The Instigator
Pro (for)
6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The US should adopt a revised death penalty system

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/4/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,561 times Debate No: 9127
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (15)
Votes (1)




The "death penalty" is the execution of a criminal convicted according to the laws of a state or the federal government, i.e. death penalty - putting a condemned person to death In the system proposed, for the death penalty to be imposed, a jury must first find the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Then in the penalty phase of the trial the jury must find that there was guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based upon forensic evidence, as well as any other aggravating circumstances as required by law were met.

"Based upon forensic evidence" means the evidence presented must include substantial forensic evidence, such as DNA, fingerprints, or ballistics testing proving the accused committed the crime. A person found guilty based solely upon a confession or the testimony of crime witnesses could not be executed, but at most sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The purpose of requiring the higher standard of evidence is to further reduce the probability of a false conviction. False convictions in the past are most often the product of faulty identification or other faulty testimony by witnesses, and occasionally by false confessions. A small number of such erroneous convictions have been discovered as a result of cases being reopened when DNA technology became available and proved the error. Because DNA testing is now commonplace, the certainty of convictions is now higher than it was in the past. The new system makes forensic evidence a requirement for execution in the first place.

The reasons for imposing a death penalty are:

1. Some crimes are so heinous that any sentence short of execution is unjust. Examples: to argue against the death penalty, one must assert that there are no crimes that require the death penalty for justice to be served.

2. Having the possibility of the death penalty encourages guilty felons to plead guilty to a sentence of life imprisonment and to reveal the extent of their crimes. Whether or not a plea deal is offered is up to the prosecutor. For example, a plea deal was offered in the Kibbe serial murder case in order to get a guilty plea and to get the killer to reveal the extent of his crimes.

3. To deter a convict under a life sentence from killing a guard, fellow inmate, or a hostage in an escape. Moreover, "life without parole" in practice results in murderers being paroled or released. If the person cannot be executed, there is no additional penalty for killing someone. While many murders are crimes of passion, a convict under life sentence can contemplate committing further murders without fear of additional punishment. If an innocent person is wrongly executed that is grossly unjust, however if a killer is not executed and kills again the person he kills is also an unjust victim. There is greater justice if more innocent lives are saved by having a death penalty than by giving killers a free pass to kill again. The positive balance is ensured by forensic evidence virtually eliminating wrong convictions.

While wrong executions are already rare, murders by convicts under life imprisonment are not rare. Jeff Jacoby, writing in the Boston Globe, gives numerous examples and notes "Life without parole offers no protection from jailhouse killers to those inside prison walls such as guards and other inmates. In 2001 and 2002, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported last year, 129 inmates in state prisons and jails were victims of homicide."

Googling "convicted killer kills again" produces many dozens of other examples.

4. The higher standard for conviction makes expensive and lengthy appeals less viable. This lowers the cost of carrying out the death penalty. Appeals are based on errors in law, but the error in law must be ruled sufficient to cause doubt of the conviction. For example, an appeal might argue that if the instructions to the jury were made differently, the jury might have arrived at a different verdict. With hard forensic evidence to overcome, convictions are more likely to withstand appeals.

5. To provide an overall sense of justice in the system that deters general crime. Many murders are crimes of passion are not likely to be deterred, but potential criminals considering lesser crimes are likely to be deterred by the certainty of the justice system providing justice in capital cases. A potential criminal while contemplating the commission of a crime will get the message from an enforced death penalty that society is serious about maintaining an effective justice system.

For these reasons, a revised death penalty system should be adopted.


I thank my learned opponent for presenting a well thought out debate. As Con, I will negate the resolution but will not present an alternative plan to my opponent's.

Definitions: I have no issue with the definition for death penalty or forensic evidence as described in this first round.

Burden of Proof for Crime:

My opponent presents an admirable position, but one with numerous consequences. The state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, every time. My opponent's plan offers a higher level of proof. He offers a plan requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt with forensic evidence. Forensic evidence described as ballistics, DNA, and fingerprints. The problem is in the need for forensic evidence to be surer the conviction is correct. If such evidence is needed for us to be sure, then forensic evidence is needed as proof beyond a reasonable doubt in all cases. The only feasible standard above a reasonable doubt is beyond all doubt. The Court has addressed the issue of "residual doubt" during the sentencing phase of a bifurcated trial. "This Court's prior decisions fail to recognize a constitutional right to have such doubts considered as a mitigating factor." [1]

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt:
In the case of "In re Winship", 397 U.S. 358, the Supreme Court put forth the need for a reasonable doubt standard:

"The reasonable-doubt standard plays a vital role in the American scheme of criminal procedure. It is a prime instrument for reducing the risk of convictions resting on factual error."

If forensic evidence is needed to obtain this level of certainty, then this is the level of beyond a reasonable doubt. By providing legislation mandating forensic evidence so we can be sure, would move the already high burden on the state to a higher one. The closing statement for the defense in a non death penalty case would go something like this, "No forensic evidence was presented, and as Congress has made clear, such evidence is needed to ensure we do not convict, and subsequently execute, an innocent man. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury will you allow your uncertainty now to convict a man and send him to prison for life without such evidence?" Evidence is used for convictions and proof of aggravated/mitigating circumstances, not levels of punishment. I can find no Constitutional means to require such evidence in one case and not all.

Due to the likelihood that all cases would have to use this new level of evidence, the resolution must be negated as mandating forensic evidence to ensure guilt would put an undue burden on the State as some crimes will not leave forensic evidence behind.

Rebutting my opponent's reasons (refer to each point in rd 1):
1.Some crimes do shock the conscience, I agree. But forcing the state to follow a higher burden of proof only helps the criminals. In addition, under my opponent's plan the most heinous crimes are not the ones the death penalty will serve. Only heinous crimes with forensic evidence will be subject to this punishment. I could not locate any information on the murdered FBI informant so I cannot determine if forensic evidence was used to prosecute the killer, or if he was found at all.

2.If the death penalty has any positive affect, leveraging killers is it. The problem lies in the fact that under my opponent's plan, the leverage will hinge on forensic evidence, not eye witness, physical, or circumstantial evidence. In addition, leveraging confessions by using a threat of the death penalty is very shaky ground and very dangerous. [2] Using the death penalty as leverage to persuade the abandonment of the sixth amendment right to a jury trial is unconstitutional. [3]

3.My opponent, in this third point, sends us to an op-ed piece that is very misleading. Many of the situations discussed took place oversees, some in Arab countries where the convicts actions were praised more than condemned. In addition, the number of jailhouse murders listed does not tell us whether lifers committed them. A life sentence is far different from life without parole. Life without parole or life without parole in a Supermax prison are possible deterrents to the crimes my opponent lists. [4]

4.The new standard would do nothing but aggravate the appeals process. The appeals process deals not in issues of guilt or innocence per se, as they are given the facts from the district court. The appeals process deals with procedures. All evidence, forensic or not, must be admitted properly, counsel must be effective, the jury selection constitution, and the list goes on. Adding the requirement of forensic evidence places one more area for the appellate court to consider. Also, the need for forensic evidence to gain more surety allows the defense to tie the courts in appeals asking whether evidence was forensic or merely physical. Lastly, if the forensic evidence is admitted in the trial stage for consideration of guilt under the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard, then the evidence must be readmitted in the later stage under the new and higher burden. I see no indication that the appeals process would be reduced. On the contrary, the new plan allows for more appeals.

Concerning reversible error, I must disagree with my opponent. The error does not have to be so egregious as to change the verdict. The error must only be higher than "harmless". The controlling statute provides:
28 U.S.C. � 2111 provides:

"On the hearing of any appeal or writ of certiorari in any case, the court shall give judgment after an examination of the record without regard to errors or defects which do not affect the substantial rights of the parties."
The list of errors not deemed harmless are too numerous to list here, but Justice Stewart gives a partial one here. [5] [386 U.S. 18 at 46] reversible error does not have to be one where guilt or innocence is at stake. My opponent's plan will not reduce appeals by offering a higher burden of proof as this is simply not the basis of many appeals.

5. As I am not presenting an alternate plan or a plan with full elimination of the death penalty (which is my position on this matter) I see no need to address the deterrence issue.


Although my opponent offers a plan attempting to resolve the issue inherent in any nation with the death penalty, execution of the innocent, the plan does not reduce the appeals process, burdens the state with an impossible standard of guilt, and would only reduce the number of accidental executions at the expense of allowing non death row inmates to enjoy the new burden. The resolution cannot stand under these considerations.
1.Franklin v. Lynaugh 487 U.S. 164 (1988)
3.United States v. Jackson 390 U.S. 570 (1968)
Debate Round No. 1


Con has made a thoughtful response. I'm surprised he didn't attack the basic validity of applying a death penalty, but that's perfectly fair. It's a good debate.

We are debating a "should" resolution. Consequently, if the resolution is otherwise found sound and is affirmed, and present law does not allow implementation of the resolution, then the law should be changed. This applies to the Constitution as well. If the Constitution does not recognize the special nature of forensic evidence, then the Constitution should be amended so that it does. It is in any case reasonable to provide an additional standard of proof for applying the death penalty. If the Constitution is found not to allow such a reasonable approach, then by all means it should be amended. We should not be surprised that the implications of forensic evidence were not contemplated in the late 1700's when the Constitution was enacted.

Con poses a false dichotomy, claiming: "The only feasible standard above a reasonable doubt is beyond all doubt." This is not true. Forensic evidence does not provide proof beyond all doubt. Defense attorneys routinely challenge forensic evidence on many grounds. If forensic evidence were beyond all doubt, then all such challenges would be baseless, and we know they are not.

It might have been true in the 19th century that there was no practical middle ground between "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "beyond all doubt," but that is not true today. That fact is demonstrated by the use of DNA evidence to free wrongly-convicted people. In such cases, the results of a DNA test immediately and convincingly outweigh the evidence of witnesses. One must acknowledge that forensic evidence is in fact better than other types of evidence, and once that fact is acknowledged then it follows that there is a higher standard that is still below "beyond all doubt."

Con argues that if forensic evidence is required for the death penalty then defense attorneys will argue that forensic evidence is required for conviction. However, defense attorneys now make the argument that forensic evidence ought to be required for conviction. Prosecutors attribute this argument to the prevalence of forensic crime shows on television, fiction in which every case is determined by forensic evidence. Juries are conditioned to expect forensic proof. It's called "the CSI effect," It has been verified: "The results of a moderated regression suggest that, when the outcome of the forensic test was negative, those who reported higher viewing frequencies rated a complainant's claim to be more credible and were therefore more sensitive to the reliability of the evidence." Even if such a bias does not already exist, it is inevitable that forensics will be recognized as more reliable, because they are.

Whether the law acknowledges it or not, juries often apply levels of certainty above "beyond a reasonable doubt." If they are not certain enough to apply the death penalty, they may convict the perpetrator of murder in the second degree, or some offense that does not allow the death penalty. It is much better to have this informal process of jury mediation of sentence made formal. There will be greater justice because the law will better fit the reality, so guilt will be more appropriately be determined.

1. My claim was that for certain heinous crimes justice demands a death penalty. This is a justification for having a death penalty at all. Pro did not deny that argument, and if anything seemed to agree. Therefore we agree that having a death penalty is justified.

Pro argued that "Only heinous crimes with forensic evidence will be subject to this punishment." I agree. However, the net result of the new system is that justice will be done more often than it is now. That is because the main argument against having the death penalty is there are a significant chance of wrongful convictions. With that argument diminished, the death penalty will be carried out to serve justice rather than avoiding the penalty entirely for fear of error.

My example was merely an illustration of the type of case. Pro did not deny that such cases occur.

2. Pro argues "If the death penalty has any positive affect, leveraging killers is it." I think he means "plea bargaining with killers." Pro claims that using the death penalty as part of a plea bargain is unconstitutional. Such plea bargains are done openly in states that have the death penalty, such as in the case I cited. Prosecutors would not do this if there were a generally applicable constitutional prohibition. The case Pro cites is a prohibition in a narrow circumstance that rarely applies.

Pro argued that it would be a bad practice to extract a confession under threat of the death penalty. Since under the revised system confessions are not forensic evidence, there is no threat of the death penalty unless there is independent forensic evidence. If there is independent forensic evidence providing proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutors have no reason to seek a confession. What prosecutors do want are additional details of the crime and information on other crimes. It is reasonable to take the death penalty off the table under certain circumstances. However, the defendant's guilt of at least one murder must be established forensically for this strategy to apply.

3. Pro did not deny my contention that a death penalty would deter those under life sentence from further murders. The logic is there in foreign cases as well as domestic. Pro questioned the number of cases, not the validity of the argument or even that it occurs. It is a fact that a convict under life sentence has a free pass to murder fellow inmates, guards, or innocent people in an escape. The argument stands.

4. I asserted at the outset that appeals are based on errors of law, or as Pro calls it, "procedures." I accept Pro's argument that the standard is "harmless." However, many cases are appealed solely to avoid imposition of the death penalty. Since cases without forensic evidence are not subject to the death penalty, those cases will not be appealed. In the revised systems, appeals related to the defendant not being properly Mirandized, line ups for witness identification being properly conducted, and all the grounds related to the procedures for dealing with human subjects are minimized. Even if procedures are ruled in error, the forensic evidence stands for retrial. Consequently fewer appeals will be foil justice when witness or confessions are thrown out on legal technicalities.

5. Pro agrees, for the purposes of this debate, that the death penalty is justified, both in terms of the general justice of the system and, in (1), to provide justice to perpetrators of heinous crimes. With that agreement, the question is solely whether the proposed revised system requiring forensic evidence is superior to the present death penalty system.

The proposed system is superior to the present system because it will lead to fewer wrongful convictions, it better reflects the degree of certainty that juries now apply ad hoc, it will take away the free pass for those under life sentence to murder others, it provides a reasonable basis for plea bargaining, and will eliminate some appeals entirely and allow convictions to be sustained in others.

Technology has outdated the notion that there is no level of certainty between "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "beyond all doubt." Forensic evidence is more reliable than witness testimony and confessions, but still short of certainty. The justice system should reflect this reality in order to achieve greater justice.


I thank Pro for his response. I did not argue an alternate plan such as one with no death penalty because we have tons of those on this site and Pro took the time to come up with a well thought out plan so I only wanted to focus on that one, and I want to test the legal argument also, as some states are looking at this situation.
I am conceding the justice value of the death penalty and that it deters crime for this debate only. I do not agree with either outside of this debate.

1."We are debating a "should" resolution. Consequently, if the resolution is otherwise found sound and is affirmed, and present law does not allow implementation of the resolution, then the law should be changed."
2."It is in any case reasonable to provide an additional standard of proof for applying the death penalty."
3."Con poses a false dichotomy" [referencing beyond a reasonable doubt and beyond all doubt]

I placed all three of these quotes together so I can address them in unison. I agree Pro's plan would require some new constitutional interpretation, no need for an amendment I don't think, and I agree it is reasonable. The reasonableness requirement is met with my opponent's plan. This requirement is very important as the state is precluded from enforcing unreasonable standards. Honestly, the best case illustrating this principle is the Dover Trial. The Court spends a considerable amount of time on the matter.

Under Pro's plan a statute is written allowing for a higher burden of proof for the penalty phase of a capital trial. My opponent accurately shows that forensic evidence provides more surety of guilt, but does not provide guilt beyond all doubt (I am not sure any proof could meet this burden). Here is the formula:
1.Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that gives the fact finder "a subjective state of near certitude". Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 315
2.My opponent's law codifies forensic evidence as necessary to enact the death penalty.
3.The law is reasonable because forensic evidence provides a surer conclusion.
4.Because the law now codifies this new principle for the sake of more surety;
5.Then the forensic evidence requirement becomes necessary for proof beyond a reasonable doubt every time.

Whatever is needed to meet this standard becomes "beyond a reasonable doubt". The changes necessary for this law would include making non capital cases subject to a lower burden than "beyond a reasonable doubt" and such a lower burden for criminal action is impermissible. Now, my opponent and voters should note that the lower burden of proof, that would exist under my opponent's plan, is exactly the one we have now for all cases; how can I now say it is impermissible when it has upheld constitutional scrutiny since Winship? Simple, no law and no amendment makes forensic evidence necessary for proof "beyond a reasonable doubt", my opponent's plan does. My opponent's plan makes forensic evidence necessary, through codification, to get to "a subjective state of near certitude" which is a standard our courts have held since Winship for any guilty verdict.

Due to the fact the law my opponent presents makes "beyond a reasonable doubt" a burden necessitated by forensic evidence then all cases concerning criminal liability must hinge on it. The higher burden would provide an undue hardship on the State to acquire a constitutionally permissible guilty verdict for all crimes. For this reason we should reject Pro's plan as the changes necessary to enact it would void the "bedrock ‘axiomatic and elementary' principle whose ‘enforcement lies at the foundation of our criminal law'". In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358

I am not presenting a false dichotomy as the controlling definition of "beyond a reasonable doubt" places it directly below "beyond all doubt". Any attempt to add surety expands the definition.

Other points:
1."Con argues that if forensic evidence is required for the death penalty then defense attorneys will argue that forensic evidence is required for conviction. However, defense attorneys now make the argument that forensic evidence ought to be required for conviction."

Agreed! The big difference under Pro's plan is the defense attorney would have a very solid constitutional argument available, now they do not. I agree the CSI effect is real and that juries do enact what they think is a higher standard of guilt when dealing with a capital crime, but I must add that whatever those doubts are, if they deal with guilt, and the doubts are reasonable, then the defendant should not have been found guilty at all. We should not reward behavior which bases sentencing on the level of doubt, and not on the culpability of the defendant and the heinousness of the crime.

2."Even if such a bias does not already exist, it is inevitable that forensics will be recognized as more reliable, because they are." Then we should expect such a standard in all cases if this standard is codified.

3."Pro claims that using the death penalty as part of a plea bargain is unconstitutional." I did not say this. I said using the death penalty in plea bargains is shaky ground, but I cited a case that states very clearly that denying one a jury trial by threatening the death penalty is unconstitutional.

4."However, many cases are appealed solely to avoid imposition of the death penalty." I must disagree with my opponent here. The Innocence Project tackles cases that do not involve the death penalty. [1] [2] [3] [4] These are simply the first four or so in alphabetical order. They will remain as strong as ever. And the ACLU does not care if the person is guilty or not nor whether the sentence is life or death.

5."Technology has outdated the notion that there is no level of certainty between ‘beyond a reasonable doubt' and ‘beyond all doubt'". Technology does not dictate these terms, our courts do, and if forensics is codified to ensure certainty, then all defendants will enjoy the burden.

6.My opponent did not address the fact that using the term "forensic" in defining this evidence, he creates a separate basis for appeal. He may have intended to include it in his argument for overall appeals under the false foundation that these appeals are only made to avoid death. I have shown that to be false, so the new basis of appeal stands.

Greater justice will not prevail under my opponent's plan as the bedrock of our criminal system will be diminished, as stated above, due to forcing the state to meet an undue burden, and allowing forensic evidence to be the staple burden in all criminal trials.

Debate Round No. 2


Pro has agreed that for the purposes of this debate that the death penalty provides increased justice both for individual heinous crimes and for the system in general. He agrees that forensic evidence provides a higher standard of proof above a reasonable doubt but short of "beyond all doubt." If it is true that it increases the certainty of convictions, then it follows that we will have fewer innocent people executed. Death penalty opponents rightly cite erroneous executions as an argument against the system, but even under the present system false executions are rare. I have not seen any charges of a false execution having happened since one in the mid-90s. I believe that everyone would agree that having fewer false executions is a benefit.

So what are Pro's objections to the resolution? He says "I agree Pro's plan would require some new constitutional interpretation, no need for an amendment I don't think, and I agree it is reasonable." Pro argues that " ... the forensic evidence requirement becomes necessary for proof beyond a reasonable doubt every time." I will admit I have to guess at what Pro is getting at. I'm sure Pro will correct me if I have guessed wrong. Here is my guess:

"Assume the Constitution is not amended. The proposed system will allow the new system without an amendment, so there is no need for an amendment. Since the Constitution is not amended, the "bedrock" principles in the Constitution will still stand. Those bedrock principles mean that the Courts will rule that if forensic evidence is required to apply the death the penalty, then forensic evidence is required for any assertion of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The justice system will then be severely damaged because the State will be unable to prove guilt in the many cases where there is no forensic evidence." I am sorry if I am not correct in interpreting Pro, but that is my understanding.

If that is the argument, it fails because under a "should" resolution, if the Constitution requires an amendment, even an amendment to an alleged "bedrock" principle, then it ought to be amended to ensure greater justice under the legal system. The greater justice is achieved under the assumed greater justice in having a death penalty rather than not, and in having fewer erroneous executions rather than more. The supposed "bedrock principle" that would be upset does not diminish anyone's rights as they currently exist, it would provide an extra measure of certainty for the imposition of the death penalty. Given that there is going to be a death penalty, why would there any objection to raising the level of certainty required?

I do not know if Pro's argument is correct that under current interpretation of the constitution, if having an extra measure of certainty for the penalty phase of the trial would legally force forensic evidence as the universal standard for "beyond a reasonable doubt." If so, the interpretation is unreasonable, and if that unreasonableness exists, all the more reason to clear it up with an amendment.

Pro cites case law that asserts "beyond a reasonable doubt" means "a subjective state of near certitude." Pro uses that as a basis for claiming that if forensic evidence is required for "near certitude" then it would in law have to be universally applied. One refutation of that argument is to change law to overthrow that court interpretation. However, it is also questionable that forensic evidence upsets the criteria of "near certitude" at all. Under the current system, false executions are extremely rare. Some have been discovered by applying DNA evidence techniques to prior convictions. The current standard of "near certitude" is working in producing few false convictions. We agree that forensic evidence produces even greater certitude. So that logically no reason to upset the old standard. In other words, it not only legally possible to have greater standard for the death penalty, it is logical to do so within the bounds of existing case law.

We seem to agree that "the CSI effect" exists, so that juries sometimes require DNA evidence to convict of first degree murder. If so, what is to stop a judge from ruling "near certitude requires forensic evidence." This would be within the realm of modern constructive legal theory that varies standards according to the changing values of society. I don't like that theory of law --I think legislators should do that rather than judges-- but it nonetheless happens. If the system proposed by the resolution is affirmed, then that will be prevented, either by legislation or Constitutional amendment, as required.

1. Con argues, "The big difference under Pro's plan is the defense attorney would have a very solid constitutional argument available, now they do not." This argument assumes that the Constitution is not amended. As discussed, if the resolution is found favorable, then the Constitution should be amended accordingly.

Pro also argues "We should not reward behavior which bases sentencing on the level of doubt, and not on the culpability of the defendant and the heinousness of the crime." I do not understand whose behavior that Pro claims is being rewarded. The defendant isn't rewarded, because he ends up executed more often than under the present system. Moreover, we seem to agree that de facto juries now reward defendants by lowering the offense of which they would otherwise be found guilty based on the doubt per the CSI effect. The proposed system increases just convictions.

2. Pro argues, "Then we should expect such a standard in all cases if this standard is codified." That assumes that death penalty cases are not special, that murder under special circumstances must logically be equated with littering under the law. If the law makes such a false equation, then it is time we fixed it.

3. We agree that plea bargains are Constitutional. The new system allows the prosecutor to use the death penalty as part of plea bargain whenever it does not take away the defendant's right to a jury trial. One case is getting a killer to provide details of crime, like the location of the body.

4. I claimed that some cases are appealed solely because the death penalty is applied. Pro rebutted that some cases are appealed when there is no death penalty involved. Pro is correct. Just about everyone knows people who have appealed traffic tickets. However, that does not refute my claim that some cases are appealed solely because the death penalty was at stake. I cited a case of that previously. The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court has written of the flood of death penalty appeals, as distinct from other appeals, that are overloading the court system. Some states have laws by which all death penalty convictions are automatically appealed "Death penalty cases are automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals." That's not true of lesser penalties.

Pro did not rebut my contention that more convictions would be sustained.

5. Pro argues "Technology does not dictate these terms, our courts do, and if forensics is codified to ensure certainty, then all defendants will enjoy the burden." I do not agree that courts ought to determine the law if new technology demands new approaches. The technology doesn't "determine" the change, it enables changes to be made by legislators, which is what is proposed. We can get greater certainty in death penalty cases, so that ought to be reflected in law.


Society will benefit through greater justice under the proposed system. The resolution is affirmed.


I thank my opponent for a top notch debate. The only point I will address in this final round, other than my conclusion, is the issue of appeals. The sources I cited presented appeals for lengthy prison times, hardly speeding tickets, and the groups that initiate these appeals will continue to do so, death on the table or otherwise. The number of appeals would not decrease as these organizations, the ACLU and the innocence project, will continue to exist. I will be brief as both sides have presented the main issues for the voters.


The crux of this issue lies in the changes necessary to enact Pro's policy. Pro has all but conceded that a Constitutional Amendment would be necessary in order to preserve his policy. Policy changes, especially one requiring a constitutional change, have unintended consequences. The unintended consequence of Pro's plan is the very good chance that all defendants will get to enjoy the new burden offered by the law, not just the death penalty defendants. So long as the Court interprets the Constitution, this is a very real possibility. Any changes made in the document would simply be interpreted by the court so new amendments would not provide the result my opponent wishes.

As much as some Americans do not want the courts to define its own terms, the courts will continue to do so and we should not underestimate the power of the courts in this respect. The age old battle between procedural and substantive law rages on and will continue to do so under my opponent's plan. So long as the court controls the procedural law, the new burden could very likely fall on all defendants. Such a situation is not desirable as the State would be unable to meet this heavy burden in all cases. A decrease in overall justice would result as cases without forensic evidence would not be prosecuted.

When my opponent introduces a new policy, I generally take the policy and plug it into the existent laws and see how it works. Once I discovered the need for new constitutional interpretation and the courts' steadfast defense of the reasonable doubt standard, I saw the policy to troublesome. Simply adding the Constitution should be changed to allow for the new rule does not address how the new change would affect other areas of the law and our courts so in the absence of the proposed Constitutional amendment, which was never offered, or the new interpretation, we should reject the resolution.
Debate Round No. 3
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by sherlockmethod 8 years ago
With all due respect, you posited the argument in your last round about the amendment, not me. I did not think one was needed but you did. I am well within DDO rules to respond. You harped on it, so I briefly responded. I said throughout the entire debate that your plan had unintended consequences, an amendment notwithstanding. Score the debate however you want, I do not vote on my own debates. Review your last round, and you will see that I observed proper etiquette in responding. This debate was good regardless; I'm sorry you think otherwise.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
In evaluating the debate, note that Con conceded in Round 2, "I agree Pro's plan would require some new constitutional interpretation, no need for an amendment I don't think, ..." I said consistently that I didn't know. Then in the final round, to which I could not respond, Con claimed that I had "all but conceded a Constitutional Amendment was required" and then introduced the new argument that any amendment would have the unintended consequence that he imagined. Had the argument been made earlier, I could have posed the wording for an amendment and let Con try to establish it would have bad consequences. I was prepared to do that.

The tactic soured the debate as far as I'm concerned. It was a good debate until then.
Posted by sherlockmethod 8 years ago
I'm sorry, I did not mean on DDO. This plan has been presented to me before in discussions with friends. I am almost finished with my first round.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
sherlock, You can cut and paste from your previous debate if you like. Some people think originality is important, I don't.
Posted by sherlockmethod 8 years ago
I'll take it. This proposition has been offered before so I have some arguments against it. Good luck Roy.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
MTGandP, I assume Con will oppose the death penalty. All the revision does is diminish the Con argument that wrong convictions are a significant reason for opposing the death penalty. All the other arguments still apply as they always did.
Posted by rougeagent21 8 years ago
I resent that :D
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
lwerd, I don't understand why you think the resolution is biased. For the resolution to be affirmed I must uphold both the death penalty in general and the revision suggested. If no one should ever receive the death penalty, then obviously the resolution fails. So what is the problem?

Anyway, what resolution would you like to debate? Are you thinking of something like "The death penalty is immoral and should be abolished."? However, I'm not willing to advocate, "Naughty people should be shot on sight." Too right wing.
Posted by rougeagent21 8 years ago
Agree with PRO.
Posted by MTGandP 8 years ago
One could turn this into a straight death penalty debate by arguing that eliminating the death penalty does not qualify as a "death penalty system." That would not be nice though.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 8 years ago
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Total points awarded:60