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Resolved: The death penalty should be banned in the United States.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/9/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 7,279 times Debate No: 13335
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)




Contention 1: The death penalty is costly.
Many people think that the death penalty is enforced to save money so that federal prisons do not have to keep criminals in their jail cells for their entire lifetimes. However this is not true. According to a report from the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice in 2008, it costs more for a criminal to be executed than to spend his/her entire life time in prison. The report states, "The additional cost of confining an inmate to death row, as compared to the maximum security prisons where those sentenced to life without possibility of parole ordinarily serve their sentences, is $90,000 per year per inmate. With California's current death row population of 670, that accounts for $63.3 million annually. The average cost of defending a trial in a federal death case is $620,932, about 8 times that of a federal murder case in which the death penalty is not sought." With only 30-50 executions per year, we can see that not a large number of people are qualified to actually be executed, therefore we should not be spending huge amounts of the government's money on a small percentage of criminals. Instead, the money could be going to regular prisons to improve the quality of life for criminals there. It is not logical for the U.S. to spend millions of dollars on a person as a punishment for their crime.

Contention 2: Mistakes in death cases have lead to wrongful deaths
Because the number of mistakes that prosecutors make when dealing with death cases, thousands of people have been put to death for no reason. Columbia University researchers tracked all capital convictions from 1973 to 1995, nearly 5,800 cases. They found serious errors in 68 percent. Two-thirds of death penalty cases that were appealed were successful, report researchers who contend the nation's capital punishment system is "collapsing under the weight of its own mistakes." It's not one case, it's thousands of cases. It's not one state, it's almost all of the states," says Columbia University law professor James Liebman, the lead author of the study. "You're creating a very high risk that some errors are going to get through the process." Because a human's life is one thing that cannot be brought back, it is crucial that the death penalty is abolished so that no more innocent lives are put to death because of a mistake.

Contention 3:
According to Jeffrey Fagan of Colombia University, the death penalty does not deter crime. He states, "These new studies [that claim a new evidence supports the conclusion that capital punishment has a positive deterrent effect] are fraught with technical and conceptual errors: inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all the relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on key variables in key states, the tyranny of a few outlier states and years, and the absence of any direct test of deterrence. These studies fail to reach the demanding standards of social science to make such strong claims, standards such as replication and basic comparisons with other scenarios. Some simple examples and contrasts, including a careful analysis of the experience in New York State compared to others, lead to a rejection of the idea that either death sentences or executions deter murder." Since the death penalty is mainly used as a warning to criminals not to murder or commit other crimes, it should be abolished since it is not deterring crime.

For these reasons I can see nothing but an affirmative vote in today's debate.


Contention 1- The death penalty deters crime
According to a study done by the University of North Carolina, for every 1 execution, 18 murders were deterred. If murderers are sentenced to death, potential murderers will be less likely to kill, out of fear for losing their own life. This was proven in Harris County, Texas, where the murder rate dropped by 73% after the death penalty was reinstated. Furthermore, according to Accuracy in Media, Texas Oklahoma, Louisiana together account for nearly half of the nation's executions, and also have the steepest decline in homicide rates. Along with that, the death penalty prevents murderers from killing again. There are plenty of examples where murderers in jail or on parole have killed again, and the death penalty eliminates that risk. Because the majority of criminals fear death, the threat of the death penalty prevents them from killing.

Contention 2- The public supports the death penalty.
Because the United States is a democracy, a change in policy should only happen if the majority of US citizens support it. However, The Gallup polling center has found that 69% of US citizens support it. The US government has an obligation to uphold justice for the public, and because the death penalty is what the public wants, it shouldn't be banned.

Contention 3- The death penalty provides closure for victims.
For the families of murder victims, the fact that the person who killed their loved ones is gone provides them with a sense of peace. They know that the criminal will never hurt anyone again, and although it's no where near to eliminating their grief, it's still a huge step forward. Were the death penalty to be abolished, then the victims would be tortured knowing that while their loved one is dead, the criminal that killed them is still alive somewhere. Furthermore, the victims should not have to support the murderer in prison. The families of the victim have to pay taxes that ultimately go to funding prisons and the criminals in those prisons. It's not right for the people hurt by the murderer to have to pay for keeping the criminal alive.

Therefore, I can see no other option but a negative ballot.
Debate Round No. 1


For my opponent's first contention, she states that the death penalty deters crime. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology reported that 88% of the country's top criminologists surveyed do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide. Eighty-seven percent of them think that the abolition of the death penalty would not have a significant effect on murder rates and 77% believe that "debates about the death penalty distract Congress and state legislatures from focusing on real solutions to crime problems." And also, if the death penalty really did deter crime like what my opponent is saying, than how come the rate of murders and homicides haven't gone down? Also there have been many studies on deterrence over the years. Although some have claimed a deterrent effect, experts have raised questions about the methodologies used in these studies. Measuring why people do not commit crimes is very difficult and the studies have been, at best, inconclusive.

For my opponent's second contention, shes that the public supports the death penalty. However, just because 69% of the public favor the death penalty does not make it right. Also, my opponent's poll is flawed. According to ABC News, most people, 63 percent, support the death penalty when no other option is presented. But that's down from a high of 80 percent seven years ago, and it's weakly held: Support for executions drops to 46 percent when life without parole is offered as an alternative. So although people might say that criminals ought to suffer the penalty if that was the only form of punishment available, less than 50% of the population of the United States favor the death penalty if another punishment alternative is presented. Therefore we can see that in general, the public does not support the death penalty.

Lastly, for my opponent's third contention, she brings up a point about how the death penalty provides closure for victims. However this is untrue. The fact that the person who killed a family's beloved one does not bring the person who was killed back. The death penalty will only harbor hate and is used as revenge. The death penalty does not bring honor to the death of the beloved ones that are murdered and objectifies human being's lives. For example, if a woman were to steal another woman's pen, she should return it. However, it doesn't make sense for a person to give up their life if they made the mistake of killing someone. The death penalty is barbaric and it is a reason why most European countries, China, and other nations with high-standard societies have banned the death penalty.

It is for these reasons that I can see an affirmative vote in today's debate.


In her first contention, my opponent talks about how the death penalty is more expensive that life in prison. However, according to the International Herald Tribune, when the costs of keeping an inmate in prison per year are added up, the death penalty is easily cheaper. The Reuters foundation reported in March of 2009 that on average, it cost $29,000 to keep one inmate into jail, so if a criminal committed a murder when they were 25, and they stayed in jail until they were 85, the cost of housing them would be almost $2 million. The average cost of one death case row, however, is $285,000. That's a clear benefit monetary wise of the death penalty. However, the cost of the death penalty isn't a reason to vote affirmative. The costs are irrelevant compared to the closure that it gives to the victims. Just because something is expensive doesn't mean that we shouldn't do it, it just means that it costs a lot of money. Unless my opponent can prove that the cost of the death penalty directly harms something, then the negative team easily wins this issue. My opponent later says that the money should be going to prisons to improve the quality of life of the criminals there, but it makes no sense why the US government should be spending money to help out criminals instead of victims. It's illogical for the US to stop using the death penalty because it's "expensive" and instead use all that money to improve the quality of life for inmates. The inmates are there because they've done something wrong, in a lot of cases, committed murder. The money of taxpayers, and of the families of the victims shouldn't be going to make their life better.

Now moving on to my opponent's second contention, she talks about how mistakes in prosecution cause people to be put to death for no reason. She then tries to prove this through a Columbia University study, which found errors in cases in the late 1900s. However, this was more than 20 years ago Science has come a long way since then, and the mistakes that were being made then aren't being made now. Unless my opponent can prove that today, a significant amount of innocents are still being executed, the negative team clearly wins this issue. Furthermore, the study is flawed. The error rate produced by the study included any issue requiring further review by a lower court, even when the court upheld the sentence. The study never actually found any case of mistaken executions, so its clear that the murder of innocents isn't an issue in today's round.

Finally, looking at my opponent's third contention, she talks about how the death penalty doesn't deter crime. However, her only evidence to back this up is a quote by one member of Colombia University, which really isn't enough to prove what she's saying. Remember that in Harris County, after the death penalty was reinstated, the murder rate dropped by 73%, and that because Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana account for nearly half of the nation's executions, they also have the steepest decline in homicide rates. Furthermore, according to the University of North Carolina, for every 1 execution, 18 murders were deterred. The death penalty was worked empirically in history to deter murders, therefore the negative team wins the deterrence issue. Furthermore, even if the deterrence provided by the death penalty isn't as high as some people may like it to be, the fact remains that it still does more than putting a criminal in life would. Because the resolution talks about banning the death penalty, we have to compare things now to what things would look like without the death penalty. Without capital punishment, there would be no deterrence at all against criminals, therefore it's still a better deterrent than life in prison is.

Now moving on to my case, for my first contention about the death penalty being a deterrent, my opponent says that because 88% of criminologists don't believe that it is a deterrent, it isn't. However, when we actually look at past examples in history of the death penalty being banned, we see that the murder rate shoots up, and when it gets reinstated, the murder rate goes down. We can see this in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, where almost half of all US executions are committed, and also have the sharpest decline in homicide rates. Also, in response to my University of North Carolina study which stated that for every 1 execution, 18 murders were prevented, my opponent says that people often question studies. However, that is irrelevant to the University of North Carolina study. Unless my opponent can actually prove that the methodology of that study is flawed, not just that some studies have flawed methodologies, she can't win on this point. Just because some studies have flawed methods doesn't mean that every study does, therefore she has to look at this study in particular.

For my second contention about how the American people want it, my opponent's response is that my poll is false, and how a CNN poll says that when another option is given, only 46% of Americans support it. I'd like to clarify that we're talking about two different polls. The poll I stated in my case comes from the Gallup Polling Center, and the question specifically asked whether Americans support the death penalty for murderers. 69% of Americans said yes, so its clear that Americans do support the death penalty. The judge should prefer the poll in my case, since it was more recent than the ABC poll, and it's from a more legitimate polling source. Furthermore, my opponent misconstrues the ABC study. What the study actually says, is that when another choice of punishment is given, 46% prefer life in prison, while 50% prefer capital punishment. Her own study proves that people that don't want the death penalty is a minority, therefore it's clear that this point goes to the negative team.

Finally, for my third contention, my opponent states that the death penalty doesn't provide closure because it doesn't bring the family member back. However, that's not the goal of the death penalty. The point of capital punishment is to deter against crime, and give families a sense of peace by knowing that they won't have to worry about their loved one's murderer again. Capital punishment puts victims first by giving them closure, while life sentences put the criminal first. My opponent then goes on to say that because countries like China and the EU have abolished the death penalty, then we should too. First of all, China still uses the death penalty. Their last execution was less than 3 months ago, and capital punishment still hasn't been banned, so if my opponent's goal is to do what China's doing, that just proves why we should be using the death penalty. Furthermore, just because the EU doesn't use capital punishment does not mean that the US shouldn't either. Unless my opponent can prove that the families of victims in the EU are fine with letting their loved one's killer stay alive, the fact that the EU doesn't use capital punishment is irrelevant to today's debate. Throughout this whole round, my opponent has been looking at things in the viewpoint of the criminals. What banning the death penalty does is tell criminals that it's okay to kill citizens and destroy families, since we will protect them from death, and tell the families of victims that frankly, we don't care about what they're going through, we're only concerned about the criminals. That's what's actually barbaric, not the death penalty.

Therefore I can see no other option but a negative ballot.
Debate Round No. 2


yesolshin forfeited this round.


yvonne forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by TallIndianKid 6 years ago
It was a close debate, and definitely would have been better if the third round was not forfeited.
But based on the debate provided, I think that a negative vote is clear.
The negative team showed how crime would be worse without the death penalty, which the affirmative had no answer to.
Also, the negative team showed how the cost is actually higher to keep a perso as an inmate for life, rather than just executing.
And lastly, the negative team proved that the death penalty would help mitigate the damage to the victim's loved ones.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by starvard 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by TallIndianKid 6 years ago
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