The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

The Death Penalty should be Abolished in the United States of America

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 7/12/2016 Category: Society
Updated: 3 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 306 times Debate No: 93660
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
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Resolution: Resolved, the Death Penalty should be Abolished in the USA.

Death Penalty: the punishment of execution, administered to someone legally convicted of a capital crime.
The round structure
is as follows:

1. Acceptance
2. Opening Arguments
3. Rebuttals to opening arguments
4. Defence from rebuttals to opening arguments [no new arguments in the final round]

1. No forfeits.

2. No semantics.
3. No kritiks.
4. BOP is shared.
5. All sources added at the end of each round.
6. My opponent accepts all definitions.
7. Violation of these rules results in a LOSS.


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


Contention 1 – Cost

The average cost of defending a trial in a federal death penalty case is $620,932, this costs around 8 times more than a trial in which the death penalty is not sought [1.] A study [2] out of Seattle University found that each death penalty case costs an average of $1 million more than a similar case where the death penalty was no pursued. The figures come out to $3.07 million in a case pursuing the death penalty, compared to $2.01 million, for a similar case, but in which the death penalty was not sought. This study only examined cases in Washington, that that occurred since 1997. Using only these cases, the gross bill to taxpayers for the death penalty is around $120 million. Since the reinstatement of Washington's death penalty, it has carried out 5 executions, this implies a cost of around $24 million per execution. A recent study out of Nevada [3] revealed that murder cases which seek the death penalty can cost nearly twice as much as those with a lesser punishment. In a murder case where the death penalty is not sought, the average cost to the public is $775,000. And in Kansas, a study[4] coming from the Kansas Judicial Council examined 34 potential death penalty cases from 2004 - 2011, the study found that defending a death penalty case costs about 4 times as much as defending a similar case where the death penalty is not sought. These are three studies from different states, which agree that death penalty cases cost the public and the government much more money than non-death penalty cases. Donald McCartin, a judge from Orange County, stated that “it’s 10 times more expensive” to kill an inmate than to keep them alive. This is a judge who has sentenced nine people to death row [10.]

It’s also worth noting that prisoners generally spend 20 years on death row before their execution, due to mandatory appeals. This wait time has an estimated annual cost of $137,102 [13.] Estimated cost to taxpayers during this period could come up to a total of $2,742,040. This is on top of the cost of the case itself.

Let’s compare this cost to life imprisonment. Please note this is a comparison of the cost of one death penalty case, which comes out to the following figures. $3.07 million dollars in the study out of Seattle University. In Washington, the gross bill for 5 executions since 1997 has been $120 million. Which comes out to $24 million per execution.

Now, according to statistics provided by the office of California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, the current cost of keeping one inmate in state prison is $47,102 per year [13.] The Department of Corrections places the number at $44,563 [13.] Let’s assume an inmate was sentenced to life without parole when they were 30 years old. We’ll give them an optimistic age of death at the age of 80. This is 50 years in prison.

44,563*50 = 2,228,150. So this is 2.2 million. This cost is already $1 million less than the average cost of a death penalty case according to the Seattle University study.

Contention 2 – Errors

This was the reason that I first started to oppose the death penalty, before I was aware of its other shortcomings. In the USA, there have been 329 post-conviction exonerations in the history of the nation [7.] Some of these people have been held on death row since the 80's. This here, proves that the justice system is capable of making mistakes, and is not foolproof. Also, the death penalty information centre released a list [8] of 10 executed inmates, whose cases have been reviewed, and they found enough evidence to possibly prove their innocence. But of course, most courts will not review cases in which the defendant has already been killed. In the US, there have been around 16 wrongful convictions of people which resulted in executions, then posthumously, they were declared innocent [9.] So, this shows that the justice system in America is not foolproof, and has made many mistakes in the past, and the prospect of accidentally killing innocents is unacceptable in today’s society.

This graph depicts the amount of overturned death penalty cases from 1973 - 1995. 4578 death penalty cases went through a full appeals process, and 68% of sentences were overturned [15.]

Contention 3 – Ineffective at Reducing Crime

First off, let’s compare two states. Texas and Vermont. Vermont abolished the death penalty in 1965, and the last time a prisoner was executed there was in 1954 [11.] Even without the death penalty, Vermont is one of the safest states in America, with a rate of 1.6 murders per 100,000 people in 2013 [12.] Compare this to Texas, which has the highest amount of executions performed, and a crime rate of 4.3 murders per 100,000 people in 2013 [12.] Interestingly enough, Vermont [a state with no death penalty,] has a lower crime rate than the following states where the death penalty has not been abolished [12.] [All data from 2013]

Please note that I could make the same comparison with Iowa, a state that has a lower crime rate than Vermont [1.4,] and also abolished the death penalty.

  • Ohio [3.9]

  • Oklahoma [5.1]

  • Pennsylvania [4.7]

  • South Carolina [6.2]

  • South Dakota [2.4]

  • Tennessee [5.0]

  • Virginia [3.8]

  • Mississippi [6.1]

  • Louisiana [10.8]

A 2009 survey of leading criminologists in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology showed that over 88% of them say that the death penalty is NOT a deterrent to murder [5.] In fact, murder rates in states without the death penalty has remained lower than states with the death penalty for the last 25 years.

A study also compared the US to 25 other developed countries, and it showed that the US has the highest rates of childhood homicide in the developed world. Almost all the other countries that were looked at had abolished the death penalty [6.] So it is clear, the death penalty does not deter crime. In fact, the murder rate in death penalty states combined has remained significantly lower than that in non-death penalty states combined. As you can see in the 2nd graph above, murder rates have been higher by as much as 44% in death penalty states.

I can give many more examples. One being the state of California. Executions there stopped in 2006, and since then, the NC department of Justice has observed a decline in murder rates and violent crime [14.]

Contention 3: Constitution

The 8th amendment to the United States Constitution states the following…

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Death falls into the category of cruel and unusual punishments due to it’s irreversibility, and that it robs a person of quite literally, everything. The supreme court has been taking strides towards limiting the death penalty for certain people. In 1988, in the case of Thompson v. Oklahoma, the supreme court ruled that it the death penalty applied to someone less than 16 years of age constitutes as “cruel and unusual punishment.” That age was extended to 18 in 2005, in Roper v. Simmons, again on the grounds that the death penalty when applied constitutes as cruel and unusual punishment.

Unusual is defined as different or strange in a way that attracts attention. The death penalty is different from all other punishments, because it takes from a person their very life. Not time, or energy.

I will end it off there. I look forward to reading my opponent’s opening arguments.


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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Midnight1131 3 months ago
juggle pls put me out of my misery wtf is this
Posted by yolomonkey 3 months ago
this is going to be interesting
Posted by Midnight1131 3 months ago
I'm not about to spill my opening arguments in the comments section ;)
Posted by ViceRegent 3 months ago
How silly. Why would we abolish a just punishment.
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