The Instigator
thett3
Con (against)
Winning
26 Points
The Contender
wjmelements
Pro (for)
Losing
23 Points

The United States should abolish the death penalty

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 12 votes the winner is...
thett3
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/13/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 12,019 times Debate No: 17507
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (44)
Votes (12)

 

thett3

Con

First round is acceptance. 2nd round is constructive, no rebuttals, 3rd & 4th are for rebuttals. Cross examination is permitted. No new arguments in the last round.

The death penalty will be defined in this round as: The punishment of execution, administered to someone convicted of a capital crime.
wjmelements

Pro

I accept. Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1
thett3

Con

=Case=


"A murderer deserves death penalty because he has trespassed against the whole society by killing one of its members."-unknown.

Seeing as I agree with the above quote, I strongly negate the resolved. I offer the following contentions in support:

C1. Capital Punishment saves innocent lives.

SPA: Capital Punishment keeps a killer from striking again.

There have been many instances in our justice system where a murderer has reoffended, in fact a study from the U.S. Department of Justice finds that of prisoners released in 1994, 1.2% of those convicted of homicide were arrested for another homicide within three years of their release.[1].

There are also many specific examples, such as Kenneth Mcduff. In 1966 a Texas jury ruled for him to die in the electric chair for his brutal murder of two boys and a girl. However his sentence was commuted to Life Imprisonment when the Supreme Court struck down the Death Penalty. Mcduff was later released, and ended up killing at least 9 more people. Thankfully, he was executed by lethal injection in 1998[2]. He will never kill again. Had he been executed the first time at least 9 innocent lives would've been saved.

Another example is the recently executed Lee Andrew Taylor. While serving a life sentence for his brutal beating and murder of an elderly couple Taylor fatally stabbed another inmate after a "racial tension" incident occurred[3]. Thankfully, he was executed by Texas in 2011, never to kill again.

Yet another example comes from Clarence Ray Allen. Allen was serving a sentence of life without parole for murder, when he conspired with his fellow inmate Billy Hamilton to kill the witnesses for his crime. When paroled, Hamilton tracked down the witnesses and killed one of them, along with two other people[4]. Allen was, thankfully, sentenced to die for this new crime, and executed by the state of California in 2006.

These are only some of many examples of murderers who later murdered again. In many cases, anything less than the Death Penalty simply isn't good enough. The recidivism rate for an executed murderer is 0%.

SPB: Capital Punishment has a deterrent effect.

Many different studies provide many different results, some examples:
  • Studies from Emory University stating that each execution prevents between three and eighteen murders. [5]
  • A 2006 study from the University of Houston, stating that the Illinois moratorium on the Death Penalty led to 150 additional homicides [5]
  • A University of Colorado at Denver study showing that for each execution five muders were prevented.[6].

Raw statistics also support the deterrent effect. Take the state of Texas for example:According to JFA (Justice for All), the Texas murder rate in 1991 was 15.3 per 100,000. By 1999, it had fallen to 6.1—a drop of 60 percent. Within Texas, the most aggressive death penalty prosecutions are in Harris County (the Houston area). Since the resumption of executions in 1982, the annual number of Harris County murders has plummeted from 701 to 241—a 72 percent decrease.[7]

Or nation-wide:

By the beginning of the 1990s, however, states that wished to reimpose the ultimate penalty had fought their way through the endless thicket of appeals and restrictions imposed by the courts. In 1991, 14 murderers were executed while 2,500 waited on death row. By 1993 the figure had risen to 38 executions, then 55 in 1995, and 98 in 1999, a level not seen since the 1950s. At the same time, murder rates began to plummet—to 9.6 per 100,000 in 1993, 7.7 in 1996, and 6.4 in 1999, the lowest level since 1966. To put the matter simply, over the past 40 years, homicides have gone up when executions have gone down and vice versa. [8]

These are just some of many examples showing the deterrent effect. As Researcher Karl Spence from of Texas A&M University states (speaking about the moratorium on Capital Punishment from 1972-1976):

"While some death penalty abolitionists try to face down the results of their disastrous experiment and still argue to the contrary, the...[data] concludes that a substantial deterrent effect has been observed...In six months, more Americans are murdered than have killed by execution in this entire century...Until we begin to fight crime in earnest by using the death penalty, every person who dies at a criminal's hands is a victim of our inaction."

Observation: While the argument that an innocent could be executed is a very compelling one, the murders committed by prior offenders and the deterrent effect of Capital Punishment outweighs this small risk.

C2. The Death Penalty is a better punishment than Life without Parole.

SPA: Life without parole does not always mean life.

If the Death Penalty is abolished, the next thing to go will be life without parole. Already some European countries like Norway, Greece and Spain have abolished it [9]. There is already a movement to abolish life without parole in the United States for juveniles and even for adult offenders! [10][11]. While no one can truly know if these movements will gain traction, the evidence in Europe speaks for itself, sentences for murder in Europe are much lighter than those in the United States.

The law can also change, take for example the tragic case of Pamela Moss: "In 1962, James Moore raped and strangled 14-year-old Pamela Moss. Her parents decided to spare Moore the death penalty on the condition that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Later on, thanks to a change in sentencing laws in 1982, James Moore is eligible for parole every two years"[12]

Laws change, Governors change, sentencing changes, and people forget the past. The only way to truly know if a murderer will not ever be released is to execute them.

SPB: Prisoners view the Death Penalty as a harsher punishment than Life without parole.

One argument against the Death Penalty is that it does not force criminals to truly pay for their crime. While at first this seems to be a compelling argument, the evidence speaks against it. Criminals have the right to waive the appeals on their death sentence, very very few do. Executions in 2011: 25 so far, 1 waived appeals. Executions in 2010: 46, 1 waiver. Executions in 2009: 52 executions, 2 waivers. Executions in 2008: 37 Executions, 3 waivers.[13]. Nearly 96% of those executed in the past four years have fought to escape their sentence.

C3. Capital Punishment is constiutionally sanctioned.

There isn't much to be said on this point, so I'll make it brief. The Supreme court has upheld the constitutionality of Capital Punishment many times in the past, most recently in Bazes v. Rees.[14] Also, usage of the Death Penalty is contemplated in the 5th Amendment of the U.S. constitution when it states: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury..."[15].

Thank you to my Opponent for accepting, and I hope this is a debate we can both learn from!


Sources:

1. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov...
2. http://en.wikipedia.org...
3. http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us...;
4. http://www.crimemagazine.com...;
5. http://www.cbsnews.com...
6. http://www.heritage.org...
7. Lowe, Wesley. "Consistent and Swift Application of the Death Penalty Reduces Murder Rates."
8. Tucker, William. "Capital Punishment Reduces Murder Rates."
9. http://en.wikipedia.org...
10. http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
11. Miller, Katherine. "Life Imprisonment Violates the Eight Amendment."
12. http://www.globalpolitician.com...
13. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
14. http://en.wikipedia.org...
15. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...

wjmelements

Pro

I thank my opponent for the debate and for agreeing to do cross-examination in the comments. As prescribed in round one, this round is only for the constructive.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." - Thomas Jefferson, in The Declaration of Independence [1]

Indeed, the purpose of government and its laws is to protect the rights of its citizenry. It is because I agree with Thomas Jefferson that I affirm that the United States should abolish the death penalty.

C1. Punishment in the United States ought be reformed.

Let's suppose Man A kills Man B. The government, in the name of justice, then kills Man A. Man B is still dead, but now the only person able to be held liable for the damages he caused is also dead. His lost salary, the trauma to his family and all other damages Man A has inflicted are also not improved by this implementation of justice. The attention is focused on punishing the murderer, when it should be focused on returning to the victim everything possible the murderer has destroyed.

For cases of theft and arson, for example, a liability system of justice is easily calculable. Instead of living in jail, where his existence actually burdens society [2], the criminal could be forced to work until the damages he caused were repaid.

In the case of murder, however, it is currently impossible for the murderer to give his victim his life back. This does not free the criminal from his liability to his victim. His victim's heir would inherit the murderer's life, which may be used to alleviate damages. Because of the efficiencies of economies of scale [3], the heir might then rent the murderer's life to a commercial labor camp that handles such affairs so that the life of the murderer shall not be a burden on himself, but a permanent source of reparation for the permanent damages that have been inflicted.

This liability system is superior to capital punishment and the entire present American justice system because it addresses the needs of the victims by holding the criminals liable for their crimes.

C2. Capital Punishment is permanent.

Should evidence later show that would find an executed man innocent, no power on earth could resurrect him. Combined factors of ineffective [4][5], corrupt [5] and abusive law enforcement [5] make wrongful execution a frequent occurrence. Posthumous exoneration is too late; the government has already committed murder.

Because justice is imperfect, the government should not wager lives in its convictions.

The death penalty is unjust and too often murders innocent lives; therefore, it should be abolished. Thank you.

== Sources ==
[1] http://www.archives.gov...
[2] http://www.lao.ca.gov...
[3] http://www.investopedia.com...
[4] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
[5] http://www.americanbar.org...
Debate Round No. 2
thett3

Con

=Rebuttal=

Thank's for the response Pro, I must say your case is quite fascinating.

I'll now go down my Opponents case and refute it.

He begins with Thomas Jeffersons famous quote about Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. He claims that this supports his side. It does not, because the right to liberty is also secured. Merriam-Webster provides 5 relevant definitions of Liberty, all of which are violated both in life w/o parole, and with my Opponents new system. The definition of liberty I will bring in is "the power to do as one pleases". It's self explanatory how life w/o parole and my Opponents system violates this.

Pursuit of happiness is a little more obscure, but I think we can assume that forcing a prisoner to do involuntary labor does not fall under their idea of "pursuit of happiness". So unless my Opponent wishes to advocate the abolition of punishment, this quote does not support his side.

C1.

My Opponent gives himself quite the burden of proof with this contention. Not only must he show this system to be beneficial, he must also show it to be possible. Right now, the likelihood of my Opponent's system being enacted after the abolition of Capital Punishment seems slim to none. He spends his entire contention touting the benefits of this, however if this system won't be implemented, than those benefits disappear! However now, without further ado, I will point out the flaws in his system.

--> Cost. Pro claims that in such a system: "the criminal could be forced to work until the damages he caused were repaid." Ok, first of all in our current system prisoners often do work, however he himself has shown their existence to be burdensome. Pro claims that there is a historical precedent of this, and if so I would like to see an example of this being cost beneficial, which he has yet to provide. Unless he is advocating having the prisoners work OUTSIDE the prison, which leads me to my next point.

--> Danger. This could provide an avenue for prisoners to escape. There is a historical precedent to this, look at Massachusetts disastrous prison furlough program. I'll provide an example, Willie Horton a convicted murderer (serving a sentence of life without parole no less) was allowed to work outside his prisons walls and, predictably, escaped and committed assault, armed robbery, and raped a woman in front of her fiancee (after pistol whipping and knifing the man).[1] So things like this would happen in my Opponents system. He could easily say that the prisoners would be well guarded, and this supports my Cost objection.

--> No point, while it sounds great in principle to have murderers pay their debt to society, we also happen to have a 9.2% unemployement rate[2]. Why not have our honest, unemployed, citizens do these jobs? (*note, Pro still has not even explained what these jobs would be.) And if our citizens don't want these jobs, why not give them to impoverished guest workers from foreign countries? Surely they deserve work far more than a prisoner ever will, and would actually contribute to our society other than to "pay off their debts". This would also most likely be more cost effective.

--> Also, how are we even going to force the prisoners to work? If they don't want to are we going to use force? Not only would that make them most likely do a sub-standard job, but it would also cause them to nurse a vendetta against a particular guard, or even guards in general. So this adds to my danger objection I suppose.

--> Maybe when assessing this system, we should look to more historical precedents such as Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Both of these countries had extensive prison labor systems. Do we aspire to be like these countries?

--> Final objection, slavery. Here's my Opponents exact words describing his system. "His victim's heir would inherit the murderer's life". Definition of a slave: "A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them".

So basically, we are recklessly making slaves of convicted killers, despite the danger shown to us through history, and forcing them to do labor that is most likely not even cost effective rather than doing the safe thing, and executing them.

Furthermore, if for some reason this Contention still seems to stand, we must remember that unless my Opponent shows this as likely to happen after the abolition of the Death Penalty, it does not support his side what so ever. An interesting idea no doubt, but not one that is likely to happen in our system. (He even states in cross examination that the historical precendent for this lies in civil law societies. We are a common law society, so the likelihood of this happening is slim to none.)

C2.

Rather than argue for himself, Pro links several sources, not even quoting them. This is enormously unfair to me, because I can hardly be expected to look through his sources and argue against everything in them. However, I will respond to his statements anyway.

--> The Death Penalty is not ineffective, the recidivism rate for murderers is 1.2% (within three years, only counting the ones who were caught mind you). The recidivism rate for executed offenders is 0%. That is effective.

--> The death penalty is hardly corrupt, considering the massive amounts of attention and scrutiny each Capital case brings. Trials for life without parole have no where near the amount of coverage as capital trials do, so TURN: corruption would logically increase with the abolition of the Death Penalty. And even if it WAS corrupt, that would show how deep corruption goes in our criminal justice system, and unless we wish to abolish that this point has no solvency. Also, to think that my Opponents proposal of slave labor is anything but a system extremely liable to corruption, is absurd.

--> Pro claims a wrongful execution to be a "frequent occurrence". I challenge my Opponent to provide a single example of an executed murderer who was later found to be innocent. He may link me to some websites claiming innocence, but they are hardly qualified to make such an analysis on guilt or innocence.

Thank you so much for accepting this challenge, and thank you for an extremely thought provoking response.


Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. http://www.bls.gov...
wjmelements

Pro

Many thanks to my opponent for a quick response.

I will begin by refuting my opponent's case and then I will address the concerns my opponent has brought up concerning mine.

Refutation

My opponent's first sub-point is essentially that lives are saved by the death penalty because it is impossible to parole or release a dead man. It is clear that neither side supports releasing or granting parole to convicted murderers, so my opponent's first sub-point is outside of the resolution. Rather than executing every murderer because approximately 1% of murderers who are released [1] murder again, these convicts could instead be put to effective use, and perhaps some of them could be exonerated prehumously.

The negative's second sub-point abuses statistics. Because studies on the deterrent effect of the death penalty can only be retrospective, they can never prove causation; instead, they can only commit cum hoc ergo propter hoc [2] and post hoc ergo propter hoc [3] fallacies. Proving that the death penalty deters murder would require an impossible and illegal controlled experiment involving people weighing decisions concerning homocide. Trying to draw statistical conclusions from retrospective studies also tends to ignore a number of confounding factors, which here include, but are not limited to, the jural hesitation to convict a potential innocent to death [4], changes in gun laws [5], and changes in the drug arena [6][7]. Further, crime in general has decreased recently [7]. The Stanford Law Review, which analyzed and discredited several of the studies my opponent has sourced [8] concludes that "it is entirely unclear even whether the preponderance of evidence suggests that the death penalty causes more or less murder" [9].

In the end, one part of my opponent's first contention is irrelevant and the other is unsound, both logically and statistically.

My opponent's second contention should be dropped on account of the fact that I am not specifically defending life without parole, but on the possibility a voter may believe I lost my first contention, I will answer this contention regardless.

My opponent's first sub-point is built first on a slippery-slope argument [10], that if the death penalty is abolished, punishment will get softer indefinitely. His evidence for this lies in a proposition in California that will let teenagers convicted to life without parole participate in rehabilitation programs and possibly appeal for resentencing [11]. This is weak evidence that punishment will soften further after the death penalty is abolished, and certainly doesn't imply a movement to abolish life without parole.

In his first sub-point, my opponent also tries to argue that because a sentence of life without parole might be altered by democracy, that every person who would be convicted of such a crime be killed now, to avoid the horrible possibility that voters allow them parole. Essentially, he wants to keep the death penalty as a check on the power of the people. This reasoning is invalid within the context of this debate because neither side supports parole for murderers.

The negative's second sub-point argues that because crimimals often appeal their death sentence, that death sentence is worse than life, but he provides no comparison of his statistics with that of the life sentence, so his argument here lacks valid evidence. Second, the purpose of law is not to be harsh, but just, and, as I have shown with both my contentions.

Having shown my opponent's second contention to be irrelevant and fallacious, he has no substantive reason to favor the death penalty over life without parole.

Lastly, the constitutionality of the death penalty is irrelevant, because this debate concerns what the United States should do, not what it can do. Because the Constitution can be amended, it is outside of the resolution.

Affirmation

My opponent begins by misconstruing Jefferson's natural rights. Following the quote, the purpose of government is to protect natural rights, and so when natural rights are infringed, it must arbitrate liabilities to restore to the victim what the agressor has destroyed, that the criminal, rather than the victim, suffer the consequences of his actions. With the death penalty, both parties suffer, so the government has failed in its duty.

Observation: In order for the resolution to be affirmed, only one of my contentions must stand, for both show the death penalty to be an obstruction to justice and therefore an abomination to be abolished.

The negative's first objection to my contention is that it is unlikely to be implemented. This is irrelevant to the debate, because the resolution specifies what the United States should do. The death penalty should not be abolished without a superior alternative, whether it be liability or life in prison, and affirming such an alternative produces a moral imperative to change.

To save characters, I will address the remainder of my opponent's objections together. The system subjects convicts to a limited slavery, which is already constitutional:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States" [12].

Slavery was cost-effective in the early 1800s, and it surely would still be today. A private company hiring convicts in mass would be able and willing to afford and implement security to a degree better than public prisons, which only have incentive to reduce costs, rather than to keep prisoners secure. I am no expert on motivating coerced labor, but a company worth its salt should be able to keep a productive atmosphere. Additionally, the list of potential work the convicts could do is immense, but specifically I can list package inspection and manufacturing. My opponent also references Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany's labor camps for an emotional appeal [13], but in exposure, the United States is forcing murderers to work, which my opponent would like to confuse with forcing Jews and political dissenters to work.

My opponent also commits a famous economic fallacy in stating that prisoners would take jobs from innocent Americans: the fixed-pie fallacy. There is no limited number of work opportunities in the economy; otherwise, the economy would not grow [14]. Instead, adding prison labor will increase efficiency, lower taxes, and decrease labor costs, providing a boost to the economy.

For character reasons, I will drop my concerns of corruption in the legal system.

My opponent objects to my second contention by denying posthumous exoneration. With new DNA evidence, exoneration becomes more common, but I will name one as my opponent has asked. Johnny Garrett [15], who was the subject of the documentary called The Last Word, was executed in 1992 for rape and murder he did not commit. He was exonerated in 2004 by DNA evidence [15].

The death penalty is unjust and has promising alternatives. Thank you.

Sources
[1] http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov...
[2] http://www.fallacyfiles.org...
[3] http://www.fallacyfiles.org...
[4] http://communities.washingtontimes.com...
[5] http://usgovinfo.about.com...
[6] http://www.umsl.edu... See recent anti-drug policies (1977 to present).
[7] http://ag.ca.gov...
[8] http://www.heritage.org...
[9] http://www.stanfordlawreview.org...
[10] http://www.fallacyfiles.org...
[11] http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
[12] http://www.usconstitution.net...
[13] http://www.fallacyfiles.org... and http://www.fallacyfiles.org...
[14] Economic Facts and Fallacies, Thomas Sowell
[15] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 3
thett3

Con

Thank you Pro, for a most enjoyable debate. I will now disprove my Opponents objections, and continue the destruction of his case.

=Pro Case=

Natural rights


Pro states that I have misconstrued Jefferson's idea of natural rights. This is a puzzling statement, because all I did was provide a definition of the other rights provided in Jeffersons statement and show how both imprisonment and liability violate them. Pro states that the purpose of the Justice System is to "arbitrate liabilities to restore to the victim what the agressor has destroyed". The 1969 President's Commission defines the purpose of the Justice System as the means of a society to "enforce the standards of conduct necessary to protect individuals and the community."[1] You can see that the two statements are not the same, and as such we must take mine over Pro's because mine comes from an actual authority on the matter. Therefore Pro's statements about natural rights are invalid.

C1. Liability

Pro contends that if liability is proven in this round to be a better system, than that means we should abolish the DP. False, even if liability was better Pro must prove it likely to be implemented. Pro says that if a better system exists, than that proves we should abolish the DP. Not so, because the resolution applies to reality. Even if liability is better, the United States should not abolish the DP until it begins to implement such a system, which it has not started. Pro even states during cross examination that historical precedent for this system lies in civic law! The United States is a common law society, so for this reason alone his system is unlikely to be implemented. So whatever benefits may or may not be brought from the liability system are completely invalid in this round because they will not happen. Pro even states "The death penalty should not be abolished without a superior alternative" This statement supports my side, because as of right now we do NOT have a superior alternative. Even if one exists, if it does not exist in the U.S. than we cannot abolish the DP yet.

If for whatever reason it seems that Pro's C1. still stands, I will now go over the harms of his system.

Pro contends that his system is not slavery. While a special exception does exist for penal labour, his system is still slavery because he has defined the murderer to belong to the family of the victim. Ownership of a person by another person, is, by definition, slavery.

Pro also has not responded to my comparison of his system and the prison furlough system, which was a complete failure so I extend this comparison.

Pro argues that since slavery was cost effective in the 1800's, it is likely to be today. Absurd. Pro is comparing the amount of security on a cotton plantation, to what would have to be (for safety matters) the equivalent of a mobile maximum security prison. Pro's system is either A) Dangerous due to giving criminals an avenue for escape, B) Not cost effective due to the masssive amounts of security needed to allow criminals to do menial jobs or (most likely) C) both.

Pro states that my Objection about jobs is a fallacy. Either he misunderstands it, or I didn't make myself clear so I will now clarify. I was not attempting to imply that there is a fixed number of jobs, in fact I was implying that there currently is a decreasing number of jobs. I understand that the number of jobs constantly changes, however since we have a massive number of un-employed men, all work done by the prisoners should be done by our innocent citizens instead to give them a source of income.

C2.

The only argument brought up by my Opponent is his rebuttal is innocence. He links me to the case of Mr. Garrett. While I do not have the time to research the case and argue in support of the conviction, I would like to point out that the state does not recognize his innocence. Furthermore, here's a quote from Texas Department of Criminal Justice: "Garrett's fingerprints were found at the covnent located across the street from his home. In a statement to Police, Garrett admitted to breaking into the covnent and said he raped and strangled the nun.."[2]

Even if we were to accept the Garrett case as true innocence, that represents a less than 1/10th of one percent failure rate. (1/1261). Recidivism for murderers is much higher than this, even those in prison so this is outweighed.

=My Case=

C1.


In Pro's attack on my C1. he states that all of my examples are of murderers who were released. First off, this is false, look at the examples of Lee Taylor and Clarence Allen. However, I will expand this. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2009 8.6% of those on death row had a prior homicide conviction. Over 5% of those on death row committed their capital crime while in custody or during an escape.[3]

His attack on my SPB essentially states "correlation =/= causation". While this is true, an extraordinary amount of evidence suggests correlation between executions and reduced murder rates. What's interesting is that Pro attempts to completely discredit the idea of the Death Penalty as a deterrent stating: "Proving that the death penalty deters murder would require an impossible and illegal controlled experiment involving people weighing decisions concerning homocide" Yet the very source he links, shows reasons for reduced crime rates, which by my Opponents statements cannot be valid. So either A) This evidence falls, or B) It supports my side.

I will now explain how it supports my side. In the study, both the tables 2 and 3 mention that one reason for the reduced rate of violent crime is "Increase in, higher probability of, and longer duration of incarceration."[4] This shows that the harsher a penalty is for a crime, the less likely it is for that crime to be committed. Since the DP is, based on prisoners resistance to it, the harshest penalty, my Opponents evidence supports my side.

C2.

Pro first states that this point is irrelevant, because he is not advocating life imprisonment. However, since life imprisonment is by far more likely to be implemented after abolition than liability, it is highly relevant.

Pro attacks my first subpoint as a slippery slope argument, stating that I cannot prove that life imprisonment will be abolished. I agree that I cannot prove it, however considering that there are already people against it in the U.S. the chances of its abolition are much higher than if there were not. Pro tries to discredit this subpoint by stating that I was trying to put a check on democracy. This is unfounded, because what the death penalty is is a check on mistakes that can occur with life imprisonment.

Pro responds to my second subpoint by stating "but he provides no comparison of his statistics with that of the life sentence, so his argument here lacks valid evidence." Not so, because when criminals appeal their death sentence, they appeal to get it moved down to the next lowest sentence, which is life w/o parole. Therefore, this point still stands. Pro also states that the purpose of a punishment is not to be harsh, but just. Agreed, however the DP is just. The DP saves lives, and criminals fear it. This is significant, because a criminals reaction to a punishment is a good indicator of how just it is.

In conclusion, I have shown the death penalty to save lives, and to be a better punishment than life imprisonment. My Opponent has not shown any viable alternative to the death penalty, and thus I strongly urge you to negate this resolution. Hats off to my Opponent for an excellent case, and a very fun round.

Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us...
3. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov...
4. http://ag.ca.gov...
wjmelements

Pro

I would like to begin by thanking my opponent for an enjoyable debate. Grouping points of contention together for a more logical flow, I will first examine the resolution, present reason for affirmation, and then address extraneous points.

The Resolution

The key word of the resolution is "should." A hungry victim of an African civil war should eat food because the alternative is starvation, but this is not always practical at the moment. In the same way, if I can prove an alternative to the death penalty would improve the American Justice system, then the United States should abolish the death penalty in favor of that alternative. The moral imperative remains regardless of the current practicality.

Justice and Affirmation

According to my opponent's source [1], the purpose of the justice system he gave was only for the current (flawed) criminal justice system, not for justice systems in general. In modern legal philosophy, there are three types of justice: distributive, corrective, and compensatory [2]. While distributive justice is irrelevant to this debate, the other two deserve consideration when comparing the extent to which proposals achieve justice and to what degree. Following only the criterion of corrective justice, every system so far presented is just, because they punish according to the crime convicted; however, only the liability system also accomplishes compensatory justice, because the victims receive due compensation from those who aggress against their person and property. Therefore, the liability system should be implemented because it achieves more justice than the death penalty. This alone affirms the resolution.

Alternatively, life without parole is also a more just punishment than the death penalty for reasons provided in my second contention, such as the possibility of wrongful execution. My opponent has continued to deny the existence of such wrongful executions, even the Johnny Garrett case. Johnny Garrett denied that he had confessed the crime he was convicted of and continued to claim innocence through his execution. None of the evidence, even the finger prints [3][4], matched Garrett. DNA evidence later convicted Leoncio Rueda, whose fingerprints were matched to those left at the crime scene [4]. Leoncio then confessed to the crimes [4], as seen in these videos [5]. The frequency of wrongful execution in the United States is inestimable, but so far Wikipedia has listed 138. This number only represents those wrongfully convicted to death that were later found innocent. Every wrongful execution is a corrective injustice. My opponent tries to weigh his estimate of the exoneration rate (calculated using only Garrett) with the recidivism rate, but should we adopt life without parole, the recidivism rate and the posthumous exoneration rate would both drop to zero. Therefore, life without parole should also be implemented over the death penalty because such a change would benefit justice. This alone also affirms the resolution.

Rebuttal

This section will address points not already addressed above.

The liability system and life in prison do not violate natural rights because a convicted aggressor of natural rights has forfeited his natural rights to the extent that he has destroyed them.

Once again, I am not denying that a liability-oriented justice system enacts slavery on convicted murderers. My opponent has further conceded the constitutionality of this system.

I do not support giving convicted murderers leaves of absence.

Because companies that rent convicts would be liable for their activity upon escape, they would have every reason to maximize security. Escape would likely be impossible, but certainly less frequent than in the present.

Maximizing security in the modern age may even be easier and cheaper than my opponent believes. Implementing modern GPS technology would allow the company to know the location of its convicts, and combining such technology with a shock-collar system would result in a device that shocks criminals more the further they get from the prison, should they somehow escape. The constant pain would limit the prisoner's movement and the Global Positioning System would allow immediate location. There is a bounty of further possibilities, and a private company has incentive to invent ways to minimize its costs. There is no reason to believe that prison labor couldn't be cost-effective.

Because of the law of demand (demand decreases with price) [7], if a convict can be rented at less than minimum wage, the convict would be viable for work options economically prohibitive for other workers. Thus, my opponent is committing fixed-pie fallacy by assuming that the jobs the murderers work would necessarily come from deserving civilians.

My opponent has provided evidence that murderers unfortunately still find ways to kill while incarcerated. This is a problem with the prison system, not with the justice system. Neither side wants murderers to conspire with other prisoners that have parole and neither side wants prisons to allow a prisoner means to stab another. Both situations are avoidable.

The negative argues that although he cannot prove causation, that there is still a strong correlation. A strong correlation does not indicate causation any more than a weak correlation if there was no scientific experiment. There are plenty of confounding factors in the mix that I have listed, although I agree with my opponent that there is no way to prove that they are causal either. My opponent then tries to use one of my sources, which only listed potential factors and admits that "no factors in the model have been tested for statistical significance in the course of preparing this paper" [8]. No factor can be proven to be causal, and the source my opponent tried to use lists many potential confounding factors. In short, deterrence cannot be proven.

My opponent has agreed that the purpose of punishment is not to be harsh, but just, and as I have already proven, both life without parole and a liability system are more just than the death penalty.

Syllogism

As the debate concerns a moral imperative, the debate must be evaluated according to a moral criterion. Both my opponent and I have agreed that the purpose of a punishment is to be just, which is therefore a fair standard for evaluating this debate. I have shown that life imprisonment without parole to be more just than the death penalty due to the occurrence of wrongful executions. Additionally, I have shown how a liability system may be implemented that would be even more just than life imprisonment without parole, as it would result in compensatory justice as well as corrective justice. With two preferable alternatives, the death penalty should be abolished, as this would accomplish the agreed standard of justice. The resolution is affirmed.

Conclusion

Many thanks to my opponent for an exciting debate. I wish him a great future on this site.

Sources
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.scu.edu...
[3] http://www.skepticaljuror.com...
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[5] http://www.bloodshedbooks.com...
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[8] http://ag.ca.gov...
Debate Round No. 4
44 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
Death penalty debates tend to be more of the same but this one had some uniqueness. Well done to both debaters.
Posted by wjmelements 6 years ago
wjmelements
Thanks for the feedback.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
@wjmelements,

1) when you propose an alternative (slavery) that doesn't really exist currently, the burden is on you to prove that it is a successful alternative. You can't establish that the probability of implementation is irrelevant when you come up with your own plan. If you were simply arguing against the DP, you could stick to the moral aspects. However, since you came up with an elaborate plan, you have to show that it is practical as well. Essentially, when you proposed that plan, you were not just arguing that the DP should be abolished but that the DP should be abolished IN FAVOR of your plan. You took on a higher burden of proof than was necessary.

The second contention was well argued. You do point out the irreversibility which was a very strong argument that Con couldn't negate just by statistics alone. But on balance, considering both arguments, Con had slightly better arguments.

2) I think the real question is: Could you have made it clearer at all that the resolution could be affirmed by either of your contentions? I don't know.

Think about from the opposite perspective. Would you have been okay if your opponent gave 2-3 contentions and said that any one of them is enough to negate the resolution? It wouldn't be fair.

I would consider all contentions to see which side on balance had the stronger arguments.

Overall, very well argued by both sides. It was really close. You did a great job defending an extremely difficult position.
Posted by wjmelements 6 years ago
wjmelements
Feedback questions:

How could I have better established that probability of implementation was irrelevant and how could I have made it clearer that the resolution could be affirmed by either of my contentions?
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
(continued from RFD): He didn't fulfill his burden of proof, so my vote goes to Con. Also, the likelihood of whether Pro's system could be implemented and the potential drawbacks were well-exploited by Con. Both had good conduct.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
thett3
yeah, I've used the same case in like...tons of debates. I did change it somewhat from time to time though
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Hmm, interesting. Thett3, weren't those the same opening arguments you posted in our debate on the DP?
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
okay, got it. I hadn't looked at your comments. I was typing when you posted.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
thett3
It was a really good debate, WJM is definately the toughest opponent I've faced.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Where does the 16,000 come in? By the way, this debate looks interesting. I am going to read and vote.
12 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by MasterKage 5 years ago
MasterKage
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter vote bomb TeaFood.
Vote Placed by Teafood 5 years ago
Teafood
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Reasons for voting decision: Con confused the death penalty with crime
Vote Placed by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
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Reasons for voting decision: Almost none of Con's contentions stand; they are either refuted by Pro or simply fail on the face. However, as Pro agrees, a superior system is necessary to affirm. Life in prison and executed innocents would have been sufficient if the majority of Pro's case wasn't made in R4. Pro's labor proposal is vaguely defined and Con's cost/danger arguments are intuitive and appropriate. Arguments to Con.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro had the burden of proof since he was advocating a change from the status quo. I felt that Con's arguments were stronger. Pro's argument essentially supported slavery. That is a pretty big statement to make, and Pro needed a lot more proof than was given in order to justify it. Pro's C2 however, was very convincing and not adequately refuted by Con. Overall, it was very close, Pro argued a very difficult position very well, but (continued in comments)
Vote Placed by freedomsquared 6 years ago
freedomsquared
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Reasons for voting decision: Quite an interesting debate. I feel like PRO's usage of sources (without explaining anything in them and forcing CON to read them) was impolite, so I gave conduct to CON. PRO had better S
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 6 years ago
Dimmitri.C
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro and Con debated remarkably. However I believe Pro made the more compelling and and insightful case.
Vote Placed by innomen 6 years ago
innomen
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Reasons for voting decision: x
Vote Placed by ohnoyoulost 6 years ago
ohnoyoulost
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro made a very interesting case, but like Con pointed out, he could not show it likely to happen. All the benefits from his system are dropped, because it simply will not happen, and he did not focus enough on the harms of the death penalty.
Vote Placed by Ore_Ele 6 years ago
Ore_Ele
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Reasons for voting decision: Both sides did really well, however Pro had the upper hand throughout the debate and was able to control it well. I also felt that Con was using sources on things that did not need them (and sometimes multiple sources for the same thing that didn't need them) in order to boost his sources.
Vote Placed by YYW 6 years ago
YYW
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a close debate, but in the end Pro passed up many opportunities to highlight the shortcomings of Con's case (rather than looking at case-by-case instances, the macro impact of the death penalty's efficacy to the suggested ends is vehemently contested among scholars). Con takes victory because, though Pro offered some compelling arguments to his own end, Con more effectively held his ground and attacked Pro's case. Especially toward the last round, Pro seemed to loose focus.