The Instigator
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Winning
42 Points
The Contender
mongeese
Con (against)
Losing
22 Points

The Death Penalty should be legal in the United States

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 11 votes the winner is...
RoyLatham
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/6/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 51,830 times Debate No: 15175
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (46)
Votes (11)

 

RoyLatham

Pro

The death penalty is punishment in which the person who committed the offense is put to death by the state. [1. http://en.wiktionary.org...] Currently 35 of the 50 states have a death penalty, as well as does the federal government and the U.S. Military. [2. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org.... The resolution allows states to continue to use a death penalty if they choose. In this debate, I will argue that there are some circumstances in which the death penalty should be legal; my opponent must argue that there are no circumstances in which it should be legal.

1. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal.

In the United States, the death penalty is and should be reserved for the most heinous crimes, usually upon demonstration of aggravating circumstances like multiple murders. In a just society, punishments should be proportionate the seriousness of the offense. Some crimes are so heinous that only a death penalty provides justice for horrific crimes. One example will suffice:

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against four of seven suspects facing murder charges in the July death of a Florida couple known for adopting special-needs children, authorities said Monday. ... prosecutors believe there were dual motives in the killings -- robbery and a contracted hit. ... one of the children, a boy who has autism and speech issues, was in his parents' room at the time they were killed there. ... The boy, ... in an interview with a nurse ... told her that "two bad men" wearing black masks awakened Byrd Billings and told him: "You're going to die."
[3. http://articles.cnn.com...]

What punishment short of the death penalty would be just in this case?

2. Execution saves innocent lives

We should be greatly concerned that no innocent person is falsely executed. To prevent wrong executions, states should and have enacted laws requiring extra scrutiny of death sentences. In addition, there are well-financed expert legal teams that independently examine death penalty cases, e.g.,

“The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 ... to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 266 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row.”
[4. http://www.innocenceproject.org...]

Having been on death row does not mean that the prisoner would have been executed. The prisoner might be in a state like California that theoretically has the death penalty, but it is virtually never applied. In California, felons sometimes request death penalty conviction to get the extra privileges that status affords. [3. http://lapd.com... ] The person might also be found innocent as a matter of course, such as by the requirement for additional scrutiny or by the confession of the real perpetrator. The death sentence might also have been commuted to a lesser sentence by the governor. The Innocence Project is reluctant to say if they have actually saved anyone from wrongful execution. It is at most 17, and probably less than five.

While the Innocence Project keeps precise statistics on wrongful convictions, the statistics are incomplete on additional killings by those given a life sentences instead of execution. A partial count is those given life instead of execution have killed four guards, 12 fellow inmates, and 13 upon escaping. Another 12 people were killed upon being paroled from a life sentence, and 67 upon release. [5. http://www.wesleylowe.com...] "Life" does not mean that the person will never be released. Even "life without parole" is can be commuted to "life with parole." The compilers of the list claim that they have enumerated only a small fraction of murders committed subsequent to life imprisonment, but the absolute minimum is 30.

Associate U.S. Attorney General D. Lowell Jensen told a Senate subcommittee that it is impossible to punish or even deter such prison murders because, without a death sentence, a violent life-termer has free rein "to continue to murder as opportunity and his perverse motives dictate." [5]

It's wrong to think that sentencing a heinous criminal to life eliminates their moral responsibility for loss of innocent life. that's no true. Preserving murders to kill again increases the moral responsibility. It's like preserving a time bomb. It's irresponsible because the danger increases, not decreases.

3. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics


The Innocence Project and opponents of the death penalty scour the records of the past 14,000 post-WWII executions looking for false convictions. The claim to find a few. However, the era of DNA testing only began about ten or fifteen years ago. Juries are now reluctant to convict someone of a serious crime without very solid forensic evidence.

This recent demand for forensic evidence is called the CSI effect. [6. http://en.wikipedia.org...] There are disputes over whether the jury awareness really came from watching crime shows on TV, and whether it makes convictions easier or more difficult. A suspect cleared by DNA evidence is certainly harder to convict, and one fingered by DNA evidence is certainly easier to convict. The bottom line is that wrongful convictions for serious crimes are no much more unlikely than in the past. Wrongful convictions are not impossible, but there have been only a handful in the past 14,000 executions, and we expect even fewer in the future.

4. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

Many of us will venture out in automobiles today. The circumstances may align through no fault of our own to involve us in a fatal traffic accident. That's unfair, but we face the odds anyway, knowing that 30,000 accidental deaths occur each year. the odds of our untimely end are about 1 in 100,000. Under the most pessimistic of assumptions of ten per year, our odds of departing via a wrongful execution are 1 in 30,000,000. What do we get for using automobiles? We get a great deal of convenience in our lives. What do we get in return for a legal death penalty? We get a just society and we save the lives of those innocent people that would murdered by the killers we had preserved.

5. Justice deters crime


Statistics from states are unclear. Some states may enact a death penalty in response to high rates, others may abandon the penalty because of low homicide rates. States like California theoretically have a death penalty, but actually don't enforce it.

The fair generalization is that societies that make the rules of the law clear and consistently enforce those rules deter criminal behavior in general. Japan has the death penalty and the lowest crime rate and homicide rate of advanced countries. [7. http://en.wikipedia.org...]

Some criminals believe they won't be caught. Some will be deterred, even some crimes of passion. Littering is a crime of passion. No one sets out a plan to litter at 2 PM the next day. But if there is a thousand dollar fine, and one just read a story of someone receiving the fine, then potential litterers will think twice. Contemplated crimes, like the killings in prison escapes are also likely to be deterred.

6. The death penalty supports plea bargaining

Killers confess and list their victims in return for not seeking the death penalty. [8. http://edition.cnn.com... ] That provides certain conviction, closes previously unsolved murders, and provides closure to the friends and families of victims of unsolved crimes.

-----

For all these reasons, the death penalty should be legal.


mongeese

Con

Thank you, RoyLatham, for starting this debate.

1+. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal

While the convicted murderers may seem to deserve death, justice does not demand it. A life sentence can be equally agonizing, if not more so. Being locked in a single small room for years on end is certainly torturing enough. The death penalty also carries far too many negatives for any benefit gleamed from this contention to be significant.

2+. Execution saves innocent lives

Indeed, execution risks lives more often than it saves them. As my opponent pointed out, 17 people on death row were saved by DNA testing, and it is easily likely that other innocent people could not be cleared due to a lack of DNA evidence. Some people are even unfairly framed into the death penalty by the police [1], so that no amount of scrutiny can spare them.

My opponent points to the rare usage of the death penalty, but this is hardly a contention in his favor. If the use of the death penalty has such a small impact and causes such outrages in society, why use it at all?

He points to statistics regarding murders within prisons and through escaping, but with advances in technology, prison escapes can be minimized to effectively nil. According to his page, nobody escaped prison to kill after 1989.

Now, it may be possible for prisoners to receive parole where they hadn't before, but I propose that anyone who would have been sentenced to death under Roy's criteria would instead be sentenced to life without parole with no option for judges to change the sentence. Note that many people on the list who were given parole probably wouldn't receive the death penalty if enough scrutiny is used to avoid executing innocents.

Regarding Lowell's quote, anyone who would receive the death penalty should instead receive solitary confinement with no physical contact with anyone else at all, so that no opportunities to kill are available.

As for the "time bomb" analogy, if the convict is properly confined, there is no more danger of allowing them to murder again.

There is, finally, the fact that convicts spend around a decade waiting on death row [2], giving them ample time to kill or escape if they are so inclined. The list of deaths even includes an instance in 1995 in which inmates on death row were able to kill fellow prisoners. Money would be better spent on security to prevent these deaths than the executions themselves.

3+. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics

It is true that false convictions would be rarer, but one may have already occurred at the end of last year [1]. Technology doesn't seem to be stopping false convictions as efficiently as my opponent would desire.

Additionally, with the intense scrutiny that my opponent desires, fewer convicts would end up on death row, lessening the number of lives that the death penalty would actually save and making the previous statistics inflated. When combined with the improved security of prisons as time advances, false convictions could outnumber the number of lives saved through the use of the death penalty.

4+. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

I would like to point out that the benefit to me of using automobiles outstrips the benefit of killing convicts instead of sentencing them to a life by factors easily past the billions. Automobiles are heavily convenient for every day of my life. Killing some prisoners instead of sentencing them to life saves is very expensive and saves practically nobody. I'd consider that a net loss.

5+. Justice deters crime

There are so many confounding variables in determining the effect of the death penalty on crime rates, as my opponent has pointed out, that using statistics can be extremely misleading. This happens to be the case for Japan as well. Japan has far fewer racial conflicts than most other countries, as about 98% of people in Japan are Japanese. Additionally, foreigners are much more likely to commit crimes in Japan than the Japanese [3], indicating that the low crime rate is more likely the result of the extremely strong Japanese culture than any government policy.

As for the claim that the death penalty will successfully deter criminals from committing crimes, the threat to lock up the criminal in a room for life would seem like an equally valid and more believable threat, as the number of executions in America is rather low.

6+. The death penalty supports plea bargaining

Plea bargaining can also occur under a life sentence. One could offer a convict, instead of a life sentence completely alone with nothing to do, life sentence with a Kindle, or some other reward that seems very appealing compared to the other prospects. I would like to add that solitary confinement is not all that great compared to the death penalty, as it is still a significant punishment.

1-. The death penalty is extremely expensive to implement

With the need for near-absolute certainty in sentencing a criminal to death, there are numerous court cases and appeals that must be defeated. With each case comes a ridiculous price. It costs taxpayers in California alone hundreds of millions of dollars to keep their executions running reliably, at a little over ten million dollars per head [4]. These trials also often fail to achieve the death penalty, so that the entire court session was a waste. What right does the government have to use so much of the taxpayer's money to kill people who would more easily be sentenced to life in maximum security?

Because the death penalty costs taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars to potentially kill people who are probably, but possibly not, criminals who will almost definitely never have a chance to kill again, it should not be used in the United States.

1. http://beta.nodeathpenalty.org...
2. http://www.dc.state.fl.us...
3. http://en.wikipedia.org...
4. http://www.deathpenalty.org...
Debate Round No. 1
RoyLatham

Pro

1-. The death penalty is extremely expensive to implement

Con main argument so far is cost. Criminal justice is always expensive, but citizens think justice makes it worthwhile to prosecute serious crimes despite the cost. We should be willing to pay what it takes to obtain justice. Still, the claim that life sentences are cheaper is false.

There are three elements of cost involved with a death penalty:

1. The court costs properly associated with extra scrutiny


The claimed savings supposes that a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole can be imposed without extra scrutiny. In fact, if there is any savings at all, it is small. Only about 6% of the convictions overturned by the Innocence Project involved death row inmates. [4] They are apply a high level of scrutiny to crimes that would include life without parole. Moreover, inmates convicted of life without parole are certainly going to want to file every appeal possible to get the sentence reduced, and the government is obliged to pay the costs of the prosecution and the defense in those cases. The appeals in such case can go on for the life of the inmate.

2. The court costs incurred unreasonably in defending the laws that permit execution

Much of the current costs of pursuing he death penalty involves challenges to the death penalty itself. Courts eager to overturn the death penalty are allowing appeals on such grounds as the drug used for the lethal injection must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. [8. http://www.truth-out.org...] The wording of the present resolution eliminates challenges to the death penalty itself, which can accomplished by legislation.

3. The costs of confining inmates on death row rather than in ordinary maximum security

The main costs are actually in housing the inmates on death row rather than in ordinary maximum security confinement. Death row mainly involves a higher level of security, and that includes single-occupant cells rather than two-inmate cells. The premise of the cost savings is that murderers sentenced to life imprisonment rather than execution are safer, and hence may be mixed with the general inmate population.

There are no grounds for that assumption. The convicted killer has a free pass to kill inmates or guards, or to escape and kill civilians. No extra penalty is available to deter such action, and data [5] shows there is serious threat. Con has offered as a solution to the problem of "free pass" killings is that extra-high security confinement be used to prevent it. That's exactly the cost that eliminating the death penalty is alleged to save.

California is used as an example of the high costs. Virtually no one has been executed in California, due to obstructions sustained by California Courts. Consequently, nearly all inmates are kept in high security until they die of natural causes. Actually carrying out executions reduces those costs substantially. Ohio, for example, as much lower costs because they actually perform executions. A California official said, “They are much more willing to exercise their capital punishment system [in Ohio] than California, thus alleviating one of the pressures that our state wrestles with,” [9. http://www.bloomberg.com... ]

The net result is a minor cost increase is suffered by extra scrutiny, but very substantial savings are obtained by not having to maintain the inmate in maximum security for a lifetime. The death penalty saves money.

1+. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal

I cited the case of parents executed in front of their children by a contract killer, and asked if justice demand the death penalty. Con brushed aside the question and said that being confined for life was punishment enough. Well, who gets to ultimately decide what is adequate? Juries decide when justice demands the death penalty. [10. http://abcnews.go.com...] In a democracy, the public ought to decide. About two-thirds of the states have the death penalty. As to life being worse, even serial killers are willing to plea bargain to get rid of the possibility of a death sentence. Neither the public nor the killers are confused about the issue.

2+. Execution saves innocent lives

Con has not presented a single case of an innocent person being freed. I carefully spelled out why the 17 cases were people who would not necessarily have been executed, and even the Innocence Project itself makes no claim of lives saved. Even though no cases of wrongful executions are established, I granted that there were likely a few.

Con cites the page I referenced as having no killings by escapees after 1989. There are, however, killing of guards and inmates after that date, and those count as unnecessary deaths. However, I had noted that the page was an incomplete list. A web search reveals many recent cases.
I found eight additional cases of convicted murderers who escaped being recaptured before they killed again. Con's claim that modern technology precludes escape is wrong.

No one keeps a careful list, so there are probably many more lives lost in avoiding executions.

3+. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics

Con cites one case of a conviction that was overturned under scrutiny and no recent cases of false executions. Better forensics does not reduce the number of murderers caught and subject to execution. I eliminates false convictions, but DNA provides solid evidence to convict many others who would have gone free in past times.

4+. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

Con claims that automobiles provide a benefit in return for the 30,000 innocent lives lost, but he fails to see a benefit to executions. A primary benefit is that justice is done, but it also saves the lives of those the convicted would subsequently kill, it deters murder particularly by the incarcerated, it saves substantial amounts of money on holding murderers for life, and plea bargains save money, solve cases, and provide closure to victims families.

5+. Justice deters crime

Con argues that it is Japanese culture that produces their low crime rate, not their use of the death penalty. But what is it about the culture that lowers crime rates? I don't see what racial minorities have to do with it. It isn't the death penalty by itself, but rather that the society as a whole cares a great deal about providing justice, and justice in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Con points out that foreigners in Japan commit more crimes. Indeed, foreigners are unlikely to come from a culture so concerned with administering true justice, so they are more likely believe they can get away with commiting a serious crime.

6+. The death penalty supports plea bargaining

Con argues plea bargaining can also occur under a life sentence. Right, "Plead guilty and we will give you a Kindle in your life sentence without parole. Otherwise go to trial and risk losing the Kindle." The prospect of death is more compelling. The leverage is so great that it alone is reason enough for having a death penalty. It works even if the death penalty is rarely carried out, because the downside to the felon is so great.
mongeese

Con

Thank you, Roy, for your response.

1-. The death penalty is extremely expensive to implement

My opponent claims that "citizens think justice makes it worthwhile to prosecute serious crimes despite the cost." I disagree. There is definitely a point at which delivering more justice to a criminal costs more than it helps; I don't even see how killing helps. We could easily spend twice as much money on our police force, reducing the number of criminals who get away with their crimes slightly, but this would result in numerous policemen doing nothing, a waste. The law of diminishing returns applies to justice.

1. The court costs properly associated with extra scrutiny

My opponent's statistic regarding this point seems irrelevant; the 6% applied to the Innocence Project, but depending on how many cases they investigated, 6% may be a drop in the bucket or a large portion of all death penalty cases. Life without parole, while requiring scrutiny, would not require as much scrutiny as a death penalty case, in which any mistakes are permanent. While we may see numerous appeals, remember that inmates on death row have about ten years to stall; laws could also be passed to greatly restrict the number of appeals an inmate may have.

2. The court costs incurred unreasonably in defending the laws that permit execution

My opponent neglects to give us a percentage of the costs involved in challenging the death penalty, so we cannot conclude much from this point. I can't see a significant number of courts allowing the FDA argument to be debated.

3. The costs of confining inmates on death row rather than in ordinary maximum security

The "main costs," as my opponent calls them, are actually for killing the inmates, not for housing them. "Executing all of the people currently on death row, or waiting for them to die there of other causes, will cost California an estimated $4 billion more than if they had been sentenced to die in prison of disease, injury, or old age" [4]. My opponent provides data of prison killings, but I have already explained how his data is outdated through technological advancements in security. We must remember that with technology come both more effective and cheaper methods of containing inmates. The death penalty will supposedly save the costs of imprisonment, but this cost must still be paid on death row, for the ten years in which the convict is most likely to try and space; killing the convicts is also, as I quoted, extremely expensive.

Ohio may be killing off more inmates, but my opponent's source says nothing of the actual cost to Ohio. Sure, they build fewer prisons, but they still spend much on the executions themselves.

All in all, the death penalty replaces the cost of prisons with the cost of execution, usually with a great deal of inefficiency, especially when the citizens of the state don't actually support the use of a death penalty.

1+. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal

My opponent appeals to the democratic aspect of the court system, in which the jury gets to decide who gets the death penalty and who does not. However, this process is plagued with terrible errors, such as racial and gender bias, poor court-appointed attorneys, and the jurors' general incomprehension of the death penalty, to the point of arbitrariness [5]. Many jurors don't even understand the process of the death penalty. Certain requirements in choosing the jury for a death penalty case force an overrepresentation of jurors in support of the death penalty, skewing the court's decision away from the true public opinion. If anti-death penalty people were allowed on the jury, we'd see much fewer death penalty cases compared to the dismal numbers we already see. How much justice is it for people to be sentenced to death on an almost random basis often decided based on irrelevant information about the defense?

Regarding a comparison between life and death, a life sentence will force more contemplation on behalf of the killer to thing about the wrongs that he committed. The death penalty merely ends their life immediately, with no reflection on the crimes. While death is more barbaric, it does not deliver true justice.

2+. Execution saves innocent lives

17 people are already given as having been sentenced to death while innocent. If a person can be put on death row innocent, then a person can be executed innocent. If the death penalty is put into execution more often (no pun intended), then a large portion of the 17 known (likely more) innocents would indeed be killed. A large enough sample of killings will produce the death of an innocent.

My opponent cites four different cases of prison/escapee kills, but note that these were in minimum and normal security prisons. They wouldn't have been sentenced to a death penalty regardless of the legality. Maximum security will not allow escapes so easily.

3+. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics

I do indeed have a case of a man who was sentenced to death only to be discovered innocent. Had the policemen been slightly more thorough in their framing, we would have an execution. There are actually many cases of innocent execution, the top ten listed here [6]. While some are due to limited forensics, others are due to forensic carelessness that isn't fixed with technology, and others still are due to judicial bias and police apathy. Forensics only has a small part to play in correcting death sentences.

4+. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

Again, I do not see whatever death prevention my opponent claims being worth spending millions of extra taxpayer's dollars. In Texas, for example, it has cost $2.3 million to execute someone instead of imprisoning them for life, not counting the cost of death row [7]. One out of every 200 prisoners manage to escape [8], with the probability even lower for higher security. If we assume that an escapee manages to kill one person before being caught, we have spent about $250 million to save a life. The money would easily be put to better use as hospital subsidies, where a life can be saved for well less than $250 million. This doesn't even factor in wrongful deaths, which may be more than one in every two hundred.

All other sub-contentions here are better argued in their other full contentions.

5+. Justice deters crime

A culture can lower crime rates if its people follow strict moral guidelines. We obviously see cultures such as the ghetto culture producing a disproportionate number of criminals; the opposite can just as easily be true. The point about race is that there would be fewer racially motivated crimes in Japan, lowering the crime rate. The argument about an unaccustomed foreigner makes little sense, as China administers the death penalty, as do most Eastern countries. In any case, criminal policy cannot be determined by a single outlier example; the overall trend in the United States scientifically suggests no deterrence created by the death penalty at all [9].

6+. The death penalty supports plea bargaining

I find it interesting that my opponent would allow murderers to escape the justice that he feels must be implemented even at great costs by simply pleading guilty. He provides no examples of killers pleading guilty because of the threat of death penalty that would not be persuaded by any other means. Murderers who think they will walk free will not plead guilty, while those who know that they left too much evidence will plead guilty; the ones who end up receiving the death penalty will likely be the ones who were framed by circumstance. That is most definitely not justice.

5. http://www.deathpenalty.org...
6. http://deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com...
7. http://texasdeathpenalty.blogspot.com...
8. http://www.slate.com...
9. http://www.religioustolerance.org...
Debate Round No. 2
RoyLatham

Pro

I appreciate Con's vigorous debate.

1+. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal

How do we know what is just? I claim that a contract killer who tells a child he is going to murder the child's parents, and then follows through and does so, deserves to be executed. Con claims that it only seems that killer deserves to be executed, but maybe he should not. There are individuals who refuse to convict any person of any crime, and say so. People who refuse to convict anyone are excused from jury duty.

The society as a whole should decide the parameters of justice. “Gallup's annual Crime Survey finds that 64% of Americans continue to support the use of the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, while 29% oppose it -- continuing a trend that has shown little change over the last seven years.” [11. http://www.gallup.com... ] That is why a death penalty should be legal. Whether it is just in a particular case is the job of a jury to decide within the laws democratically established.

The jury's options are heavily constrained to prevent arbitrary use of the death penalty. That was instituted by a series of Supreme court decisions. [12. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org... ] As now constituted, the death penalty is judged by the Court to have the necessary safeguards.

Con claims that the death penalty is “more barbaric” than life in prison without possibility of parole. I disagree. Barbaric implies unduly harsh. A just penalty is not unduly harsh. It is civilized.

"Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death." ~ Supreme Court of the United States of America [13. http://www.prodeathpenalty.com...]

2+. Execution saves innocent lives

Con argues that 17 cases of people freed from death row as a result of scrutiny should be somehow counted as wrongly executed. Even The Innocence Project does not make that claim. They were not executed at all, for the reason that extra scrutiny is applied, both by the court system and by independent concerned citizens.

I grant that there have probably been a handful of wrongful executions among the 14,000 carried out post-War, but it is telling that so far Con has not cited any, despite his implication that they are common.

Regarding murders committed by those given life as an alternative to execution, I agree it is possible to hold prisoners in effective supermax confinement. There are three problems with that:

  1. Supermax confinement is extremely expensive. It is much more expensive than ordinary “maximum” security. [14. http://solitarywatch.com... ] The cost savings claimed for abolishing the death penalty are obtained by mixing inmates in the general population. “

  2. Supermax won't be used because it is too expensive, and because judges will further downgrade sentences.

  3. Supermax solitary confinement is likely to be ruled cruel and unusual punishment. [15. http://solitarywatch.com... ] If it is not, it should be. I am saying that the death penalty is not (the supreme Court has already so ruled), but that denying human contact is. Society should not keep people alive and then make them suffer for their whole lives.

So long as large numbers of inmates are given a free pass to kill fellow inmates guards, and victims during escapes, it will cost innocent lives.

3+. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics

Challenged to provide examples of wrongful executions, Con point to a list of ten cases. However, none of the ten were found to be wrongful executions. The anti-death-penalty site that lists them only claims that they ought to be given a close look. The site presents a one-sided account of each case, and then implies that the courts that reviewed the cases were incompetent to judge.

In addition none of the death penalty verdicts in the ten cases were rendered after the onset of the CSI effect, with accompanying heighten jury awareness of the importance of forensic evidence. One of the executions was in 2000 and one in 2004, but the cases were old.

In the last round, Con added a case of a person found innocent and freed before execution. That is a consequence of extra scrutiny.

4+. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

Con argues, “I do not see whatever death prevention my opponent claims being worth spending millions of extra taxpayer's dollars.” The public gets to make that decision, and two-thirds are pro death penalty. Even more money could be saved by having prompt executions without the lengthy appeals and extra expense of having death row inmates in expensive high-security confinement. If cCon's argument is true, it favors the death penalty on an expedited basis.

5+. Justice deters crime

Con agrees, “A culture can lower crime rates if its people follow strict moral guidelines.” I think moral guidelines cannot be strict if punishment is not appropriate to the crime. Japan shows that a civil and moral society uses the death penalty when it is the appropriate punishment.

One method that avoids cross-culure analysis is to examine what happens when the death penalty is removed or instituted in a society.

Statistics were kept for the 5 years that capital punishment was suspended in Britain (1965-1969) and these showed a 125% rise in murders that would have attracted a death sentence. … Various recent academic studies in the USA have shown that capital punishment is a deterrent there.” [16. http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org...]


“ the Texas murder rate ...had fallen to 6.1 -- a drop of 60 percent [with the death penalty]. ... the most aggressive death penalty prosecutions are in Harris County [where] the annual number of ... murders has plummeted from ... -- a 72 percent decrease.” [17.
http://debatepedia.idebate.org...]


When the Supreme court issued a moratorium on the death penalty from 1972-76, homicide rate rose dramatically. “The murder rate -- homicides per 100,000 persons -- doubled from 5.1 to 10.2. So the number of murders grew as the number of executions shrank.” [17]


The savings in human life includes the killings by convicts give a free pass, and those deterred. The numbers are very large compared to the vanishingly small numbers of wrongful executions.


6+. The death penalty supports plea bargaining

I never argued that justice demands that the death penalty always be applied. Judges, prosecutors, and juries all have a say in when it is appropriate. Plea bargaining can be appropriate in some circumstances, and I gave examples.

Con asserts without proof that the results of plea bargaining, such as the Green River killer's many murders, might have been accomplished by “other means.” I maintain that the incentive provided by execution is unmatched.


1-. The death penalty is extremely expensive to implement

Con's main argument so far is cost. He just argued that not matter how many innocent lives are saved, it isn't worth the expense to the taxpayer. Con did not dispute my cost analysis with data, but relied upon an anti-death-penalty site to opine that the costs were just due to "execution."

Cost analysis by the Florida Senate showed the costs strictly associated with the death penalty were a small fraction of that claimed, and could be further reduced by adopting methods used in Texas. [18.
http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...]

There are additional savings from deterrence.

mongeese

Con

Thank you, Roy, for your response.

1+. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal

My opponent has essentially defined "jusice" as popular opinion. According to him, because 64% of Americans believe that certain criminals should be killed, they should be killed. Now, I can see where the people have the right to determine some government policies, such as things funded by their tax dollars, but do they really have a right to choose to kill people? To use the population's whims is a dangerous unlimited democracy. Surely, there are things that should not be implemented even if the majority of America would desire it, such as racial discrimination or universal health care. I contend that the death penalty is among those things.

My opponent points out that the Supreme Court has ensured fairness in the death penalty. However, I don't trust the Supreme Court to do anything right any further than I can throw them. Additionally, many cases regarding the death penalty were 5-4; can we really trust decisions that so easily could have gone in the opposite direciton?

2+. Execution saves innocent lives

It is true that those released by the Innocence Project are not executed; however, had it not been for the independent Innocence Project, they quite likely would have been executed, and we cannot guarantee at all that the Independent Project can exonerate all innocents.

I have already cited ten wrongful executions; only a few of them can be disregarded due to advances in forensics.

Regarding supermax confinement, I fail to see why we even need it. My opponent has yet to cite anyone breaking out of maximum confinement; we do not need an additional and unnecessary level of security.

3+. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics

The ten cases were, indeed, wrongful convictions, regardless of no court declarations. The source also mentions that "eight inmates have been acknowledged of their possible innocence after execution by the Death Penalty Information Center" [6]. The cases listed also demonstrate poor use of the death penalty in relying on flimsy and often bribed evidence, and it's too late to fix the mistakes.

As for the CSI effect, it is irrelevant in cases with framing and bribery used to create evidence and witnesses that are difficult to expose when done correctly.

Finally, "extra scrutiny" can be counted on to catch a large number of mistakes, but it cannot catch all of them.

4+. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

Assuming even that the public has the right to kill off their criminals, I doubt that they would if they were told just how expensive the death penalty is. Sure, executions could be quickened and cheapened, although this would heavily sacrifice the "extra scrutiny" that is necessary to ensure few mistaken executions. Note that the $2.3 million cost was for execution over a life sentence, even after all of the trials. My opponent contests neither my math nor my source.

5+. Justice deters crime

My opponent claims that Japan's low crime rate can be attributed to its use of the death penalty; how does one explain, then, the low crime rates in many US states that do not use the death penalty? Is it a correlation when it supports the death penalty, and a coincidence when it opposes?

He then presents numerous sources and quotes to back up his claim, but my source [9] has an overwhelming majority of criminologists, a statistical study, and a study by the United Nations. Most compelling, perhaps, is a quote from the FBI that "[i]n no state has the number of murders diminished after legalizing the death penalty." We are not Japan or Britain, but America, and if Americans do not respond to the death penalty as a deterrent, it is useless to us.

To conclude this point, execution is not a deterrent in the United States, and the lives saved from the death penalty are far too expensive; the money could be put to a much better use to save far more lives. Add the number of lives saved through the prevention of false executions.

6+. The death penalty supports plea bargaining

To put this simply, I do not believe that the benefit gained from the plea bargaining bonus of the death penalty makes up for the numerous additional problems of the death penalty.

1-. The death penalty is extremely expensive to implement

My opponent sources how Florida wishes to adopt Texas' methods, even though I used Texas' execution cost in my math. Additionally, the source is extremely misleading in that the reason the abolition of death penalty would not save much money is because "[p]rosecutors, public defenders and the courts would continue to cost just as much as before, although their workload would shift to other cases that now get lower priority." In this case, we would not recover the fulll cost, but instead receive more time for other cases, reducing the backlog of cases in the rest of the court so that the benefit of dropping the death penalty is actually much larger than it is made out to be. In addition, the same source points out that "[a]ccording to The Post's estimate, it is about $ 23 million cheaper, even for an inmate who is imprisoned in his 20s and dies in his 70s." That statistic is even more extreme than my own.

In conclusion, the death penalty is far too expensive and will take some innocent lives in the process; the benefits of deterrence, plea bargaining and the lack of escape are extremely minimal in comparison.
Debate Round No. 3
RoyLatham

Pro

Thanks to Con for a fine debate.

1. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal


What is just and who is to decide what is just? I say a contract killer who tells a child he is going to murder the child's parents, and then follows through and does so, deserves to be executed. Con would not say the killer does not deserve execution. The death penalty is the just punishment. The Supreme Court affirmed “the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death.” We are debating the death penalty for the most heinous of crimes.

Con questioned whether the community really should determine what justice requires. The only alternative to the community making the determination is to have the decision made by a non-democratic elite: a religious leader, an authoritarian government, or a class of people put above democracy in some other way. Our society has strong guarantees of free speech, so that issues are freely debated and democratically resolved. In our society there is no elite more qualified than the people to determine what is just. Support for the death penalty by the general public is 64% in favor and 29% opposed, and support has been stable.

Supreme Court decisions have ensured that objective standards and sound procedures be enacted by each state to ensure that the death penalty is reserved for serious offences, and that there are safeguards against wrongful execution. In individual cases, a jury decides if the nature of the crime merits the death penalty under law.

2. Execution saves innocent lives

There have been over 14,000 executions since the World War II, most of them before higher safeguards were instituted. Con claims that 27 wrongful executions either have occurred or would have occurred. 17 of those were people on death row freed by The Innocence Project, whom Con insists would surely have been executed, even though they were not. However, even the Innocence Project itself does not support Con's claim. After conviction, there are mandatory appeals within the system as well as third party examination. Those measures work well.

Con cites 10 executions listed on an anti-death penalty site. However, Con misreads the site. The site claims that only eight wrongful executions have ever been determined officially, and that the ten cited ought to be looked at for the possibility of wrongful execution. I did not examine the claim of eight executions being officially established, because Con didn't cite it.

I have granted that there have probably been a handful of wrongful executions in the past, and perhaps eight of the 14,000 is the right number. Con has not established any. If wrongful conviction were common, there should be, at least, many hundreds. The upper bound, according to Con, is 17 + 10 + 8 = 35. In further arguments, we shall see the rate is dropping.

Convicted killers sentenced to life imprisonment have a free pass to kill fellow inmates and guards, because they are already under life sentence. They may also kill outside prison in an escape. No one systematically counts how many deaths are a consequence of life sentences. One site listed 29 deaths of fellow inmates, guards, and escape victims. Con challenged that none were recent, so I found four more with a quick web search. Another 79 deaths followed parole or release.

The best numbers available are that there have been eight deaths from wrongful executions, and a minimum of 33 murders by those kept in prison. The prison murders are not systematically counted and could be much higher. Additional lives are saved by deterrence, discussed below.

Con claims that increased security of confinement might reduce the free pass deaths. I'll discuss that under costs.

3. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics

DNA testing and modern forensics have ensured that there are fewer false convictions, and also that fewer guilty persons escape justice. I think that is undisputed. Con argues that wrongful convictions might still result from police misconduct or non-forensic evidence. It's possible, but the CSI effect reduces that possibility as well. Juries are now more likely to demand forensic evidence than before, so that withholding evidence or using false statements are less likely to succed. Defensive attorneys systematically demand independent forensic examination in capital cases.


4. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

Innocent people are killed at the rate of 30,000 per year in traffic accidents. Eight innocent people have been killed in 60 years by having a death penalty – or if Con is correct it is 35 in 60 years. If we can tolerate 30,000 deaths per year for the sake of convenience in driving, we ought to tolerate fewer than one per year for the sake of justice. Con does not dispute this claim. He argues that justice is not worth the cost of the death penalty; that's a different argument.

5. Justice deters crime

I did not claim that that Japan's low crime rate was due to the death penalty. My claim is that a culture of justice deters crime, and that having proportional punishment is essential to a culture of justice. The example of Japan shows that the death penalty is consistent with a civilized just society.

Those opposed to the death penalty cite statistics that crimes rates do not depend upon whether a state has or does not have a death penalty. I explained early in the debate why that comparison is invalid. For example, California theoretically has a death penalty, but doesn't enforce it. The cultures vary from state to state depending upon many factors. North Dakota does not have the uraban population of new York, for example. States cannot be compared.

What is valid, however, is instituting or revoking the death penalty in a given state. That eliminates the factors of enforcement and cultural disparity. Numerous studies, in the US and worldwide, show that the death penalty is demonstrated to be a substantial deterrent. Murder rates doubled upon removing the death penalty and were halved by instituting it. Con did not dispute the constant-culture studies, but only reference invalid cross-culture comparisons.

6. The death penalty supports plea bargaining


Con grants the effectiveness of the death penalty in plea bargaining, but again claims it is not worth the cost.

Con. 1. Costs

Opponents of the death penalty grossly inflate costs by aassuming the higher costs of maintaining inmates on death row would be reduced to that of mixing convicted murderers in the general prison population. The data for California showed death row to be double the cost for the general maximum security prison costs.

They assume that all the costs of litigation are necessary. The costs are not necessary because they include absurd attacks on the system (such as lethal injection drugs requiring FDA approval), the costs depend heavily on the court system (Texas is less expensive than Florida or California), and they assign total costs to a few executions. For example, California litigated over 600 death row cases, but due to the strong agenda of California judges, only 13 executions were carried out. That makes the cost per execution ridiculously high.

Con's proposal for preventing free pass killings was higher security, but that is expensive. Death row is about twice,and no-human-contact (supermax) is even higher. Con did not contend my claim that no-human-contact confinement is likely to be ruled cruel and unusual,

Additional cost savings derive from plea bargaining lower prosecution cost and freeing up police for other investigations. Deterrence lowers the number of murders to be prosecuted.



Cost, justice, and savings of innocent lives all favor the legality of the death penalty.

mongeese

Con

Thank you, Roy, for posting your final argument.

1+. Justice demands that the death penalty be legal

My opponent points out that because the community favors the death penalty, the lack of a death penalty would require a dangerous non-democratic elite. However, there is another alternative: the death penalty should not be legal, so therefore the people should not supprot it. Democracy is not inherently right; such an idea would commit the is-ought fallacy. During much of America's history, the majority supported slavery; does that mean that slavery "should" have been legal? The "should" in the resolution implies that my goal in this debate is to explain why the people should stop supporting the death penalty. If my opponent is allowed to assume that with a legal death penalty comes an overhaul of the system to eliminate wasteful trials, then I am allowed to assume that the people should oppose the death penalty, and therefore the death penalty should be illegal.

My opponent has no response regarding the risk of 5-4 court decisions. Additionally, regarding the "safeguards against wrongful executions," my opponent seems to want to disassemble many components of the trial process; would such revision continue to have support from the Supreme Court, given how shaky they already are?

2+. Execution saves innocent lives

With my opponent's intentions of executing prisoners with little time for the Innocence Project, the 17 freed prisoners would indeed have been executed. The Innocence Project does not make this claim because they are not aware of my opponent's plans. Regarding the ten executions listed, the site claims that they are wrongful, but have yet to be confirmed by the state; this makes it rather unlikely that any of them were proper executions. My opponent incorrectly assumes that 35 is an upper bound, but this does not include the unknown number of innocents executed that were not caught by the Innocence Project, the state's revision process (which has already been sourced as imperfect), and the ten infamous cases. 35 is instead more likely a lower bound.

My opponent argues that in a life sentence, there will be murders of inmates and guards; however, he has never given an example of this under maximum security. He has only used numerous examples from medium or minimum security. I was never expecting a list of deaths in maximum security prison, but we don't even have a single example from which to conclude anything.

My opponent's final comparison of eight to 33 assumes that all mistaken executions are later realized, which is almost definitely false, and that those 33 prisoners were under the same security that someone my opponent would give the death penalty would be under, which is also false.

My claim of "increased security" was mistaken by my opponent as "supermax," but only maximum security, which is already legal, is necessary, making this point irrelevant.

Concluding this contention, switching prisoners from the death sentence to a life sentence under maximum security would not increase the murder count at all, because all of the examples of breakout murders occured under sub-maximum security.

3+. False convictions are now extremely unlikely due to modern forensics

It may be more difficult for a framing or bribery to work, but it is far from impossible. I already cited a case in which it nearly succeeded; had a few fewer mistakes been made, it would have succeeded.

4+. Justice should not be compromised by a very small risk of error

My opponent again compares the risk of driving to the risk of execution. Since Round 1, I've pointed out that the use of automobiles benefits everybody in the world outstrips the benefit of executing murderers "by factors easily past the billions." Anything true for one is a far cry from guaranteed for the other. This is somewhat of a subjective point, so direct debating is difficult. The cost argument I mentioned in this contention, although it is also its own separate contention, to be discussed later.

5+. Justice deters crime

My opponent claims that "the death penalty is consistent with a civilized just society." However, if we look at many Western countries and states, we could also see that the lack of a death penalty is consistent with a civilized just society. This isn't relevant to whether the death penalty deters crime at all.

Regarding the statistics that I cited, their key points were the conclusions of criminologists and a study by the United Nations, neither of which would have the problems that my opponent supposes. Comparisons made between states compared bordering states with similar rural and urban makeups. My quote from the FBI that "[i]n no state has the number of murders diminished after legalizing the death penalty" goes unchallenged. Constant-culture studies are not as relevant to the death penalty in the United States as a study of effects in America itself, and we apparently don't see the death penalty as a deterrent, which is all that matters.

1-. Costs

Death row itself is, apparently, more expensive than the maximum security that nobody can seem to break out of. A life sentence doesn't need death row security, but only maximum security.

My opponent points to things that inflate the costs, but through much of this debate, I've been using statistics from Texas, which my opponent admits has relatively inexpensive executions, making those points moot.

It is true that I never made any repsonse to defend supermax security, but that is because, as I said last round, supermax security is unnecessary when maximum security provides enough security to prevent escapes and murders.

Plea bargaining from the death penalty may help with the costs slightly, but by the millions? Unlikely. As for the freeing of police, they would already be freed from the death penalty trials that occupy so much of the court's time, as I have already cited.

In conclusion, the death penalty is unnecessarily expensive and kills more innocent people than it saves, with benefits not worth the trouble.

Thank you, RoyLatham, for this debate. Good luck with the rest of the tournament.
Debate Round No. 4
46 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by i8JoMomma 3 years ago
i8JoMomma
so should maijuana
Posted by headphonegut 3 years ago
headphonegut
mongeeese it's only a small rfd but I'll post all the reasons here in the comments section
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
Why should we lock up murders, rapists, bank robbers, or Bernie Madoff? Nothing supports any of it other than, ultimately, appeal to vague concepts of justice. It's fair to raise cost arguments; they must be weighed against justice arguments in determining if the death penalty should be legal. I think costs would be lower under a reasonable and just death penalty system; mongeese argues they would be higher.
Posted by mongeese 3 years ago
mongeese
BlackVoid, I thought I explained why an alternative to democracy was unnecessary:
"If my opponent is allowed to assume that with a legal death penalty comes an overhaul of the system to eliminate wasteful trials, then I am allowed to assume that the people should oppose the death penalty, and therefore the death penalty should be illegal."
Whether or not this will sway your vote, I don't know, but you should at least be aware of that sentence that I made.
Posted by mongeese 3 years ago
mongeese
headphonegut, I have a few things to say about your RFD:

"So con went on a cost debate and that isn't the standard set by aff."
What makes a cost argument not standard? There were no restrictions on what contentions could or could not be used.

"also most of the points go to con because of all the arguments he made con only counter argued pro arguments and presented only one argument of why death penalty shouldn't be legal."
Last time I checked, the quality of contentions took precedence over quantity. Plus, if I used any other argument for why the death penalty shouldn't be legal, wouldn't that contradict "the standard set by aff"? That's quite a catch-22 you've put me in.
Posted by democrat435 3 years ago
democrat435
awesome job, i go with what feverish said. nice one.
lo;l
Posted by feverish 3 years ago
feverish
Really high quality and close debate, but I definitely think Mongeese wins.

I didn't find Roy's vague appeals to an abstract concept of justice or to how many US citizens support the death penalty remotely compelling. I thought the points about Japan weren't applicable because the resolution specifies the US and Geese won the deterrant argument with US stats. Geese nailed the important cost argument and showed more examples of innocent deaths caused by DP than Roy showed inocent deaths that could have been prevented by it.
Posted by headphonegut 3 years ago
headphonegut
most people don't know how to read well it was clearly stated and no objection was made, "I will argue that their are some circumstances in which the death penalty should be legal, my opponent must argue that their are no circumstances in which it should be legal," that was the standard set by Roy and not challenged by mongeese, so one has to assume that mongeese agreed with this standard for judging. Roy some circumstances mongeese no circumstances in which the death penalty is legal.
Posted by democrat435 3 years ago
democrat435
i totally agree with pro.
Posted by CiRrK 3 years ago
CiRrK
Ok, so this was hard to analyze cause no one framed the resolution for me or provided any impact weighing or analysis. Thus, I put the most weight onto the "should be legal" phrase being linked with the question of justice demanding a penalty to exist or not. And for this I vote AFF on:

1. The proportionality aspect of justice, where mongeese really only responds with an alternative but doesnt explain how the alternative links to justice more. He just states it is adequate enough. Not enough analysis there for me to accept the alternative. But yes, proportionality, as Roy frames it does have a clear link to justice, i.e. having a punishment which equals out the severity and the right violations of the crime.

2. Democratic procedures and opinion deciding punishment. Even though Mongeese shows the flaw that opinion =/= inherently right, you provide no alternative weighing mechanism. Basically you should have provided a way for the judges to decide what IS the right way. Since Roy gives a clear brightline that X amount of people (name the majority) accept the death penalty, and this is a democracy, then the death penalty is just within a democratic setting. Just because there is a flaw doesnt mean the judge kicks it from the flow immediately.
11 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 3 years ago
BlackVoid
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Reasons for voting decision: OK, this may be frowned upon, but after reading the comments feel I must reconsider my decision. Cirrk makes a great point that no alternative was given to democratic procedures. So even if its flawed, theres no better alt so the argument must stand. I also realized that Roy said that DP wont be pursed without forensic evidence. Since Roy also won that forensics are nearly perfect, the risk of innocent death therefore becomes minimal.
Vote Placed by feverish 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: See comments
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Reasons for voting decision: So con went on a cost debate and that isn't the standard set by aff. also most of the points go to con because of all the arguments he made con only counter argued pro arguments and presented only one argument of why death penalty shouldn't be legal.
Vote Placed by CiRrK 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: See Comments.
Vote Placed by innomen 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: That was a really well done debate. Organization and presentation, and argumentation. I'm going to give the argument over to Roy because he did a great job with succinctly and effectively arguing his points with good back up. Mongeese did a good job in refutation but seemed just slightly weaker in the strength of his counter argument. I realize this is a fairly subjective statement, but it's what i see.
Vote Placed by Danielle 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: A VERY close debate. I believe I remained truly unbiased; you can read my full RFD here: http://www.debate.org/forums/debate.org/topic/10725/4/
Vote Placed by BillBonJovi 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I agree with Pro, but I think Con's arguments were stronger
Vote Placed by Sieben 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments section. I think I'm supposed to votebomb since this is for a tourney. PM me if that is incorrect. Real vote is S
Vote Placed by TUF 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Over-all this was a good debate. I gave the win to roy because his impacts far outweigh those of the cons. Sure Con offers many great rebuttals, but his goal in the debate is to prove that the death penalty is worse than it is good. Roy did a spectacular job of proving the neccesity of the death penalty, as opposed to the harms not getting rid of the death penalty would be. With the Con only making the money argument, and pro citing how the housing inmates is even more expensive, He wins the ar