The Instigator
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The Contender
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The United States should abolish the Death Penalty.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/21/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 309 times Debate No: 92949
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
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Hello everyone! I welcome anyone to accept this challenge. Some rules:
-First round is acceptance only.
-No semantics or ad hominem attacks.
-Have fun.

A couple other things about my speeches:
-If anyone doesn't know, a contention is another word for point or assertion, I will be using this word in my speeches. Also, c means contention as well (like if I say C1 it means Contention 1.

-Also, a criterion (also called standard) is something which the judge chooses who wins the debate by, it is part of framework. For example, if the criterion is health (and both sides accept this criterion), then all arguments that don't involve health are invalid, because the judge, or in this case the voters, are only focusing on health.

-Lastly, if, at any time, I say "we", "our", or similar words in my speech, it means my team, which in this case is just myself (sorry, used to typing out cases for a team of multiple people).

I look forward to this debate!


Thank you for setting up this debate. My opinion on this is not solidified and can be swayed if your debate is strong enough.

I believe capital punishment should still be allowed but ONLY under the most dire and repulsive crimes. I do not believe killing 1 person justifies the death penalty, but 10-100 does. It must be a case in which the person is very bent on death and whose purpose is to destabilize and completely destroy any form of order and institute chaos and death in society. These types of people are not under the criteria of criminally insane, but instead the dangerously unfit to be a part of society. Normally, I believe in life sentences for serial killer or rapist cases, but death penalties should always be held as a reserve punishment when times are economically hard as it is costly to keep life sentences. Death sentences should also only be reserved for the individuals who are so incapable of being a functional member of civilization that no sentence would be able to mentally repair their state of mind and it would be necessary to execute them in the name of order.

Again, I am not very bound to my argument and may be swayed if your argument is persuasive enough.
Debate Round No. 1


I hope that my arguments can help you change your view on this topic (although mine is not completely solid as well). Good luck, and thank you for accepting this debate.

The criterion for this debate is health. Therefore, the side that best protects the health of all United States citizens, civilians or prisoners ultimately should win this debate.

Since we are abolishing the death penalty, we need a replacement for those who commit the crimes that would normally be punished by death. The propositions replacement is LWOP, which is criminals spending their life in prison. We plan to increase security of prisons by increasing the number of guards and making sure that the technology for the security systems stays at its standard, thus eliminating the already minimal and rare cases of recidivism. Studies show that states with LWOP have lesser crime rates and spend less money on criminals, thus showing the reliability of this plan. We will further explain the benefits in our contentions

C1: LWOP prevents more crime and murder than the death penalty.
Many people think that there is some sort of deterrence with the death penalty in effect, but in truth it isn"t like that at all.

"There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long terms of imprisonment. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. And states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. The death penalty has no deterrent effect. Claims that each execution deters a certain number of murders have been thoroughly discredited by social science research."
(The American Civil Liberties Union, "The Death Penalty: Questions and Answers")

So now you all know that there is no evidence that the death penalty deters, but we can go even further, and say that the death penalty causes more crime and murder than LWOP.

A Study By the Death Penalty Information Center shows that all the states without the death penalty all had lesser crime and murder rates than states with the death penalty, with a whooping statistic of 28% lower crime and murder rates than states with the death penalty.

C2: The death penalty can fail, killing men and women that have not committed any crimes.
Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan led a group of researchers conducting a study. This study, using numbers from the US Bureau of Justice, a federal government agency, found that many innocents die from the death penalty. The study concluded that "4 percent of the people who have died in the last 35 years were innocent." That"s about 50 people.
(Elizabeth Lopatto, Forbes)

There are many specific cases of this. One is of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was put on death row for supposed arson (the burning of his house) which led to the death of his three children. He was executed in February 2004, but in December of that year, Gerald Hurst, who was an American chemist and fire investigator known nationally for his work, reviewed the documents used in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, including many trial transcripts as well as an hour long videotape of the aftermath of the fire. He concluded that there was no way Willingham had set off the fire, saying that "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a [regular] fire."
(David Grann, The New Yorker, 9/7/09)

There are many other cases of this innocent execution, and as you may realize, this is extremely morally wrong, and goes under our criterion of health because many innocents are dying.

C3: The death penalty has a colossal cost.
The death penalty is extremely morally wrong and kills innocent citizens, yet we pay so much money for the executions. Arthur L. Alarcon, Senior Judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Paula M. Mitchell, Adjunct Professor of Law, wrote the following in the June 2011 article published in Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review:

"Our research has revealed that $4 billion of state and federal taxpayer money has been expended administering the death penalty in California since 1978...The costs associated with death penalty trials that took place between 1983 and 2006 averaged about $1 million more per trial than the costs of average non"death penalty homicide trials.."

"In the course of my work, I believe I have reviewed every state and federal study of the costs of the death penalty in the past 25 years. One element is common to all of these studies: They all concluded that the cost of the death penalty amounts to a net expense to the state and the taxpayers. Or to put it differently,the death penalty is clearly more expensive than a system handling similar cases with a lesser punishment. It combines the costliest parts of both punishments: lengthy and complicated death penalty trials, followed by incarceration for life... Everything that is needed for an ordinary trial is needed for a death penalty case, only more so.
(Richard C. Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center)

What this basically means is that not only is the death penalty much more expensive than any other form of punishment at first but it also shows that the long-term cost is enormous. With $4 billion (which is what the death penalty has costed since 1978) we could feed roughly 175,000 United States citizens for a year, which can increase the health of the United States' people.

So, I have just proven that the death penalty is extremely wrong and negatively affects the health of the people, fulfilling my burden of proof as Pro. I look forward to my opponent's speech. Good luck!


Thank you for the very well-organized argument you have presented, although my opinion has not been swayed.

In my previous argument, I did advocate to lessen the amount of current capital punishment sentences but not completely abolish the death penalty. I do submit and realize that currently, the death penalty has a more expensive long term cost than LWOP in the United States. In my plan, I advocated for the reduction of capital punishment eligible crimes which would only apply to mass murders or rapes, war crime material. Through research, the states that don't have the death penalty can afford not to have it as their crimes were already low compared to the states that have death penalties and had never abolished them. LWOP is currently only more effective because numbers provide 85% of the argument. The current ratio of ultra-violent crimes eligible to capital punishment is not synonymous enough with the price in order to be cost-effective. Saying that the death penalty causes crime was not supported by your sources. As I mentioned before, the only reason the states that have abolished capital punishment have lower crime rates, is because they can afford to do so due to their already peaceful nature even during their period of practicing capital punishment. Abolishing the death penalty, in my opinion, would be held with low disregard to the future and unforeseen probabilities where capital punishment may later be necessary.

Nations such as Russia have not abolished capital punishment by law, but instead by practice. Meaning that the eligibility of meeting a crime that would need the death penalty is so high (An extremely brutal crime), their line hasn't been passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although, just in case, Russia has not legislatively abolished capital punishment because the very rare one that ends up causing that crime, it would be cost effective to execute the outlier instead of adding to the LWOP list. Your example of Todd Willingham isn't effective against my argument because my plan would consider his crime as a life sentence, at most, not capital punishment.

Another factor to capital punishment is the deteriorated mental state of the criminal. As I argued in Round 1, their mental state may be so corrupted, that while it does not pass the mark for the criminally insane, their mindset is so warped that any sort of medical treatment would not be able to repair their psychological conditions in order to officially state this person would be a safe part of society. Also, considering your criterion has been named as 'Health', a person that had the capacity to commit such horrendous crimes such as mass killings, would NOT be a safe person to be around even inside the prison. The United States is one of the only few developed countries on earth that still practices the debatable human rights violation of solitary confinement and life sentences until death. Using morality as an argument when you're advocating for LWOP is a double-edged sword.

A prime example of a mass killer who deserved the death sentence for their warped state of mind was John Wayne Gacy. People like him, are rarely ever found in society although his murders of 33 young men was a significant criminal record which deserved to be found with capital punishment as he would also prove a deadly threat to fellow prisoners. With your criterion of health, his death would benefit many.

My defence against the cost of trial and jury against capital punishment is also held in regards to fiscal mismanagement. The United States Department of Justice should use better accounting for pouring money into the defence of these cases. Another reason I can make against the cost of fiscal mismanagement is that with a raised eligibility factor, these cases will rarely ever have to be put in court.

All in all, I advocate for 'abolishing' capital punishment in practice, not by law, in the form that eligibility of crimes would be raised so high, only the ultra-violent would be able to suffer this penalty. With such a high difference between general crimes and near human rights violations made by individuals, the bar needs to be raised instead of throwing away the bar in total. Capital punishment, when you change the factor of eligibility would end up being cost effective. Meaning that our arguments are almost completely synonymous except you argue for legislative abolishment, and I argue for virtual practice abolishment.
Debate Round No. 2


Well my first speech may not have convinced you, but hopefully by the end of this debate you changed your mind. In this speech I am going to go through my opponent's arguments in order. Before that, I just wanted to say one thing - throughout my opponent's speech, they bring up this alternative to completely abolishing the death penalty, which is limiting the use for the crimes of mass murder or rapes. This means that whichever plan (abolishing or limiting) has the most benefit and least detriment will win. Now I will go through my opponent's speech paragraph by paragraph.

In paragraph 1, my opponent basically concedes to my cost argument, however he also does mention that with limits it will cost less. This may be true, but what my opponent is missing is that no matter the limits on death penalty, it will always be more expensive. Let's say we have 10 murder cases, and LWOP costs $10 per case while DP costs $100 per case. Without limits, all 10 cases would be $100 dollars with LWOP and $1,000 with DP. Now let's say that only one of those cases is a mass murder. LWOP still costs $100 dollars, but DP costs $190 because the regular murder cases get LWOP, and the one mass murder gets DP. No matter the cost of LWOP, DP will always be higher. My opponent also said that my source didn't support the claim that the death penalty caused more crime, but it clearly does. The study done by the Death Penalty Information Center showed that when the DP was in use, there was 28% more crime, meaning the DP causes 28% more crime - and this is not because of what my opponent claims, which is that these places already had peace. This is a ridiculous claim. Many states had extreme crime rates and were suffering heavily, but once they stopped using the death penalty, crime started to slow down. The crime rate stopping has nothing to do with the past, it is directly correlated with the lack of DP use.

In paragraph 2, my opponent talks about Russia, and their abolishment of capital punishment not by law, but by practice. This has nothing to do with their arguments, and doesn't prove any point, but if my opponent would like to further explain this in their next speech, he may. My opponent also says in paragraph 2 that "because the very rare one that ends up causing that crime, it would be cost effective to execute the outlier instead of adding to the LWOP list". Now, I have already proven this wrong with my $10 and $100 explanation. Even if there is only a small amount of outliers, it still will always cost more than the punishment of LWOP for all. My opponent concludes paragraph 2 by stating that my Cameron Todd Willingham example doesn't relate to my opponent's speech because with limitations he would have been given the life sentence, however this is not true. My opponent says that with limitations the DP will be used for mass murder. The FBI definition of mass murder is as follows: a number of murders occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims..." In Willingham's case, he was charged for killing multiple people (his multiple children), in a single location (their home) which, by the FBI definition, is mass murder. So my Willingham example does stand true, even with limitations, because he would have still been put on the DP for mass murder.

In paragraph 3, my opponent talks about the mental state of criminals, which can be so deteriorated that it wouldn't even be safe for them to be in prison, but this is where they are wrong. For mass murder, we wouldn't just be putting these criminals in regular prison, we would put them in much more secure places, like supermax prisons, where they wouldn't be able to have contact with others. Because of this, they wouldn't be able to harm anyone else, so we would not only be sparing this criminal but also making sure nobody else gets hurt. This falls under the criterion of health because we prevent the most death.

In paragraph 4, my opponent talks about John Wayne Gacy, who killed 33 young men. Again, as I just said, we would put people like this into supermax prisons, where they wouldn't even be able to have contact with others. My opponent also makes the ridiculous statement that "with your criterion of health, his death would benefit many". How is that? If somebody killed 10 people, and they were killed by DP, that doesn't save the 10 they killed... Death is not something that can be undone.

In paragraph 5, my opponent talks about how the government does its job of m anaging resources poorly, and that "the United States Department of Justice should use better accounting for pouring money into the defence of these cases". This is my opponent putting the burden on the government, but in reality the government does its best. The death penalty system itself costs a ludicrous amount of money (as I proved in my first speech), so much that even if the government does all that it can to not waste money, they still will end up doing so.

I will not be refuting paragraph 6 as it is more of a summary than anything else. I am enjoying this debate so far and look forward to my opponent's next speech. Good luck!


I thank my opponent for attempting to point out the flaws in my paragraphs, although, some I believe were unfounded.

One single case, will be more expensive, but it is still a lessening of the cost. I am not arguing that the cost effectiveness of the death penalty versus LWOP. My statement said that lowering variables would help with the finances, not turn it around. Your math example you did is correct, although, again, if you read my statement, I did not say it would flip the cost numbers. It would only help reducing the amount of money lost. As for crime, I repeat, your sources did not say and can't prove that crime was raised because of capital punishment since capital punishment in those states was never abolished, so technically, there isn't a starting point meaning time can just be used for any period of crime rising. The states where crime was dropped was because of effective combating of crime, not abolishment of capital punishment. New York, for example, the same time capital punishment was abolish was the same time New York started running anti-corruption programs state wide after rampant police dealings with criminal mafias, 1984. Even when New York did abolish capital punishment, crime still rose for another 5 years to hit it's peak before dropping [1]. This also questions the validity of your sources.

California is a state where the death penalty is still alive and has been used in the past 10 years. Their crime rates have been steadily dropping for a long time [2]. I completely refute your belief that crime is directly correlated with capital punishment as New York and California are both the biggest states and contradictions to crime rates in the terms of capital punishment.

My example of Russia is relevant, as an international example of my plan. They rarely/never ever use capital punishment because the eligibility for crimes for capital punishment is ridiculously high. This is so the only criminals that could ever possibly 'achieve' that level of crime would be considered such a threat to society that their death would be a necessity for protection and security. Russia was an example of my plan and how it already works in another nation similar to the US in terms of national crime.

Your plan for putting serial killers inside solitary confinement is another serious human rights crime that the United States is currently a part of [3]. You're replacing one human rights violation with another. If anything, now this debate becomes a matter of which is worse- Solitary confinement, or capital punishment? Besides, the purpose of prisons is for rehabilitation, not punishment. If a prisoner's state of mind is so criminally active and violent, they need to be placed under a council of criminal psychologists who determine whether his mind is worth saving or killing in the name of society.

As for paragraph 4, I SHOULD have used the term serial killer instead of mass murderer, so you got me there, I screwed up my use of words, a-doyh. Serial killers need capital punishment, not crimes like Willingham. Serial killers kill multiple people under a large geographical area in multiple periods of time. If I had used the term serial killer, like I should have, Willingham wouldn't have applied.

Besides, it's sad that people get put in jail when their innocent, but it happens. Some criminals get LWOP when actually innocent and spend 70% of their life in prison for something they didn't do. Then it becomes another matter of opinion. Would you rather die or spend life in prison? The chance of a working appeal in the United States is SO hard, it's at 3 percent [4]! It's virtually worthless to attempt an appeal in the US criminal court system!

When you talk about John Wayne Gacy with your quote- "How is that?". I refuse to believe you think I meant his death would bring people back. Obviously, what I mean was that his death would prevent any more murders and any more people to experience family devastation and the loss of a loved one. Again, your plan for another human rights violation is not a proper substitute to capital punishment.

The government does not do it's best as you say. That argument is another matter of opinions. If the US did more, maybe Willingham wouldn't have been falsely accused of killing his children. If the US did more, maybe the appeals cases wouldn't be as low as 3%.

The ONLY argument that I believe that you may have over mine, is cost. The only argument I have against cost of the death penalty, which is questionable, is that while capital punishment uses a lot of money, under a percentage scale of yearly cost to the US and state-wide, it is really low. US government spends about $100-200 million dollars a year on capital punishment [5]. The US federal income per year is $3.6 trillion [6]. Doing simple math, capital punishment composes about a 0.002% cost on US income.


Debate Round No. 3


BenJWasson forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by BenJWasson 4 months ago
Oh, sorry. Didn't realize I had no time left, thought I had another day. Either way, good debate, nicely done!
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