The Instigator
Con (against)
28 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
7 Points

Resolved: The United States Should Abolish the Death Penalty

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 4/24/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,839 times Debate No: 74160
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (67)
Votes (5)




Select winner. 2k.

I am going to literally copy and paste Roy's stuff cause it fits well.

"The death penalty, i.e. capital punishment, is "execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense." [1.] Currently 32 states and the Federal government have a death penalty. [2.].


In this debate I will argue that a death penalty should be maintained as part of the U.S. system of justice, and my opponent will argue that the death penalty should be abolished. I will argue that the death penalty should be limited to use for the most heinous crimes and that suitable provisions should be made to ensure those accused are well-represented by legal counsel. My opponent will argue that the death penalty should not be an available punishment under any circumstances.

The first round is for acceptance, definitions, and clarification only. The [Con] case will be presented at the start of Round 2.

DDO site rules apply to this debate. The first round is for acceptance only. All arguments and source citations must be made within the character limits of the debate. All words not specifically defined are defined by the ordinary dictionary definition that best fits the context. No new arguments may be made by Con in the last round of the debate, because Pro has no debate round left to rebut them.

I'm looking forward to a good debate."

BOP split. No new arguments last round.

Ima also just add Bsh's rules

1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be individually provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round; R1 is just for acceptance
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No K's of the topic
7. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add resolution definitions
8. The BOP is Shared; Con must argue that DP should not be abolished, Pro must argue that it should be abolished
9. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss
Debate Round No. 1


Aight dawg lets do this.

C1) Deterrence

Pretty obvious that I would argue this. I always do.

Economists have spearheaded the recent death penalty research, and are playing an increasing role in the debate. Deterrence has been applied to other punishments and has shown to produce a significant effect on criminal behavior.

Deterrence theory, also termed ‘Rational Choice Theory’, has its beginnings in 1968 with the work of Gary Becker. Although many criticized his work, he claimed that criminals are rational. They, like law abiding citizens, respond to costs and benefits. People consume less of a product when the cost is higher because the benefits are severely diminished. Crime, as he argues, works the same way. If you can increase the severity and certainty of a punishment, crime will subsequently decrease [1].

John Lott explains deterrence theory in his book More Guns, Less Crime. “[C]riminals as a group tend to behave rationally--when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed.” This assertion is backed up by evidence from many studies, including evidence from arrest rates. “Higher arrest and conviction rates dramatically reduce crime.” [2] Lott uses another example specifically relating to death. Most people consider being a cop a very dangerous job. Including both intentional and accidental deaths, the murder rate of police officers is 1:5600. Police are deterred in a way; they wear bulletproof vests, have extensive training for shooting situations, have specific ways they approach cars, etc. They modify their behavior due to a perceived threat. In 2005, the execution rate for murderers was 1:278. A murderer is 20 times more likely to be executed than a police officer is to be shot [3]. If cops change their behavior so significantly for such a small risk, it seems illogical to claim that criminals will not change their behavior when their risks are 20 times larger than the police.

We know that even irrational actors can be deterred. Juveniles, who were once considered undeterrable, have actually been found to respond to arrest rates. They act rationally in that when teenage unemployment rises (lack of resources), they commit more crimes (to get resources). When violent crime arrests increase, juvenile crime across the board decreases [4]. Even people who are mentally ill respond to the price of cigarettes, indicating that even people who generally ignore costs can have their behavior altered due to different situations changing the cost/benefit ratio [5].

In the case of the death penalty, deterrence is at work.

Joanna Shepard, an economist at Clemson University, uses state data from 1977 - 1999. Each death row sentence deterred 4.5 murders; each execution deterred 3 murders; one murder is deterred for every 2.75 years reduction in time spent on death row [6]. These results hold even after several robustness checks and controls for other variables are applied to the data.

Two studies by FCC economist Paul Zimmerman use state-level data and both find deterrent effects. The first paper uses data from 1978 - 1997 [7]. In the second he extends the dataset to 2000 [8]. The second paper looked at multiple methods of execution. The papers find that each execution deters about 14 murders, and the second study found that electrocution had the largest effect.

Even a study often cited by death penalty opponents shows a deterrent effect [9]. The reason it is claimed that no deterrence was found is because the abstract and the study itself emphasize capital punishment and overall crime rates. The DP won’t deter other crimes very significantly because the DP does not apply to robbery, burglary, or assault. The study did actually find a negative relationship between homicide and the DP; in other words, the DP deters homicide.

One of the best papers on the issue comes from Clemson and Emory University economists [10]. Its methodology differs from the rest in that it uses county data instead of state data. County data is better because it is easier to control for local demographic changes, differences in arrest and conviction rates, poverty, and pretty much everything that affects murder rates. So county data should be prefered. County data, as it is a larger pool of data points, makes the conclusions more robust. The study found that each execution deterred 18 murders. Although this seems high, Lott calculated the impact of each execution to be about 15 per execution or more [11].

Of course, critics of these studies claim that the results are sensitive. But death penalty opponents with their work found a deterrent effect, and then they didn’t like the result so they tried to make it disappear. The tried to make deterrence go away and they couldn’t do it [12]. Goes to show even academics with vested interest in the DP have tried, and failed, to refute their own findings. And if you like pictures:

And I can go on and on discussing these studies, as most people on this website know I like to do. I am very confident that these results are correct, even though the NRC and some criminologist Singapore study disagree. I am not trying to argue that every murder is deterrable. That is absurd. I am arguing that the death penalty influences criminal behavior to some degree. And it would be silly to even argue that the DP didn’t deter *some* murders. Murray Rothbard, a libertarian economist, argues “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 … the murderer himself is certainly "deterred" from any repetition of his crime.” [16]

Police officers respond to incentives. I see no reason criminals wouldn’t, especially because the risk of a murderer being executed is much larger than the police officer is to get harmed. If the police take such drastic measures to defend themselves, imagine how much a criminal’s actions could be changed.

C2) DP is just

How does punishment work? There are three main goals for any punishment: (1) deterrence, (2) retribution, and (3) rehabilitation.

The death penalty is a deterrent, but deterrence is not usually the main goal of punishment. The main goal is to either fix the criminal and make him or her productive or punish them to inflict them harm equivalent to their offense. According to Edward Feser, retribution is the most important part of just punishment [13]. We shouldn’t correct someone who does not deserve correction. Minor crimes, like drug users, deserve correction. Murderers do not.

I am not saying that every time someone is murdered that the DP should be sought out. I am merely saying that, in many cases, it may be enacted and would be the preferable course of action. If even one crime calls for the death penalty that would mean we shouldn’t abolish the system--merely mend it to fit a specific type of crime. To use an example Roy cited in his debate, an 11 year old boy was murdered. Not only was he murdered, but he was neglected. He had signs of being beaten, had cigarette burns on his face, marks indicating he was tied up, and was starved (his body weighed 56 pounds) [14]. The death penalty may or may not be the best option for the killers (the mom and dad). But no one would have a moral objection to this. It may even be preferable to execute them. It is for cases like this that the death penalty should at least be an option. The state has the power to kill people; cops are armed with firearms, the military kills people in far away lands every day.

The state should do everything within the (constitutional) limits of its power to bring justice to these people. Sometimes the DP may be difficult to use in these situations, in such case LWOP can be used. But I guarantee that there are murders like this which happen all the time. And it is these cases where the DP should be, at least sometimes, sought out to send a message: if you kill someone, you are going to have the same fate.

C3) A short preemption: Costs

Look I know Mikal is going to bring up costs so I am going to partially preempt this. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this, but a few cursory statements are enough to slightly contain what is one of his strongest arguments.

Using the methods cost studies use, the DP costs 2.5 times more than LWOP. But in jurisdictions where the DP is much more common, the DP only costs 1.4-1.5 times as much [15]. Why? Plea bargians. These often avoid the cost of the trial entirely, so cases where there is no cost balance out the cases where trial costs are extremely high due to capital trials.


2. John R. Lott. More Guns, Less Crime, p 20.









11. John Lott. Freedomnomics, p 135.








Thanks to 16k. I am going to give rebuttals in the next round and build my case in this one

I am going to extend some of my arguments from my Roy debate and then add a few more to go with it. Since 16k copied Roys opening definitions, I feel that its necessary to offer my response to him in the same way.


A “capital trial” is a trial at which the state intends to seek the death penalty. It is called a capital trial because the death penalty is also known as “capital punishment.”

DP state = a death penalty state
Non-DP state = a state that does not have the death penalty

Heinous Crimes - Con is saying that he promotes only the death of heinous criminals. However, Con does not get to make the decision about who to charge with a capital offense. Charging decisions are made by prosecutors, not Con. Therefore, Con must defend how the death penalty is actually applied.

C1: Costs

One of the main reasons the death penalty should be abolished is because of how expensive it is. The cost of prosecuting a capital case is significantly greater than the cost of prosecuting a non-capital case.

According to Professor Thaxton in “Leveraging Death,” capital cases cost local governments $2 million more than non-capital cases. [1] (p. 541) Capital cases are more expensive because they involve - on average - “five times more pretrial motions,” five times more investigation by the defense team, 66 times longer to select and exclude jury members, 30 days more in court, “twice as many lawyers (by statute),” and “longer and more complicated appeals.” [1] (p. 544)

Most of the cost of prosecuting criminal defendants is borne by local governments as opposed to the state or federal government. Currently, local governments are extremely strapped for cash: the GAO reports that to make up for budget shortfalls, state and local governments will need to cut their current expenditures by - on average - 14.2 percent to avoid bankruptcy. [5] The death penalty is such a significant part of local budgets that “[i]n 2009, at least eleven state legislatures considered bills to abolish the death penalty, citing associated costs as one of their primary concerns.” [1] Because local governments are so strapped for cash, spending on death penalty cases trades off with spending on other things (like police, education, and health care infrastructure): "State and local governments are also forced to divert funding from hospitals and health care, police and public safety, education, and roads and infrastructure to pay for capital trials." [1] (p. 541, footnote 269). These tradeoffs have two important negative effects. First, cutting funding from state and local governments is deadly to the overall well-being of the economy. One study found that the under-performing education system in the United States costs the economy $2.3 trillion per year (because it produces worse workers). [3] Second, local governments’ inability to spend more on police [due to expenditures on death penalty cases] is harmful because police are essential to deter crime. Studies estimate that each additional police officer that a city hires prevents an average of 24 serious crimes per year. [4] This cost tradeoff argument turns any of Cons deterrence arguments because the cost of the death penalty leads to smaller police forces, which actually decreases deterrence.

In fact, spending money on police is more effective than spending money on the death penalty. Studies have found that because offenders are generally unaware of what the expected sentence is for their crimes [or whether their state even has the death penalty], increasing the certainty of punishment has a larger effect on deterrence than increasing the severity of punishment. [8] Spending money on more and better policing increases the certainty that any given offender will be caught, which has a greater deterrent effect than increasing the severity of punishment, such as by implementing the death penalty. [8] The national clearance rate for murder and manslaughter has dropped to 65%, meaning that each year 6000 killers get away with murder. Local governments would do well to raise their “solve rate” for murders rather than spending so much money to put to death the murderers they do happen to catch.

C2: Barrier to extradition

The European Union and many other countries have established policies that they will not extradite criminals to the United States if there is a possibility that the criminal might face the death penalty (because those countries view the death penalty as a human rights violation). [9] This refusal to extradite impedes counter-terrorism efforts because countries refuse to extradite terrorist suspects to the United States. [2] For example, in 2005, the EU refused to extradite terrorist suspect “Mohammed A.” to the United States, citing the likelihood he would be put to death. [2] If a single large terrorist attack happens due to refusals to extradite, this would outweigh any possible deterrent effect from the DP. In fact, 87% of criminologists agree that the DP has no deterrent effect. [7]

C3: Innocent Executions

This is a major issue with the death penalty in itself. Once someone is executed it is final. There is no exoneration or overturning the decision. Nearly 2,000 people have been falsely convicted and exonerated in the past 23 years[10]. One study - which interviewed judges, prosecutors, and police chiefs - estimated the false conviction rate at 0.5%, most of which were caused by misidentification by eyewitnesses[11]. If you put this at a comparative standpoint that means nearly 8,000 people that are in jail are actually innocent.

What's even more disturbing is that there is now evidence showing that the FBI has actually faked forensic evidence and falsely executed people on purpose. This has led to around 20 false executions with around another 30 that are sentenced to death[12]. The forensics evidence included blood and also hair samples which is a primary tool used in convictions. Now we are not only dealing with the possibility of *accidentally* falsely executing someone, but also have to accept the fact that the FBI and crime scene investigators are actually *trying* to falsely alter evidence to issue sentences. This is not just deplorable but it also shuts down any attempt at serving justice. One of the main contentions of pro DP activities is that justice is served. That entire argument is now null because the FBI is falsely charging people and the line that pro choice advocates use is now movable and relative to evidence that has been proven and shown to be altered.

C4) Supplies

Another issue with the death penalty is the cost and how difficult it is to obtain the chemicals to issue and serve the execution[13]. Texas is a primary for example of this, as they have reached this stage early. The issue they are currently experiencing will eventually catch up to most other states. They are literally running out lethal injection drugs and are having to experiment with different types of chemicals and methods to serve the executions with. The DP itself is already viewed as walking the line of cruel and unusual punishment, and the only reason it gets a pass is that it can halfway be viewed as *not cruel* because it is instant. The primary drug used in executions is pentobarbital which there is now a shortage of . As is stated Texas being forced to experiment with new drugs is resulting in bad results, and some of the methods and chemicals that are being used (even in other states) is being challenged by the supreme court as cruel and unusual punishment . It is not just Texas but Oklahoma as well. They have been challenged on using midazolam and recently a legislation has been singed to kill inmates using nitrogen gas, all of which the supreme court is involved in[14].

C5) Customary International Law

The US is the *only* western country to retain the death penalty as the law, and as long as we keep it that way courts will likely interpret customary international law as *not* establishing that a death penalty is unlawful. The good news is that we interpret the death penalty in *relatively* humane way. Any death by the death penalty is pushing the line of being not humane, but at least we do it quick. We also extend the death penalty to only what is considered by the supreme court as *heinous crimes*. Other countries however do not do this in such a reasonable way. Singapore, for example, has put American tourists to death for possessing small quantities of drugs. If the US could establish that customary international law forbids the death penalty, it could move to enjoin Singapore from killing our tourists if such a situation arose in the future. But as long as we have a death penalty, we have no leg to stand on.

This is a major impact as Singapore alone has put 400 people to death for only *minor* drug offenses, most of them being foreign nationals [15]. China has put 53,000 people to death with foreign internationals in the mix as well[15]. By banning the DP we can actually have ground to challenge these deaths under customary international law, and actually end up saving hundreds of our citizens.


[1] Sherod Thaxton, “Leveraging Death,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 103, No. 2, 2013
Debate Round No. 2



Rule 7 states that you waive your right to add definitions. I accept all definitions except the last one.

Heinous crime: Prosecutors are only legally allowed to charge people who have committed murder. Only 2 people were on death row for crimes other than murder when the supreme court looked into the issue in 2008, and no one has been executed for a crime other than murder since 1976 [1]. In 2008, Kennedy v Louisiana held that the death penalty shall *not* apply to any crime that did not involve the death of the victim [2]. So the death penalty only applies to cases where the victim was killed, and any allusions to different types of crimes are irrelevant since the resolution says ‘in the United States’.

C1) Costs

Mikal’s first line of evidence is a study by Thaxton. Thaxton makes many clear concessions, including that the amount plea bargains save is unknown. So he calculates it himself, and finds that each plea bargain reduces the cost by 0.4 million dollars. Not as significant of a decrease as Scheidegger (my source), but significant. Thaxton criticizes studies which find higher estimates, but does not mention the study I presented. We have good reasons to think that the plea bargaining effect is larger than Thaxton is claiming because the Scheidegger study reviewed 33 counties which were selected because they were representative of the 75 largest urban counties in the US. Thaxton focuses only on Georgia. Although he did prove that in Georgia the DP costs a little more than LWOP cases, it is questionable as to whether or not this can be applied to the United States as a whole. A comprehensive study by Jon Sorensen and Rocky Leann Pilgrim found that in Texas, the DP costs about the same as LWOP [3]. As different jurisdictions have different outcomes, the DP is not inherently more expensive. We do not need to end the DP, we only need to mend it.

Cost studies tend to underestimate the cost of LWOP. They often fail to account for the fact that prisoners stay in prison longer than those on death row do. If a person spends 50 years in jail--which is reasonable because the average conviction age for murder is 27, according to Thaxton--will cost the state 1.5 million dollars, using a ~$30,000 per year estimate [4]. And in different jurisdictions it can be much higher. For the death penalty, the average time incarcerated is 15 years [5]. So the cost here is only $450,000. Now apply Thaxton’s trial estimate--2 million more for DP. To simplify it, assume LWOP has zero trial costs and the DP has 2 million, it has the same effect for the calculation. So we are at 1.5 million LWOP vs 2.45 million DP. Take off .4 from Thaxton’s plea estimate, and we get 1.5 vs 2.05. The death penalty is only 30% more expensive using Thaxton’s super low plea estimate.

Mikal claims that states are going bankrupt because of the DP; this is absurd. Merely because states are dropping the DP due to costs does not mean the DP is the reason for their fiscal problems, which are probably due to irresponsible spending. The recovery has been agonizingly slow which worsens budget woes irrespective of DP laws. In Texas it costs 2.3 million dollars to execute someone [6], though such high estimates are likely spurious [3]. There were 10 executions in 2014 [7], so it costed $24 million using the biased estimates (in reality, it costs less). The Texas budget itself is 99 billion dollars [8]. So the DP in texas is only 0.024% of the budget at maximum. Virginia only executed one person in 2013 (zero in 2014) [7]. Being unable to find a Virginia cost estimate, I will use the biased Texas number again. The Virginia budget is 47 billion and they spent about 2.4 million on that execution. The DP was only 0.005% of the state budget. It is odd that 0.005% of a state budget is making states go bankrupt. It is impossible. The claim is simply false. And spending more on education probably will not benefit the school system. Federal public school spending has skyrocketed without appreciable gains in school performance [9]. School vouchers actually do help the school system [10]. The budget arguments fall short.

I already noted that it is unlikely for DP to significantly affect other spending initiatives, but I think you are downplaying how effective the DP is at controlling crime. Lott calculates the DP was responsible for 12-14% of the homicide drop in the 1990s [11]. I also went through Mikal’s sources to find the study claiming that criminals are unaware of the penalties they face for crimes. The study comes from a Tucson Arizona. The study actually underplays its results because it found that 28.8% of the population surveyed knew that death was a punishment for murder [12]. 28.8% is actually pretty high. This means 28.8% of the people can potentially be deterred (number may be higher in states which use the DP more than AZ). Of course, some may be insensitive to punishment, but even if the DP can deter a small percentage of murderers the effect could be huge. 16,000 people were murdered in 2013 [13]. If 5% of those could be deterred, 800 lives would have been saved. This is a huge impact. This estimate is not unreasonable because almost 30% of the people surveyed knew that the DP was a punishment.If only 1% are deterred 160 lives are saved.

The average cost of one murder to society is $17 million [16]. If the DP deters just one murder, it makes up for its costs and saves money in the long term.

R2) Extradition

Other countries are worried that we will execute terrorists or international criminals. We could easily pass a law that we would not execute any terrorist or international criminal. European leaders said they would extradite criminals if we waive the option to use the DP [14]. This is a strong argument for reform, not abolition.

R3) Innocents

This is always an odd argument because anti-DP people always want to put people in jail... For life... Without the possibility of parole. Since LWOP cases get a lot less scrutiny, the alternative means many will die in prison--so much for protecting innocents.

High DP exonerations is good because it means innocents are removed from the ssytem before they are killed. Mikal cites a high number of 2,000, but fails to tell us that it is a number for all crimes, not capital crimes. The 0.5% number also for all crimes. And, for the DP, a people get let go, so the number executed would be smaller. Indeed, the rightful conviction rate for the DP itself is 99.72% [15]. So it actually is lower for the DP.

Mikal argues that the FBI is faking evidence. He admits that only 20 people have been executed because of this. If you go to the original source, it admits that “The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt.” [17] So flawed evidence was used in 20 cases which resulted in execution, but that does *not* necessarily mean that they were innocent. A lot more cases involving this led to imprisonment. The DP has a lot more appeals the accused can get out. If you are sentenced to life, you may not be so lucky.

R4) Supplies

There are many methods of execution. I noted that electrocution from a deterrence standpoint actually yields the largest results. Nitrogen asphyxiation, as Mikal noted, may be a replacement. I see no reason why this is inhumane. It has no smell or feel so most people would be unable to know when it was occurring. You would eventually run out of oxygen, pass out, and die. Nitrogen asphyxiation is probably one of the most humane methods of execution. There are euthanasia devices which kill patients using Nitrogen. Patients lose consciousness within 12 seconds [18]. Painless. Nitrogen would easily solve the problem. We have a huge supply because it is an industrial gas. It is efficient. It is painless. So, yes, lets move to nitrogen, that would solve the issue.

R5) International law

This is actually a false claim. Other civilized countries retain the DP. Japan still has a DP [19], South Korea has a moratorium but still has 60 people on death row and is discussing bringing it back [20], and Belarus still has a DP [21]. Over 80% of Japanese people support the DP, 52% of Australians support the DP for terrorism, 52% of Russians support the DP, 54% of people in the UK support the DP, and over 40% of Canadians support it [22]. So the DP is not necessarily frowned upon by the entire international community, and Japan is a huge fan of the DP--more than we are by 20%.

Mikal argues that I must defend the DP for how it is used--in the US, it is *only* used for murder. The Supreme Court already decided that the state cannot pursue the DP unless a victim dies. So any cases of DP use where a victim does NOT die is irrelevant. We can still criticize these countries for using the DP in an egregious manner (use against non murderers). And again, we could always reform our system: ban executing foreign nationals. Since the DP is useful for promoting justice and deterring crime, there is no reason to abolish it outright. All international concerns Mikal brings up can be ignored simply because we can reform our system and we do not execute people for crimes other than murder. We can still condemn these other nations if we wish.



3. Jon Sorensen and Rocky Lean Pilgrim. Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas During the Modern Era, p 158.


5. (divide 190 by 12)






11. Lott. Freedomnomics, p 135.














My adversary says I give up the right to add definitions, but he himself did not define what a heinous crime was in the first round. To be honest it's also irrelevant. This is a debate about something in practice, meaning the status quo is already in place. Unless my adversary is the one handing out the sentences, the status quo would remain in effect and proceed in the same way. He is affirming a policy that is already in place, meaning he is affirming the status quo. Granted most are for murders, but he can't simply change and note there are only *certain* ways in which the DP is applied when that is largely relevant to the rulings and how they are issued. So to summarize

(1) He did not define "heinous"
(2) He is not the one to determine how the DP is handed out.

Ironically the bit he copied from Roy actually stats that it is handed out "after a conviction...for a criminal offense", so that actually affirms that it's subjective to rulings. Without him defining heinous as "only murders", anything he typed out for this part is largely irrelevant.

R1) Deterrence

There are studies going both ways that shows deterrence either does or does not work. In a largely majority consensus, most experts agree that the DP has not deterrent effect. Nearly 90% of them actually[16]. This is impacted by a few reasons. You have to look at the target area for how these studies are used. Meaning the time they are conducted, the background data that plays into it, and the context as well.

I'm actually in a fundamental disagreement with my adversary on his main point, which is criminals tend to act with reason and logic. That is applicable to certain types of crimes, but not the types that earn one the death penalty. Again ironically he is stating that the DP is strictly for those that commit murder, so even if he were to get that point he then has another issue. People that are ready to commit murder do not act rationally or with logic.

It's basic biology. There are quite a few things that cause people to act more aggressively. Damage to the pre frontal cortex of the brain[17], decreased serotonin levels[18], and adrenaline. The amygdala processes emotion and when adrenaline levels are spiked, emotions go crazy causing people to act with less reason if any reason at all. What causes emotion and adrenaline to spike is what is referred to as a trigger event, and it takes less than a second. If you walk in and see your wife with another guy, anger is triggered in the amygdala and adrenaline spikes causing you to think without reason. At that point logic and reason are gone, because you are running on emotion. If someone where to see that and want to kill, the last thought in their mind is the DP. They are thinking with emotion, and deterrence is not a factor. It does not matter how many studies are conducted, you can't account for emotion and events that trigger people to do heinous crimes.

Also to note a majority of the studies that are used for deterrence occurred during the moratorium . It's what pro DP activist cite as a way to prove that crime increases when the DP is removed, but it fails to account for the population. When most of the studies where done, there was a giant influx in world population, meaning crime is naturally going to increase just off numbers alone. Correlation does not entail causation.

A correlation is intrinsically impossible to prove because of the above reasons. The context in which people kill change, and you can't conduct proper studies on deterrence because it is based on trigger events. Also just to notate as I said in my last round. The amount that is saved from abolishing the death penalty can be used to invest in more police forces which in turns actually acts as a better deterrent than the DP itself. Becker who is Cons own source actually affirms this in his paper crime and punishment [20] which is based on criminals acting rational. So if we are looking at a deterrence effect and even if you buy cons case (which you should not), his own source states that Police Officers are the best way to do it. The costs you can mitigate by abolishing the DP in turn is used for police forces which is de facto the best deterrent by his own source.

R2) Justice

This is literally based on the Code of Hammurabi, meaning an eye for an eye[19]. Justice is not served by killing someone that kills someone. Justice can be served in different ways. Meaning as long as we catch the person and stop them from committing more crimes, justice is served. That does not mean we have to kill them. Under his own logic he is basically saying we should rape rapist.

This entire argument is tied in with the fact that retribution of some type necessitates justice which is by no means true. The entire code is what our legal system was based off of, and has evolved from in most cases. Revenge is intrinsically found within humans, so the concept that revenge has to be used in order to get justice is normative in old practices and by their standards. The issue is that is not true. What is moral and what is right, is not based on retribution. That type of mindset is actually inherently harmful because it proposes that every action has an equal consequence without the chance to rehabilitate or an option for improvement. The major point of this is that justice can be served without retribution, the two do not necessitate each other.

C1) Costs

Ironically Con argues that plea bargaining reduces the cost of the DP. I was going to spend quite a bit of time on this, but there is no need. He actually concedes that abolishing the DP is the most cost efficient method in his last round, but then tries to go to a mitigation method. By his own admission the DP is 30 percent more costly (this is with plea bargaining). There are two logical inconsistent points that I want to point out right at the start

1) Cons entire case on justice derives on retribution and killing in order to achieve that
2) By offsetting costs with plea bargaining you are undermining this point.

So to put this in perspective. Con's entire case of justice can be dropped because his counter offer to costs is to offer plea bargaining out of the DP, meaning justice is not served. Also to note that by stating this, con has also stating that the best case scenario cost wise is the DP being *only* (lol), 30 percent more expensive.

I will dive into numbers if I need to later but he just gave me both points without me having to dive into detail. He concedes that the DP is more costly by nearly 30 percent, and has shot himself in the foot with his justice argument as he loses death by retribution in order to offset costs with plea bargaining.

I'm just going to use cons numbers on this, but assume hes right and it is 30 percent more costly( best case ). That money that is saved by abolishing it could be used in increasing police forces which cons own source states is the best method for deterrence. For con to even get close to winning this he now has to show that 30 percent is such a marginal amount that abolishing it is not worth it.

C2) Innocent lives lost

I was kind of shocked by his response to this. It basically was

*eh we fuk up alot, but not that much*

He tries to get around the fact that the FBI framed people by saying it was not *guaranteed* those people were not innocent. Run that back. The counter argument is basically

*Oh it's cool we planted evidence. He may be guilty*

He literally states verbatim

" So flawed evidence was used in 20 cases which resulted in execution, but that does *not* necessarily mean that they were innocent "

By no means is that logical or a counter argument to the case. Any argument for justice can be discounted as justice has to be delivered properly. He is basically saying it's fine if the FBI frames people because the people they are framing *may* not be innocent. I mean what else is there to say. That was cons words verbatim. Let's allow the FBI to plant fake evidence and hope they keep the right target. Let's just skip due process and infringe on someones right to a fair trial because the people they are framing *may* be innocent

C3) Supplies

Again the response to this is just not valid. He asserts *that he sees* no reason why it's not humane. Whether he sees these new methods as humane is a non factor, as he is not the one setting the criteria for what is cruel and unusual. What is a fact is that the Supreme Court has intervened and ruled most of these methods out, and are setting a criteria for what is humane which is drastically restricted. Con's personal thoughts on the matter do no weigh into the decision of the court. In fact the APHA is discouraging nearly all of its 62,000 members from participating in executions [21]. Not to mention the fact that Texas and Illinois are literally running out of drugs entirely . With the supreme court discouraging most new methods as inhumane, this is a significant impact.

C5) Customary International Law

Con just drops the balls on this argument all together. This is a debate about establishing why the DP should be abolished. Singapore as I said is executing countless people on charges of drug crimes. As long as the DP is legal in the US and ruled as humane we have no ground to challenge these executions. Con also straw mans my statement. I saw the US was the only *western* country to carry out executions. Also whether people support the DP and whether executions are carried out are two different things. By abolishing the DP we set a framework for humane methods of punishment, and it allows us to challenge other countries when they try to put our citizens to death.


Debate Round No. 3


Mikal has changed his stance on his semantical argument. He first argued that “Con must defend how the death penalty is actually applied.” When I showed that the DP could only be applied to murder, Mikal is now saying I didn’t specify heinousness or how the DP should be applied. Both are incorrect because (1) the rules state that you cannot add any new definitions, so it doesn’t even matter and (2) it is pretty obvious that US law only allows for murder. Since your definition of heinous cannot technically be applied per the rules, it is up to the voters to decide. The information I provided pretty solidly proves that the DP can only apply to murders.

C1) Deterrence

Consensus is an important part of science but it is not proof in and of itself. Mikal’s source refers to criminologists, who do not have the econometric background to understand the modern research; if you did a survey of economists there would be a different result. A question asks if the DP deters any amount. 100% of those surveyed said yes [1]. Mikal claims that studies show no deterrence. There will always be dissenting studies, but if you want to discuss consensus, there is a fairly strong consensus in the literature that the DP deters crime. 17 studies show deterrence whereas only 5 dissent [2]. Of those 5 dissenting, I explained earlier how one of those found a deterrent effect. Other papers, like Donahue and Wolfers (2006 and 2009), assume that the executions happen the same year a sentence occurred [3], but this is flawed because the average wait is 15 years. The NRC report ignores about half of the research proving deterrence [4]. I have offered very strong empirical support for my position.

Pro claims that it is impossible for murderers to be rational, but if you read my opening round, I noted that irrational actors (juveniles and people with mental disorders) can be deterred. Even murders of passion can be affected by death penalty legislation [5]. According to Gary Kleck, firearms ownership deters firearm homicide but not non firearm homicide. This is because “[d]eterrent effects would be stronger for gun homicides if their perpetrators were more likely to plan the killings” and that using a gun in homicide takes some degree of planning, so they “are more likely to think about the potential costs of their actions.” [6] A large portion of murderers are rational; all gun crimes have some degree of rationality and the potential for deterrence.

Pro argues that many things make people irrational. I do not deny that there are *some* undeterrable crimes, but even if a very small percentage can be deterred a huge amount of lives can be saved. Using the 30% I used above, I assumed that 25% were undeterrable. The 5% deterred led to 800 lives saved in one year alone. If you assume that 29% of those who know about DP law do not care, only 1% of murders can be deterred, 160 lives saved per year with the low 1% estimate. I don’t even need close to a majority of crimes to be deterrable to win the argument, 1% is enough to have an impact larger than the entire DPIC exoneration list [7]. This outweighs pretty much every argument in the debate. Mikal must remember that deterrence won’t stop the murder as it happens, it is meant to prevent it. Most people don’t walk around with adrenaline while planning a murder, gang violence, or purchasing a firearm for murder. That is when you are deterred--before the adrenaline kicks in. The number of people with brain damage is very low. Pro’s argument comes dangerously close to claiming that no punishment can deter crime because criminals are irrational, but this contradicts his whole ‘police effectiveness’ argument.

Mikal claims the studies occurred during the moratorium. This is false. All of the studies I have cited were published after 2000 when the DP was legal.There are strong theoretical reasons that demonstrate some degree of causation.

Correlation is always difficult to prove but any reader will see that the strongest evidence in this debate proves a deterrent effect. Even if 1% of crimes are deterrable there are more lives saved than the highest possible number for innocents executed. I provided many reasons why the number may be as high as 5% or more. Of course police are important, but they are part of certainty. Deterrence also includes severity of punishment which the DP emphasises and thus has a large effect. I already proved last round that the effect on state budgets is not enough to decrease police spending.

C2) Justice

Mikal’s argument against killing a murderer is that we shouldn’t rape rapists. This is a weak argument. In R2 I argued “The state should do everything within the (constitutional) limits of its power to bring justice to these people.” Raping a rapist is unconstitutiona. I also argued that the DP isn’t mandatory but only required up to a practical point. Raping rapists is both unconstitutional and impractical.

It is weird that you say the DP allows for no rehabilitation when LWOP suffers from the same issue and the rate of people exonerated is much higher than LWOP cases. Rehabilitation should only go to people who deserve it. Murderers do not deserve rehabilitation and should be punished. Equating retribution to revenge is untrue. Revenge is inflicting harm due to emotional reasons. Retribution is a rational process of punishment in order to correct a wrong. Although it is impossible to bring the dead back to life, the DP is the best way to make a bad situation better.

R1) Costs

I didn’t just mitigate. I had two lines of attack which Mikal has dropped: Sorensen’s study showed that the DP costs just as much as the alternatives, and if the DP just deters one murder it saves a huge amount of money. Both refute the argument.

Pro's source--Thaxton--is weak. He drops the criticism. His estimate is weak because it underestimates pleas, and even using extreme anti-DP numbers the DP is not economically inefficient and is incapable of actually displacing other spending. I pretty much debunked Pro’s entire argument with my mitigation and offensive arguments.

Pro argues that plea bargains debunk retribution; that is not true. I didn’t say that the DP was always required. I said that it should be pursued as long as it was practical. Anything put before the jury has the chance of minimizing the punishment or even letting the guilty offender go free. A plea bargain ensures a certain level of justice, which could be better than a jury trial. Plea bargains fit into the framework I made for justice.

I didn’t say that the DP was 30% more expensive. I said that using Thaxton’s numbers show that it is only 30% more expensive, but that it was probably less if you factor in other things and use a higher plea saving number. I gave good reasons that the costs are probably the same, and at worst the DP is only 30% more, which is not very significant.

The 30% number is actually a worst-case scenario because Thaxton uses a super low plea bargain number. I also underestimated the cost of life in prison because I did not take into account geriatric care and other factors which would further close the gap.

Pro drops all of my calculations after the 30%. I showed that, even using an estimate worse than I found with Thaxton’s data, that the DP’s cost is not enough to significantly affect police, education, or infrastructure spending. Pro then drops that the DP is not significant from a budget perspective. This nullifies this argument, which was probably his best contention. Contnetion debunked.

R2) Innocents

Assume that 20 people were actually executed. It is nothing compared to the 180 - 800 lives saved each year (at least) from deterrence. A basic life-life tradeoff actually shows that the DP is just. Even assuming all of these people Mikal is referring to are innocent, if the DP deters crime, “a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, that form of punishment.” [8]

Mikal drops most my evidence here as well. I showed that most of those 20 were probably guilty.

I have shown that very few executions result in an innocent being harmed. Mikal also dropped that LWOP cases have less scrutiny so the risk of having innocents die in prison is also an issue for the alternative to the DP.

R3) Supplies

This argument is super weak because nitrogen asphyxiation is even more humane than lethal injection. Euthanasia machines using Nitrogen cause the patient to pass out within 12 seconds and die a few minutes later [9]. The supreme court has prevented many methods of execution because they were inhumane; Nitrogen is humane. Mikal dropped the euthanasia machine argument last round and thus concedes that death by Nitrogen is humane. As there are other methods, the supplies for lethal injection are irrelevant. The APHA preventing members from being executioners is irrelevant. Organizations do political stunts like that all of the time, and they do it due to concerns over pain. Nitrogen is painless. My method has zero issues with supply.

R4) International law

The US only allows execution for murder. We can criticize Singapore’s actions because they use the DP in a way we have deemed immoral. We condems other countries for war all the time when we also go to war. The same applies to the DP. Just because we have it in some form does not mean we have to support countries who use it in an egregious manner.

South Korea and Japan are widely considered western countries with western culture, and Belarus is in Europe. ‘Western’ is an arbitrary criteria. I have shown that other civilized countries with western societies execute people, have people on death row, and support the DP.

Mikal dropped extradition.

Vote Con.












I'm not going to go into this much, but limiting the scope of the DP to whatever my adversary sees fit is not logical nor is it practical. He can't just say the DP is used for only murders when in reality the court decides what and when it is used. This is an argument about the status quo, and per the status the quo that is how it is defined. True I can't change the definitions , but not defining heinous and then saying in the same paragraph that the DP is determined by a court of law is counter intuitive, it's also just plain silly. Had he wanted to define this a certain way , he should have read Roys round before he copied it because from any logical standard we can see that is what this debate is about.

I'm going to go over the impacts of this debate

R1) Deterrence.

My adversary tries to limit the consensus I mentioned down to a set group. This is the equivalent of taking a poll about how many scientist believe the earth is 6,000 years old, and then saying that *only* Christian scientist are right. What he is attempting to do is skew data and numbers in order to target a set group of *experts* that agree with his only his opinion. If you discount the opinion of a vast majority that all tend to think the same way , and then only ask the people that agree with the opposing mindset anyone can come up with any number they want.

For the most part he is not able to answer my main point of this argument which is crimes aren't rational. He states some crimes are rational, but has spent most of his opening round arguing this is a debate about murders. Murders are not rational. Besides blinding asserting that murders are rational, and providing a study that shows you can *deter* crime (not murders), he has yet to hit the heart of this contention.

When you are in the moment, and you are ready to kill, you are not going to think about consequences. No one who is about to pull a trigger or kill someone is going to think "hey if I do this I may get in trouble". All of these studies he cites are around deterring crime. This includes population, area, control rates, etc. None of that is soluble as it misses the point. You can't get data on how deterrence works in cases where someone is ready and willing to kill. The target area is to inconclusive.

The sources I cited show this. When someone get's mad, adrenaline get's pumping, and when that happens anger comes out. There are certain events that trigger this process, and when that process is trigger adrenaline is at it's highest. Your heart rate goes up, your blood flow spikes, you start to sweat, and then after that most people tend to respond with psychical aggression [1]. When that trigger even is severe enough to spike this to a monumental level, the rational is gone and you are left with a physical and aggressive response to the event that triggered it. This is where most murders happen, in the head of the moment.

Con can cite studies all day long saying having a DP deters crime, but it will never be conclusive. Most of his studies try to encompass crime rates from one year to the next, crimes in certain places after the DP was active or was not active, but it does not evaluate the one thing that actually matters, what causes people to kill. Once you hit a stage where you are ready to kill, it's completely subjective to the situation at hand and the trigger event that causes it. This is a day by day thing, and no study will ever be able to accurately portray events that happen like this.

I also affirm that if his primary motive is to deter crime, that we use the funds that could be saved from abolishing the DP to invest in officers that could reduce crime greater than the DP itself. As my source and his source both notes, police are the best method for reducing crime, so if we can offset costs and put this into a more viable deterrence method, we should opt to do that. This kills the need for this at all

R2) Justice

This point is entirely dropped and not even addressed really. As I stated when he is arguing that someone *ought* to be killed in order to bring justice to the family, and then in turns argues that they can plea bargain out to reduce costs, he is undermining his own argument. By his own logic people that commit heinous crimes (murder according to him) should be put to death. Opting to let every person that commit murder off with a plea bargain undermines his retributive point of justice, as he would have to affirm that all people that kill without cause should be put to death. This is dropped for him to try and counter my cost argument and this rebuttal was never even brought up after I said it 2 or 3 times.

He also argues that the eye or an eye can be unconstitutional but that misses the point. Whether or whether not a certain action is or is not constitutional does not address the motive for why that action is being done. What if raping was legal. Is it moral to rape a rapist? That is the logic that is being used and which he is affirming under the constitution. Meaning just because the DP is legal , it's alright to kill people that kill but anything that falls out of that criteria is invalid. This ignores the logic and rational behind why you are killing the people to begin with.

It's literally retributive justice, which is an invalid perspective


1) This is gone because he opts to use ple bargaining and undermines his own argument
2) You don't need retributive justice to serve justice.

He says plea bargaining fits into his frame work because it brings about a certain type of justice, but earlier in the round he was saying executing people was the way to bring closure to families. You can't say retribution is the way to bring closure and serve justice, then argue it's situational. The entire point of the DP is to bring justice according to my adversary. Allowing people to plea bargain out in order to save money, literally shoots this argument down by itself.

C1) Costs

He source spammed this so much that I can't read through it all if I wanted due to time restraints. I'm just going to except his conclusion because it's a concession as is. He notes and affirms that the *best case scenario* for the death penalty is that it is 30 percent more costly than abolishing it. That is also the best case scenario, from an logical standpoint that number is not going to be accurate, and if I had the time I'm sure I could show where it would be near 50 percent. I'll take 30 percent though.

Even from his own logic, a capital trial at the best case scenario will be around 500 thousand to 1 million dollars more expensive[2]. I mean this is not considering that states need nearly 400 million dollars to re do death rows [2]. If you consider that you are saving 500k to 1 million dollars per capital trial, saying that you could not re invest that back into police enforcement is not logical. This is not supported, but just an assertion. A police officers salary is around 30-60k[3]. So think of it this way for every capital trial that is not done, we can hire around 10-20 police officers. Police is the best way to reduce crime and his own source notates this, the only rebuttal he is has offered is that it won't contribute. I think 10-20 polices officers per trial we don't have could impact quite a bit. That would reduce crimes rates nearly 1.5 what the DP does alone[4]. This flips his deterrence argument.

C2) Extradition

Note I did not drop this, he basically conceded it with a blind assertion

This was basically dropped with con making an argument that we could make a law to encompass this. That is not practical or logical, nor has it been done. Again this is con just asserting something without showing how it would work. This relies completely on how other countries perceive us, and what we would do. Removing the DP guarantees extradition while his method is an idea he came up with that is not in practice or promised to work

C3) Innocent

Again he just drops the point of this argument. Claiming that just those 10 people *could* be guilty does not show that. Nor is there anyway to know this. The FBI planted evidence so the gauge by which they are innocent is already altered. Again this is just the 20 we have seen, if it happened here think about how many more times this has happened.

This is literally a thorn in the side of justice. Add this with the wrongful executions, and the fact that the FBI is determining who is guilty this is a monumental impact. Con just says *could* be guilty, but again this is a non factor. The gauge by which the are innocent was altered and evidence was faked. You are opening this up to the whim of the FBI

C4) Supplies

Again con jsut drops this. He asserts that a certain method is humane

1) He does now show how this will be used on a large scale
2) He ignores the supreme court is ruling almost all other methods outside of injection inhumane
3) He just asserts his own ideology without considering anything else

The supreme court decides what is viable and what is not, not my adversary sadly. So if they are ruling methods outside of injection as inhumane that is a huge issue.


Con again misses the entire point. Having a DP where we can execute people, gives other the countries the right to execute people without giving us due cause to challenge them. What they execute people for is up to interpretation, because they can interpretae it in non humane ways. Saying that Killing anyone at all is not humane is far easier than trying to define what humane is, as what the DP is used for is entirely relevant to their laws. If you ban the DP all together, it solves that problem. Whether we condemn them or not is not a factor, it's whether we can challenge them on non humane methods of execution and actually save lives.

Debate Round No. 4
67 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago
RFD - Part I:

I believe my earlier RFD wasn't full enough, and didn't really adequately cover all the impacts. I didn't even include a proper impact calculus. So here is a revised RFD. The debate was -- overall -- a relatively good one. Neither side, though, gives me a weighing mechanism for the arguments. The debaters focus on probability within their contentions, but, sans an impact calculus, there's no way I can judge the debate on magnitude. My feedback would be for them to include an impact calc at the end of the round, so it'll help the judges weigh the impacts. Anyway, I've decided on a weighing mechanism.

(1) Lives lost

Con is clearly winning deterrence. I'm not getting any good refutation of this contention from Pro. Pro tries to refute deterrence by the following means: (a) the biology of the brain entails that criminals aren't rational actors, (b) criminological consensus. Pro loses on both. The first is lost, as Con demonstrates that irrational actors can be deterred, and murders of passion can be deterred. Con also shows a *correlation* between the capital punishment and homicide rates, which means I can clearly buy Con there. On the second, the consensus doesn't matter -- I need the evidence which the consensus is based *on,* and, further, the economic consensus cancels the consensus argument as well. Deterrence offsets innocent death, and Pro drops the extradition counterplan, so I award both to Con.

(2) Costs

The second major portion of the debate. I can award costs to Con simply because the DP offsets all these costs by deterring crime, thus saving 15 x $17 billion, which is easily sufficient for me to presume Con on costs. Further, Con wins the plea bargain count, because he gives me reason to prefer Scheidegger to Thaxton. Pro doesn't even defend Thaxton's plea bargain count.
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago
While I can still buy that the cost of the DP is > than that of the LWOP, the impact is severely weakened, and -- perhaps -- offset by deterrence. Costs -- slightly -- to Pro (largely because Con concedes that the DP costs more, only tries to mitigate the impact), but the impact is *severely* mitigated and nigh non-existent.

== Impact Calculus ==

Con wins on the impact calculus. As mentioned, neither debater gives me an analysis on probability/magnitude, but I can compare the magnitude of costs and lives lost. One life costs $17 billion, so the value of life is greater than that of the money spent on the DP. Further, I can -- by default -- prefer lives to money while analyzing *any* magnitude. So if the DP deters 18 homicides per execution, then enough homicides are deterred for me to -- easily -- prefer Con.

That's why I voted Con.
Posted by 1Historygenius 2 years ago
I wanted to get this! Finals weeks are killing me.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
RFD (Pt. 1):

An intriguing debate to say the least, and well done by both parties. One point of overview before I get into this:

Both sides really get bogged down in the contentions. Neither one provides a conclusion section where they crystallize the debate or weigh the arguments as a whole. I get some weighing in the contentions themselves, but I get very little between contentions. It's worth taking a step back by the end of the debate and providing the context for the decision of your voters. I know there were a lot of details and a lot to cover, but it's usually better to sacrifice some opportunity for rebuttal in order to do this. It could well have changed my decision.

C1) Deterrence

Let's just get the points out of the way that didn't matter to me. The consensus point was just generally weak. It doesn't matter if all criminologists or economists take a side " what matters is whether they're justified in doing so. Both of these are appeals to authority on the basis that the authority must be right, and they're just appeals to different authorities without much in the way of reasoning as to why one set of authorities is better than another. So it's a wash.

What isn't a wash is the study analysis. I don't think Pro ever really defeats this point: Con's showing that the majority of studies very clearly support his conclusions, and even takes the time to knock down those studies that disagree. The point that studies will never be conclusive is solely mitigation. We accept the reality that you will never be able to control for every single factor in human populations. We accept that causal analysis is, thus, virtually impossible. That doesn't mean that correlative analysis should be completely discarded, it just means that we recognize limitations in its applicability. So, while I question the numbers that Con provides, I find it very difficult to just discard this point wholesale.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
(Pt. 2)

Pro spends a lot of time in the later rounds pointing to irrationality among murderers, but never really takes on Con's argument that irrational actors can still be deterred by rational disincentives. Pro brings the focus back to how physiological and emotional factors fundamentally make these people irrational, but that's not enough. He has to address the point that some of these irrational actors will be stopped before this cascade of psychological/physiological changes occurs. It's also unclear why every single murderer is necessarily undergoing these exact same changes, which is what Pro had to show in order to prove that absolutely no one would be deterred by the DP. Frankly, I'm surprised that the focus didn't shift to a basic "how much does LWOP deter" point, which I think would have given Pro more traction.

So I'm buying that there is some deterrence, which means Con is winning this point. It's difficult to evaluate the numbers of lives saved, but it's not insubstantial. I'll get to the point about police on the costs argument.

C2) Justice

I think this point is in Pro's corner. I don't so much like the response that Con gives me to the "raping the rapist" point, but I found that argument weak to begin with. Pro never really explains why an eye for an eye is necessarily a bad way to run things, nor why, if Con is being arbitrary with his application of the principle, that is necessarily harmful. It's a nice emotional point, but it never really gets down to any actual harm.

What works better is this argument reagrding the disparity between plea bargains and executions. It's never made clear why plea bargaining facilitates justice for families, which was a large point Con was making. It's not retributive for them if the person gets a plea bargain, even if society at large is satisfied.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
(Pt. 3)

The point about LWOP leading to fewer exonerations and thus more instances of injustice is a good one, but it never really gets the backing it needs to be really potent, and it only warrants a sentence from Con in the final round.

The contradiction on justice wins me over.

R1) Costs

Probably the most important point in the debate, and both debaters seem to recognize that. Other contentions spend a lot of time linking to this one, and Con even posted some pre-rebuttal to the expected argument. And, honestly, that's somewhat weird to me. Both sides sort of just assume that funds are what everything comes down to because we can easily redirect them wherever we want. But that's not generally how this works. If I take money out of one area of government, there's no reason to necessarily believe it will go into the area I want it to be. Taking money out of the death penalty doesn't place that money in police hiring.

But I digress. Both sides assume it, so I assume it, too.

Con's winning this point overall. I could go for the argument that any prevented deaths by deterrence overwhelm the costs presented by Pro's case. I'm not so sure that those should be compared, especially as the costs of a death tend to be spread out to a lot of parties and have numerous effects, but Pro doesn't give me that argument. I could also accept the Sorensen study, which Pro dropped. This poitn that 30% more is the minimum cost of the DP is a misrepresentation of Con's point, as Con was saying that that's a worst case scenario. Pro basically drops this in the last couple of rounds. So I'm buying that DP is roughly equal to LWOP in cost. That means that there's no chance of extra police hiring because there's no extra funds to go there, which means Pro cannot use that to outweigh the deterrent effect.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
(Pt. 4)

R2) Extradition

Basically, I'm unclear on why Con's counterplan (to edit what we can and cannot do with the DP) is "not practical or logical." It's fine if it hasn't been done. The question is, should it be done? I get that there might still be some reservations about sending these prisoners over (though Pro doesn't really make that argument), but I don't see why it can't be done. Pro does make several points throughout the debate about how we can't alter the decision-making of justices by fiat (though I disagree with that point " we can set precedent that they are required to follow, you just have to build a case that does so), and that Con didn't really address that, but I fail to see how that argument applies here. Can we not make it the policy of the U.S. not to execute any terrorist or international criminal? I don't see why not, so I throw this point out.

R3) Innocent

Pro's winning this point. Perhaps those on LWOP get less scrutiny, leading to more innocents spending their whole lives in prison, but it's unclear why that's worse than death absolutely preventing any discovery of innocence. It would have been worth Con's effort to spend more time here and address just how long people are on death row, providing numerous opportunities for the discovery of innocence.

But I'm not given that. What I'm given instead is mainly a bunch of weighing analysis, which I'll deal with in the conclusion. Pro showed that there are innocent people who are wrongfully convicted and executed. He showed that the FBI does fake evidence in order to get some of these people killed who may or may not be innocent. Those are both harms of some import.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
(Pt. 5)

R4) Supplies

I think Con mishandles this. What Pro's argument was presenting was that a lack of supplies have led many states to pursue means for execution that may or may not be viewed as cruel and unusual punishment. So long as any of the means they employ are cruel and unusual, this harm applies. Con focuses on one such means and points out that it's readily available and not cruel and unusual. Unfortunately for him, that doesn't address the problem that states aren't all choosing nitrogen gas as a means for execution. I get by the end of the debate that it would be nice if they did, but it's not a part of Con's case to force them to do so. Hence, the harm still applies. Some states will use means that are cruel and unusual.

R5) Customary International Law

I think this is another point that's mitigated into oblivion. I see the harm: we want to ensure that other countries are not using the death penalty on "minor crimes," especially when it comes to our own citizens. The problem is that I don't see a reason why the U.S. must necessarily take a hard-line stance against the death penalty in order to take a stance against this at all. Maybe that stance is made stronger when we say no to the death penalty as a whole, but I need the reasoning behind that. In fact, now that I think about it, the logic would actually seem to favor keeping the death penalty and acting as a model for what appropriate use looks like. It seems like spurning it completely would lead other countries to think we're employing a "higher than thou" mentality and requiring them to eliminate the death penalty as a whole. Con doesn't provide that argument and, thus, doesn't turn this point, but he puts enough down here to make me question if there's any harm at all. Hence it goes away.


So, each side is winning some arguments. Let's compare them.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
(Pt. 6)

Deterrence and Cost are the major arguments Con is winning, and they're clearly important as that's where the majority of the debate occurs. Meanwhile, Pro is winning Justice, Innocents and Supplies. So on the basis of "how many arguments is each side winning," I'm voting Pro...

...Just kidding. The number of arguments has no bearing on their weight. I'm unclear on what a loss of justice means. It might have a very large effect, but given that justice is a societal concept rather than a calculation of lives, it seems relatively minor by comparison to any point that does swing lives. The supplies point is also difficult to weigh. Defying the Constitution and engaging in cruel and unusual punishment does have its harms, and the thought of torturing these prisoners certainly turns my stomach, but, as these criminals would be executed anyway, I'm unclear on how it weighs into the debate. It's stronger than the justice point, but not enough really factor into the debate.

So that just leaves the innocents. As Con points out, this is a relatively small number of people who are affected. Perhaps there's some egregious harm that results from a government killing any number of innocent American citizens, but I need to see that point clearly. I don't. I also don't see a particularly convincing reason for why I should be so upset with the FBI framing people (which would probably happen in a system without the DP anyway). The lost lives are bad, I get that, but this goes back to justice and I still don't have a solid idea of what injustice does in terms of harms.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
(Pt. 7)

Meanwhile, the deterrence point gives me a lot to go on when it comes to numbers of lives saved. The costs argument actually gets straight turned, and as both sides agree that police are an even better deterrent (and both sides agree that that's where extra money is going), the deterrent effect is dramatically improved. Loss of life is reduced substantially, or at least more so than the incidence of loss of innocents. That's a much more substantive impact than harms to justice and some instances of cruel and unusual punishment.

Hence, I vote Con (for real).
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by kingkd 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD Comments
Vote Placed by bsh1 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Frankly, I am buying deterrence. I think that Con gave a fuller analysis of the issues, and correctly points out the criminologists lack the econometric training of his experts and that the consensus of studies favors some deterrent impact. Con then observes: "I don?t even need close to a majority of crimes to be deterrable to win the argument, 1% is enough to have an impact larger than the entire DPIC exoneration list. This outweighs pretty much every argument in the debate." Given this, even though I grant Pro that a significant number of innocents may be dying, I don't see how that outweighs. This is, after all, a debate on policy, not absolute morality or philosophy. Additionally, with Pro basically dropping his cost argument (his R4 point about 30% misrepresented what Con said), he is not getting any significant practical impacts. CIL wasn't quantified, so it was very hard to weigh against Con's points. Extradition was dropped. Thus, my vote goes Con. Good debate!
Vote Placed by tejretics 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by FuzzyCatPotato 2 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Pro wins Cost, with two impacts: 30% cheaper and plea-bargains-prove-DP-unnecessary. But this isn't a big impact; roughly 0.01% of state budgets . Con wins deterrence, somewhat, largely because Con looks stronger sourcewise, citing multiple studies and correlations; Pro shows some level of consensus against the studies., while Con shows some support for deterrence. Pro's arguments about psychology seemed somewhat true. Deterrence, ultimately, was hotly contested, and so its impact isn't massive. Were this all, Con would win. But Pro has strong arguments for innocent killings, for lack of supplies, and for international impacts. Innocent killings appear unjust, even if they deter crime; if killing anybody police thought were criminals on sight would deter crime, it would still be unjust and lead to greater injustice as people rose against it. Ultimately, I narrowly vote Pro. Deterrence is the only major Con argument; everything else flows Pro. [Edit:] Great debate, guys.