The Instigator
Raisor
Pro (for)
Winning
24 Points
The Contender
tornshoe92
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Resolved: The Death Penalty in the U.S. should be prohibited

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
Raisor
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/9/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,549 times Debate No: 20305
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (5)

 

Raisor

Pro

This is for Round Two of Weirdman's Winter Tournament.

First round for rules/definitions and acceptance.


Rules:

1. There are no restrictions on argumentative strategy.
2. Burden of proof is shared.
3. This debate concerns the resolution:

RESOLVED: The Death Penalty in the U.S. should be prohibited.

4. New arguments brought in the last round will not be counted.
5. R1 is for acceptance and clarifications. Rules and Definitions in R1 are binding. Substantively violating the R1 agreements will result in loss of both argument and conduct.
6. Spelling/Grammer and Conduct will NOT be voted on unless: a) explicitly argued for in the debate round AND b) voting occurs on the grounds argued for in the debate.
7. Sources must be posted or linked in the debate round. Voting on Sources should be reserved for extreme discrepancy in quality of sources.

Definitions:
Death Penalty- sentencing of death as punishment for a crime, as currently implemented by the U.S. legal system.
prohibited- formally forbid by law.

I would like to thank in advance both my opponent for accepting this debate and for the time and attentiveness of the judges.
tornshoe92

Con

After reviewing my opponent's terms of debate and definitions, I agree to this debate. I wish my opponent good luck and good fun!
Debate Round No. 1
Raisor

Pro


I maintain that the core function of any legal system, including the U.S. legal system, is to uphold the virtue of justice. I will defend justice in the traditional Aristotelian sense:


Justice: giving each person his or her due.


Justice is not a “pregnant issue” (either you are or you aren’t) but instead an issue subject to degrees. There are degrees to which justice is upheld; justice can be partially upheld or better upheld in various cases.


For example, let us suppose we are to divide a loaf of bread between two equally deserving and equally hungry people. Clearly the most just situation is to split the bread evenly. Two unjust situations are to split the bread unevenly or to give the entire loaf to one individual. Both situations fail to fully uphold the issue of justice, but the situation where the bread is unevenly divided is obviously preferable to the situation where one individual is given no bread at all. It is thus the case that justice can be upheld in varying degrees.


Furthermore, I maintain that it is worse to actively commit an injustice than to fail to properly uphold the virtue of justice. In other words, it is worse to actively ensure that a person is not given their due than to simply fail to make sure that a person receives what is due. To use the previous scenario, it is worse to commit the active injustice of taking a loaf of bread that belongs to a hungry man than to unfairly distribute bread between two hungry men. This is the logic that backs the common wisdom “It is better that ten guilty men walk free than one innocent man be imprisoned.” This is also the logic behind the practice of assuming all men are innocent until proven guilty.


To win this debate I must therefore show that abolishing the death penalty is better upholds the value of justice than maintaining the death penalty as currently implemented in the U.S. legal system.


C1: The Death Penalty condemns innocent people to death


There have been 281 post-conviction exonerations due to DNA evidence alone in the U.S. Of those 281 exonerations, 17 applied to those serving time on death row [1]. It is worth noting that these cases represent only those cases in which it was demonstrated with certainty that individuals convicted of crimes had been wrongly convicted. To obtain exoneration is often very difficult, as relevant evidence is often decades old, evidence is often missing or destroyed, eye witnesses are less reliable after long periods of time, and the burden of proof is much higher than would be required in the initial criminal trial that resulted in conviction. The result is that the statistics presented above is an extraordinarily conservative number representing only those individuals who are absolutely known to be wrongly convicted.


How do wrong convictions happen? Eye witness testimony is often unreliable, and often testimony is given by those with a vested interest in the case at hand. A compelling example of this is put forth in the documentary “A Thin Blue Line,” which tells the tale of an exonerated death row inmate. During his trial and investigation, the actual murderer was relied upon for testimony against the falsely accused. Police testimony was also admitted which contradicted known facts about the crime scene and covered up for evidence of mishandling of the crime by the police. Testimony by third party witnesses was later admitted to being fabricated or exaggerated. All of this information was only uncovered decades later, after a man had sat below the gallows for years.


The U.S. justice system is just as prone to error as any other human institution. When the Death Penalty is used as punishment for crimes, the cost of this error is the life of an innocent man.


The extreme injustice of putting an innocent man to death for a crime he did not commit far exceeds the degree to which justice is not upheld by sentencing the truly guilty to a life in jail without parole rather than administer death.


C2: The Death Penalty Skews Likelyhood to Convict


Juries hearing death penalty cases are selected to insure that all jurors are at least willing to condemn a person to the death penalty (per Witherspoon v. Illinois). However, a study by the University of Wisconsin found that jurors that support the death penalty are unusually likely to convict- even in non-death penalty cases. Jurors supporting the death penalty are 44% more likely to convict than those that do not, and these are precisely the jurors that are selected for in a capital punishment trial [2]. The result is that simply by being tried under the death penalty makes the accused roughly 40% more likely to be found guilty.


This demonstrates that the simple existence of the death penalty interferes with the U.S. legal system’s ability to administer justice by artificially increasing the odds of conviction.


This also shows that the death penalty kills innocent people. If a death penalty jury is more likely to convict in general, it makes that jury more likely to find an innocent person guilty and sentenced to death.


C3: The Death Penalty is administered unfairly


A major factor in the likelihood of conviction under the death penalty is the income level of the defendant. This is true for two reasons. First, low income defendants cannot afford private counsel but must rely on public counsel. While I would not assert that all public counsel is inferior to the representation provided by expensive law firms, the adage “you get what you pay for” certainly holds true with respect to legal representation. An article published in the Yale Law Journal provides anecdote after anecdote of incompetent, inexperienced, and sometimes drunk public counsel assigned to represent defendants being tried under the death penalty [3]. Even in cases where public counsel is quite competent, public defenders are often overstaffed compared to private law firms. This means public defenders have less time to spend with defendants and less time to construct solid cases. It is then the case that the guilt or innocence of the individual on trial is of less relevance than the quality of defense available. In such a case an individual is not given what is due to them, but instead they are given whatever amount of justice they can afford. Justice is therefore not upheld.


Additionally, the death penalty is not sought in all cases eligible for such a punishment. The reputations of District Attorneys and the state government are at stake in death penalty cases which have the potential to attract media attention. Cases are therefore sought out in which the defense is known to be weak and the odds of success are therefore high [4]. This means that the Death Penalty is not administered based on who deserves it, but instead is administered based on who is least likely to successfully defend themselves. In such a case, justice is clearly not served.


Closing Remark:


My opponent may try to justify the death penalty by some sort of “ends justify the means” argument- for example that the death penalty deters crime. While I will gladly show such argument to be false, the larger point I will insist upon is that the justice system is just that- a system that upholds justice. The legal system is not a tool of social engineering to be used in hopes of achieving some utopian end. The legal system is the means by which our society protects and preserves the value of justice. If my opponent advocates the death penalty under the banner of anything beside justice, he is advocating for the abuse of our legal system as a vehicle for social engineering.



[1] http://www.innocenceproject.org...



[2] http://www.jstor.org...



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



[4] http://www.eou.edu...


tornshoe92

Con

I deeply apologize but because this tournament has taken far longer than I expected, my school semester has caught up with me. Because of my school obligations I will therefore have to concede this debate.
Debate Round No. 2
Raisor

Pro

Debate Conceded. Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
Raisor

Pro

Concession by Con - Vote Pro
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Raisor 5 years ago
Raisor
I just wanted to try a less straightforward approach.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
This was an extremely good first round argument by Raisor. I am intrigued at the style of the debate. Is this supposed to be LD or some specific style? I liked how instead of listing the advantages and disadvantages, you defined justice and showed how the death penalty doesn't fit in with your definition.
Posted by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
Shame.
Posted by vmpire321 5 years ago
vmpire321
LMFAO. We're doing our debate on the death penalty too... XD!
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
16kadams
looks like a good debate
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Wallstreetatheist 5 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
Raisortornshoe92Tied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by vmpire321 5 years ago
vmpire321
Raisortornshoe92Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by DelilahRawr 5 years ago
DelilahRawr
Raisortornshoe92Tied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: its wrong.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
Raisortornshoe92Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Full forfeit by Con.
Vote Placed by PartamRuhem 5 years ago
PartamRuhem
Raisortornshoe92Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: CONceeded....haha, get it?