended, not ended. Or that it should be administered on a Federal Level equally across the states in order to avoid confusion. This is really a moot point.
== Defense ==
My opponent begins by refuting the study by Issac Ehrlich. He claims the NAS panel has discredited the study. But the panel itself had many issues and failed to refute the methodology of Ehrlich’s research. After previous criticisms of his work were refuted, the NAS attempted to conclusively prove Ehrlich as incorrect. But the NAS makes many key concessions, including admitting that the best research supports deterrence theory. As Ehrlich and Randall Mark respond, “not a single practitioner of the economic approach to crime is to be found among the Panel's interdisciplinary roster of members” . In other words, they use people with no expertise in econometrics to criticize econometrics. Ehrlich and Mark clarify they are not trying to insult the authors, rather the NAS panel suffers from many shortcomings which stem from their lack of training in the field of econometrics. Ehrlich also argues the NAS does not dispute his findings due to lack of methodological rigor, but the criticism relies upon “conjectures” . He argues they more focused on philosophical/logical questions of the study, not it’s actual methods.
My opponent next cites a survey of criminologists. As noted, criminologists (usually) have little expertise in the field of econometrics--where this debate generally focuses. Regardless, the study still fails to refute the deterrence hypothesis. Even though the criminologists think the DP is a weak deterrent, 100% of the sample actually agreed the DP deterred some .
Fagan’s analysis is also weak as it seems to fail to control for other variables. The fact the crime rate was low and as was the execution rate is irrelevant, as many other factors reduce crime other than the DP. Further, specifying *when* you were convicted is irrelevant, as the actual execution is often publicized, meaning when they are executed, not convicted, is more important. It also must be noted 59 executions is fairly high (higher than every year from 1976 - 1996), and was higher than everything from 2006 onward . The execution rate peaked around 1999 - 2000 , and the greatest increase in the execution rate occurred between 1991 - 2000. At the same time as the massive increase in executions, the fastest decreases in crime occurred--and peaked down in 2000 at the height of the execution rate . Fagan argues after 1998, the correlation breaks (DP falls crime falls). But crime between 1998 - 2008 either increased or stayed the same, so his criticism is incorrect. His strongest criticism is that DP studies fail sensitivity tests (i.e. different variables significantly change the results). However, he must have not been aware of the studies which tried to make the deterrent effect disappear--it did not go away . Thus, the results of these studies are robust and accurate.
My opponent then compares states without death penalties to those with death penalties. These comparisons fail for many reasons, the first and obvious being states are different and not comparable. The second being the endogeneity problem. Those states without the DP had low crime before they abolished the DP--so the fact they have low crime is due to other variables than DP laws. Studies have isolated the effect of the DP, and find when other factors are controlled for, states with the DP had larger decreases in crime and had lower crime rates . See, for example, the following graph.
I am not saying the DP is the main factor in crime rates, I am merely saying it is one in many.
My opponent seems to accept my data, but argue LWOP sentences are sufficient in preventing this. But this criticism falls apart when my evidence included 400 people being released from jail who had life sentences. It also falls apart when there is a fairly long list of criminals--often who murder and rape--who had LWOP sentences but were let free and ended up killing again . The death penalty is the only 100% effective way to prevent recidivism.
My opponent claims I rely upon emotions, but this is untrue. These are real cases which occur. As I argued, the death penalty is justified in those instances. Thus, in those cases, the DP should be sought out--and, therefore, the DP should not be abolished.
He makes an interesting argument--it isn’t just to execute people when taxpayers who may oppose the DP have to fund it. But this can be remedied easily. If people oppose the DP, elect electors against it. Abolish it in your state. And this also can be used against him: Why should people like me fund LWOP cases if we support the DP? Many people also complain about funding roads, when it is obviously a public good. Others oppose funding police departments because the police may oppose marijuana usage. But this does not mean the existence of public roads or a police force is immoral.
1. Isaac Ehrlich and Randall Mark. “Fear of Deterrence: A Critical Evaluation of the ‘Report of the Panel on Research on Deterrent and Incapacitative Effects’”, The Journal of Legal Studies Vol. 6, No. 2 (1977): 293-316.
12. Sorensen, Jonathan R., and Rocky LeAnn Pilgrim. Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas during the Modern Era. Austin, TX: University of Texas, 2006.
I will mostly be addressing cons arguments in this round.
"If you want life sentences to actually be for life, then the risk of locking up an innocent person in jail would also be prevalent if not more so his system
If there is no death penalty, lawyers would be able to focus more time and resources on wrongful convictions for these men who are serving LWOP.
"Second, the study done by Gross does not prove innocents have been executed"
True, but Gross does state he is certain based on the numbers that there have been wrongful executions. Just to give you some examples:
Unfortunately in many cases across the United States the most damming evidence can be witness testimony. In many of the examples this was the main evidence used to wrongfully execute the accused.
"Studies claiming the DP is costly fail to take into account plea bargains. Before plea bargains are accounted for, the DP costs about 2.6 more as LWOP. But when the they are controlled for, the DP is only about 1.5 times as costly"
This report indicates the total costs accounting for multiple variables by year for each state with the death penalty and includes cost comparisons. And like you said, yes it still costs the state much more.
Back to deterrence then. Con did address Fagan in some respects but still can not prove, as Fagan pointed out, that any criminal actually thinks about the death penalty before considering committing crime. There is no observable evidence of this. It is speculative at best. The only thing that can be observed is regret and that is not sufficient enough.
I find it humorous that con cites a criticism of the NAS by the person the NAS was criticizing. But I digress.
Con continues to bring up econometrics as the saving grace for his deterrence argument and insists that this is the only credible research done on the subject. He even says that because the people who discredited his studies were not econometric experts that they were not qualified to make that assesment. Unfortunately for con econometric studies are essentially the only studies that may lead to his conclusion because suprisingly as I have found some of them do not. Cons only proof is one that only is on his side some of the time. The main criticism of econometrics is that "Models that find deterrence effects of capital punishment often rely on rather bizarre specifications. In a rigorous and comprehensive review Cameron (1994, 214) observed that, “What emerges most strongly from this review is that obtaining a significant deterrent effect of executions seems to depend on adding a set of data with no executions to the time series and including an executing/non-executing dummy in the cross-section analysis . . . there is no clear justification for the latter practice.” ".  http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
Essentially econometric users have to compensate for the lack of data and it obscures the results. So sometimes the results of these studies are different because of the data that should or shouldn't be left out. On the contrary hundreds of comparisons have been done on the homicide rates in states with and without the DP and have found no deterrence.
Finally in 2012 the National Research Council of the National Academies released their review of over three decades worth of research involving the sorts of methods con insists are the only credible methods of determining deterrence. They found that the research consistently contained three major flaws.
" Even though the criminologists think the DP is a weak deterrent, 100% of the sample actually agreed the DP deterred some . "
"Many people also complain about funding roads, when it is obviously a public good. Others oppose funding police departments because the police may oppose marijuana usage. But this does not mean the existence of public roads or a police force is immoral.
Thank you to Con, I await your response
== Rebuttals ==
My opponent argues lawyers could spend more time making sure innocents are not locked up forever if there is no death penalty. But as noted last round, the death penalty leads to more plea bargains. This means in some cases the DP reduces the amount of time a prosecutor is working on a trial. Further, as being locked up in prison is seen as less extreme than execution, the discretion in those trials is likely to be less. Indeed, as the anti-death penalty Innocence Project notes, prosecutors care more about winning than the truth . So really any people put on death row who are innocent would likely locked up for life no questions asked otherwise. At least the death row system has an emphasis on appeals which reduce the chances of executing an innocent person. Our LWOP system has no such safeties.
My opponent essentially argues even though the Gross study does not prove innocent people have been executed, the author thinks people have been executed. This essentially concedes that the claim is mostly hyperbole. My opponent does cite 4 examples, however. It must be noted, though, not one case of someone actually executed has been found innocent via DNA evidence. Indeed, most of the DP exonerations occurred before 1989, and in the 90s is when the DP really became widespread. If anything, this offers support for my position: that very few, if any, people in recent years have been wrongly executed. As Lott notes, the DP error rate is “less than 0.3 percent, and it is actually much lower than that, since many of the exonerations came from convictions that were made before 1989” .
The risk of executing an innocent is almost zero.
Although the first studies I cited noted how the DP costed more (1.5 times more) it shows how plea bargains almost close the gap between DP costs and LWOP costs. And I noted how cost studies ignored multiple variables, used small sample sizes, etc. I cited research from a neutral academic noting the DP costs about the same as LWOP cases. My opponent drops this. Another study finds the cost of the DP to be 1-3 million dollars less costly than equivalent LWOP cases (assuming LWOP lasts 50 years) .
My opponent’s rebuttal to costs is lacking. I have provided evidence from multiple studies indicating the DP is either less costly or about the same as LWOP. So this argument fails to prove the DP should be abolished. I will put my deterrence arguments under C1 in order to avoid confusion--if I prove deterrence, I win this point.
== Defense ==
Fagan’s point--that criminals do not respond to the death penalty--is wrong. A criminal is rational. They feel as though the benefits exceed the costs. And this is proven, in part, as to how criminals operate. Street thieves, for example, primarily kill old women. The weak . There is no reason to assume murderers are different. Many murders occur in the midst of another crime. Thus, a large percentage of murderers have some rational element. It also must be noted some murderers are more intelligent than others. Premeditated murderers--which the DP is used against--tend to be fairly intelligent. As economist Joanna Shepard notes, “My results confirm that … people behave economically, weighing their actionsí costs and benefits.”  It also must be noted using monthly data you can pinpoint when deterrence occurs. It occurred directly after a person is executed--when it is publicized in newspapers, television, and on social media. This essentially proves the point that criminals--at least some criminals--are aware of their death penalty laws and react rationally in response. In fact, in Illinois, there are many cases of murderers telling reporters how they researched death penalty laws--and they murdered because there were no such laws .
My opponent drops the Ehrlich response, saying he finds it ‘humorous’. How is a scholar defending his work funny?
My opponent criticizes econometric methods. But what must be noted is the critique occurred in 1996--after the majority of the research I am using was created. It applies only to Ehrlich. However, in 1999, Ehrlich and Liu published a study with totally different methodology. The study continued to find a deterrent effect .
Con also cites a lot of research claiming to find no effect. But much of this other research is extremely flawed. As Ehrlich notes, “In their efforts to obscure the empirical findings, they have selectively deleted observations, utilized an inferior regression specification, considered irrelevant variables and correlations, and revealed in the process misunderstanding of elementary statistical concepts” (emphasis added) .
Specifically in response to Passel and Taylor, it must be noted their study actually failed to recalculate FBI data. The FBI updated their data in the time frame of their study, and the FBI’s recalculations had a profound effect on the crime rate. Ehrlich is one of the only scholars who adjusted for these, his opponents often did not do so. His research more accurately depicts how the death penalty influences the crime rate. These other studies do not .
My opponent's Cloninger point really doesn’t harm my case. He admits his study is not bulletproof, but does suggest any neutral observer should take into account his findings. That quote fails to take into account the most recent studies. John Lott has actually determined the rise in the usage of the DP is responsible for 12-14% of the large homicide drop in the 90s. As Lott notes, “The vast majority of recent scholarly research confirms this deterrent effect” .
Now my opponent cites the NAS panel and cites it as if it is flawless. But the authors were nearly all criminologists--again, who do not understand econometrics--and all oppose the death penalty. And even then, although they claim methodology is lacking, admit there is some evidence of a deterrent effect. It also must be noted the NAS panel excluded 8 peer-reviewed studies for no good reason which found a deterrent effect. It ignored one finding no effect, and it ignored another non-peer reviewed study finding a deterrent effect. Thus, the NAS panel ignored 9 studies showing a deterrent effect! It only ignored one claiming no effect--though that study only looked into mass shootings. As Lott notes, “No explanation is provided for why these studies are excluded” . In other words, the panel unjustly leaves out about half of the evidence proving a deterrent effect and concluded the DP may deter crime, but the evidence is weak. Of course that happens if you ignore the evidence! The NAS study also does not point out the methodological weaknesses in those claiming no effect. It accepts those almost uncritically. Studies claiming no effect often do not measure the execution rate correctly . So this NAS panel really seems to be ideologically driven.
To say 100% said the DP deterred *some* is an accurate conclusion. I did not say it deterred more than LWOP according to the study--merely that it had *some* effect. The article actually provides evidence, however, that the criminologist conclusion that LWOP is a stronger deterrent is false. The first is plea bargains. As criminals plead guilty more often in order to avoid death and instead get life sentences , that shows evidence that criminals fear death more than life. The conclusion the study found was (1) The DP deters some, and (2) Although criminologists favor LWOP, actual evidence suggests the DP is a stronger deterrent. And it is the evidence which matters, not expert opinion. And the evidenceshows the DP is a deterrent.
My opponent wishes for an overhaul of the LWOP system. But if he does this, his entire case falls apart. If he can waive arguments by saying ‘reform it’, then both innocents and costs become a non-issue as we can reform both. So that means he has no arguments for abolition, and loses the debate. And if we do mend LWOP--they’re in there forever--the LWOP system is just as bad as the DP. Innocents get locked up forever and no rehabilitation is attempted. His reforms are just a DP system in another name.
I could respond in the same way: you are paying for his death and he never sees light again. Isn’t that great?! The fact is, I don’t want to pay for them to be detained, I want them strung up. So his point really is a two way street.
His next response is that roads are not comparable to human life. I never said they were. But the fact is your argument is NOT about life, but about people’s pocketbook. So the comparison in this instance is correct. Pro then states more people oppose the DP. If you think taxes are stealing, then robbing from anyone is immoral. So if even one person opposes the police or roadways, then the are immoral. But they are good because they provide a public good--safety and ease of transportation. The DP offers justice to those harmed, and prevents other innocents from dying via deterrence and incapacitation.
My opponent drops my R1 arguments in relation to justice.
== Conclusion ==
7. Isaac Ehrlich and Zhiqiang Liu. “Sensitivity Analyses of the Deterrence Hypothesis: Let's Keep the Econ in Econometrics.” Journal of Law & Economics, Vol. 42, No. 1 (1999): 455-87.
8. Issaac Ehrlich. “Deterrence: Evidence and Inference.” Yale Law Journal Vol. 85, No. 2 (1975).
9. Isaac Ehrlich. “The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Reply.” The American Economic Review , Vol. 67, No. 3 (1977).
10. John Lott. Freedomnomics, pp 135.
Last round focusing on more rebuttals and a few more mentionable points.
"At least the death row system has an emphasis on appeals which reduce the chances of executing an innocent person. Our LWOP system has no such safeties".
My opponent seems to miss the point entirely. If there was no death penalty, lawyers would have more time and resources to review any evidence that appears in a LWOP case. It's a fact. Right now, as pointed out earlier, almost all the time of a defense lawyer is spent on death row cases. This means with a death penalty in place, many more inmates will be unjustly kept in prison.
My opponent does cite 4 examples, however. It must be noted, though, not one case of someone actually executed has been found innocent via DNA evidence. Indeed, most of the DP exoneration's occurred before 1989, and in the 90s is when the DP really became widespread. If anything, this offers support for my position: that very few, if any, people in recent years have been wrongly executed. As Lott notes, the DP error rate is “less than 0.3 percent, and it is actually much lower than that, since many of the exoneration's came from convictions that were made before 1989” .
This is just flat out wrong. My opponent mentions that none of them were exonerated. This, in many of the cases, was in spite of the DNA evidence. My opponent seems to forgets who does the exonerating. Of course States that accidentally kill people who are innocent are going to criticize and undermine evidence pointing it out. All the while he is still comfortable with the risk of killing an innocent because he feels its unlikely.
"it shows how plea bargains almost close the gap between DP costs and LWOP costs"
My opponents entire argument for this round has come from a single source which I must believe is estimating costs once again, on very selective amounts of information. In terms of cost, all the numbers present in Cons source are wonderful, but they are generated by a group called Pro Death Penalty .com. Numerous State legislature committees have done cost analysis on their states death penalty cases and overall costs to the state each year. These numbers are up to the year 2014. Each state found on average the death penalty cases cost much more even with plea bargains leading to a different sentencing.
New York since introducing the death penalty has wasted 170 millions dollars on sentencing without executing a single person.
California has spent 4 billion dollars executing 13 people. They spend millions a year to house and legally manage their enormous death row populace of over 700 inmates.
In my home state of Maryland the base cost of the death penalty before an inmates stay in prison is approximately 1.9 million dollars. - http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
The high cost of capital punishment has literally forced many counties to raise taxes or cut funds to public projects according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. - http://www.nber.org...
I guess human lives have some relation to roads after all.
According to a committee formed by the Indiana state legislature the death penalty costs 38% more than a LWOP sentence.
Consider also the 150 inmates who were exonerated still alive. Take account the average cost of their cases being 1.5 million dollars. 225 million dollars spent to convict innocent people. The average time they spent behind bars was 11 years.
States that have huge death row populations have been able to admit the financial burden based on their own numbers. I'll continue to take their word for it.
"agan’s point--that criminals do not respond to the death penalty--is wrong. A criminal is rational. They feel as though the benefits exceed the costs. And this is proved, in part, as to how criminals operate."
Con, that right there is a statement. For it to be an argument you must produce evidence or some sort of verifiable support to that statement. Unfortunately for you there is no existing study that has ever determined your statement to be the truth. You cite Shepards remarks on how to tell when deterrence occurred. The reality is that you cannot determine objectively that deterrence occurred. You can determine that in a certain time frame there is less or more crime. To say that deterrence occurred is purely speculative and that's all it can ever be if you rely on arbitrary fluctuating numbers. I might add that those numbers are exactly why people who use your model in finding deterrence end up with different results based on their agenda/bias etc.
"My opponent criticizes econometric methods. But what must be noted is the critique occurred in 1996--after the majority of the research I am using was created. It applies only to Ehrlich. However, in 1999, Ehrlich and Liu published a study with totally different methodology. The study continued to find a deterrent effect"
I'm sorry con but the most recent study done in 2012 by the National Research Council has also determined the faulty of deterrence models and has stated that the findings done by any econometrician, whether in favor or against the death penalty, should not be used to influence public policy the main faulty in summary being that, "they use incomplete or implausible models of potential murderers’ perceptions of and response to the capital punishment component of a sanction regime. In addition, the existing studies use strong and unverifiable assumptions to identify the effects of capital punishment on homicides."
Let me remind the voters that the NRC was disappointed with these findings stating that, "The committee was disappointed to reach the conclusion that research conducted in the 30 years since the earlier NRC report has not sufficiently advanced knowledge to allow a conclusion, however qualified, about the effect of the death penalty on homicide rates."
Essentially they are saying based on the evidence available we cant claim there is any deterrence effect. They also claim that using similar models to the ones con has provided we cannot determine there is not effect. It is as I have said, indeterminable.
"My opponent wishes for an overhaul of the LWOP system. But if he does this, his entire case falls apart. If he can waive arguments by saying ‘reform it’, then both innocents and costs become a non-issue as we can reform both. So that means he has no arguments for abolition, and loses the debate. And if we do mend LWOP--they’re in there forever--the LWOP system is just as bad as the DP. Innocents get locked up forever and no rehabilitation is attempted. His reforms are just a DP system in another name."
No con, my intention is not to "waive" the argument. My intention is to point out that just as reforms can be made to the death penalty to prevent wrongful convictions or execution, reforms can be made to LWOP to ensure no possibility of recidivism for those convicted. I'm saying its just as possible as the death penalty being a perfect sentencing.
" I could respond in the same way: you are paying for his death and he never sees light again. Isn’t that great?! The fact is, I don’t want to pay for them to be detained, I want them strung up. So his point really is a two way street. "
Con claims that my point is a two way street because he can word his reasoning similar to mine. This is a fundamentally flawed argument because it assumes wording is what makes the argument substantive. My point firstly being that a lifetime of never knowing freedom is better than only a decade of not knowing freedom based on how long it takes to be executed (in some of the faster circumstances). Con I was making the point that once they die, all the consequence they know is gone. As long as they are conscious they can experience their punishment and paying for them to rot in jail for a lifetime to regret and to grieve their lost life is a much more appropriate punishment than death. In my eyes death is too merciful a punishment. :)
"Pro then states more people oppose the DP"
I did not say this at all. I said there are millions in the United States who find the execution of a human being immoral and abhorrent.
"My opponent drops my R1 arguments in relation to justice."
Con, when we as a society condone the killing of another human being, we condone the idea perpetuated by murderers which is that there are circumstances in which it is ok to kill a human being who is not an immediate danger to us. The only morally justified harm that can be brought to someone is in defense of your life, liberty, and property. A prisoner cannot take those away from you once they are behind bars.
Con at one point said criminologists don't know enough about the death penalty.
Criminology definition: The scientific study of criminals, criminal behavior, and corrections.
I don't know. I feel like they might actually have some bearing on the subject con.
(1) Deterrence has been proved indeterminable by a non partisan group.
(2) DP can (and has)cost states much more money than LWOP and at the very least have disrupted funds necessary for other things in local cities and counties.
(3) Taxpayer dollars have gone to incarcerating and ultimately executing innocent Americans. Cons response to this was that if the government says nuh uh then it didn't happen.
(4) Government shouldn't be given the precedent to kill its citizenry when they don't present an immediate threat.
(5) For these reasons the death penalty should be abolished.
really enjoyed this debate and I want to thank 16Kadams for making a good one!
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