The Death Penalty Should Be Abolished
You asked to accept this.
The death penalty should be abolished.
The Death Penalty: "...the sentence of execution for murder and some other capital crimes (serious crimes, especially murder, which are punishable by death)."
Should: "Must; ought."
Abolished: "To do away with; put an end to; annul; make void."
1. A forfeit or concession is not allowed.
2. No semantics or trolling.
3. All arguments must be visible inside this debate, and character limits must not be broken. Sources may be posted in an outside link.
4. Debate resolution, definitions, rules, and structure cannot be changed without asking in the comments before you post your round 1 argument. Debate resolution, definitions, rules, and structure cannot be changed in the middle of the debate.
Voters, in the case of the breaking of any of these rules by either debater, all seven points in voting should be given to the other person.
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Presenting all arguments (no rebuttals by con)
Round 3: Refutation of opponent's arguments
Round 4: Defending your arguments and conclusions (no new arguments)
I would like to thank FaustianJustice for accepting this debate.
I. The Right to Life
Before it can be concluded that humans have the right to life, it must be asserted that rights exist at all. One simple argument in favor of the existence of rights is national and international law itself. Certain laws codify what rights citizens and humans have, and thus can be treated as rights, applicable to everyone. These rights may seem artificial in comparison to rights that arise either from divine decree or human innateness, but they are rights nevertheless.
On the national level, Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, one of the three founding documents that American government is based on (the other two being the Constitution and the Bill of Rights), wrote that, “…that they [men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” On the international level, the United Declaration of Human Rights, written up by the United Nationals General Assembly, says, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Thus, we see that the right to life is already an integral part of both US and international law.
A more sophisticated argument involves agency-based justification. “He [Alan Gewirth] argued that denying the value of successful agency and action is not an option for a human being; having a life requires regarding the indispensable conditions of agency and action as necessary goods. Abstractly described, these conditions of successful agency are freedom and well-being. A prudent rational agent who must have freedom and well-being will assert a ‘prudential right claim’ to them. Having demanded that others must respect her freedom and well-being, consistency requires her to recognize and respect the freedom and well-being of other persons. Since all other agents are in exactly the same position as she is of desperately needing freedom and well-being, consistency requires her to recognize and respect their freedom and well-being. She ‘logically must accept’ that other people as agents have equal rights to freedom and well-being. These two abstract rights work alone and together to generate equal specific human rights of familiar sorts.”
If we have any rights at all, by the agency-based justification argument quoted above, we should have the right to life. Freedom and well-being can only be had when an agent is alive, thus making life a “prudential life claim” to such agent. Because of consistency, that agent must extend the same right to life to everyone else, and by the equality of agent desires, every other agent must feel the same way. Therefore, the right to life is fundamentally protected according to the agency-based justification argument.
Therefore, the right to life exists because of both national and international law, and because of agency-based justification. The death penalty necessarily violates such life, as it involves the deliberate ending of a life. Therefore, the death penalty should be viewed as an act which violates the fundamental rights of a human being, and thusly should not be enacted anywhere in the world.
II. Psychological Effects
Executing a criminal is incredibly traumatic to the family. Even if that criminal committed horrible crimes, the family still, understandably, has a strong emotional attachment to the criminal, and seeing that bond snuffed out by the government is a horrible feeling. Source four chronicles some of the psychological problems that family members of executed criminals experience, including PTSD, depression, anxiety disorder, and many other psychological conditions. Children in particular are hugely affected. Another study (source five), found that, in addition to the myriad of psychological problems children can experience, they can also experience social stigmatization, which leads to other psychological problems like loneliness.
Executioners can also experience psychological issues. Executing a criminal who has committed a lot of violent crimes is often seen as a morally righteous act. Consequently, the people who perform the executions are commonly viewed to be the ones bringing about such a morally righteous act, and thus executioners should regard themselves highly. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Executioners often experience depression and paranoia from the actions they commit. One executioner, Jerry Givens, who executed 62 people, said, “I performed the execution. So you might suffer a little. I'm going to suffer a lot, because I performed the job.”
Finally, the criminals on death row themselves often have psychological issues because of the fact that they’re on death row. There’s even a name for it, death row syndrome. It arises because of the isolation death row inmates often face (most are placed in solitary confinement for at least 23 hours a day) and the fact that they view their fate as uncertain, as the appeals process is extremely complicated and often takes decades to be resolved. Death row is often seen as as psychologically damaging as torture. Particularly given that, as I’m going to argue in my next point, that a lot of death row inmates are actually innocent, it is easy to see that this process is practically inhumane.
The death penalty cannot be so beneficial as to outweigh the huge psychological effects that the criminal, the criminal’s family, and the executioner often face. These effects are completely unnecessary.
III. The Potential for Innocents to Be Killed
The death penalty is the ultimate punishment. There is nothing that can be taken away from a person that is more important than the person’s life. It’s, at best, questionable whether or not the retributive justice of taking the life of someone who has taken a life is justified. However, there’s also the potential that an innocent person can be executed.
One study found that 4.1% of people on death row are innocent. Given the psychological problems detailed above that people on death row often face, not to mention the waste of that person’s life and the fact that, even if he is eventually released, he will inevitably be stigmatized for the rest of his life, this is unacceptable. But it gets one step worse, as the same study found that at least 0.5% of people who are executed are innocent as well (though the number could be a lot higher). This isn’t just unacceptable, this is absolutely deplorable.
Even though, according to Supreme Court cases, executing mentally ill people is ostensibly illegal, it still happens a large number of times. Anywhere between five and ten percent of people on death row suffer from some severe mental illness, and there are numerous stories of people with clear mental illnesses that were deemed competent to stand trial, summarily condemned, and then executed, despite the fact that it was clearly visible to the judge and jury that such people suffered from severe mental illness. This is clearly wrong because such people are not truly guilty, as they are unable to understand the consequences or the moral depravity of their actions. Now, one could argue that exuting the mentally ill should be illegal. However, the Supreme court has already ruled that, if a criminal is deemed to be mentally ill either at the time of their trial or the time of their execution, that they cannot be executed, and yet, these laws are often subverted, as I've just shown.
Similar to my above argument, the death penalty cannot be so beneficial as to outweigh the fact that innocent people and people with mental illness are being executed. And similarly, these effects are completely unnecessary.
I have shown that the death penalty violates the right to life, which exists both because of national and international law and because of the agency-based justification argument, that the death penalty results in needless psychological problems for those on death row, their families, and their executioners, and that many people both on death row and that have been executed are innocent, either because of true innocence or as a consequence of preexisting mental illness. Therefore, the death penalty is wrong, and should thus be abolished.
Thank you to Pro, that was a very well grounded and some what entrapping series of first round arguments, and I look forward to seeing where this discourse takes us.
Throughout the course of the justice system as we know it, humanity has sought to find appropriate means in which a punishment might fit the crime. As it stands, with proper adjudication, we have found a workable model in which the tried and guilty of humanity have ability to contest their sentence, contest their trial, and prove their innocence or their situation being worthy of leniency before the sentence.
The most extreme crimes in this world really don’t have the ability to have justice meted out. As we discuss this topic, seemingly in my back yard, one of the worst premeditated shootings to have occurred on American soil was just perpetrated in which 49 people were killed by the acts of one man. There really is no way that should this killer have been taken alive that there is a balance he could have paid back to society.
The Death Penalty as we discuss it represents the last potential for a heinous perpetrator to find justice, for our laws to have a function, and our punishments to have meaning. It’s a clear statement that should your actions take the lives of others, you must pay in the only meaningful way for the evil that has been committed. Here are what I feel are the most compelling reasons for keeping the Death penalty as a real punishment, and an appreciably, viable deterrent.
Right to Death-
While the reader might puzzle over this, the rationale is quite simple. Currently, we do have capital punishment in certain states. I suggest a hypothetical to prove my point: if the offender in question knowingly pleads guilty, knowingly instructs his/her defense and the court that he/she knows his crime is horrible, does not feel he/she is worth rehabilitation, would prefer to die rather than risk potential release and commit this crime again, is this not a clear cut case of legally enacted right to die? If the offender states as such so plainly, the resolution as stated denies the right to die.
Purpose of Justice-
It has been stated that the reason for a justice system is as follows: “'The purpose of the Criminal Justice System... is to deliver justice for all, by convicting and punishing the guilty and helping them to stop offending, while protecting the innocent.” (1) What is injustice? I contend we all know what that is when we see it. When Ponzi schemes are revealed and billions of dollars of people’s retirement disappear. When valuables are stolen and destroyed, leaving the victim with no recourse even when the offender is found guilty. Injustice is that sense of understanding that a void has been created by the offender, and no matter what platitudes might be offered, that thing, whatever it was that the offender acted on, is gone, and no reasonable efforts can replace it. Cars and money are replaceable. Justice is easy to find in a situation where a few thousand dollars are stolen from a robbed bank, and it’s easy to take that out of the perpetrator to attempt to make the victims whole. People, however, are not so easily replaced. There is no reasonable means a murderer can replace what they took from the victim’s family, or the victim themselves. Is it really possible to call a life time incarceration in which the most basic needs of life are provided to the offender as a just circumstance when such was not provided to the victim by the offender? Justice incarnate is represented by holding a balance. At its most basic of understanding, justice is the ability for equality to be achieved again, to find balance in the offense to right the wrong that was done. The resolution simply doesn’t allow for that. It gives carte blanche to an offender, that no matter how much they take and take and take of this most precious gift, life, it will never be in turn taken from them. That is simply not just.
I have no doubt this seems cavalier to state, but to the tax payer, as it stands, expedience in conducting sentence and proper appeals would prevent the tax payer (of which the victim’s family might be present) from paying for the lifestyle of the offender, however diminished it might be. I have no desire to support convicts in general, much less convicts that have been found guilty of killing those I love. I can’t imagine that sentiment would be unpopular amongst all the families of have killers of their family on death row. Numbers for incarceration vs execution vary widely, however from what casual inspection I have done, admittedly due to legal process, it costs more to attempt to execute an inmate than it does to keep them incarcerated permanently. This, however, assumes that the inmate makes use of all their appeals (a likely prospect). This also assumes that an inmate that is effectively a dependent of the state expires in a succinct fashion: that is to say they die quickly. Given the state of affairs regarding healthcare costs, such a statement of execution being a less expensive alternative can very much be a reality, and is more likely to be so as time goes on. (2)
Given a majority of states that have specific law regarding crimes conducted with firearms, it is quite possible to rack up a life sentence by brandishing a firearm, shooting into the air, and using one in the commission of a felony. Ten/20/Life rules virtually guarantee that a poorly conducted robbery will result a life time of incarceration. Speaking logically, then… what does it matter if you kill some one in the commission of the crime? The deterrent effect of the death penalty is obviously widely debated, however a few conclusions can be drawn:
-“Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).”
-“Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.” (3)
Now, sadly, the remainder of my position from here comes across as rebuttals to what was wisely established by Pro in the first round, so rather than risk considering my opening remarks as refutes, I will hold the remainder until my next round.
I would like to thank FaustianJustice for presenting his arguments.
I. The Right to Die
To be honest, this argument is rather silly. While I do personally believe that one has the right to die, there’s no need to organize and run a façade like the death penalty to handle the very few cases where criminals actually want to die. It could hardly even be considered a penalty if the criminal actually wants to die. Any cases like this should be handled privately instead of through the government, where the very same problems I described in my first argument would still apply.
II. Purpose of Justice
My opponent’s first part of his argument contradicts the second part. He first says that, in cases of murder, the murderer can do nothing to even partially replace what he took from the victim and his family. But then he argues that having the murderer executed is the only means by which the victim and his family can be avenged, even though he previously argued that nothing could avenge the murder.
Even without this contradiction, the second part of my opponent’s argument relies on faulty moral arithmetic. Executing a murderer will do nothing to bring their victim back to life, and it will do nothing to bring their victim back to their family. All it will do is give the family a false sense of vengeance and retribution, which is clearly not the same as having the victim back. Thus, the death penalty in no way finds balance in the offence of murder.
In fact, oftentimes, the families of the victims don’t want the death penalty. Darlene Farah, whose daughter was murdered, didn’t want the death penalty for the murderer. “Farah said, ‘I do not want my family to go through the years of trials and appeals that come with death-penalty cases.’ Instead, she wants her family to be able to, ‘celebrate [Shelby's] life, honor her memory and begin the lengthy healing process.’ Darlene Farah says her daughter would not have wanted the death penalty to be sought on her behalf, and ‘more killing in no way honors my daughter’s memory or provides solace to my family.’”
III. Accrued Cost
I was actually going to put an argument on the costs of the death penalty in my original argument, but, due to space limitations, I was forced to omit it, as I liked the three arguments I put better. This is because, contrary to my opponent’s claims, a comparison between the death penalty and life without parole by cost actually favors the latter.
Cost analyses have shown that, in a given year, Florida spends anywhere between $25 million and $50 million more than it would have if it had gone for life without parole instead of the death penalty, that, if Indiana had not had the death penalty over the course of its statehood, it would have saved $37.1 million, that Maryland spent $186 million more between 1978 and 1999 than it would have if all of the death penalty cases it prosecuted had instead been life without parole cases, and that California spends around $114 million a year more to prosecute death penalty cases than life without parole cases. Other studies have shown similar results for other states that have the death penalty.
It admittedly seems weird that this is the case, given that housing a prisoner for the rest of their life is expensive, and the death penalty should be rather cheap. However, there are a number of reasons the death penalty is more expensive than life without parole. In death penalty cases, compared to life without parole cases, lawyers spend a good deal more time looking over death penalty cases, the jury selection process is more complicated, the trial itself takes longer, and requires more expert testimony, and the appeals process is much more drawn out. All of this adds up to costing a good bit more than life without parole cases, even including the fact that some prisoners would have to be housed for 70 or 80 years.
My opponent mentions two things to try to counter my arguments here. One is a revision of the appeals process. To benefit my opponent, any plan would have to reduce the complexity and length of the appeals process. However, given that death penalty cases involve the potential for an innocent life to be taken, every safeguard should be in place to make such an outcome as unlikely as possible, and any additional costs that are accrued as a result of such a complicated appeals process are thus necessary. Revising the appeals process would likely condemn more innocent people than the death penalty currently does already.
The other is that most studies don’t take into account the potential longevity of some prisoners. One, the source my opponent cites makes their case here on one study, even though I have directly cited four other studies, and indirectly cited another 30 or so. And two, the average life expectancy of natural life prisoners is 58 years, even though the average life expectancy of the average person is 78 years, so the fact that the population as a whole is getting older has little bearing on prisoners. In addition, while the life expectancy is increasing, it is likely that it is increasing at a far slower rate for natural life prisoners, and it is unlikely that any current or near future increases in housing costs for life prisoners will outweigh the increased cost of death penalty cases.
There is actually considerable evidence that shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent to capital crime. For one thing, a simple analysis of the murder rates of states with and without the death penalty shows that states without the death penalty have, on average, lower murder rates than states with the death penalty. The graph below shows this:
Nevertheless, there’s a chance that this fact is due to some other underlying variable (although that’s unlikely, given the fact that it’d have to causally affect a diverse set of states rather equally). However, one meta study found that the majority of studies say that the death penalty is no greater deterrent to murder than life without parole. In addition, a poll found that 88% of the nation’s leading criminologists believed that the death penalty was not an effective deterrent to crime any more so than any other punishment.
In addition, the specific study my opponent cites is flawed. The National Research council criticized the study’s methodology, specifically its use of instrumental variables. The report the NRC wrote said that, “The idea behind an instrument is to separate out the part of any observed relationship between the death penalty and homicide that is spurious (i.e., resulting from the relationship of both to other factors) from the part of the relationship between the death penalty and homicide that is causal.” The problem with the Emory University studies was that they assumed that the instrument itself didn’t influence the homicide rate, which is assuming too much.
Right to Life:
Pro makes an excellent and impassioned “Right to Life” argument, however it flies wholly in the face of justice. Were everyone to have an inalienable right to Life, Liberty, etc, incarceration for an individual through due process could never occur. I am confident Pro had no means to allow carte blanche destruction, but were we to use only what Pro has presented as the entirety of right to life, there is no rule of law! No one in the pursuit of happiness is entitled, morally or legally, the allowance to harm others, though as Pro has structured this argument that is the take away, as any act that restricts said would be a violation of human rights.
In examination of the sources presented, we have the Universal Declaration of Rights from the United Nations. In it, article 30 states: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” (source provided by Pro). Logically, this is to mean that the rights outlined can only apply to those whom agree with and follow the articles as a standard. Those that fall outside the scope of obedience to the articles must be dealt with to protect those that do.
Pro also goes on to use Thomas Jefferson and his hand in the Founding Documents as a means to half of an argument. Thomas Jefferson was in clear favor of the death penalty, and understood crime and punishment. In his papers, Thomas Jefferson outlines what he feels are appropriate punishments for crimes, should they seek to impugn on the rights of others:
“For rendering crimes and punishments therefore more proportionate to each other: Be it enacted by the General assembly that no crime shall be henceforth punished by deprivation of life or limb except those hereinafter ordained to be so punished.
If a man do levy war against the Commonwealth or be adherent to the enemies of the commonwealth giving to them aid or comfort in the commonwealth, or elsewhere, and thereof be convicted of open deed, by the evidence of two sufficient witnesses, or his own voluntary confession, the said cases, and no others, shall be adjudged treasons which extend to the commonwealth, and the person so convicted shall suffer death by hanging, and shall forfiet his lands and goods to the Commonwealth.
If any person commit Petty treason, or a husband murder his wife, a parent his child, or a child his parent, he shall suffer death by hanging, and his body be delivered to Anatomists to be dissected.
Whosoever committeth murder by poisoning shall suffer death by poison.
Whosoever committeth murder by way of duel, shall suffer death by hanging; and if he were the challenger, his body, after death, shall be gibbeted. He who removeth it from the gibbet shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and the officer shall see that it be replaced.
Whosoever shall commit murder in any other way shall suffer death by hanging.” (1)
Pro has argued greatly why murder should be illegal for their first prong. Not why a penalty should be abolished.
Mind over Matter:
With regards to Con’s referencesto psychological damage as a means for a ban, they fall flat.
1) On the matter of the perpetrator’s family, source 4 from Pro does not enforce this, as it is about VICTIM’S rights (Titled “Dignity Denied: The Experience of Murder Victims’ Family Members Who Oppose the Death Penalty”). Pro highlights, again, excellent reasons for not committing crimes: those you love, and those whom depend upon you suffer. The problems that Pro highlights, though, are true at any level of incarceration, to varying degrees. A ban on one and not the others would simply be arbitrary preference.
2) Psychological effect on the executioner refers to a policy change. Humans since the dawn of time have invented machines with which to kill each other outside the bounds of law. As morbid as it is, there is no reason why we can’t devise a timed device to deliver a sentence to blunt any potential psychological effects.
3) Psychological effects to the criminal due to being on “death row” as described could include keeping them as part of general population. With regards to the rest of the arguments on this tangent, I would like to remind the reading audience that this IS prison. It is not meant to be fun. It is not meant to be easy. And with special exception, the perpetrator in question has already engaged in heinous act to get there.
On the matter of those found mentally ill, Pro plays fast and loose with wording and intent. Mental illness comes in a variety of form and fashion, the presence of which is only really investigated if that was the cause of the crime, or if such illness prevents the defendant from being competent enough to understand the process they are going through. Bulimia is a mental illness, though even if professionally diagnosed, one would be hard pressed to declare a person unfit for trial due to an eating disorder, especially if the defendant plotted to kill multiple people over something unrelated, such as money. Regardless, a trial cannot progress unless the defendant is deemed competent, this does NOT mean that a sentence cannot be enacted against said convict should the competency fade, or that a death sentence cannot be specifically enacted if the acts occurred as a result of the illness. If the person whom perpetrated the acts is a threat to society, as a sense of justice, it is incumbent to ensure that said person is no longer a threat to society, and the threat should be neutralized down to a tolerable risk… but was is that threshold? I entreat the reading audience to keep this in mind.
Cannot be Undone, and the Crux:
The most difficult rebuttal would be those regarding a sentence against those whom were later found innocent. I suggest that a policy change of how the death penalty is practiced could correct this minute in number but large in heart-break situation. Con will not argue that in the past, lack of evidence hasn’t led to miscarriages of justice. That was the frailty of the technology at the time, as well as potentially biased members of the court system. Instead, given the nature of appeals extended to condemned criminals, that such an appeals process also come with a minimum time frame with which new evidence and technology could be availed. This would still enable those pleading guilty to find justice, as well as those pleading innocent but wrongfully held to gather additional resources should they come about.
Now, as Pro outlined, the numbers of unjustly executed or jailed individuals is reasonably small, the chances of such an occurrence are VERY rare, but should those odds come to fruition, its heart breaking. That is to say, its “deplorable”. Even though every precaution has been taken, bad things happen. I asked the reading audience to keep something in mind: is the risk of keeping those alive those that are a danger to society greater than the chance of an innocent man being put to death? Con suggests that Pro is attempting to deal in pleas to emotional and form absolutes to form them as a means to argument, summarized that if something has even the most remote of negative chances (that result in death), it should be banned. However, keeping life time convicts that could very well kill again (and have! ) poses just as solemn a risk, and by the same argument logic Pro suggests, should be put to death. Pro’s final justification is one that becomes self-defeating in application.
I would like to thank FaustianJustice for this debate.
I. The Right to Life
The right to life is, arguably, the most important right. Any action that violates another right, yet helps to maintain life, could thus be seen as justified. Incarceration is one such justifiable action. The incarceration of a murderer, while violating the murderer’s right to his pursuit of happiness, helps to maintain the right of life of the people he would have killed had he not be incarcerated. It’s a little more complicated if the criminal’s crime didn’t take anyone’s life, but those cases are irrelevant to the current discussion.
In addition, eye-for-an-eye justice is flawed. Looking at the justification both for the existence of rights and the existence of the right to life, there’s nothing that indicates that the taking of one life should be punished with the ending of the life who committed the act. Justice can be had in many ways, and this retributive justice has not been justified by my opponent. While I have argued for the existence of the right to life, my opponent has not conclusively argued for the proposition that the right to life should be violated in cases of murder.
Nowhere in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is there a clause that says that people who violate any of the rights listed in the document forfeit any of those rights for themselves. In fact, to prove this, let me cite the very quote my opponent did – “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” This sentence can be better interpreted as saying that no state should have the ability to destroy the rights of any person.
My opponent’s quotations of Thomas Jefferson are irrelevant. Just because he personally believed in the death penalty doesn’t mean that the death penalty doesn’t violate the right to life. All it indicates is that there was a discrepancy between his beliefs as to what rights humans have and his beliefs in how criminals should be handled. And his beliefs, in no way, affect the fact that one of the founding documents the country was founded upon, the Declaration of Independence, says that Americans have the right to life.
There’s no question that the death penalty violates the right to life. And, considering that retributive justice is simplistic and based too heavily on emotions, and that my opponent has not justified his claim that violating the right to life in such a way is justified, such a policy should not be enacted.
II. Psychological Effects
My opponent is correct that my source four in round two considered the victims’ families and not the perpetrators’ families, and that I cited it incorrectly. Nevertheless, that report highlighted the inequality that exists in the care provided to victims’ families who don’t support the death penalty and those who do, and not the effect the crime itself had on the victims’ families. In addition, my opponent has failed to consider my fifth source, which does consider the perpetrators’ families. Also, while incarceration inevitably inflicts a toll on the criminal’s family, it is significantly less than the toll that is inflicted when the criminal is executed.
Any amount of automation still requires people to start the equipment when an execution needs to be performed. Even today, lethal injections are not performed by doctors personally injecting a deadly chemical, but by machines that are run by technicians. These people can still be considered executioners. Even if we had robots that could perform executions without any direct human influence, the robots would still require technicians to direct the robots to kill the intended prisoner. These people can also be considered executioners.
Not all death row criminals are placed in solitary confinement. However, some have to be because they are too great a risk to other prisoners. These criminals can’t be simply released into the general prison population. And even if someone has committed a heinous act, there’s still no reason to subject them to solitary confinement for years on end, all the while uncertain of whether or not they’re going to live to see the next day. Not even the vast majority of inmates on death row forced their victims to go through such torture.
III. Mental Illness
The source I cited in round two regarding this subject only considered mental illnesses relevant to the discussion. In addition, it showed that trials are being conducted even in cases where the defendant has a clearly visible mental illness that would inhibit their ability to understand the consequences of their actions, or worse. While there are cases where the mental competency of a criminal fades in the time between they committed the criminal act and their trial, these are relatively few in number, and still indicates that the criminal had mental problems at the time they committed the criminal act.
While we do need to do something to protect people from those who murder due to an underlying mental illness, executing them is a downright inhumane way to do so. It would be much better if those criminals were kept in a metal institution and were cared for extensively by psychologists. This still neutralizes the threat that these people impose on others, and it also doesn’t involve the killing of someone just because they are unable to understand the consequences of their actions.
It is hardly the fault of the person suffering from mental illness for having that illness, and, consequently, it is unfair to judge that person for committing heinous acts. They should indeed be kept away from society, but in mental institutions rather than execution rooms.
IV. The Innocent
My opponent’s counter to my argument here seems to be one of utilitarianism – murderers kept in jail have the potential to murder again, so it is best to execute them, even though a few innocent people may be wrongly executed, as the number of people wrongly executed is less than the number of murders that would be committed if all murderers were kept in prison instead of executed. However, there are a number of problems with appealing to a utilitarian argument like such.
One, my opponent hasn’t proved that the number of innocent people executed is less than the number of murders that would be committed if all murderers were kept in prison instead of executed. While the exact number of innocent people who have been executed is uncertain, given the fact that 1,320 criminals have been executed since 1977 and the fact that several studies have shown that around 4% of criminals on death row are innocent, around 50 innocent people have been executed since 1977. In fact, we have many personal exonerations in that time. It is impossible to say how many more people would die as a result of all murders getting life imprisonment instead of execution, but, if all murderers likely to murder again are given life imprisonment, given the fact that very few murderers escape prison, the number of additional people murdered would probably not approach 50.
Two, this kind of moral arithmetic, measuring the efficacy of the death penalty by balancing lives lost, is overly simplistic. Remember that there are many other problems with the death penalty, including the fact that it violates the right to life, that it causes psychological problems in the executed, the executed’s families, and the executioner, and that it is more expensive than life imprisonment, the scales are unquestionably tipped against the death penalty. It’s impossible to say just how much each contribution is, but the negatives I just outlined are certainly significant.
And three, it’s questionable whether we should be engaging in such moral arithmetic in the first place. Utilitarianism is a questionable moral system at best, particularly in current philosophical discussions and this sort of moral arithmetic is definitely an application of utilitarianism. Given that my opponent has failed to show why such a system is a good one to base their argument off of, I’d question whether this argument has any foundation in the first place.
“The most common argument against act utilitarianism is that it gives the wrong answers to moral questions. Critics say that it permits various actions that everyone knows are morally wrong.” One common example is, “If a judge can prevent riots that will cause many deaths only by convicting an innocent person of a crime and imposing a severe punishment on that person, act utilitarianism implies that the judge should convict and punish the innocent person.”
Thus, given that there’s no way to estimate how many more people would be killed if the death penalty was replaced by life imprisonment, that utilitarian moral arithmetic is more complicated than a simple comparison of lives saved, and that such a utilitarian moral structure can hardly be justified, the arguments my opponent has given to justify the fact that a few innocents are killed are flawed.
I have shown that the death penalty violates the unalienable right to life and causes avoidable harm to those on death row, their families, and those who carry out the executions, that the death penalty often results in innocent people being executed, and that the death penalty is more expensive than life imprisonment. My opponent’s arguments are based off of flawed moral systems, faulty assumptions, and an overeager desire for retributive justice. Given all this, there’s simply no reason the death penalty should be a part of any civilized society, much less one living in the current conditions we are living in.
Sadly, the timing of my turn for closing remarks didn't enable me the depth reply I wanted to go into, however in retrospect, where we are now is a good place for instead of a closing argument, just a simple summary.
In the course of this discussion, we have seen quite a few things on the topic of the death penalty.
We have seen the inconsistency borne of an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but how selectively only 1 of those particular rights are beyond the scope of justice.
We have seen the right to life being forced upon people whom might agree that they are a perpetual threat to society, and feel that they should be stopped.
We have seen how the rights of one possibly innocent man out weigh the rights of possible multiple potential victims.
We have seen recidivism in those sentenced to the death penalty, but had their sentence commuted.
We have seen the millions spent from those condemned but given the ability to play the system, wasting the time of hundreds of people, as well as consuming the tax dollars of those the sentenced has slain, as well as being paid for by the tax dollars of the victim’s family.
I feel no need to rehash my first round. It speaks for itself, and more over, it speaks for those whom have been killed, some times in the worst ways imaginable, only to have their killer housed for life, no redemption possible, and the scales of justice left unbalanced.
To Pro, thank you for a thought provoking debate, and to our audience reading along, in appreciation of those currently paying for their community's killers to recieve room and board while the victims recieve eulogies, please, balance out those scales a little bit and vote con.