The Instigator
tejretics
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points
The Contender
Skepticalone
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

The US should abolish the death penalty

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after 3 votes the winner is...
tejretics
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 8/28/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,150 times Debate No: 79085
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (66)
Votes (3)

 

tejretics

Con

Pro should present his or her arguments in Round 1 and cannot argue in the final round so we each have an even # of rounds [since I'm not arguing in this round].
Skepticalone

Pro

I want to thank my opponent for this interesting debate and for allowing me to explore this issue with him. I'm sure Tejretics will provide strong arguments, and I look forward to it!

Wrongful death of innocents



With our current system, we cannot guarantee 100% accuracy with our convictions. Since 1973, 155 individuals on death row have been exonerated [1]. These individuals were either acquitted, pardoned, or charges were dismissed. As horrible as it is to say, these were the lucky ones. It seems extremely likely we have executed at least 10 innocent men. As an example, Ruben Cantu was put to death in 1993. After his death, testimony was submitted which pleads his innocence:

A two-part investigative series by the Houston Chronicle casts serious doubt on the guilt of a Texas man who was executed in 1993. Ruben Cantu had persistently proclaimed his innocence and was only 17 when he was charged with capital murder for the shooting death of a San Antonio man during an attempted robbery. […] Moreover, both a key eyewitness in the state's case against Cantu and Cantu's co-defendant have come forward to say that Texas executed an innocent man.

Juan Moreno, who was wounded during the attempted robbery and was a key eyewitness in the case against Cantu, now says that it was not Cantu who shot him and that he only identified Cantu as the shooter because he felt pressured and was afraid of the authorities. […]

In addition, David Garza, Cantu's co-defendant during his 1985 trial, recently signed a sworn affidavit saying that he allowed Cantu to be accused and executed even though he wasn't with him on the night of the killing. Garza stated, "Part of me died when he died. You've got a 17-year-old who went to his grave for something he did not do. Texas murdered an innocent person."[2]

These type of errors illustrate our system is not perfect. In fact, a peer reviewed study published in PNAS [4] has concluded that “4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the US in the modern era are innocent”.

“A team of legal experts and statisticians from Michigan and Pennsylvania used the latest statistical techniques to produce a peer-reviewed estimate of the “dark figure” that lies behind the death penalty – how many of the more than 8,000 men and women who have been put on death row since the 1970s were falsely convicted.

The team arrived at a deliberately conservative figure that lays bare the extent of possible miscarriages of justice, suggesting that the innocence of more than 200 prisoners still in the system may never be recognised. [3]

We know innocent men have been sentenced to death, innocent men have been executed, and there is an extremely good chance there will be more of both in the future if we continue in our current strategy. As Con will be supporting the death penalty, he will need to justify a punishment which can and does kill innocents. How can we call it justice when innocents die because of it? If we are killing innocents (which we are) then we ourselves are murderers. We have a choice between maintaining our unethical actions or striving for better.

High cost of the death penalty

Death penalty cases cost the taxpayers more than life imprisonment. When the cost of a dual trial (automatic appeal mandated by law), extra attorneys (also mandated by law), manning and providing higher security housing, and execution is added up, the cost is significantly more than non-capital sentencing and punishment. The numbers below are per individual case and represent common expenditures.

Kansas:

Non-death penalty cases and punishment -$740,000

Death penalty case costs through execution - $1.26 million. [4]

Texas:

Non-death penalty cases and punishment - $693,500 (40 years)

Death penalty costs – $2.3 million [5]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The resources spent towards capital cases could be better spent on education, roads, social programs, etc while mainting the sanctity of human life, but only if we are willing to kill executions.

Deterrence


One common arguments for the death penalty is that the threat of death deters other would-be murders. However, this claim is dubious. The National Research Council of the National Academies reviewed three decades worth of data and concluded that a deterrence effect is not clear.

“The committee concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, the committee recommends that these studies not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide.” [6]

One other thing, we tell would-be murderers not to take a human life or we will take theirs, and this logic is no different than telling a child not to hit or we will spank (hit) them. Capital punishment is a very rudimentary form of morality/ethics. If we want different results than we have always had, then we need to approach the problem from a new angle.




Summary


Overall, capital punishment cannot deliver what it promises. Instead it delivers a high-priced inefficient illusion of deterrence and justice in deference to an antiquated moral code. It is time for us to move past ancient barbarism and find productive solutions.

Back to you, Con.

[1] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[2] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[3] http://www.theguardian.com...

[4] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[5] http://www.criminaljusticedegreehub.com...

[6] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

Debate Round No. 1
tejretics

Con

C1) Deterrence


The rational choice theory, also termed rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and modeling social and economic behavior [1]. It has been studied by economists and criminologists to see if criminals act as rationally as standard social humans. The theory has its beginnings in 1968 with the work of Gary Becker. He claimed that criminals are rational. They, like law abiding citizens, respond to costs and benefits. He argues that crime also occurs due to rationality--a cost-benefit analysis by criminals themselves [2].


According to economist John Lott, “[C]riminals as a group tend to behave rationally--when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed.” [3] Thus, if criminals act rationally, if crime has greater costs than benefits, they likely won’t commit it. Even irrational actors can be deterred. Juveniles, who were once considered undeterrable, have actually been found to respond to arrest rates. For example, with a rise in teenage unemployment rates, they commit more thefts or other crimes. When violent crime arrests increase, juvenile violent crime rates drop [4].


The death penalty does deter crime. Economists have started to spearhead death penalty research, and are increasingly taking part in the debate, since deterrence is primarily a socioeconomic factor. Economist Naci Mocan says, “Science does draw a conclusion. There is no question about it. The conclusion is [the death penalty has] a deterrent effect.” [5]


Joanna Shepard, an economist at Clemson University, uses state data from 1977 to 1999. According to her study, each death row sentence deterred, on average, 4.5 murders; each execution deterred 3 murders; one murder is deterred for every 2.75 years reduction in time spent on death row [6]. FCC economist Paul Zimmerman published two studies using state-level data, one with data from 1978 to 1997 [7], and one with data extended till 2000 [8].


There is a fairly strong consensus in econometric literature that the DP deters homicides. 17 studies show a deterrent effect of the death penalty, while only 5 dissent [9]. Of those five dissenting, Katz, Levitt and Shustorovich (2003) actually shows a deterrent effect [10], where the DP deters homicide rates. The reason no deterrence was found was because the study focused on the relation between the death penalty and overall crime rates, but the DP won’t deter non-homicide crimes significantly since it does not apply to assault, burglary, etc. Donohue and Wolfers published a dissenting study that is flawed since it assumes that executions happen the same year a sentence occurred [11], which is flawed since the average wait is 15 years.


The below graph shows the rate of homicides in New York State compared with the rise in homicide rates (with data collected from the source) [14]:



Murray Rothbard, a libertarian economist, argues “it seems indisputable that some murders would be deterred by the death penalty. Sometimes the liberal argument comes perilously close to maintaining that no punishment deters any crime — a manifestly absurd view that could easily be tested by removing all legal penalties for nonpayment of income tax and seeing if there is any reduction in the taxes paid … the murderer himself is certainly "deterred" from any repetition of his crime.” [18]


The study Pro presents against deterrence is made by people with background in law and criminology--but the Rational Choice Theory is primarily an economic theory, therefore requires an analysis of economists. Homicide rates in New York State and other states confirm deterrence.


C2) Prevention of recidivism


There have been many instances in the American justice system when criminals have reoffended. A study from the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that of prisoners released in 1994, 1.2% of those convicted of homicide were arrested for another homicide within three years of release [12].


In 2009, 8.6% of those on death row had a prior homicide conviction, and over 5% of those on death row committed their capital crime while in custody or during an escape [13].


According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, recidivism rates for homicides are actually fairly high, despite journalistic claims to the contrary. 12.5% of those whose greatest offense was homicide were arrested in 6 months, and, over 5 years, 51.2% had been arrested *again*. Of those whose only offense was homicide, the rate was 0.9% [15]. So the worst criminals have extremely high recidivism rates, of up to 51.2%, while those who only murder have a recidivism rate of 0.9%. While the latter number may seem small, it is fairly significant because of the number of murders.


An example of this is seen in Kenneth McDuff, who was placed in death row for three murders. The sentence was then commuted to life imprisonment, and was later released. Following his release, he killed 9 more people, and was then executed for this. Lee Andrew Taylor is another example--he was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing two people--he then killed another inmate in prison.


The death penalty ensures a 0% rate of recidivism, since committing a crime ‘after death’ is completely incoherent.


Thus, the death penalty would prevent more deaths.


C3) DP is just


The death penalty upholds justice. G.W.F. Hegel notes that autonomy separates humans from other entities. A table cannot be blamed for immoral acts since it has no autonomy to distinguish ‘immoral’ from ‘moral’. But the power of autonomy, and ability to distinguish between these poles, gives humans dignity. “At the heart of [human dignity] is a twofold intuition about human beings: namely, that all, just by being human, are of equal dignity and worth, no matter where they are situated in society, and that the primary source of this worth is a power of moral choice within them, a power that consists in the ability to plan a life in accordance with one's own evaluation of ends.” [16]


Human dignity demands unconditional respect to individuals--which means humans can’t be reduced to mere tools, and equality and justice must be upheld with a sense of individual respect. Hegel observes, “[I]n punishment the offender is honored as a rational being, since the punishment is looked on as his right.” [17] The punishment is looked on as a right since it affirms that choices result in consequences--if a person makes a choice knowing it has a negative consequence, putting forth that consequence upholds justice.


When I freely choose to do something, I simultaneously acquiesce to any predictable consequences that might arise therefrom. Consider a situation in a school, where students have been warned not to write on the chalkboard--if they do, they are informed that they shall be punished with a 5-minute time out. If a student does write on the chalkboard, it is reasonable they are given that five-minute time out. Similarly, the criminal who commits a horrendous crime, e.g. genocide, ethnic cleansing, or mass-murders, acquiesces to the consequence automatically--a reasonable consequence that results in deterrence and retribution.


While this may be seen as vengeance rather than justice, note that it isn’t vengeance so much as just retribution. You forfeit the right violated by you--that’s the basic consequence. Human autonomy is the ability to make a choice, and if a criminal has such an ability to make a choice such as murder, he elicits a certain consequence depending on the severity of the choice. If the death penalty is unjust, no punishment is just and the concept of punishment becomes an intrinsically unjust concept, but punishment is the consequence elicited by a choice, and, as such, upholds justice. Edward Feser writes, “[T]he aims of punishment are threefold: retribution, or inflicting on a wrongdoer a harm he has come to deserve because of his offense; correction, or chastising the wrongdoer for the sake of getting him to change his ways; and deterrence, discouraging others from committing the same offense.” [19] He notes, “We can’t correct someone who doesn’t deserve correction.” So, retribution and deterrence are the only options.


The resolution is resoundingly negated. Over to Pro.


1. http://www.dictionaryofeconomics.com...

2. http://www.nber.org...

3. John R. Lott. More Guns, Less Crime, p. 20.

4. http://www.nber.org...

5. http://www.washingtonpost.com...

6. http://tinyurl.com...

7. http://ageconsearch.umn.edu...

8. http://papers.ssrn.com...

9. http://www.cjlf.org...

10. http://aler.oxfordjournals.org...

11. http://economics.emory.edu...

12. http://www.bjs.gov...

13. http://www.bjs.gov...

14. Rafael Di Tella, Sebastian Edwards, and Ernesto Schargrodsky. The Economics of Crime, p. 396.

15. http://www.bjs.gov...

16. http://tibormachan.rationalreview.com...

17. Martin Perlmutter. “Desert and Capital Punishment.” Morality and Moral Controversies: Readings in Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy. 1981. 139-146.

18. https://mises.org...

Skepticalone

Pro

Thank you, Con! As expected, you have provided a strong case.

Rebuttal:

Deterrence





First off, Con is relying on an appeal to authority. Economists are not the experts in criminology - criminologists are. That being said, Con has not delivered anything with weight to refute my deterrence from round 1.

What is the consensus of criminologists? Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock concluded 88% of criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. "There is overwhelming consensus among America’s top criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question fails to support the threat or use of the death penalty." [12]

Even if Con had a valid authority, there is a flaw with the Rational choice theory (RCT) in that criminals do not always make rational choices. For instance, “Bounded rationality” describes an individual’s rationality being limited by any number of things including time, information they have, or their ability to understand the situation. Certainly, there may be a desire for a rational solution but individuals often find themselves unable to achieve it due to these obstacles.

Finally, if the death penalty truly provides deterrence, then we can make a prediction: States with the death penalty should have a lower homicide rate than states without. This is objectively false.



[14]

Capital Punishment is not a deterrent. It appears, if anything, it is more closely related to the opposite.

Recidivism

Recidivism: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially : relapse into criminal behavior

Con argues the Death penalty prevents recidivism. It seems a rather bizarre point to suggest that killing someone stops them from doing bad things. Of course it does – it stops them from ever doing anything again. The problem with this argument is that it assumes the criminal has been rehabilitated or that he or she will have the opportunity to relapse after the punishment has been administered, and that is completely absurd. Putting a criminal in a cage is not attempting to rehabilitate, and death is not a punishment from which someone can relapse.

Even by Con’s skewed definition of recidivism, anything short of instantaneous death could not guarantee repetition of the same activity for which the criminal was imprisoned to begin with. Capital punishment takes, on average, 15 years. Con acknowledges this time frame. Capital punishment does not prevent recidivism in reality or by Con’s understanding of it.

That being said, the U.S. has one of the worst recidivism rates in the world – more than 76% [7]. More than three-quarters of all persons in prison, when released, will be re-arrested. Our system is broken, and we need to consider alternatives. As it is, we are focused on retribution rather than rehabilitation, revenge over rationality.

Norway has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world: 20% - and they have no capital punishment or life imprisonment. Low recidivism rates can be achieved without Capital punishment. Kill the Death Penalty.

Death Penalty is just?




DP can only be just if it is applied consistently across all races, regardless of the race of the victim, and across all income levels. A study of Washington juries showed discrimination against black defendants. “...jurors in Washington are three times more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than for a white defendant in a similar case. The study examined 285 cases in which defendants were convicted of aggravated murder. The cases were analyzed for factors that might influence sentencing, including the number of victims, the prior criminal record of the defendant, and the number of aggravating factors alleged by the prosecutor. “ [9] The problem is not limited to Washington. In Louisiana, if the victim white, then a death sentence is much more probable than if the victim is black. “Even after considering other variables such as the number of aggravating circumstances, the number of concurrent felonies and the number of homicide victims, the odds of a death sentence were 97% higher for those whose victim was white than for those whose victim was black.” [10] Lastly, the poor are affected negatively by Capital punishment. “Poor people are also far more likely to be death sentenced than those who can afford the high costs of private investigators, psychiatrists, and expert criminal lawyers.” [11]

U.S. Supreme Court Justice said in 1994,”Twenty years have passed since this Court declared that the death penalty must be imposed fairly, and with reasonable consistency, or not at all, and, despite the effort of the states and courts to devise legal formulas and procedural rules to meet this daunting challenge, the death penalty remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice, and mistake." [12]

When you consider all this and the fact that DP can, and does, kill innocents, it is most definitely not a just punishment.

Back to you, Con.

[7] http://www.nij.gov...

[8] http://www.salve.edu...

[9] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[10] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[11] https://www.aclu.org...

[12] http://www.amnestyusa.org...

[13] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[14] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

Debate Round No. 2
tejretics

Con

== Observation ==


Before starting my rebuttals, I’d like to observe one thing. Pro has the burden of proof. There are three reasons for this. The first is that the law *cannot* be changed without any reason--if there’s no valid justification for change of law, it isn’t changed. The Supreme Court established this in Mathews v Eldridge, where it showed that, with no good reasons to abolish a law, the law cannot be abolished and must be upheld, since it would make little sense to posit a law or abolition that is meaningless in practice [1]. The second reason for the observation is that Pro is the one making the affirmative statement, therefore carries the BoP. The final reason is that Pro is establishing a change to the status quo--the plan calls for *complete* abolition of the death penalty, while capital punishment exists in 31 states and at the federal level in the United States [2].


R1) Innocent death


High exonerations allows for the prevention of innocent death. There are, as Pro observes, large amounts of DP exonerations, which *reduces* the possibility of innocent death. Current data suggests that the rightful conviction rate for the DP is actually 99.72% [3]. And this is excluding exonerations. The actual number of innocents executed would be very less. This is completely offset by the deterrent effect of capital punishment--the death penalty, on average, saves *more* innocent lives than it takes [4]. As such, the DP saves more lives, so this argument can be discredited under impact calculus.


R2) Cost of the death penalty


Turn this argument against Pro. Pro argues the DP has immensely high costs. In fact, the DP costs *less* than life imprisonment for one major reason--its deterrent effect. The cost of one murder to society is $17 million [5]. Each execution prevents--on balance--18 murders [4]. There were 35 executions in the US in 2014 [6], which means the DP saved $10.71 billion last year. This makes up for all the costs of the DP, and, in fact, saves enough money to make it *less* costly than life imprisonment. This is because the average cost of an execution in the US is $3 million [7], which means, last year, the total death penalty cost was $105 million. This means that the DP saved, subtracting from it its costs, $10.605 billion last year, which still saves *far* more money than life imprisonment.


Costs of the death penalty differ between states. The median annual cost for maintaining a prisoner is ~$47,000 [8], which means, if a person spends 50 years in jail, then it would cost $2.35 million. In Washington, capital punishment costs $2.01 million, which is *less* than the cost of life imprisonment. As for Texas, Pro’s estimate is flawed--it comes from an opinion blog. Prefer the estimate of economists Jon Sorensen and Rocky LeAnn Pilgrim, who calculate that the cost of life without parole and an execution in Texas are the same [9]. Additionally, costs of the death penalty make up only small part of the state’s budget. My opponent’s estimate in Texas is 2.3 million dollars [11] for one execution, and, though such an estimate is likely false [9], I will take the biased estimate for this. There were 10 executions in Texas last year [12]. The Texas budget is 99 billion dollars [13][14]. This means that the DP is only 0.024% of the Texas budget at *maximum,* with the DP cost used here also dubious (see Sorenson and Pilgrim, p. 158). My opponent’s Kansas estimate is $1.26 million, and the Kansas budget is 15.4 billion dollars [13], which means the DP makes up 0.008% of the Kansas budget.


Plea bargains significantly reduce the costs of capital punishment. According to economist Kent S. Scheidegger, “The average county with the death penalty disposes of 18.9% of murder cases with a plea and a long sentence, compared to 5.0% in counties without the death penalty.” [10] Plea bargains can sometimes even completely offset the cost of the death penalty, and (regardless of deterrence), generally reduce the cost of capital punishment to be 1.4-1.5 times as much as life imprisonment [1o].


Cost studies tend to underestimate the cost of the LWOP. They often fail to account for the fact that prisoners on LWOP stay in prison longer than prisoners on death row do. This also has to be taken into account.


C1) Deterrence


First, Pro questions an economic analysis of the death penalty’s deterrent effect. Large level of death penalty research is spearheaded by economists. This is because--essentially--economics is the ultimate social science. Much of the modern death penalty research requires an econometric background to understand the statistics. Pro’s argument that criminologists are better at analyzing criminal behavior is a bare assertion, since behavioral economics and rational economics are basically the studies of human behavior and rationality [15][16][17][18].


Onto the scientific consensus. The survey of criminologists is *not* a study based on empirical research--it is merely the opinion of criminologists. As economists spearhead much of death penalty research, prefer those with an economic background. A survey was conducted among economists on whether they believed that capital punishment deters crime. 100% of those surveyed said yes [19]. The consensus among economists is opposite to the criminological consensus, so only empirical research needs to be evaluated--since one consensus cancels out another.


The empirical research Pro presents regards crime rates, rather than *drop* in those rates. There are multiple factors affecting crime rates. Crime rates are not a good empirical analysis of whether the death penalty deters crimes--instead, an analysis must be conducted as to whether the death penalty caused a significant *drop* in crime. There are 22 studies on whether the DP truly has a deterrent effect [20], of which seventeen show a deterrent effect, and two are inconclusive. As mentioned, one of the studies actually *shows* a deterrent effect, though it concludes the DP doesn’t drop crime--but it does reduce *homicide* rates [21].


The most reliable economic study, by Hashem Dezhbakhsh and Paul H. Rubin, concludes that the deterrent effect of capital punishment is huge--in fact, it concluded that each execution could deter 18 homicides [22]. There is a large consensus in the econometric literature, that actually uses empirical research and finds a direct correlation between crime drop and the death penalty. A few studies are sourced here [23][24][25][26][27][28]. State trends show a direct correlation between the introduction of the death penalty and crime drop, according to a study by economists Rafael Di Tella, Sebastian Edwards, and Ernesto Schargrodsky, who found that the death penalty in various states, including New York State, caused homicide drop, as seen in the below graph [29].



John R. Lott uses empirical research to prove that capital punishment was responsible for 12-14% of the crime drop in the 1990s [30].


Pro claims that some criminals not acting rationally disproves rational choice theory. There are a few problems with this. First, this is a hasty generalization--most data proves that the majority of criminals are rational actors, and can be deterred. Even juveniles and the mentally ill can act rationally [31][32], and be deterred. Secondly, Pro misrepresents what ‘rationality’ is--under rational choice theory, rationality is making a cost-benefit analysis with most actions. Thus, the DP deters crime.


C2) Prevention of recidivism


Pro argues a counterplan--that criminals have to be rehabilitated better. I find a few problems with this: (1) the counterplan is vague, since Pro fails to establish *how* the system has to be reformed, or exactly *how* the counterplan will be implemented, and (2) Pro fails to show any empirical research that shows that all criminals can be rehabilitated, or that recidivism rates will decrease successfully. With these missing impacts and links, you can still presume Con under this contention.


C3) DP is just


Pro drops much of my points. Pro drops that retribution is an essential part of punishment, or that punishment has to be proportional. Pro drops that the DP is just in, at least, *some* cases. Pro drops all the sources I presented based on the justice of retribution. Presume Con right there. Next, Pro commits a correlation-implies-causation fallacy [33], as a correlation between execution of blacks =/= causation. Finally, the DP is also just from a utilitarian standpoint. Lives are saved due to the existence of capital punishment--the more lives saved, the more just.


Thus, I negate.

Skepticalone

Pro



Burden of Proof


Con has suggested I should have the burden of proof, and he has given solid reasons for this. I fully embrace this burden. What this means is that I must show a net benefit for abolition of the Death Penalty. If Con is able to thwart my attempt to net neutral, then he wins.



Wrongful death of Innocents



Con’s source to back his 99.72% rightful conviction rate appears to be an off the cuff calculation, and does not compare to the peer reviewed study I submitted in round 1[4]. Also, any innocents killed are a massive problem for DP advocates. After all, it is not a matter of accidental death, but intentionally taking a life. Knowing each and every execution could be an individual not guilty of the crime for which they are condemned means we are crossing our fingers and hoping for justice.

Also, Con’s assertion ‘the DP saves more lives than it kills’ is a dubious claim since it relies on the presumption of deterrence. I will cover that aspect more in my rebuttal to Con’s deterrence argument below.

High Cost of the death penalty



Con began this section with an intriguing study which attempts to monetize murder and other crimes. Since the figures are partially based on the cost of prosecution and imprisonment at the DP standards, they would be substantially less with LWOP. Plus, Cohen acknowledges that his sample group was extreme and this may have inflated the estimates. I find this study fascinating, but this aspect of Con’s argument relies on the presumption that capital punishment provides deterrence. I will address that subject below.

Moving on, T suggests the cost of LWOP would cost more than CP in Washington. I am willing to agree with his annual cost estimate of LWOP for Washington although it was fortuitous the national average and Washington’s actual cost are close. However, the number he submitted for the cost of DP in Washington (2.01 million) is completely wrong. The actual cost for DP in Washington is $3.07 million [15].

As far as Texas is concerned, the average cost per inmate is $21,390 per year [16]. My figures were calculated for 40 years imprisonment, but so that we might compare apples to apples I have refigured for 50 years and arrived at just over $1 million for LWOP. $1 million is still a far cry from $2.3 million for CP in Texas and represents a significant reduction of cost.

Con has claimed my estimate of DP cost in Texas is flawed because of where it came from (genetic fallacy). I concede I could have used a better source (and I will [17]), but the numbers are valid. If they are flawed in any way, it is because the study only accounted for 7.5 years of trial, appeal, and imprisonment instead of the 15 year average that is common now [17]. The cost is most likely a low estimate.

Tejretic’s comparison of expenditures related to executions (last year) and the state budget is misguided. In Texas, Capital punishment is paid for by the counties. While they may get a small grant from the state to offset cost, the bulk of the financial burden remains on the county. “The burden is even higher on smaller counties. Jasper County, Texas, raised property taxes by nearly 7% just to pay for a single death penalty case.” [18]

Not to mention, we are still talking about millions, or billions, of dollars which could be better used. A study from 1978 determined if the DP were abolished we could have an immediate saving of $170 million dollars per year. Consider what Judge Arthur L. Alarcon had to say about the DP in California. “Since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more than 13 executions."

Plea bargains reduce the cost of capital punishment because they avoid it - at least partially. This backs my point of view in multiple ways. This is an acknowledgement the DP is more expensive than alternatives such as life imprisonment. Secondly, in round 2 Con stated,” You forfeit the right violated by you--that’s the basic consequence.” Pleas bargain are not in-line with that assertion yet Con accepts a lesser sentence as a reasonable consequence. Con is simultaneuosly holding life should be forfiet for life taken, and plea bargaining away from it is kosher. This, of course, is contradictory.

Deterrence


First, I would like to point out a bit of Gish gallop from Con. He has provided 17 different sources in this section providing only a brief summary of a few of them. It would take a disproportionate amount of time for me to attempt to absorb the information in them and rebut them. Plus, it is unlikely I would have the character count for such an endeavor. I'll hit the high points.

I continue to question my opponent’s desire to rely on economists instead of criminologists. Criminology is the study of crime from a social perspective. Economists have a much broader social purview. I acknowledge an overlap between the two fields. As an analogy, it is the difference between a maintenance man and an HVAC technician. Both can work on air conditioners, but if you need a new system it is best to utilize the technician’s direct experience over the maintenance man’s mechanical inclination. Criminologists are the ‘technicians’ of criminal behavior while economists are the ‘jack of all trades’.

That being said, Con is dismissing the analysis of three decades worth of studies by the National Research Council of the National Academies in which criminologists conclude deterrence is not clear. Specifically, they found:

1. The studies do not factor in the effects of noncapital punishments that may also be imposed.

2. The studies use incomplete or implausible models of potential murderers’ perceptions of and response to the use of capital punishment.

3. Estimates of the effect of capital punishment are based on statistical models that make assumptions that are not credible. [6]

The deterrence effect cannot objectively be substantiated.

Prevention of recidivism



I argue that it cannot be called “prevention of recidivism” if we remove the potential for the offender to falter. That is like removing the house to get rid of the rats. No one would accept this as a claim of success if they have lost their home in the process. As I said earlier, it is a bizarre claim.

Con has not shown CP prevents recidivism, only that we can remove the vessel that houses the offending consciousness. To truly measure recidivism, we must have an individual capable of it. In other words, he or she must still be alive and autonomous.

Finally, Con acknowledges murders happen in prison while waiting on the DP. Murders in prison cancel out his claim of a 0% recidivism rate. Con’s argument has been negated.

DP is just



Arguing against Capital punishment is not arguing against retribution (not to be confused with vengeance or revenge), and Con’s argument for retribution has left me unscathed. My opponent claims I have dropped a contention of his -“DP is just at least in *some* cases”, but this is not a point he has made, at least, not until now. Also, Con’s accusation of Correlation causation fallacy is flawed. The studies I provided are of many hundreds of cases, considering many factors, and are corroborated by other such studies nationwide.

I have already explained that any system which murders innocents in the name of justice is not just. We cannot in good conscience condone such actions in the least – not even for the worst non rehabilitatable offenders (assuming such a thing exists). Resources could be better spent on prevention of future criminals (education, gang prevention, mental health services, drug and alcohol recovery, etc.) instead of disposal of a ‘lost cause’. The resources we waste on CP is an injustice to future generations. Since we have every reason to expect our population to increase, utility is best served by prevention of future criminals. We have many options in this regard, and many under-utilized programs that have been making a verifiable effective difference.

[19]



In summary, DP is not just - it kills innocents and is arbitrary. Recidivism is not prevented, detterence is questionable, and it is a waste of resources which could be better spent on prevention. I have shown a net benefit if the Death Penalty were abolished.

This is my final round of arguments per Con's round 1 requirements, so please allow me to thank the reader and Tejretic's (for a very interesting debate)!




[15] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[16] http://www.vera.org...

[17] http://standdown.typepad.com...

[18] http://ejusa.org...

[19] https://books.google.com...

Debate Round No. 3
tejretics

Con

C1) Deterrence


Pro accuses me of presenting Gish Gallop. “Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning an opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time.” [1] The number of references I used aren’t an example of Gish Gallop, because they aren’t arguments--they only constitute justification for the argument. Then, Pro argues economists don’t constitute a proper source. Dismiss this, because (1) it is a bare assertion (since there’s no justification for the application of the analogy in economics and criminology), and (2) rationality is primarily an economic science [2], which means criminologists do not have expertise in studying the rationality of criminals.


Pro has hardly touched the actual offense I presented in favor of deterrence. The three points which Pro presents are not applicable to the study of Tella, Edwards, and Schargrodsky, because they found a *direct* correlation between the introduction of the death penalty and crime drops in various states [3].



The study Pro presents regarding the inconclusiveness of whether the death penalty deters crime only addresses *some* of the studies for deterrence--it doesn’t apply to all studies [4]. Pro brings in three points against the studies:


1. The studies do not factor in the effects of noncapital punishments that may also be imposed.

2. The studies use incomplete or implausible models of potential murderers’ perceptions of and response to the use of capital punishment.

3. Estimates of the effect of capital punishment are based on statistical models that make assumptions that are not credible.


#1 is downright false, as there has been a *documented* drop in crime with the death penalty, despite the existence of other punishments [5][6]. #2 only applies to studies that don’t use empirical research--the studies I cited *all* are based on actual data regarding crime drops. Pro--and his source--fails to substantiate #3, therefore it can be considered a bare assertion. Pro doesn’t provide *what* assumptions aren’t credible, nor does their source. Finally, the source is a study by criminologists--who, as I said earlier, cannot critique the modern research, which is spearheaded by economists.


Empirical studies such as that by Paul Zimmerman [5] and John R. Lott [7] are largely immune to this, simply because they documented a correlation between low homicide rates with heightened executions (the latter study finding that the death penalty was responsible for 12-14% of the crime drop in the 1990s). Most of the individual studies I presented have been dropped by Pro, and Pro fails to (1) substantiate their claims, and (2) refute any of the individual studies I presented.


Prefer Con on deterrence, because:


1. Pro doesn’t entirely substantiate any of their claims, nor do they adequately justify that the economic literature is flawed

2. Pro relies on a bare assertion that criminologists are more specialized than economists, which is false, since economists can be *devoted* to studying the rational choice theory, and rationality is primarily an economic science

3. Pro drops all the studies I presented, including the graph by Tella, Edwards, and Schargrodsky, which has empirical data to it and is immune to Pro’s attack on the literature


C2) Prevention of recidivism


Pro’s argument here--from the beginning--has been entirely semantic. Even if the word is not ‘recidivism’, it does *not* affect any of the impacts: the death penalty prevents *repetition* of crime or ‘relapse’ into criminal behavior, since such a relapse *would* be possible without capital punishment. But under capital punishment, there is no ‘relapse’ into criminal behavior, since there is no initial change--the person would die a criminal. The primary *offense* here is that lives will be saved, as there’s no repetition of homicide. Pro explicitly concedes that such a repetition of homicide *is* high in the United State. Next, Pro presents a straw-man of my argument: I didn’t say people on death row repeat their crime, I said people in prison who repeated their crime *went* to the death row.


C3) DP is just


a) Capital punishment is the only just, suitable retribution for homicide. Edward Feser argues, “[W]hat a wrongdoer deserves as punishment is a harm proportionate to his offense. … [T]he gravity of the punishment should reflect the gravity of the wrongdoing. Hence those guilty of large thefts should be punished more severely than those guilty of small ones, those guilty of inflicting serious bodily injury should be punished more severely than those merely guilty of theft, and so forth. … If wrongdoers do deserve punishment, and if punishment ought to be scaled to the gravity of the crime (harsher punishments for graver crimes), then it would be absurd to deny that there is a level of criminality for which capital punishment is appropriate” [8]. Seeking retribution proportionally is inherent--according to many psychologists, proportional retribution has an evolutionary origin, e.g. in the case of seeking capital punishment for murder [10][11].


b) Even the justice turn doesn’t entirely defeat the argument. Pro is calling for the abolition of the *entire* death penalty, which means he must argue that all capital punishment is unjust for the turn to even work. Capital punishment is--at least--just when it comes to genocide, or torture and homicide. Consider the case where an 11-year-old boy was neglected, tortured and murdered--he had signs of being beaten, was starved, had cigarette burns on his face, and marks indicating he had been tied [9].


c) The DP is still just from a utilitarian perspective. Deterrence means lives are saved as a direct result of the DP, which means that it upholds justice by saving lives. Therefore, the DP is still just.


R1) Innocents


Innocents can be discredited as it is offset by deterrence. Nonetheless, I shall address Pro’s argument. The study that Pro uses--one by Samuel Gross--concludes that 4.1% of those on death row are innocent. Joshua Marquis, district attorney of Clatsop County, Oregon, writes, “Gross cited about 390 cases from 1989 to 2003 where he and his team believed serious felony sentences were unfairly handed down against innocent defendants. The cases he cited from Oregon hardly met that test. Gross posits there must be many more exonerations than he identified because he asserts (and Garrett repeats) that in many cases DNA or a recantation by a key witness does not exist. So I rounded Gross’s number up to 400 and multiplied it by ten, yielding 4,000 exonerations—far more than I believe exist for the time period. I divided the 4,000 by 15 million, the number of felonies committed during the same period, yielding a ‘rightful’ conviction rate of 99.93%.” [12] As seen, Gross’ percentage is flawed, so the study can be discredited.


R2) Costs


First, costs are offset by deterrence. As mentioned, the cost of one murder to society is $17 million. Pro argues that this takes into account DP costs as well, but there wouldn’t be a substantial difference, primarily because of (a) plea bargains, and (b) difference of DP costs by state. So deterrence would--regardless--save enough money to easily offset the costs of the death penalty itself. Furthermore, the *possibility* of extreme situations making the costs higher doesn’t entail probability--Pro fails to prove the latter, which must be done, as Pro has the full BoP.


I concede Washington, I based it on a wrong estimate. As for Texas--first, Sorensen and Pilgrim conclude that the DP in Texas--by their estimates--costs the same as the LWOP. And, under your biased estimate, while the DP in Texas may cost more than the LWOP, it only takes up a small amount of the budget. Texas is a state with the death penalty, in addition, which means the costs are offset by the lives saved in Texas. Skepticalone brings a new source for the cost of the DP in Texas, but the source is *not* a proper study--it’s a news report. Prefer my source, which Skepticalone fails to refute.


Further, the plea bargaining and justice turn fail, because plea bargaining serves a utilitarian purpose, therefore is still moral and isn’t incompatible with my justice contention. It’s like not killing a criminal if we can gain information from him/her. I can still concede much of costs, but the costs are still outweighed by deterrence--the death penalty completely makes up for the costs.


Underview


The debate basically comes down to deterrence. If the DP deters substantial crime, it fully makes up for all its costs, offsets innocent lives lost, and makes the DP just. All of Pro’s offense depends on the DP not deterring homicides. I’ve successfully proven that the DP deters homicides. Pro fails to refute *any* of the individual studies that I presented. Pro attacks deterrence in two ways: (1) that criminologists should be preferred to economists, and (2) criminologists are inconclusive. Both fail, for reasons outlined above [e.g. specialization of economists, rationality]. Pro drops all my sources. Since judges can buy that the death penalty deters homicides, judges can also buy that the costs of the DP are less than other sentences, simply because the DP can deter up to 18 homicides per execution, and, with the immense costs of murder, the DP offsets all its costs. Judges can also presume Con on innocent death by this means. Further, even if judges buy costs, lives are more valuable than money by default. So I win on *both* probability and magnitude.


Conclusion: I have poked numerous holes in Pro’s case, and Pro fails to substantially refute deterrence. Deterrence offsets *all* of their offense, so prefer Con on probability as well as magnitude. Pro had the full burden of proof, and has failed to fulfill it. For all these reasons, vote Con. Pro must waive the next round.

Skepticalone

Pro

Excellent debate, tejretics! I look forward to future debates with you.

Vote Pro!
Debate Round No. 4
66 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
*******************************************************************
>Reported vote: Wylted// Mod action: Removed<

7 points to Pro. Reasons for voting decision: RFD posted by wylted as sent by http://www.debate.org...... I've received permission from Tejretics to post this RFD, and Whiteflame is voting on this debate, so if the RFD is not up to standards, than it will be easy for him to review it and ask me to take it down, or just go agmhead and remove it himself.

[*Reason for removal*] (1) The vote doesn't contain any clear decision. It goes so far as to examine many of the arguments in some detail, but doesn't consolidate that analysis into a cohesive decision. (2) Voters must produce their own independent reasoning for why they decided to vote for a given side. By posting a separate RFD, this voter doesn't show that he has read the debate or comprehended it, and has not provided independent feedback to the debaters. Whether that choice was acceptable to the debaters doesn't alter the reality that it's against the voting standards.
************************************************************************
Posted by Hanspete 2 years ago
Hanspete
Before I even vote, I must say I"m quite impressed by both sides, and I will try my best to not let my bias of being Con DP effect my decision.

So, this is a debate about Con talking about not abolishing the DP, which is the status quo. So, I will give the BOP to Pro since he must prove the abolishment will be more beneficial.

Regarding morality, I give the edge to Pro on this. Pro"s explains how executing the innocent actually goes against the agenda of the Pro-Dp guys. Con"s arguments are that the DP is just, and a criminal has violated the person"s right to live, therefore is subject to CP. Even though this would apply to criminals, I fail to see how this would apply to the innocents that were killed. Even though Con says the number is very low, it still goes against the DP"s idea of giving justice. There is no justice in killing an innocent, and it"s just as bad as a criminal killing somebody good.

Con"s deterrence arguments are that the death penalty deters crime and that it keeps killers from killing again. Con cites the standard deterrence studies, in which he shows with emprical evidence that the DP was responsible for a 12% drop in crime during the 90"s. This data was collected by economists This by far is a very strong claim with strong evidence. Pro overcomes it through showing that criminologists almost universally reject the argument that the death penalty acts as a deterrent, poking holes in the various studies, showing that the trends aren't in line with the argument that each execution deters a specific number of murders. Pro says that criminologists are more knowledgeable on the topic, therefore their opinion will matter more. . Con does poke a few holes in this by explaining how some of these comparisons are invalid but enough damage is done to the deterrence argument for it to lose a lot of its weight. Obviously Con does gain some ground in the fact that an executed killer can never kill again, but how does this stack up against Cons argu
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
For future reference please state what the Elo restrictions are in round one.
Posted by tajshar2k 2 years ago
tajshar2k
I'll try to bring an rfd soon.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
I have the permission of the losing debater, I'll be mad at him if he takes this down, merely for me posting it on somebody's behalf. Though I'll certainly not be mad, if he has a real reason to take it down.
Posted by tajshar2k 2 years ago
tajshar2k
Well I remember Whiteflame took a vote down for a similar reason for using somebody's RFD.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
RFD part 3

For cost, Pro makes solid arguments--that it costs an obscene amount of money to execute a person in many states remain standing at the end of the debate as does the argument that the system has a rather poor track record of actually sending the correct people to die. Con responds that the death penalty allows for innocents to be freed (this is actually a really good argument--as in their are stats to support it) but he doesn't provide any evidence for the death penalty providing a better avenue for innocents to be freed than life without parole does. Con"s arguments are rather inconsistent for this. he cities a couple counties where the DP isn"t more expensive, but this can hardly can outweigh the number of states that Pro provided, in which the DP was more expensive. So I have to give the edge to Pro, because several states and costs, certainly outweigh the cost of 1 state (texas) and a couple counties. On top of that Con actually conceded Washington.

For recidivism, I give this a tie, Con showed Recidivism is prevented, by the DP. But the numbers aren"t as high as you would think, and Pro even showed the # of murders in prison canceled out the 0% recidivism rate. But, Pro didn"t really give any cases here, as it was rather defensive, so I give this a tie.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
RFD part 2

Con"s deterrence arguments are that the death penalty deters crime and that it keeps killers from killing again. Con cites the standard deterrence studies, in which he shows with emprical evidence that the DP was responsible for a 12% drop in crime during the 90"s. This data was collected by economists This by far is a very strong claim with strong evidence. Pro overcomes it through showing that criminologists almost universally reject the argument that the death penalty acts as a deterrent, poking holes in the various studies, showing that the trends aren't in line with the argument that each execution deters a specific number of murders. Pro says that criminologists are more knowledgeable on the topic, therefore their opinion will matter more. . Con does poke a few holes in this by explaining how some of these comparisons are invalid but enough damage is done to the deterrence argument for it to lose a lot of its weight. Obviously Con does gain some ground in the fact that an executed killer can never kill again, but how does this stack up against Cons arguments? So, for detterence I think Pro went more defensive on this, but since Con showed with Empirical evidence the DP actually reduced crime, I give edge to Con.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
RFD part 1 (these will be posted in the wrong order.

Before I even vote, I must say I"m quite impressed by both sides, and I will try my best to not let my bias of being Con DP effect my decision.

So, this is a debate about Con talking about not abolishing the DP, which is the status quo. So, I will give the BOP to Pro since he must prove the abolishment will be more beneficial.

Regarding morality, I give the edge to Pro on this. Pro"s explains how executing the innocent actually goes against the agenda of the Pro-Dp guys. Con"s arguments are that the DP is just, and a criminal has violated the person"s right to live, therefore is subject to CP. Even though this would apply to criminals, I fail to see how this would apply to the innocents that were killed. Even though Con says the number is very low, it still goes against the DP"s idea of giving justice. There is no justice in killing an innocent, and it"s just as bad as a criminal killing somebody good.

Con"s deterrence arguments are that the death penalty deters crime and that it keeps killers from killing again. Con cites the standard deterrence studies, in which he shows with emprical evidence that the DP was responsible for a 12% drop in crime during the 90"s. This data was collected by economists This by far is a very strong claim with strong evidence. Pro overcomes it through showing that criminologists almost universally reject the argument that the death penalty acts as a deterrent, poking holes in the various studies, showing that the trends aren't in line with the argument that each execution deters a specific number of murders. Pro says that criminologists are more knowledgeable on the topic, therefore their opinion will matter more. . Con does poke a few holes in this by explaining how some of these comparisons are invalid but enough damage is done to the deterrence argument for it to lose a lot of its weight.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
Okay, Tejretics just sent a PM that said yes. Keep in mind that this is not my RFD, and I have not read the debate at all, but it looks good from my ignorant perspective. I will not remove the vote at the request of the debaters, a third party or Mod will have to give me extremely good reasons to remove it, and I'll likely ignore a third parties reasoning that is not a mod.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
tejreticsSkepticalone
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Given here: http://www.debate.org/forums/politics/topic/73771/
Vote Placed by Kozu 2 years ago
Kozu
tejreticsSkepticalone
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: See comments
Vote Placed by tajshar2k 2 years ago
tajshar2k
tejreticsSkepticalone
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: I'll vote on this later.