The Death Penalty should be made illegal in the USA.
Debate Rounds (5)
Should my opponent, DavidMGold, accept, he will accept the following things:
1) First round is acceptance only
2) Fifth round cannot include new contentions/arguments or refutes.
3) No religious arguments can be used.
4) A forfeit of a round is an automatic forfeit of conduct.
5) Any definitions used must come from http://www.oed.com... .
6) Only logic can be used.
7) The BoP (burden of proof) is shared.
8) My opponent accepts the following position:
"The Death Penalty should remain legal in the USA"
Also, for the voters:
9) You accept that a forfeit of a round is a violation of conduct, no matter the reason, and nothing more than a violation of conduct.
Lastly, this is talking about states that still have the death penalty legal.
I believe that's all, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to post a comment. Good luck to all, and allez!
Contention 1: Innocent executions.
The US government has executed innocent people before, and should not be allowed to take this risk. Examples of innocent executions include Cameron Willingham, Carlos DeLuna, and the Meeks. This system is clearly fallible and yet serves an irreversible purpose - to legally murder people. Should a system which allows for error, allow for the potential (and in some cases fulfilled potential) of mistakes to be made and incorporated when combined with an irreversible outcome? No - not when compared to alternatives. For example, life in prison. In one scenario, someone is killed and, no matter what evidence comes up, s/he will remain killed. In another scenario, s/he is sentenced to life in jail and, if evidence comes up again, s/he can be released if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that s/he wasn't the perpetrator.
But there is also potential for death row innocence, too. As of 21st December 2012, 142 inmates on death row have been released. It is clear from this that the possibility is high that some of our criminals weren't really criminals; they would have died alone, in disgrace, and innocent.
Contention 2: Cost.
The cost of executing people is huge when compared to life without parole. In fact, Californians alone could save $90,000 in tax every year by eliminating the death penalty, because they spend about $90,000 more (per year) on death row prisoners than on prisoners in regular confinement. This money could be spent on things such a police stations, to help reduce the crime in the first place.
"...Commission estimates the annual costs of the present (death penalty) system to be $137 million per year.
The cost of the present system with reforms recommended by the Commission to ensure a fair process would be $232.7 million per year.
The cost of a system in which the number of death-eligible crimes was significantly narrowed would be $130 million per year.
The cost of a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration instead of the death penalty would be $11.5 million per year."
As you can clearly see, this phenomenal cost is very taxing on the public. Is it worth it? No. This idea that it's somehow "worth it" because they end up in the ground after being injected, gassed, hanged, or shocked appears to be personal opinion and nothing more. If I'm wrong and there is reason behind this, I would ask my opponent to provide counter evidence for this.
I think two contentions is ample for now; I will introduce more in round three. I await my opponent's response(s)! I would like to thank my opponent, the audience, and the voters for this!
First Contention - "Innocent Executions"
Claim: The US government has executed innocent people before, and should not be allowed to take this risk. Examples of innocent executions include Cameron Willingham, Carlos DeLuna, and the Meeks.
Fact: There isn't a single documented case of a wrongful execution in the United Statesover as Supreme Court Justice Scalia has pointed out, "not a single case-not one-in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops."
Case 1) Cameron Willingham - the citation was an article in the Chicago Tribune that casted doubt on the expert testimony of arson that was part of the original trial. I would point to several articles in the Dallas Morning News that show while the arson investigation methods were outdated, they investigation by the Tribune didn't rule out arson either. This is also true in the investigation by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which couldn't rule out arson. All these investigation did was look at the arson investigation techniques used at the time and never examined the inconsistencies in his story. (As for citation, you have to do a search in the paper's archive.) It is telling that his lawyer, David Martin, said "There was no question whatsoever that he was guilty."  His ex-wife, and mother to the dead children, believed he did it.  For me, this is a case of the media, and anti-death penalty groups, creating a false narrative that excludes the other evidence presented in the case to push an agenda.
Case 2) Carlos DeLuna - the citation used is an article in the Guardian U.K. that pointed to a study by Professor James Liebman and 12 students published in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. I would first point out that Professor Liebman is a longtime anti-death penalty advocate and there is reasons to be skeptical given his other dubious studies on the subject. Such as his study finding "serious error" in capital cases . When you look at the details and the actual cases, what you find is not the unreliability of lower courts but the Supreme Court, which retroactively changes the rules. He used cases from the Rose Bird era of the California Supreme Court which an ideological justice reversed all death penalty cases and these frivolous examples are cited as examples of "reversible errors" . I would also add that you should consider the politics of Columbia University where convicted cop killer and Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin is an adjunct professor at Columbia University"s School of Social Work and serves as director of the school"s "Criminal Justice Initiative" . The extreme politics at Columbia are well known . In this case, the murder occured in 1983 and the execution was carried out in 1989 . So bear in mind this study comes nearly 30 years after the crime. Carlos Deluna had only been out of prison for six weeks prior to the murder. He was convicted of improper use of a motor vehicle and attempted rape, served 3 years, paroled, and then attacked and attempted to rape the mother of a friend, which caused his parole to be revoked and he was sent back to prison . Somehow attempted rape breaking several ribs of your victim doesn't qualify as a violent criminal past in the case of DeLuna according to Liebman. The story Liebman gives was that Deluna was present while another guy committed the crime and he decided his best course of action was to run a short distance and hide under a truck and just happen to have the same amount of money that was taken from the store. And this is how the testimony of the two eyewitnesses is dismissed as well. Nevermind that DeLuna testified at his trial that he was at a skating ring with Mary Ann Perales who testified that he was not with her. The lead prosecutor and one DeLuna's defense have stated that Liebman never spoke with them about the case . Liebman lied  when he claimed there is no evidence that the store was robbed despite the fact that during trial the store owner testified about the amount of money missing, which happened to be the same amount found on DeLuna in a wad in addition to his wallet that only had two one-dollar bills. It seems a bit dubious that Hernandez bragged about the killing after DeLuna's conviction, which didn't ever come out until Liebman's investigators showed up many years later. Don't forget that even if he hadn't delievered the killing blow, under the felony-murder rule he still could have been charged and convicted and that if he had gotten life without parole, he would have died or be rotting till he died in prison. I am far from convinced this is a case of an innocent man being executed.
Case 3) Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin - this is a case where I would have to agree that two men were wrongly executed but we're talking about a murder that occured in 1913 and I don't think a century old case is a sufficient basis to attack the criminal justice system today and further argue we end capital punishment.
Claim: This system is clearly fallible and yet serves an irreversible purpose - to legally murder people.
Fact: According to Justice Scalia, "[L]et"s give the professor the benefit of the doubt: let"s assume that he understated the number of innocents by roughly a factor of 10, that instead of 340 there were 4,000 people in prison who weren"t involved in the crime in any way. During that same 15 years, there were more than 15 million felony convictions across the country. That would make the error rate .027 percent"or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent."  As for the argument that capital punishment is equal to "legal murder," I would counter that this is faulty moral logic. I can offer the following examples: arresting and holding a murder suspect in jail till trial doesn't draw charges of legally kidnapping people and holding them against their will. The same can be said of saying rape is the moral equivilent of sex because both end in sexual contact. This faulty logic completey denies context and is an all to common charge leveled by the anti-death penalty crowd.
Claim: Should a system which allows for error, allow for the potential (and in some cases fulfilled potential) of mistakes to be made and incorporated when combined with an irreversible outcome? No - not when compared to alternatives.
Fact: Well, every single human system on earth is going to have some degree of error possible and a lack of perfection is hardly a basis for abolishment. Following a conviction in a capital case, there is variance among the states, but there are 8 levels of appeal . Following a trial, and a conviction, the defendant gets at automatic appeal to the State Court of Criminal Appeals. It either affirms the conviction or overturns the conviction, sentence, or both. If the court affirmed the conviction, the defendant can make a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has the discretion to either hear the case or turn it down. If turned down, the defendant can then begin State Habeas Corpus proceedings with the State Court of Criminal Appeals. If denied, the defendant can begin with Federal Habeas Corpus proceedings in U.S. District Court. If denied, the defendant can the make an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals. If denied, the defendant can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review. If the decision is upheld, then a defendent can seek Executive Clemency from the Governor of the state. If this fails, then the defendant awaits their execution date. This is a pretty lengthy system that affords murderers ample opportunity to fight a conviction, especially more than any murder victim was given to fight their death sentence. And that process can hardly be called potential for wrongful execution and in many cases, thanks in part to your advocacy, murderers can skirt their capital sentence. As for the alternative: consider Mr. DeLuna who you cited and if he had been convicted and sentenced to life without parole, Mr. Liebman wouldn't have studied his case and Mr. DeLuna would have sat in a prison until he died. Excuse me for objecting, but I'm having a hard time from balking at this silly moralizing - they can still be killed while in prison or serve a life term and die in prison. If imperfection and death are enough to give call for abolishment, then we could eliminate our roads and highways, which result in thousands of people dying every year.
Claim: But there is also potential for death row innocence, too. As of 21st December 2012, 142 inmates on death row have been released. It is clear from this that the possibility is high that some of our criminals weren't really criminals; they would have died alone, in disgrace, and innocent.
Fact: It is clear the possibility is not high; I can take your 142 inmates and use the old 2008 number of 7,000 given a death sentence since 1973 and that calculates to about 2% or a success rate of 98% - extremely low and rare. I would further dispute this list - the DPIC list equates acquittal and dismissals with actual innocence, cases reversed for legal insufficiency instead of innocence, case where evidence of guilt was excluded, defendants that were actual perpetrators/principals, and doesn't allow for review of actual innoncence . At this point that 142 gets really small, but even assuming 142, in the end all you proved was that the system worked in terms of the multiple levels of appeal available to defendants. To me this just demonstrates the horribly dishonest length anti-death penalty zealots are willing to go to fabricate a case.
(Due to the 10,000 limitation, I am forced to hold back my rebuttal to the second contention as well as the conclusion. Also sources.)
I thank my opponent for his refutes, although I must ask him to cease his ad hominem attacks against people who are anti-death ("dishonest...anti-death penalty zealots") - it comes close to a breach of conduct.
Contention 1: Innocent Executions.
My opponent and I agree that at least two people (the Meeks) were wrongly executed. My claim that
"The US government has executed innocent people before" I will change to: "The US government has probably executed innocent people before." I will also point out that existence of facts are not always helpful, for example:
Claim: Alien life probably exists.
Fact: There isn't a single documented case of alien life.
That's not evidence to the contrary; that's appeal to authority. The same can be said for:
Claim: The US government has probably executed innocent people before.
Fact: There isn't a single documented case of a wrongful execution in the United States.
I appreciate that my claim has changed slightly, but nevertheless, I thought pointing that fact out isn't evidence to counter my refined claim.
As for my three examples, I will say one thing, and give another.
I will say: My opponent appears to cite his opinion on case one and two. (In three, he consents).
In one: "For me, this is a case of the media..."
In two: "I am far from convinced this is a case of an innocent man being executed." Opinion does not equal argument, and there is enough evidence to suggest that these people weren't guilty beyond a shadow of doubt, which is what the American sentencing system runs (at least in part) on: "beyond a shadow of doubt".
So, whether guilty or not, these people should not have received the death penalty.
I will give two more examples of probable wrongful sentencing and/or executions.
1) Johnny Frank Garrett.
2) Jesse Tafero.
My opponent states that detaining someone is legal kidnapping because you are holding them against their will by force. This does make it legal kidnapping. I fail to see the point? I am stating facts here, nothing more. Execution is legal murder. They both end in killing of a person, one is legal (execution), one is illegal (murder). Therefore, execution is legal murder. If my opponent wants to contest the objective logic - and not the moral context, which I wasn't stating at all - I would invite my opponent to do so.
My opponent states that:
"a lack of perfection is hardly a basis for abolishment". I agree. My point is that this lack of perfection results in (probable) innocent deaths occasionally and when compared to alternatives that don't allow for this error of "we killed an innocent", it has no reason to continue on these grounds alone. Which is better?
a) No room for innocent deaths at all or
b) A little room for innocent deaths? (When referring to the same outcome - justice. Clearly, in things like roads, a little is preferable, but this is because it is backed by a host of reasons that completely trump alternatives).
"Claim: But there is also potential for death row innocence, too. As of 21st December 2012, 142 inmates on death row have been released. It is clear from this that the possibility is high that some of our criminals weren't really criminals; they would have died alone, in disgrace, and innocent."
I will consent the word " high" and edit it to "...possibility remains that some of our criminals...". I was referring to the fact that many cases close due to lack of funding and reason - across the board of all convictions every year and that from *everything*, the possibility is high. I apologise for the phrasing; it did seem like a ridiculous statement in that context.
I extend my refined arguments.
Contention 2: Cost.
My opponent ran out of characters, so I'll extend the contention.
Now for new contentions.
Contention 3: It fails as a deterrent.
It has been consistently demonstrated how the death penalty is not a deterrent for murder over alternatives. Every year between 1991 and 2011, without fail, the total murder rate in death penalty states has been higher than murder rates in non death penalty states. While a punishment should not be for a deterrent alone; it should be in part. This part, is not met with the death penalty. You get scratched by a cat as a punishment (in a sense) for annoying it. The scratch serves as a deterrent in part; you are deterred from annoying the cat again. Well, it doesn't work with death, apparently.
Contention 4: It violates the "cruel and unusual" clause in the Bill of Rights.
The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents the use of "cruel and unusual punishment". People can be executed in the following ways:
1) Shot by firing squad. Or
2) Poisoned by lethal injection. Or
3) Poisoned by gassing. (A little like in Hitler's concentration camps). Or
4) Electrocuted by electric chair. Or
5) Neck snapping/asphyxiation by hanging.
Now "cruel" is defined as: "causing pain or suffering". It is painful to be shot, poisoned, electrocuted, or to have you neck snapped, or choke to death. The death penalty causes pain. It also causes suffering by waiting for your death, particularly by lethal injection. Therefore, the death penalty violates the bill of rights.
Now, my opponent didn't cite his sources because he ran out of characters; I will assume he will cite them in a comment or in his response(s). I am sure, though, that my opponent can appreciate that should he fail to do so, I will be forced to assume that he cannot back up his statements that need sources. But I'm also sure that won't happen! :D
That's all for now; I will add more contentions in round four! Until then, the floor's open to my opponent. Take it away, my friend!
Claim: The cost of executing people is huge when compared to life without parole. In fact, Californians alone could save $90,000 in tax every year by eliminating the death penalty, because they spend about $90,000 more (per year) on death row prisoners than on prisoners in regular confinement. This money could be spent on things such a police stations, to help reduce the crime in the first place.
Fact: I believe my opponent has committed a serious blunder here given that Death Row in the State of California is dysfunctional  and essentially gives death row inmates a paid legal team for life. This is called cherry-picking and it allows you to make a fradulent claim that the death penalty itself is more costly as opposed to the horrible administration unique to the state of California. Most of these cost-based studies ignore the fact that guilty pleas eliminate the cost of trial or greatly reduces the cost of appeal. There is also the perverse morality of this argument in the cost of ensuring the guilty verdict is accurate and then skimping on accuracy in cases where people will spend the rest of their life in prison. These studies inadequately address the high cost of medical care, especially in older ages. Finally, a lot of the additional cost in capital cases arises from needless litigation that has nothing to do with guilt. The irony is that the very people that are complaining about cost are the same people behind these legal efforts to stop the sentence from being carried out. If California could do as Virginia did in the case of the DC sniper, eliminate unecessary reviews and carry out the sentence less than 6 years after handed down. Ultimately I consider this a fraudulent basis for attacking capital punishment.
Conclusion: At this point, my opponent has offered up two classic arguments put forward by anti-death penalty zealots. A little research and effort can take them apart piece by piece. In the next round I will address any further contentions and offer up my postive arguments for capital punishment.
Third Contention - "fails as a deterrent"
Claim: It has been consistently demonstrated how the death penalty is not a deterrent for murder over alternatives. Every year between 1991 and 2011, without fail, the total murder rate in death penalty states has been higher than murder rates in non death penalty states. While a punishment should not be for a deterrent alone; it should be in part. This part, is not met with the death penalty. You get scratched by a cat as a punishment (in a sense) for annoying it. The scratch serves as a deterrent in part; you are deterred from annoying the cat again. Well, it doesn't work with death, apparently.
Fact: It should be noted that utilitarian concerns regarding deterrence are technically irrelevant to the debate on capital punishment given this is an isue of justice for victims of murder and the punishment befitting the crime. I took an unconventional approach to this claim by looking at the FBI's numbers  on the total number of murders by state and I found that states that abolished capital punishment are among the top states, in the middle, and at the bottom in the total number of murders. Murders by state as a percentage of that state's population are unusually similiar in a range of 0.001% to 0.006% with the only one odd state out being Louisiana (0.010%). The District of Columbia has no death penalty (0.018%). In my opinion, this is a very simplistic approach that ignores a wide range of factors. The claim that murder is higher in states with the death penalty than without is false and the numbers really tell us nothing. Now California is the state with the highest number of inmates awaiting execution at 727, but they've only carried out 13 death sentences since 1976. There have only been 1,340 execution over a period of 37 years. . Add to this the whole issue of plea bargaining; 75% of inmates executed could have avoided their fate by accepting a plea and it has been suggested that prosecutors will accept a plea sparing the death penalty in every case . Studies show that each execution deters an average of 18 murders , another study found that Illinois' moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years, and another study found every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented . Another study found the deterrent findings to be robust . To me we can clear see murderers plea out to avoid the death penalty; examples would include Ariel Castro (the Cleveland kidnapper) , Joshua Komisarjevsky (the brutal murderer of Dr. William Petit's family) , Gina Scramuzza (hired men to savagely murder her husband) , Michael Jacques (sexually assaulted and murdered his 12 year old niece) , James Holmes (infamous Aurora, Co. theater gunman) , Thomas Hardy (murdered a Indianapolis police officer) , and many others. I would also point out, since your fond of "alternatives," that life in prison isn't a deterrent and you say, "...a punishment should not be for a deterrent alone; it should be in part." Amazingly, you seem to believe a cat scratch is a deterent but not death!
Fourth Contention - 8th Amednemtn Violation
Claim: The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents the use of "cruel and unusual punishment". People can be executed in the following ways: 1) Shot by firing squad. Or 2) Poisoned by lethal injection. Or 3) Poisoned by gassing. (A little like in Hitler's concentration camps). Or 4) Electrocuted by electric chair. Or 5) Neck snapping/asphyxiation by hanging. Now "cruel" is defined as: "causing pain or suffering".
Fact: I consider this erroneous reasoning; the contemporary definition of the word cruel has no bearing on the legal meaning of the 8th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Legal commentators from across the spectrum have described the Supreme Court"s treatment of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause as "embarrassing," "ineffectual and incoherent," a "mess," and a "train wreck." Justice Scalia"s approach holds that the Clause was intended to prohibit only certain inherently cruel forms of punishment, such as the rack, that were already unacceptable by the end of the eighteenth century.This approach contends that because grossly disproportionate punishments were imposed at the end of the eighteenth century (at least in England), the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause must not have been intended to outlaw disproportionate sentencing. Similarly, because the death penalty was widely available at the end of the eighteenth century, the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause must not have been intended to restrict capital punishment significantly  As for the methods of execution, which I personally see no problem, the last execution by firing squad was in 1960 (53 years ago), the last hanging was in 1965 (48 years ago), electric chair was in 1966 (47 years ago), and the last use of the gas chamber was 1967 (46 years ago) . Clearly the only method really used is lethal injection and despite my opponent's suggestion, they are put to sleep before the lethal dose is administered.
Given the character limitation, the need to post the other half of my response to the second contention (plus sources), I had no choice but to withdraw any positive argument on my behalf. I would also contend that I can readily defend my usage of 'anti-death penalty zealots' and that it is not a breach of the "rules" of the debate. It would appear you broke #6 several times. Anyway, let's continue.
While you and I might consider calling people "anti-death penalty zealots" an OK and not OK thing; this ultimately will be considered by the voters, not us, and so, while we might disagree, conduct is a set rule that can be breached and the voters will assess. I would also say that it calls upon the hasty generalization fallacy -drawing a majority conclusion from a minority number. With rule six, again, the voters will decide our fates ultimately. But enough of this: let's continue!
I will address my contentions from round two in order and work down.
Contention 1: Innocent executions.
My opponent has not addressed my refutes in round three, though this might be due to characters limits, but until he does, I'll extend my argument and refute.
Contention 2: Cost.
My opponent accuses me of "cherry picking" the state of California as an example. While I did choose California and it might be one of the more severe examples - this problem is hardly unique to California. Cherry picking would require it to be so; it is not. My opponent also suggests that the studies "inadequately address the high cost of medical care" among other factors. Now, one cannot simply dismiss all the evidence that the cost is too high relatively. Otherwise, I could call the investigations that investigated cases that resulted in people being executed inadequate; these studies never take into account the possibility of quantum tunnelling, after all. Clearly, this example is ridiculous, and my opponent has not met his burden with his example, either. Lastly, my opponent asserts his own opinion as a conclusion instead of an argument for a conclusion. ("Ultimately *I consider* this a fraudulent basis..."). I don't consider it. Opinion does not equal argument.
I extend my contention.
Contention 3: Deterrent failure.
(I would recommend the use of paragraphs as it would help me (and possibly the voters) greatly, please).
My opponent takes percentages of murderers versus the total population. This is largely irrelevant when approaching it from a deterrent point of view. I will give a different approach:
#1 State for murders: California. Has death penalty. (DP)
#2 State for murders: Texas. Has DP.
#3 State for murders: New York. Doesn't have DP.
#4 State for murders: Pennsylvania. Does have the DP.
#5 State for murders: Michigan. doesn't have the DP.
So, in the top five alone, three of the states have the death penalty - and yet - they also have the highest murder rates.
It cannot be shown that it does work as a deterrent.
Again, my opponent cites his own opinion on the approach: "*In my opinion*, this is a very simplistic approach that...". Opinion does not equal argument.
"Amazingly, you seem to believe a cat scratch is a deterent but not death!" Apparently, but I just follow the numbers.
I extend my contention.
Contention 4: The 8th Amendment.
Straight away, for the third time, my opponent cites his own opinion - which does not equal argument - for an argument. ("*I consider* this erroneous reasoning; the..."). However, after this he does give a strong counter; I will consent the argument. But, as a side note, going to sleep might not make any difference to pain. It might - I have not seen any study showing how we don't feel pain while asleep, and since they tend to be dead after the injection, no one can really say for certain.
Now, onto yet more contentions:
Contention 5: Racial equality (or lack thereof).
Several studies indicate that if you're coloured; you have a higher chance of being found guilty than if you're white. This is disturbing on many levels, indicating a racially bias system. This doesn't mean that everyone's racist, but the statistics are undeniable, nevertheless. Of course, it could be a racial bias system in alternatives, too, however, these alternatives would be better suited to a racial bias system because it doesn't deal in absolutes.
Contention 6: The right to live.
Every human has a right to live - that much is clear. Yet, this is violated by allowing the death penalty. Simple logic. However, there could be more logic that adequately explains this violation and accepts it as "an exception." The burden of proof rests with Con here, though. So I will leave it open for attempted refutation.
I thank my opponent, the audience, and the voters once again for this debate; I will await the response(s)!
I would say that I thoroughly refuted this point and I'll further demonstrate the weakness of this as an argument for eliminating capital punishment entirely. I will first address the reply from Round 3, which I haven't addressed due to the 10,000 character limitation. I believe that an objective observer would agree with this assessment that your contention failed.
First Reply: My opponent and I agree that at least two people (the Meeks) were wrongly executed. My claim that "The US government has executed innocent people before" I will change to: "The US government has probably executed innocent people before." I will also point out that existence of facts are not always helpful, for example: Claim: Alien life probably exists. Fact: There isn't a single documented case of alien life. That's not evidence to the contrary; that's appeal to authority. The same can be said for: Claim: The US government has probably executed innocent people before. Fact: There isn't a single documented case of a wrongful execution in the United States. I appreciate that my claim has changed slightly, but nevertheless, I thought pointing that fact out isn't evidence to counter my refined claim.
My Rebuttal: I thoroughly examined each of the 3 examples you provided and thoroughly refuted the claim that Cameron Willingham and Carlos DeLuna are examples of innocent people being executed. I agreed on the case of Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin, both of whom were executed over a century ago. I pointed out that a 100 year old case is essentially irrelevant to the debate about capital punishment in contemporary America under a modern criminal justice system. Now you qualify your claim by adding the word "probably." As to your example using alien life, I would point out that you fail to observe rule #6, and you falsely claim this is an example of the fallacy of appealing to authority. This is clearly not the case despite inserting "probably" into your statement. You made a claim that has no documentation or evidence. No evidentiary basis exists to claim an innocent person was executed in the last 60 years and no evidentiary basis exists that alien life exists. Your just using the subjectivist fallacy and "probably" is hardly sufficient as an evidentiary basis. I even went as far as to show that even assuming the false claim that 143 people were exonerated, you've shown that the the very lengthy appeal process worked, and that it would further show capital cases had a success rate in 98% of cases.
Second Reply: As for my three examples, I will say one thing, and give another. I will say: My opponent appears to cite his opinion on case one and two. (In three, he consents). In one: "For me, this is a case of the media..." In two: "I am far from convinced this is a case of an innocent man being executed." Opinion does not equal argument, and there is enough evidence to suggest that these people weren't guilty beyond a shadow of doubt, which is what the American sentencing system runs (at least in part) on: "beyond a shadow of doubt"
My Rebuttal: It is rather odd that my opponent takes me to task using the subjectivist fallacy saying that "opinion doesn't equal argument." You never offered any argument. You simply provided me with three names. I was at least generous enough to just go ahead and offer my examination of the details of their cases. In the first example, none of the evidence was considered, just the arson investigation techniques of the time and none of these investigations into those techniques ruled out arson. In fact, if you had even taken a look at my source, the interview his lawyer gave, he said the defense tested the state's case and recreated the fire producing an exact same result and that it was evident that arson was the case. This wasn't the only evidence put forward at trial and the jury didn't find reasonable doubt (not beyond a shadow of a doubt) thus convicting him. You really fail to address my examination of each case in detail and so I end my rebuttal.
Third Reply: So, whether guilty or not, these people should not have received the death penalty. I will give two more examples of probable wrongful sentencing and/or executions. 1) Johnny Frank Garrett. 2) Jesse Tafero.
My Rebuttal: Saying these people, regardless of guilt, shouldn't have received the death penalty is simply your opinion. I would argue that in the case of Cameron Willingham, being guilty of setting a fire and killing his three children, is precisely the sort of case that merits capital punishment. The same would be true in the case of Carlos DeLuna murdering robbing a convenient store and then murdering the female clerk. And then, you dump to more names on me. Names, not arguments and again I'll examine the case of each.
Case 1) Johnny Frank Garrett - As Ann Coulter observed, "Years after juries have rendered their guilty verdicts, criminal defense lawyers are still hard at work, hatching new theories of innocence and dredging up phony "new" evidence. Once the police, prosecutors and victims have all moved on, the defense bar can spin its lies to gullible reporters without contradiction. Evidently, it never occurs to journalists that a criminal defense lawyer might lie to them." No one need look further than the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals - Fifth Circuit in Garrett v. Lynaugh - "The evidence against the accused was overwhelming. Garrett was seen running from the direction of the convent on the night of the murder. Prints found on the handle and blade of the kitchen knife recovered from under the victim's bed and prints from the bed headboard matched Garrett's. Pubic hairs recovered from the scene were determined to have the same individual characteristics as Garrett's. The steak knife found in the driveway of the convent was of the same manufacture, design and make, and had the same degree of use as another steak knife recovered from Garrett's residence." It continues, "The state also offered the testimony of Lonnie Watley, an inmate and trusty of the Potter County Jail during Garrett's pretrial incarceration. Watley testified that Garrett originally denied committing the offense, but eventually admitted to breaking into the convent and killing the nun." Further, "Garrett testified in his own defense and denied raping or murdering Sister Benz. Garrett testified that he entered the convent two days before the murder looking for items to steal. According to his testimony, he entered the convent through the front door shortly after noon and proceeded into the medication room and the cafeteria, where he picked up the kitchen knife. He testified that he then went into several of the bedrooms. In one bedroom he bent the knife in prying open a locked drawer. He explained his fingerprints on the headboard of Sister Benz' bed by stating that he grabbed the headboard so he could lean over and reach a cross on the wall. He testified that he heard a noise in the convent and fled. Garrett testified that he went to his mother's house at approximately 10:20 p.m. on October 30 and did not leave until later the next morning. The state sought to impeach Garrett with an oral statement that he allegedly gave the police shortly after his arrest on November 9, 1981. Two police officers testified that, after they reduced Garrett's statement to writing, Garrett agreed that it was true but refused to sign it until after he consulted counsel. After consulting counsel, Garrett declined to sign the statement. In the statement attributed to Garrett by the police, Garrett admitted breaking into the convent by knocking out a window on the bottom floor. He admitted going into a nun's room. He stated that:
There was a nun in bed and she acted as if she was going to scream. I covered her mouth so she couldn't make any noise.
I started choking her until she passed out. I had sex with her. I left the convent the way I came in. "
Case 2) Jesse Tafero - another case that bodes poorly for your claim. Tafero, his friend Rhodes, and his wife Sonia Jacobs were sleeping in a car when approached by officers. The officers were met with gun fire, first by Jacobs and then by Tafero. Two officers were killed. They were later apprehended at a roadblock. All three had powder residue consistent with discharging the gun, and Tafero was in possession of the gun. There is no disputing that everyone in that car was legally culpable in that crime. To the extent people argue that Tafero had any "innocence" was that Rhodes said he fired the shots and then recanted. Most of the focus by anti-death penalty advocates was Tafero's execution by electric chair, which had a mishap and claiming that Sonia Jacobs was later exonerated, which is a complete lie. She entered an Alfred plea to second degree murder. She was not exonerated.
Fourth Reply: My opponent states that detaining someone is legal kidnapping because you are holding them against their will by force. This does make it legal kidnapping. I fail to see the point? I am stating facts here, nothing more. Execution is legal murder. They both end in killing of a person, one is legal (execution), one is illegal (murder). Therefore, execution is legal murder. If my opponent wants to contest the objective logic - and not the moral context, which I wasn't stating at all - I would invite my opponent to do so.
My Rebuttal: You fail to see the point because your argument is based on a faulty moral logic; rape and sex both end in sexual contact but no one argue that rape is the equivalent of sex or that a shoplifting is the equivalent of shopping because both leave the store with a consumer good. This is an equivocation fallacy.
Again, character limitation. My opponent has failed to make an adequate case. I will knock down the last two contentions, race and "right to life," make a small rebuttal, and conclusion in Round 5.
Now, as per the rules of this debate, my opponent and myself are not allowed to make any new arguments or any new refutes. So, my contentions will not be addressed by my opponent (unless it is a recap, of course) in round five, unless he is willing to break the rules. So, I will recap everything.
Contention 1: Innocent executions.
I pointed out how people have probably been executed in the past. While I cannot prove this, the probability is high, considering the amount of cases that were closed due to lack of funding and resources. Now, it seems that this fails when compared to alternatives.
Contention 2: Cost.
I showed how the cost is far too high for what it tries to archive - which is justice. I showed how other methods meet justice, too, but with a much lower cost.
Due to character limitation, my opponent has not addressed my refutation. I extend the contention.
Contention 3: Deterrent failure.
I showed how punishments are, at least in part, for deterring the person from committing the crime again. Killing the person doesn't archive this. Yes, it stops them from killing again, but that's because they're dead, not deterred.
Due to character limitation, my opponent has not addressed my refutation. I extend the contention.
Contention 4: the 8th Amendment.
I consented this contention to my opponent.
Contention 5: Racial equality (or lack thereof).
I showed how people who are not white have a higher chance of being executed for no discernible reason in the USA. While I admitted that this was not unique to capital punishment, the death penalty should not be acceptable as a punishment for it is racially bias, but at the same time, deals in absolutes.
Due to character limitation, my opponent has not addressed my contention. I extend the contention.
Contention 6: The right to live.
I demonstrated simple logic in that:
P1:The right to live is human right.
P2: The death penalty kills people.
C: Therefore, the death penalty violates human rights.
While I offered my opponent to show how either P1 or P2 are incorrect, he has not addressed this.
Due to character limitation, my opponent has not addressed my contention. I extend the contention.
Now, my opponent stated that: "I will knock down the last two contentions, race and "right to life,"... in Round 5." I would remind my opponent that he is not allowed to address these contentions, as it would count as a new refute and violate the rules of the debate.
Now, I will make my closing statements:
I have shown how the death penalty fails at many things over alternatives, but why should this warrant for it to be illegal? To answer this, I will give examples:
(DP = death penalty, LiP = life in prison)
Does the DP bring justice? Yes.
Does LiP bring justice? Yes.
Can the DP kill innocent people? Yes.
Can LiP kill innocent people? No. - Better
Does the DP cost more than LiP? Yes.
Does LiP cost more over the DP? No. - Better
Does the DP work as a deterrent? No.
Does LiP work as a deterrent? Yes. - Better.
Is the DP racially bias? Yes.
Is LiP racially bias? Yes. Better. (Why? Because since the death penalty deals as an irreversible*, bias system, it is worse than a reversible, bias system.)
Does the DP violate the right to live? Yes.
Does LiP violate the right to live? No. Better.
So, how does this chart constitute making the death penalty illegal? Because it is a weed - a weed that drains our money, it doesn't work as a deterrent, it violates human rights, it is worse suited to a racially bias system, and is irreversible*. And like any weed, if you remove it, the flowers will shine, so to speak. Making the death penalty illegal will open the door for more money, more tolerated human rights, systems that are better suited to racial equality, and systems that work better as a deterrent, and can be corrected.
I would like to extend my thanks to my opponent, DavidMGold, the audience, and the voters for this interesting debate. I have refined my reasons as to why the death penalty should be made illegal. Until next time!
*irreversible once the punishment has been carried out.
Claim: I pointed out how people have probably been executed in the past. While I cannot prove this, the probability is high, considering the amount of cases that were closed due to lack of funding and resources. Now, it seems that this fails when compared to alternatives.
Fact: You have no evidence to support this claim that innocent people have been executed in the past or that the probability is high. Merely suggesting "cases" were closed "due to lack of funding and resources" isn't evidence of anything. You have failed on this point. You also never made a comparison to any alternative other than implying so and rather vaguely. I submit that this fails on logic, on evidence, and you never made an argument beyond a premise after my first rebuttal.
Contention 2 - Cost
Claim: I showed how the cost is far too high for what it tries to archive - which is justice. I showed how other methods meet justice, too, but with a much lower cost.
Fact: You never made a case beyond your heavy reliance on DPIC and the example of California. I would submit you didn't refute my rebuttal. The same lobby railing against capital punishment has helped impose a lot of the cost they then use to argue for abolishing ($2 billion since 1976, thanks, DPIC). You never showed any "methods," other than saying life in prison is cheaper but not that it meets justice. I was able to counter that the cost, if you will, in the case of the DC sniper who was executed in less than six years was by far cheaper. You never addressed any of my points raised about cost in terms of the state of California. Finally, this claim really is just an attempt to cheapen justice for the many thousands of victims that met cruel ends.
Contention 3 - Deterrent
Claim: I showed how punishments are, at least in part, for deterring the person from committing the crime again. Killing the person doesn't archive this. Yes, it stops them from killing again, but that's because they're dead, not deterred.
Fact: You never demonstrated a lack of deterrence. You simply cited murder numbers alone without analyzing them or considering any other factors, which is simplistic and misleading. I was able to show that the states with and without were at the bottom, middle and top. As a percentage of the state's population most states have a very close number range. You'll throw in California as a death penalty state without addressing the fact that since 1976 they've only managed to carry out 13 death sentences and currently their population on death row is over 700. I pointed out the lengthy avenues of appeal and the fact that many press the process on behalf of the anti-death penalty groups not contesting actually innocence but delaying the execution of the sentence for as long as possible. I cited at least three studies that quantify the deterrent effect and you have never addressed them. I also said clearly that deterrence ultimately is irrelevant to the issue of justice for the victim regarding the utilitarian benefit.
Contention 4 - 8th Amendment
Contention 5 - Racial equality
Claim: I showed how people who are not white have a higher chance of being executed for no discernible reason in the USA. While I admitted that this was not unique to capital punishment, the death penalty should not be acceptable as a punishment for it is racially bias, but at the same time, deals in absolutes.
Fact: No, you cited DPIC, like the ACLU, make an erroneous statistical argument that assumes that people of a certain race or ethnicity commit murder in proportion to their race/ethnicity's percentage of the population. If blacks commit half of all the murders in the United States, of course they're going to have a higher chance of being executed. You have no evidence of any racial discrimination. Your statistical claim is bogus. I also wished to point out that people are not uncommonly killed while in prison and spending the rest of your days in prison can be quite absolute.
Contention 6 - "right to live"
Claim: I demonstrated simple logic in that: P1:The right to live is human right. P2: The death penalty kills people. C: Therefore, the death penalty violates human rights.
Fact: His logic fall apart using on source, which went on to explain exceptions like the apprehension of a criminal or putting down a riot with the emphasis that we must try to minimize casualties as much as possible. And far from logic, this is a classic example a logical fallacy.
My opponent asserts this is a violation of the rules but always points out correctly that it wasn't addressed due character limitation on my part and kept extending it. I felt these were dubious contentions and should be addressed in the spirit of a debate and will risk a penalty to address them quickly in a sentence or two given I didn't even get to making positive arguments for my position.
My opponent has utterly failed on every single contention, providing factually incorrect claims, very few studies that were refuted, and employed the use of several logical fallacies in his defense while failing to address the specific points raised in my rebuttals, which were largely ignored altogether. I think it is obvious upon examination of the previous rounds that my opponent simply repeated the same premise. For example, my opponent on two separate occasions provided four names of people he claimed were innocent but executed. Just names. No explanation. When I took the time to examine each, put forward a rebuttal based on individual cases, my opponent having no reply simply changed his assertion to "probably" absent of evidence and persisted to make the false claim that the probability is high (again with no factual evidence). When it came to the deterrent effect, my opponent ignored my objection to it being irrelevant, the cited studies showing as many as 18 lives saved per execution, lives saved per elimination of 2.5 years on the time between sentencing and execution, the fact that many murderers like James Holmes took plea deals just to avoid the punishment, and failed to adequately address the examination of murder numbers by state. It was ignore and restate the same premise. I would argue the same on cost. My opponent's rebuttal consisted in simply pointing out that I said it was "cherry-picking" to use California, he didn't address the extreme dysfunction in the system of that state (13 executions in 37 years with the highest death row population) that appoints a legal time for life and the ideological courts like those of the Rosa Bird era that would automatically reverse all death penalty cases. It is disingenuous that anti-death penalty zealots at DPIC have imposed a $2 billion cost on the criminal justice system over that same period and then using this as a basis to attack capital punishment. My opponent unfortunately has made a conscious choice to lobby on behalf of the most evil individuals in our society that brutally destroyed human life and that is a grave injustice. Fortunately for my opponent, I didn't just drown him individual cases of manifest guilt through horrible and cruel cases in regard to very heinous offenses. Those innocent lives prematurely obliterated are neglected in these debates.
Did my opponent demonstrate an innocent man being executed in the last 60 years? Did he ever prove there is a high probability? The answer is no.
Did my opponent ever prove capital punishment in and of itself is inherently more costly? No.
Did my opponent show it lacked a deterrent or that his "alternatives" have a deterrent? No.
Didn't my opponent concede it doesn't violate the 8th amendment? Yes!
Did my opponent demonstrate racial bias or show that his alleged "alternatives" are absent bias? No.
Did my opponent even read the exceptions to the right to live from his own source? No.
Did my opponent realize the contradiction in terms in saying the death penalty should be illegal? No.
My opponent then violated the his 6th rule by stating that life without parole brings justice. Never raised this claim before and I would argue that in a lot of murder cases it doesn't. He claimed that life without parole cannot kill people even though it was pointed out people are killed in prison and die in prison. He made another new claim that life without parole is a deterrent, which he never raised before round 5. I would point out that no evidence is put forward for this punishment alone much less a comparison between the death penalty and life without parole. My opponent never made a case for an alternatives much less the life without parole alternative.
I end with two strong quotes,
"That inequity in the application of the death penalty requires its abolition is an argument that will be made only by people who do not like it for other reasons. The inequity argument is a pretext, not a reason. Between an inequitable death penalty and no death penalty, I would prefer an inequitable death penalty, just as I would prefer an inequitable tax system to no tax system, and inequitable policing to no policing. I say this because I think it likely that executions deter murders, and it is clear that a majority of Americans - white and black - think that justice requires executions for the most heinous crimes." --John C. McAdams, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at Marquette University
"The death penalty serves three functions. First, for some crimes any lesser punishment is inadequate as a matter of basic justice... Second, an executed death sentence absolutely guarantees the killer will never kill again. A life sentence does not. There are many cases of people killed by murderers who were paroled, escaped, killed within prison, or who arranged murders from within the prison... Third, I believe that an effective, enforced death penalty deters some murders." --Kent Scheidegger, JD, Legal Director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation
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