The Death Penalty
As Con, I shall argue against the legalization of the death penalty. Pro shall argue for the death penalty's legalization.
Death penalty shall be defined as the killing of a person by judicial process as a punishment for an offense. The judicial process specified in this debate shall be the United States' judicial process, court proceedings. This also means our arguments are placed against the backdrop of United States' law.
First round is simply acceptance.
Argument 1: Costs
The death penalty often makes cases much more costly than similar non-death penalty cases.
For example, a 2003 legislative audit in Kansas found that the costs for a single death penalty case was 70 percent more than a comparable non-death penalty case in the state; for general statistics, death penalty case costs (median costs $1.26 million) were counted through to execution, while non-death penalty costs were counted to the end of incarceration (median costs $740,000) . At trial level cases in Washington state, death penalty cases generate roughly $470,000 in additional costs to the prosecution and defense over the cost of trying the same case as an aggravated murder without the death penalty, which costs at most $70,000 for court personnel . Enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole; based on the 44 executions Florida had carried out since 1976, that amounts to a cost of $24 million for each execution; in Texas, a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years; the most comprehensive study in the country found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the costs of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment .
I could continue quoting statistics, but I think my basic point has been made; more examples can be found at sources  and . The death penalty should not be considered cost effective.
Argument 2: Deterrence of crime
The death penalty can be a terrifying punishment, and it would be rational to think it acts as a deterrence to certain criminal activity; this is generally not the case, and one can deduce this through rational thinking and a look into statistics.
People with mental illnesses, people absolutely enraged, people panicking, and people under the influence of drugs, such as alcohol, are not likely to take the death penalty in mind when committing a crime that may warrant the death penalty. Almost one in four victims of violent crime report that the perpetrator had been drinking before committing the violent crime . Between 31 percent and 36 percent of prisoners convicted of a violent crime against an intimate reported that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the offense; these figures rise to approximately 50 percent when reports from those who were consuming both alcohol and drugs at the time of the offense are considered . Furthermore, research has shown nearly all death row inmates suffer from brain damage because of trauma or illness, while 5 to 10 percent of death row inmates suffer from serious mental illness . The death penalty, if meant to deter certain extreme crimes, has a very difficult time doing so, since those who commit these extreme crimes are not likely to consider the death penalty when committing their crimes.
Furthermore, murder rates in non-death penalty states are consistently lower than the murder rates in death penalty states, suggesting that the death penalty fails to deter murder . This even applies to specific cases where a death penalty state and a non-death penalty state border each other. For example, Iowa, a non-death penalty state that borders Missouri, a death penalty state, has a lower murder rate than Missouri . The source, link below, provides further examples. This means that the trend that death penalty states have a higher murder rate than non-death penalty states remains consistent, regardless of the general location of the states.
Now, this does not mean that the death penalty does not deter any crimes. That said, I have already presented statistics of the costs because of the death penalty. My opponent would have to show that the death penalty deters enough crime to justify the amount of money spent on death penalty cases and trials each year, when this money could be used for other crime control measures that could be more effective. If he fails to do so, then the death penalty should not be considered an effective way for the states to use when trying to control or reduce crime.
Argument 3: Innocence
Out of the over 1,000 people executed since 1976, it is difficult to determine who was truly innocent. That said, humans are fallible; thus, it is possible for human beings to make a mistake in trials involving the death penalty, which means innocent people could be executed. Most courts generally do not entertain the possibility that they executed an innocent person, while defense attorneys focus their attention on clients' who can be saved. If a person is sentenced to a lifetime of prison, and if new evidence for their innocence is revealed while serving their time, then they could be released. With the death penalty, the innocent person cannot be brought back to life; similarly, people cannot be given back their time that was lost serving their sentence, but being dead is much worse.
Since the rounds are not particularly structured and Pro shall have an opportunity each round to respond to my arguments, I retain the right to introduce new arguments later on in the debate. For the time being, however, I shall let Pro state his arguments in favor of the death penalty while responding to mine.
Nonetheless, I have argued that the death penalty is not cost effective while also arguing that it is not an effective deterrent of crime. Furthermore, I have argued that the possibility of innocents dying in an imperfect system should make the death penalty unacceptable. My job was to argue against the legalization of the death penalty, and I have done so.
I appreciate the opportunity to debate such a interesting topic, with an intelligent opponent. For reference, I will be responding to my opponents three main arguments, and then bringing up some points of my own. So let's get to it, shall we?
Now let's talk about the disadvantages with getting rid of the death penalty.
Disadvantage 1: Prison Chaos.
If we get rid of the death penalty, then I am sure that my opponent and I both agree, that life without parole will be the number 1 way of sentencing violent crime. The problem is, is that life without parole has a serious problem. The criminal convicted with that sentence have nothing to lose. You come to two terrifying scenarios. Either 1: The criminal spends his life planning and scheming so as to escape, or 2: The criminal kills other inmates and guards, because he has nothing else to be threatened with. Both can be potentially threatening to innocents and convicts alike. The only way to make sure the criminal never kills again, is with the death penalty.
Disadvantage 2: Lost Plea Bargaining
This ties in to my previous argument. As I said, plea bargains are very effective, and serve to incapacitate the criminal, but can only maintain effectiveness if there is something serious to negotiate about. The death penalty is that serious thing. It is an almost definite fact that a criminal will give in when death is on the line. If the death penalty is removed, what do criminals have to fear? We have lost a great tool in keeping criminals behind bars. The only way to ensure this power is with the death penalty.
I hope I've shown you a number of things:
1. Plea Bargaining offsets death penalty costs.
2. If the death penalty deters, the cost is justified.
3. The death penalty deters.
4. Innocents rarely, if ever, get the death penalty.
5. Absence of the death penalty causes prison chaos.
and 6. Absence of the death penalty makes us lose important plea bargaining power.
I look forward to the rounds ahead. :)
American Law and Econ Review 2003
Texas Tech Law Review 2008
Tulsa Law Review 2006
Links provided where possible.
The first part of my opponent's argument is that costs are offset by plea bargains. Unfortunately, the source link he provided came up with a "404 - file not found" message for me, so I am unable to respond; if you are a random reader, please comment if the link works for you. Nonetheless, he has no evidence for his claim that there are more plea bargains because of the death penalty.
I have arguments that suggest that plea bargaining does not help reduce costs. Source  provides an example where the reinstatement of the death penalty did not provide an increase of plea bargains.
Three of the top five states with the highest rates of prisoners serving life without parole are non-death penalty states; prosecutors in New Jersey have admitted that the abolition of the death penalty in 2007 has made no difference in their ability to secure guilty pleas; in Alaska, plea bargaining was abolished completely in 1975, and a 1980 study by the National Institute of Justice found that since the end of plea bargaining, "guilty pleas continued to flow in at nearly undiminished rates. Most defendants pled guilty even when the state offered them nothing in exchange for their cooperation." 
Furthermore, according to Northwestern University Economics Professor Jeff Ely, "The threat of the death penalty makes defendants more willing to accept a given plea bargain offer. But a tough-on-crime DA takes up the slack by making tougher offers. What is the net effect…the threat of the death penalty results in fewer plea bargains and more cases going to trial" .
In addition to this, with the death penalty in effect, many defendants may accept plea bargains out of fear of the death penalty, whether they are guilty or not. They might be afraid that they do not have competent legal representation, and since there is enough evidence for them to be accused, they may believe they will be sentenced because of their legal representation is not competent enough to defend them properly. In this way, using death penalty as a threat to secure plea bargains forces many defendants to give up their right to a fair trial .
"I can say that if the death penalty has a deterrent effect, it is deterring something valuable enough for the extra cost. That is to say, if the death penalty saves lives, then the cost is justified." Not necessarily. The money could be better used in other areas of law enforcement that could save more lives by using the money more effectively.
Argument 2: Deterrence - Response to Counter
"I would like everyone to be aware of the insanity plea, in which a defendant can argue insanity to get out of a capitol punishment, so in that effect this argument is invalid."
I was not addressing costs when brought up mental illnesses, but rather deterrence; you have provided no evidence that the death penalty deters people with mental illness, which is generally involved in extreme acts of crime, from committing these acts. You have simply provided a way from them of getting out of the death penalty, which would make the death penalty even less of a deterrence.
"from the American Law & Econ Review in 2003 "Our results show that capitol punishment has a strong deterrent effect; each execution results, on average, in eighteen fewer murders. Tests show that results not driven by tougher sentencing laws and are robust to other alternative specifications." This quote clearly says 1 execution prevents 18 murders...Now, I said that if the death penalty saves lives, then cost is justified."
"The Texas Tech University Law Review did a more conclusive study on moratoriums on the death penalty that occurred in Texas and Illinois in 2008...371 murders that could of, and should of been stopped, but were not."
I have provided a plethora of sources that cases involving the death penalty cost more than the cases without the death penalty. You have not refuted the sources' data. Now, the money spent on death penalty cases could go to more effective ways of reducing murder, such as providing the police with more funds. One advantage of proving more funds to the police is that they are more able to stop all sorts of crimes. The Death Penalty may, if the sources that are not linked are correct, prevent more extreme ones, but the police can help stop both murder and driving under the influence, for example. For Pro's source 3, unless Pro can provide better data, I do not see how the 371 murders, that could have been stopped, were not stopped simply because the death penalty was not present. He mentioned how the murders could have been prevented, but by what?
"My response is that the population of Iowa is much lower than the population of Minnesota, by about 2 million people, and that this is why murder rate is low -- not because of the death penalty. Plus, my opponent never linked Iowa's low crime rates to an absence of the death penalty, nor did he link Minnesota's high crime rates to the presence of the death penalty. So this argument was vague and incorrect."
I was trying to convey that location had little to do with it; the death penalty is more common in the Southern region of the United States, so one may argue that the South simply has higher crime rates. The example I provided, and my source had three more, showed that this was not necessarily true. Two states bordering one another still had different crime rates, with the trend continuing where death penalty states had higher ones.
Argument 3: Innocence - Response to Counter
"1. Time...the average time between the arrest of a death row inmate and the execution of one, is 28 years...This is plenty of time to come to a watertight conclusion,"
Once again, humans are fallible, so error is possible. A lot of time is taken, but error is certainly possible. There is no denying it.
"2. No proof. The other response is that there has never any conclusive proof that any of the inmates executed in modern times were innocent. Think about it -- In a thirty year period no has had an absolute exoneration. There are only two reasons this would be so. 1. Widespread evidence tampering, or 2. Death Penalty convictions are correct. I plan to talk about this more in my rebuttals as so my opponent can expound upon this a little more."
I will restate what I said earlier: "Most courts generally do not entertain the possibility that they executed an innocent person, while defense attorneys focus their attention on clients' who can be saved." Furthermore, I have already said that under the threat of the death penalty, people may accept plea charges and plead guilty, whether guilty or not. The death penalty still causes innocent people to be detained.
Disadvantage 1: Prison Chaos - Counter
"You come to two terrifying scenarios. Either 1: The criminal spends his life planning and scheming so as to escape"
As opposed to someone on death row? Escape is something that all sorts of prisoners may attempt, not just those who receive a life sentence. Either way, prison escapes are on the decline, despite the rising amount of criminals in jail .
"2: The criminal kills other inmates and guards, because he has nothing else to be threatened with."
He has little evidence to show how common this actually happens, and once again, this is a problem for all prisoners, not just those with life sentences. People with life sentences may think they have less to lose, but so may people on death row.
Disadvantage 2: Lost of Plea Bargaining - Counter
I have refuted his argument in my response to counter 1.
A good rebuttal from my opponent, but not quite good enough to prove his side correct.
Argument 1: Costs
I apologize for the link. I have a new link up, that I will talk about momentarily.
First of all, my opponents first source was taken out context by the con speaker. It did say that charge bargains were decreased, but not sentence bargains, the type of bargains I was talking about. The kind that determine what sentence a criminal gets. So this source does not apply.
Regarding his second source, I have two responses. First of all, this source is extremely biased, considering the fact that the entire organization's purpose is to convince others the death penalty is wrong. Secondly, this study was extremely vague. We do not know enough about how the study was carried out, who was studied, what the differences are between their justice systems, etc. I, however, have a study that shows exactly whether deterrence was found in the justice system, or not, and it shows that 90% percent of time, deterrence is found.
My opponents third source, is also flawed, as there is no author listed, no evidence brought up (simply logic), and is posted on a blog. The one piece of evidence that is brought up is, no joke, my opponents first source. As I have already responded to that card, there is nothing else to say about this source.
Now when I read his fourth card, I was struck funny by the lack of logic in the argument. An innocent would obviously argue innocence. I understand my opponents argument, I understand the evidence, but that doesn't mean either make much sense. This argument also contradicts previous arguments made by the Con. This argument does not stand.
In regards to mental illness, I misunderstood his argument. I'll bring up an argument later conflicting this point, but for now, let's move on. My opponent talked about my evidence I brought up, and (specifically talking about the moratoriums) asked how these murders could have been prevented. A follow up study about the moratorium on Texas explains my point perfectly.
“Using portfolio analysis in a type of controlled group experiment, this study develops an empirical model of homicide
I hope that answers your question.
In regards to the Iowa-Minnesota example, I now have no idea what he's arguing. As I see it, he thinks the reasons for the difference between the states crime rates is because of the death penalty, and I think it's because of the population. My opponent needs to make clear his position, so I can argue effectively.
Under my "Time" argument my opponent responded by saying humans are fallible, and, therefore, can make mistakes.
I agree, yes, it is possible, but there are no examples of it happening in modern times. My opponent tried to respond to this by using weak cards, already brought up in this debate round, but there are numerous studies which say the opposite.
Let's move on to the Disadvantages.
Disadvantage 1: Prison Chaos.
"As opposed to someone on death row?"
Yes. Let's read some highlights.
“Of course, the death penalty conclusively deters an executed murderer from ever killing again. But so would life without
“Or perhaps it is those inmates confined in prison that still conspire to kill those on the outside. Take Clarence Allen, who
You get the basic idea. By the way, my opponents fifth source was inept, because 1: It didn't have anything to do my argument. Prison escapes are down; So what? That has nothing to do with prison escapes being predominately in life without parole convicts. And 2: It was a humor article, based mostly on harmless tidbits. No credibility
Disadvantage 2: Plea Bargaining
Vote Pro in today's debate round.
JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECON 01 Dale O. Clonninger and Roberto Marchesini [both of the School of Business and Public Administration, University of Houston], “Execution and Deterrence: A Quasi-Controlled Group Experiment,” Applied Economics, 2001 (33, Applied Economics, 569-576) [Ethos]
DON FEDER 01 Don Feder [writes editorials for the Boston Herald and is a nationally syndicated columnist], “McVeigh Makes the Case for Capital Punishment”, Insight on the News [American conservative print and online news magazine], May 21, 2001 http://findarticles.com...
SCOTUS 06 Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Kan. v. Marsh, 2006 (126 S. Ct. 2516, 2539) [Ethos]
TTU LAW REVIEW 08 Richard B. Roper [United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas; J.D., Texas Tech University School of Law, 1982; B.A., University of TexasArlington, 1979], “The Death Penalty at the Intersection of Reality and Justice”, Texas Tech Law Review [Texas Tech University School of Law], Fall 2008 (41 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 15) [Ethos]
THOMAS EDDLEM 02 Thomas R. Eddlem [editor of the Hanson Express in Hanson, MA, and is a regular contributor to The New American and Point South magazines], “Ten anti-death penalty fallacies: the case against capital punishment relies on myth, misinformation, and misplaced emotionalism”, The New American [biweekly magazine published by American Opinion Publishing, a wholly owned subsidiary of The John Birch Society], June 3, 2002 http://findarticles.com... [Ethos] [brackets in original]
TTU LAW REVIEW 08 Richard B. Roper [United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas; J.D., Texas Tech University School of Law, 1982; B.A., University of TexasArlington, 1979], “The Death Penalty at the Intersection of Reality and Justice”, Texas Tech Law Review [Texas Tech University School of Law], Fall 2008 (41 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 15) [brackets in original][Ethos]
 TTU LAW REVIEW 08 Richard B. Roper [United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas; J.D., Texas Tech University School of Law, 1982; B.A., University of TexasArlington, 1979], “The Death Penalty at the Intersection of Reality and Justice”, Texas Tech Law Review [Texas Tech University School of Law], Fall 2008 (41 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 15) [Ethos]
Argument 1: Costs
"It did say that charge bargains were decreased, but not sentence bargains, the type of bargains I was talking about. The kind that determine what sentence a criminal gets. So this source does not apply."
I don't recall you specifying what plea bargains you were talking about. The study does show that although there are more sentence bargains, there are less charge bargains. Overall, the money saved is offset: "Although the death penalty is associated with an increase in the probability that a defendant agrees to a sentence bargain, it is associated with a decrease in the probability that he will receive a charge bargain, and the effect on plea bargains in general is not statistically different from zero" ; "since the death penalty affects only the terms of the deals defendants make but does not seem to increase defendants' propensity to plea bargain in general, the threat of the death penalty does not seem to reduce the total number of cases that proceed to trial. Thus, the well-documented costs of capital trials do not appear to be offset by reducing total trial costs through plea bargains" . This source does apply.
"Regarding his second source, I have two responses. First of all, this source is extremely biased, considering the fact that the entire organization's purpose is to convince others the death penalty is wrong. Secondly, this study was extremely vague. We do not know enough about how the study was carried out, who was studied, what the differences are between their justice systems, etc. I, however, have a study that shows exactly whether deterrence was found in the justice system, or not, and it shows that 90% percent of time, deterrence is found."
Pro's source does not link to a single "study," as he said, singular, but rather a list of them, of which a majority show deterrence is present. That said, there are examples that show that evidence of deterrence is lacking, such as a study at the American Law and Economics Review, which demonstrates how varying models across different studies brings up differing evidence on deterrence for the death penalty . This brings into question how accurate deterrence evidence is; without any consistent examples of sound evidence for deterrence, the death penalty should not be advocated for deterrence purposes. Although my source is biased, it does cite other reliable sources or statistics at the bottom of the page as evidence. Pro claims the source is a study; it is more of a collection of information, put in bullet points.
"My opponents third source, is also flawed, as there is no author listed, no evidence brought up (simply logic), and is posted on a blog. The one piece of evidence that is brought up is, no joke, my opponents first source."
There is an author listed for the blog, two of them, one a professor and the other an associate professor, both at Northwestern University. Those credentials should be satisfactory. I have shown my first source to be relevant. His logical claim I shall not bother repeating, since Pro has not addressed it, but it is backed up by the evidence of my first source.
"An innocent would obviously argue innocence. I understand my opponents argument, I understand the evidence, but that doesn't mean either make much sense. This argument also contradicts previous arguments made by the Con. This argument does not stand."
Innocents may not obviously argue innocence. If they believe their legal representation is not good enough to show how the evidence is in their favor, they may not want to risk getting the death penalty and accept a plea bargain instead. If Pro thinks my argument lacks logic, then he does not understand it. I have done my best to explain it. Nonetheless, my evidence remains cited in round 3.
Argument 2: Deterrence
I appreciate Pro's quote, and I would like to quote the study as well: "However, the present study does not prove that deterrence exists. On the other hand, the failure of some studies to find evidence consistent with the deterrence hypothesis does not prove that deterrence is inoperative" . This study states that it does not prove that deterrence exists. The last point shows that my evidence proves nothing as well. Since there is a lack of proof that the death penalty deters crime, the death penalty should not be supported for determent purposes. The study then goes on in saying that it is "on a growing list of empirical work that finds evidence consistent with the deterrence hypothesis," which is that the death penalty deters crime . This may be true, but there is also evidence to the contrary, which includes the studies I have cited before and now  . Furthermore, even if the death penalty does deter crime, I have already shown that there are high costs to having it in place, money that could be used in other ways that better deters crime.
"he thinks the reasons for the difference between the states crime rates is because of the death penalty, and I think it's because of the population."
The problem with the population argument is that it is not consistent. According to your argument, Massachusetts, which has a higher population, should have a higher murder rate than Connecticut. It does not. My argument still holds up. Massachusetts, which does not have the death penalty, has a lower murder rate than Connecticut, which does have it   . My argument based on the death penalty is consistent. It does not prove anything, but it is evidence that goes against the arguments for deterrence.
Argument 3: Innocence
Pro concedes the possibility of an innocent person being executed, and although it should not be the only reason why someone is against the death penalty, this does not help Pro's case. I have responded to the "weak cards" he mentioned. I am unable to access his 4th or 5th sources, only his 6th. I read his entire sixth source, and I do not know it applies to the possibility that an innocent may give up their right to trial for a plea bargain under the threat of the death penalty if they do not believe their legal representation can defend them, which is what he attempts to apply them to in my understanding of his words.
Disadvantage 1: Prison Chaos
I have little space, so I can't quote his arguments. I once again am unable to access his not linked source. I provide this quote as a response: "Death Penalty Retentionist States vs. Abolitionist States (data from Bureau of Justice Statistics): Between 2001 and 2007, states with the death penalty had considerably higher prison murder rates on average (4.25/100,000, with four of 38 states reporting no prison homicides in that time period) than those states without the death penalty (.92/100,000, with 7 of 12 states reporting no prison homicides)" 
As for my fifth source being inept, this is dishonest. The article cites the data with links; it being humorous does not make it not credible.
I find it funny that throughout the 3rd round, he tries and fails to make my sources sound not credible, yet he does not even bother to link most of his own sources. Some of his sources I am unable to find, which brings into question how he knows what they say, and seeing that since he does not link them, he probably does not know where they are either. They seem reliable, which is why I don't question them too much, but I just find it weird how he knows what they say yet is not able to link them directly. Seeing how I refuted his claims that my sources are not credible this round, I ask any reader to be suspicious of any of his claims about my sources in his next post.
I have responded to his plea bargain argument.
I remind Pro he cannot produce any new arguments in this round, only responses to my arguments, since I cannot respond to his new arguments. Unfortunately, for space reasons, I cannot put a summary of my arguments. I thank my opponent for the debate.
This speech must be cut fairly short as I have somewhere I need to be, but I will do my best. What I want to do at this point in the round is evidence comparison. Which evidence is better? I would argue in all cases, it's mine.
Issue 1. Costs.
We can see that most of my the Con assertions under costs are either from poor material, or have no basis at all.
The Con brings up biased sources, and uncredible evidence to make the point. I have, tried at least, to use unbiased studies, such as my deterrence source, to show an factual, unbiased look at the death penalty as a whole. So, in short my evidence regarding this point has been better. Vote Pro.
Issue 2. Deterrence.
Once again, my evidence is taken out of context. My first source was simply to show that there is evidence for deterrence right now. It would be simply my word against his, if not for the studies I brought up in my last speech, that showed a growth of the murder rate when the death penalty was taken away. This was completely dropped by the Con as well.
Issue 3. Innocence.
I have showed there is no evidence of anyone in modern times getting executed as a innocent. Three times in fact, with solid evidence. My opponent's only response has been, "Humans are fallible, they make mistakes." If this were true, there would be evidence. My opponent just can't back this up.
Issue 4. Prison Chaos.
His evidence about the murder rate being higher in death penalty states had nothing to do with convicts in prison. Only in the outside world.
Some final words.
I truly do apologize some of you are unable to access my sources. 90% of my sources were from databases that are inaccessible unless you have authorization. That is why I have posted full credentials, dates, titles, and authorship's as my sources instead of full links. I can send anyone who wishes full quotes from my sources. I also apologize if sound a bit whiny in this speech. I am just pressed for time. I thank my opponent for allowing my debate such a great topic, and I look forward to debating him again in the future. With that being said, Vote Pro.
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