The Instigator
Con (against)
1 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
3 Points

Should the death penalty be illegal in the united states?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/1/2014 Category: News
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,404 times Debate No: 62521
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




If you read about Bundy"s life in prison, waiting nine years for his execution, you will see that the man exhausted every single legal point he and his lawyers could think of, all in an attempt to spare him execution. He "defended" himself in prison interviews by blaming pornography for causing his uncontrollable teenage libido, and for causing him to think of women as objects and not humans. He attempted to have his death sentence commuted to life without parole by explaining that it was all pornography"s fault, and that had it never existed, he would have been a good person.When that didn"t work, he pretended to come clean and tell police where the bodies of unfound victims were, so that their families could have closure. He never once admitted that he was a bad person, and just before his execution, he claimed that he hadn"t done anything wrong. It was obvious that he feared being put to death. He did his best to avert it. This means that he did not fear life in prison"at least not as much as he feared capital punishment.

-The death penalty is not to kill people even though its the outcome, the death penalty is a fear for the people before they commit the crime

For the cruelty debate .
-It"s true that cruelty should not be legally tolerated"and the five methods listed above are very efficient in killing the condemned before he or she is able to feel it. Granted, we are not able to ask the dead whether or not they felt their necks snap, or the chemicals burn inside them"but modern American executions very rarely go awry. It does happen, but the reported accidents since 1976 number about ten nationwide, out of 1,328

For the government debate
-The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that a penalty must be proportional to the crime; otherwise, the punishment violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. In performing its proportionality analysis, the Supreme Court looks to the following three factors: a consideration of the offense's gravity and the stringency of the penalty; a consideration of how the jurisdiction punishes its other criminals; and a consideration of how other jurisdictions punish the same crime.

For those who says its against the Constitution.
Congress or any state legislature may prescribe the death penalty, also known as capital punishment, for murder and other capital crimes. The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty is not a per se violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but the Eighth Amendment does shape certain procedural aspects regarding when a jury may use the death penalty and how it must be carried out. Because of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, the Eighth Amendment applies against the states, as well as the federal government.
Eighth Amendment analysis requires that courts consider the evolving standards of decency to determine if a particular punishment constitutes a cruel or unusual punishment. When considering evolving standards of decency, courts both look for objective factors to show a change in community standards and also make independent evaluations about whether the statute in question is reasonable.(


I will thank my opponent for this debate and I hope it is a good one!
I will divide my arguments into 3 main points, which are of increasing importance.

P1- It's expensive

Multiple studies done by various states have shown that the death penalty sentences, and the whole death penalty system, is more expensive than life without parole sentences.

California did a study in 2008 that showed their current system of capital punishment cost $137 million a year. To reform the system so that it would avoid the type of errors mention in P2, the cost would be $237.2 million. Restricting the crimes that would qualify for the death penalty would result in a system that cost only $130 million. However, the cost of a life without parole system with no death penalty would only cost $11.5 million a year. That is roughly a tenth of the cost of the death penalty system.

Just for reference, California has sentenced 3500 people to death since 1978, and currently has over 700 death row inmates, making it the largest death penalty system in the country.

A Maryland study, a state with 5 total executions, found that a case for the death penalty cost $3 million to taxpayers, $1.9 million more than non-death cases.

A Nevada study found that death penalty murder cases cost $229,800 for a public defender and $287,250 for appointed counsel. That turns out to be $170,000 and $212,000 more per case compared to non-death penalty murder cases.

Federal cases involving the penalty cost on average $620,000, 8 times more than non death penalty cases. Additionally, when defendants spend less than $320,000 on defense, they are guilty 44% of the time, whereas if they spend more they are only guilty 19% of the time. Underrepresented people are more likely to be found guilty because of cost rather than actual guilt.

These are only a few of very numerous examples, which I can get into later, but the important point has been demonstrated. Capital punishment is way, way more expensive than a life without parol system. The question is, are these extra costs justified?

P2- Mistakes were made (by the state)

If the state is to carry out the execution of anyone, than the state should be held to high expectations. In a situation where the life of the defendant is very literally at stake, the state should not allow for any error. Taking the lives of innocent people is certainly both cruel and unusual.

A 2008 study estimated that 4% of the total population of death row inmates, or 200 people, would be exonerated if they received proper defense. They based their finding on the exoneration of 117 inmates over a period of 1974-2008, and the resources applied to these appeals and errors in convictions. The fact that 117 people were sentenced to death and later found to be innocent is scary enough, but the possibility of an additional 200 some innocent people being sentenced to death is scarier.

And there are a number of death sentences that were carried through despite serious doubt about the guilt of the executed. For example, Gary Graham was convicted for killing a robbery and murder outside of a supermarket, with testimony from only 1 eyewitness who claimed to have seen his face for a few seconds from 30-40 feet away. 2 other witnesses, store employees, said they had seen the killer and it was not Graham, but the defense lawyer never called these men as witnesses. Jurors interviewed later said they would not have convicted him had they heard all of the evidence. Graham was executed in 2000.

Leo Jones was convicted of murdering a police officer in Florida based on a confession he gave after hours of interrogation. Later, he claimed the confession was coerced. The officer who arrested him and his interrogator were later fired for ethical violations, and colleagues of the arresting officer said they used torture. Witnesses also said that another man was the killer but Jones was executed in 1998.

Until the justice system can near guarantee death sentences will not be erroneously given and innocent people will not be executed without an opportunity to rectify possible errors, the state should not use the death penalty. All of these problems, all possibilities for error and the sentencing and killing of innocent people, are solved by simply abolishing the death penalty.

Other issues come up in execution with the 8th amendment, which protects from "cruel and unusual punishment". Although executions are not necessarily cruel or unusual, there are often botched executions, especially with lethal injections (the main form of execution in the US), which make executions cruel. For example, a recent botched execution in OK of Clay Lockett, in which the victim (for lack of a better word) was knocked out by the first drug, ended up taking 40 minutes with Lockett mumbling, trying to get up, writing in pain and eventually dying of an unintended heart attack. That undeniably qualifies as cruel. If the state cannot administer capital punishment constitutionally there should be no capital punishment, period.

P3- Death Penalty doesn't deter crime

After demonstrating the death penalty is far more expensive than a no death penalty system, and showing just how many errors there are in the system, I will show that the death penalty doesn"t work as a deterrent. This is the most important point. If it was expensive, made lots of errors, and was a deterrent, then there would be a (weak) argument in favor of it"s continued use punishment. However, if it is not a deterrent it should be made illegal.

A study from 1990-2009 took homicide rates and compared the states who had abolished the death penalty with those who hadn't. The states without the penalty have far better homicide records. They have had lower per capita homicide rates consistently, at times having up to 46% less homicides. They have seen a growing gap in homicide rates, with non penalty states having less on average. A comparison of non-penalty states and neighboring penalty states also shows that the non-penalty states have lower homicide rates; the most extreme example is Iowa/Missouri, with 2.5 and 8 homicides per capita respectively. Missouri has the death penalty.

An interesting example of a failure to deter crime is California, which saw an average increase in homicide of only 4.8% when there was no death penalty between 1968-91, compared to an average increase of 10% between 1952-67 when the death penalty was legal. It is clear that the death penalty wasn't doing anything to deter crime.

Another obvious example is that as a whole country, the US has a 4.8 per capita homicide rate, whilst North, West, and Southern Europe (these are actual divisions, Eastern Europe has 2 states with death penalty so they aren't counted here) have homicide rates between 1 and 1.5 per capita, and all states in these regions have abolished the death penalty.

And law enforcement officials do not believe that the death penalty is a good deterrent for criminals. When surveyed about detriments to law enforcement, only 2% believed that stifling the death penalty hurts law enforcement. A 1995 survey thought that only 1% thought that expanding the death penalty would reduce crime.

Statistics show that the death penalty doesn't discourage crime. Since the objective, as my opponent and anyone pro-penalty argues, is deterrence, the death penalty does not work. When coupled with the huge costs to taxpayers and number of unjustifiable, unconstitutional mistakes made in the current system, there is a strong case for abolishing the death penalty.

Thanks for reading. Back to pro.
Debate Round No. 1


"Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' [quoting the opinion of the Court from Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825, 842, 846 (1994)] that qualifies as cruel and unusual... Kentucky has adopted a method of execution believed to be the most humane available, one it shares with 35 other States... Kentucky's decision to adhere to its protocol cannot be viewed as probative of the wanton infliction of pain under the Eighth Amendment... Throughout our history, whenever a method of execution has been challenged in this Court as cruel and unusual, the Court has rejected the challenge. Our society has nonetheless steadily moved to more humane methods of carrying out capital punishment."

No system of justice can produce results which are 100% certain all the time. Mistakes will be made in any system which relies upon human testimony for proof. We should be vigilant to uncover and avoid such mistakes. Our system of justice rightfully demands a higher standard for death penalty cases. However, the risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small, and there is no credible evidence to show that any innocent persons have been executed at least since the death penalty was reactivated in 1976... The inevitability of a mistake should not serve as grounds to eliminate the death penalty any more than the risk of having a fatal wreck should make automobiles illegal..."

"Many opponents present, as fact, that the cost of the death penalty is so expensive (at least $2 million per case?), that we must choose life without parole ('LWOP') at a cost of $1 million for 50 years. Predictably, these pronouncements may be entirely false. JFA [Justice for All] estimates that LWOP cases will cost $1.2 million-$3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases. There is no question that the up front costs of the death penalty are significantly higher than for equivalent LWOP cases. There also appears to be no question that, over time, equivalent LWOP cases are much more expensive... than death penalty cases. Opponents ludicrously claim that the death penalty costs, over time, 3-10 times more than LWOP."

"Common sense, lately bolstered by statistics, tells us that the death penalty will deter murder... People fear nothing more than death. Therefore, nothing will deter a criminal more than the fear of death... life in prison is less feared. Murderers clearly prefer it to execution -- otherwise, they would not try to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death... Therefore, a life sentence must be less deterrent than a death sentence. And we must execute murderers as long as it is merely possible that their execution protects citizens from future murder."

US Supreme Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts
Apr. 16, 2008

Prosecuting Attorney for Clark County Indiana
Message on the Clark County Prosecutor website accessed
Aug. 6, 2008

Director of Death Penalty Resources at Justice for All
"Death Penalty and Sentencing Information," Justice for All

thanks and vote pro


I’ve got plenty of space to do it here, so for the benefit of the readers, I want to repost all of my links. I realized the broke during copy paste, so here they all are in working order.

Point 1

Point 2

Point 3

My opponent has failed to make any arguments this round. He has posted quotes from some people, but has failed to form arguments based off that evidence. You can’t just post links or quotes, you have to make an argument or it isn’t a debate.

Until my opponent responds to my arguments, consider those points conceded.

Roberts- I do not make the challenge that all execution is inhumane. However, when executions are botched, as they have been recently (see the WSJ article above for example) they are cruel, slow, and ostensibly painful. If executions can’t be carried out correctly they should not be carried out at all.

Indiana Attorney- A system with which the state puts its own people to death should be perfect, and there is way, way too much error. 4% of current death row inmates would have been exonerated with proper resources and legal representation, that’s about 200 innocent people on death row. There is no counter argument here. Quoting someone who disagrees does not constitute a counter argument.

Con’s last quote is hilariously old. The website for that organization hasn’t been updated since 2002. I don’t know what statistics they are talking about, and con doesn’t give any statistics, but California, with the biggest death penalty system in the country, has done studies which show they would save millions of dollars by removing their death penalty system. Having only a LWOP system would save $120 million annually. Stats from other states show there would be savings by eliminating the death penalty.

And although ‘common sense’ may lead one to believe the death penalty is a deterrent to violent crime, evidence indicates otherwise. Homicide rates in death penalty states are higher than non death penalty states. Comparing neighboring states, when looking at DP vs NDP, shows that NDPs have lower homicide rates too. Countries with no death penalty have lower homicide rates than the US as a whole. Law enforcement officials do not believe the death penalty deters crime. There is no evidence to show that it does, and my opponent has not given any!

Until my opponent gives some counter arguments then pro must get da votes.
Debate Round No. 2


Gods_Servant forfeited this round.


vote pro!
Debate Round No. 3


ight ik i lost but now i know what to vote for and have been more informed thank u


Thanks for the debate, vote pro!
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by numberwang 2 years ago
I realized all of my links are broken! I went through and found all of the original links and I will post them here now, in the order that they appear on the debate. These ones just work.

Point 1

Point 2

Part 3
Posted by numberwang 2 years ago
Trolling through my own links, and I noticed a couple aren't working in section 2.

The PNAS one is here.

The WSJ article.

I'm almost certain the bitly is a link to deathpenaltyinfo, but I am not sure.

The Forbes link is here.
Posted by numberwang 2 years ago
Take your time, you got 3 days.
Posted by Gods_Servant 2 years ago
ill put mine on tommorow i have to do home work but this is by far going to be a good debate
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Wylted 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: concession