The Instigator
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Losing
44 Points
The Contender
Mikal
Con (against)
Winning
80 Points

The United States should have a death penalty.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 36 votes the winner is...
Mikal
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/13/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 45,714 times Debate No: 49081
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (132)
Votes (36)

 

RoyLatham

Pro

The death penalty, i.e. capital punishment, is "execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense." [1. http://www.merriam-webster.com...] Currently 32 states and the Federal government have a death penalty. [2. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...]. Background information on capital punishment and the ongoing national debate on the subject is given in a Wikipedia article. [3. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...]

In this debate I will argue that a death penalty should be maintained as part of the U.S. system of justice, and my opponent will argue that the death penalty should be abolished. I will argue that the death penalty should be limited to use for the most heinous crimes and that suitable provisions should be made to ensure those accused are well-represented by legal counsel. My opponent will argue that the death penalty should not be an available punishment under any circumstances.

The first round is for acceptance, definitions, and clarification only. The Pro case will be presented at the start of Round 2.

DDO site rules apply to this debate. The first round is for acceptance only. All arguments and source citations must be made within the character limits of the debate. All words not specifically defined are defined by the ordinary dictionary definition that best fits the context. No new arguments may be made by Con in the last round of the debate, because Pro has no debate round left to rebut them.

I'm looking forward to a good debate.

Debate Round No. 1
RoyLatham

Pro

1. The death penalty is just

If even a small number of crimes are so horrendous as to justify the death penalty, then we can move to the question of what it is worth to have justice.

The death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous of crimes of capital murder. Two examples are multiple or mass murder, or killing a child by torture.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against four of seven suspects facing murder charges in the July death of a Florida couple known for adopting special-needs children, authorities said Monday. ... prosecutors believe there were dual motives in the killings -- robbery and a contracted hit. ... one of the children, a boy who has autism and speech issues, was in his parents' room at the time they were killed there. ... The boy, ... in an interview with a nurse ... told her that "two bad men" wearing black masks awakened Byrd Billings and told him: "You're going to die."[4. http://tinyurl.com...]

Family Says Horn Lake Boy Was 'Tortured To Death': Assistant District Attorney Steven Jubera and police detective Scott Evans saw the boy’s body the day he was found in the bathroom of the Horn Lake home. … “I can speak personally. Shock, horror,” said Jubera. “I don’t think anybody who saw the child will ever be left unaffected. ...Family members who saw the boy in the funeral home say he had bruises all over, what appeared to be cigarette burns on his face, and ligature marks on his arms and legs, which means he likely had been tied up. … Jubera says the 11-year-old only weighed 56 pounds.” [5. http://tinyurl.com...]

We have innumerable examples of horrendous crimes, but it only takes one case to justify the death penalty. If there were only one, the law could be constrained to that type of special circumstances.

Undeniably, the purpose of a system of justice is to provide justice. Whenever justice is not met, society loses confidence in the system and criminals get the impression that society does not care about crime.

Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, said

Brutal facts have immense power.... Those who commit such atrocities, I concluded, forfeit their own right to live. We tarnish the memory of the dead and heap needless misery on their surviving families by letting the perpetrators live. [6. in Bedau, et al, Debating the Death Penalty. Kindle loc. 143 Oxford University Press.]

2. Death penalty costs are balanced by plea bargaining savings

Opponents of the death penalty argue that carrying out a sentence of life without parole costs less. They overlook the counter-balancing savings of having the death penalty as a bargaining chip by which a guilt plea is obtained in return for taking the death penalty off the table. If the defendant pleads guilty, the cost of a trial and expensive appeals are avoided. Moreover, a serial killer may disclose his other victims in return for life-without-parole. Prosecutors will only accept claims verified by the locations of the bodies. Closing those cases reduces the cost of investigation and provides closure to the families of the victims. Without the death penalty, the only bargaining is reducing life-without-parole to a sentence that allows the possibility of release.

In the case of the Green River Killer, the killer pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated murder and agreed provided information to help locate remains, closing the cases and providing closure to the families. [7. http://tinyurl.com...]

One study found, “Defense attorneys are likely to initiate pleas in death-eligible cases and to do so at the earliest stages of the case. Their clients accepted pleas to sentences that would, in noncapital cases, not be considered; the perceived severity of life without parole changes when that sanction is compared with the alternative of death.” [8. http://tinyurl.com...]

A 2009 study showed that plea bargains for capital crimes in districts having the death penalty are far more common that in districts without the death penalty. For the costs to balance, a death penalty case would have to cost 2.4 times as much as a non-death-penalty case. In Kansas and Tennessee, the costs were only 1.6 and 1.5 times as much. [9. http://tinyurl.com...] If that is typical, plea-bargaining using the death penalty saves more than prosecuting death penalty cases. The study was limited to a sample of about 200 cases, so the data is not conclusive. The study authors point out that major studies of the cost of administering the death penalty omit the offsetting saving from enhanced plea bargaining.

3. Costs of administering the death penalty could be significantly lower.

The main reason that it costs so much to prosecute death penalty cases is that judges opposed to the death penalty allow trivial or even ridiculous legal arguments to be used as an excuse to delay carrying out the sentence. Some judges go so far as to violate the law in supporting appeals. Judge Kozinski explains,

… the Supreme Court has constructed a highly complex—and mutually contradictory—series of conditions that must be satisfied before a death sentence may be carried out. On the one hand, there must be individual justice: there can be no mandatory death sentence, no matter how heinous the crime. On the other hand, there must be consistent justice: discretion to impose the death penalty must be tightly circumscribed. But individual justice is inherently inconsistent—different juries reach different results in similar cases. [6. op cit loc 304]

Death cases—particularly as the execution draws near—distort the deliberative process and turn judges into advocates. There are those of my colleagues who have never voted to uphold a death sentence and doubtless never will. The view that judges are morally justified in undermining the death penalty, even though it has been approved by the Supreme Court, was legitimatized by the former Supreme Court Justices William J. Brennan, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall, who voted to vacate as cruel and unusual every single death sentence that came before the Court. [6. op cit loc 242]

A remedy is to tighten the judicial oath and to provide an independent panel to censure judges who pursue politics on the bench. The ultimate remedy is impeachment by the legislature to restore legislative power to the proper branch of government.

Some lengthy appeals are generated when the initial counsel did not provide an adequate defense. This happens when a rural locality cannot afford expensive outside counsel to defend the accused. State governments should bear the costs; those costs will be saved later by a shortened appeals process.

Finally, all appeals based upon legal process should be required to be filed within two years of the initial conviction. That would prevent judges from granting delays based upon appeals filed in sequence.

4. Wrongful convictions are rare and offset by lives saved

There have been over 14,000 executions in the U.S. Since 1992, The Innocence Project has reversed 18 death row convictions based upon DNA evidence. [10. http://tinyurl.com...] Whether anyone has been falsely executed in recent years is arguable, but I'll grant the possibility. Now that forensic evidence is so well known, prosecutors are less likely to file false charges, and juries are extremely unlikely to convict without solid forensics.

Murders in prison by inmates serving life without parole (LWOP) are also quite rare. There are about 50,000 such prisoners [11. http://tinyurl.com...] and the murder rate for those is no worse than the general prison population, about 4.7 per 100,000 population. [12. https://death.rdsecure.org...] That means that there are likely to be 2 or 3 prison murders per year commited those serving LWOP.

If one takes the stand that all that counts are the number of wrongful deaths, the number prevented by execution is probably greater than those saved.

The death penalty is just and should be kept in the United States.

Mikal

Con

I’ll start with my own contentions and respond to most of Roy’s arguments in the next round.

Note:

A “capital trial” is a trial at which the state intends to seek the death penalty. It is called a capital trial because the death penalty is also known as “capital punishment.”

DP state = a death penalty state
Non-DP state = a state that does not have the death penalty

Heinous Crimes - Roy is saying that he promotes only the death of heinous criminals. However, Roy does not get to make the decision about who to charge with a capital offense. Charging decisions are made by prosecutors, not Roy. Therefore, Roy must defend how the death penalty is actually applied.

C1: Costs

One of the main reasons the death penalty should be abolished is because of how expensive it is. The cost of prosecuting a capital case is significantly greater than the cost of prosecuting a non-capital case.

According to Professor Thaxton in “Leveraging Death,” capital cases cost local governments $2 million more than non-capital cases. [1] (p. 541) Capital cases are more expensive because they involve - on average - “five times more pretrial motions,” five times more investigation by the defense team, 66 times longer to select and exclude jury members, 30 days more in court, “twice as many lawyers (by statute),” and “longer and more complicated appeals.” [1] (p. 544)

Most of the cost of prosecuting criminal defendants is borne by local governments as opposed to the state or federal government. Currently, local governments are extremely strapped for cash: the GAO reports that to make up for budget shortfalls, state and local governments will need to cut their current expenditures by - on average - 14.2 percent to avoid bankruptcy. [5] The death penalty is such a significant part of local budgets that “[i]n 2009, at least eleven state legislatures considered bills to abolish the death penalty, citing associated costs as one of their primary concerns.” [1] Because local governments are so strapped for cash, spending on death penalty cases trades off with spending on other things (like police, education, and health care infrastructure): "State and local governments are also forced to divert funding from hospitals and health care, police and public safety, education, and roads and infrastructure to pay for capital trials." [1] (p. 541, footnote 269). These tradeoffs have two important negative effects. First, cutting funding from state and local governments is deadly to the overall well-being of the economy. One study found that the under-performing education system in the United States costs the economy $2.3 trillion per year (because it produces worse workers). [3] Second, local governments’ inability to spend more on police [due to expenditures on death penalty cases] is harmful because police are essential to deter crime. Studies estimate that each additional police officer that a city hires prevents an average of 24 serious crimes per year. [4] This cost tradeoff argument turns any of Roy’s deterrence arguments because the cost of the death penalty leads to smaller police forces, which actually decreases deterrence.

In fact, spending money on police is more effective than spending money on the death penalty. Studies have found that because offenders are generally unaware of what the expected sentence is for their crimes [or whether their state even has the death penalty], increasing the certainty of punishment has a larger effect on deterrence than increasing the severity of punishment. [8] Spending money on more and better policing increases the certainty that any given offender will be caught, which has a greater deterrent effect than increasing the severity of punishment, such as by implementing the death penalty. [8] The national clearance rate for murder and manslaughter has dropped to 65%, meaning that each year 6000 killers get away with murder.[9] Local governments would do well to raise their “solve rate” for murders rather than spending so much money to put to death the murderers they do happen to catch.

C2: Barrier to extradition

The European Union and many other countries have established policies that they will not extradite criminals to the United States if there is a possibility that the criminal might face the death penalty (because those countries view the death penalty as a human rights violation). [10] This refusal to extradite impedes counter-terrorism efforts because countries refuse to extradite terrorist suspects to the United States. [2] For example, in 2005, the EU refused to extradite terrorist suspect “Mohammed A.” to the United States, citing the likelihood he would be put to death. [2] If a single large terrorist attack happens due to refusals to extradite, this would outweigh any possible deterrent effect from the DP. In fact, 87% of criminologists agree that the DP has no deterrent effect. [7]

C3: Innocence

The death penalty is unfair because our criminal justice system sometimes makes mistakes. If someone is put to death, he or she can never be exonerated. Death is final.

More than 2000 people have been falsely convicted and then exonerated in the past 23 years. [11] One study - which interviewed judges, prosecutors, and police chiefs - estimated the false conviction rate at 0.5%, most of which were caused by misidentification by eyewitnesses. [13] Numerous studies have shown eyewitness testimony to be extremely unreliable. [13] While 0.5% might seem like a small number, it means that 8,000 people who are currently in jail are actually innocent. [14] Death (as a punishment) is unjust because it removes any chance of an innocent person being exonerated.


Rebuttals



R1) Cost savings from plea bargaining

Professor Thaxton calculated that when a murder defendant pleads guilty, the state saves $195,000 by avoiding trial and subsequent appeals. [1] However, Thaxton found that the savings from the death penalty does not offset its costs. Thaxton calculated that availability of a death sentence "deters between 1.5 and 2 murder defendants from opting for trial for every one [murder defendant who goes to] trial." [1] (pp. 546-547) This means that for every two guilty pleas that capital punishment secures, there still needs to be one capital trial. Capital trials cost - on average - $2 million more than non-capital trials. [1] This means that - even factoring in the cost savings from successful plea bargains - each capital trial costs $1.6 to $1.7 million more than a non-capital trial.

Roy cites a cost study, but he himself admits that the sample size is too small to draw any real conclusions. The study looked at only 33 counties over one year (1988). In addition, his study ignores the cost of appeals, which are a significant part of why the DP is so expensive [see p.14]. Lastly, the study was missing data so to get the “2.4” number that Roy cites, it had to “assume” some data into existence. [see p.14, footnote 2].

R2) The DP is just

Roy’s plea bargaining argument turns this argument against him. Roy says under his plea bargaining argument that it was a good thing that the Green River killer, who murdered at least 48 people, pled guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. This proves Roy doesn’t really care whether heinous criminals are actually put to death. The fact that the death penalty is so expensive that we have to give leniency to mass murderers in order to avoid capital trials undermines the perception that the system is “just.”


Sources

[1] Sherod Thaxton, “Leveraging Death,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 103, No. 2, 2013

[2] http://tinyurl.com...

[3] http://tinyurl.com...

[4] http://tinyurl.com...

[5] http://tinyurl.com...

[6] http://tinyurl.com...

[7] http://tinyurl.com...

[8] http://tinyurl.com...

[9] http://tinyurl.com...

[10] http://tinyurl.com...

[11] http://tinyurl.com...

[12] http://tinyurl.com...

[13] http://tinyurl.com...

[14] http://tinyurl.com...

[15] http://tinyurl.com...

Debate Round No. 2
RoyLatham

Pro

1. The death penalty is just

If the U.S. should have a death penalty, there must be cases for which justice is met by applying the death penalty. I gave two examples where the death penalty is justified. Con said I don't get to select the crimes for which the death penalty is applied. I didn't claim to. I only claimed that some crimes justify the death penalty. Con might counter that no crime ever justifies the death penalty, but he didn't do that. He accepted both examples.

Granting the death penalty is justified is important, because it reduces the scope of remaining arguments to a cost-benefit analysis. It's a separate argument as to which crimes are so heinous as to deserve a death penalty. Philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that because some crimes deserve capital punishment, it is immoral for a state not to have a death penalty. [13. http://tinyurl.com...] A failure to seek justice is immoral.

Con argued that allowing plea bargaining undermines justice. It does not, because in some cases there are higher moral imperatives. Providing closure to the friends and family of the 48 victims of the Green River killer is more important than putting the killer to death. In other cases, there may be a probability that a killer may go free if brought to trial, even though he is guilty. Sometimes a plea bargain is justified by getting the names of crime bosses or associates. The interests of justice may dictate that getting certain punishment via a guilty plea is better than bringing the case to trial. The Supreme Court has repeated ruled that plea bargaining can serve justice.

2. Death penalty costs are balanced by plea bargaining and imprisonment savings

In this debate, the types of cases to which the death penalty is applied is left open. If obtaining a death penalty conviction is very expensive, then it may be reasonable to restrict the number of cases. For example, offering a plea bargain to the Green River Killer closed 48 cases of homicide, not only saving the cost of continued investigation but providing the benefit of bringing closure to the families of the victims. So if the death penalty were only applied to serial killers, the costs would clearly be justified and society would at the same time move towards being more just.

Con argued that localities could not bear the unusual costs of death-penalty trials. I already had argued that states should bear the costs. A locality may not be able to afford even a single capital trial, but every state can afford to pursue justice in at least some cases. In addition, the defendant should receive high quality counsel to ensure a good defense, and good counsel can be reasonably required to file concurrent appeals, saving a good deal of money.

I did not say that the study was too small to draw any real conclusions. I properly advised that broad generalities were limited. In large urban counties during the time of the study, plea bargaining savings probably offset the extra trial costs of pursuing a death penalty conviction.

Con offered a single source, Thaxton [14. download at http://tinyurl.com...], on the costs associated with the death penalty. Thaxton begins by admitting, “Empirical research addressing the use of the death penalty as leverage in plea negotiations is virtually nonexistent.” Thaxton criticizes Kuziemko, whom I did not cite and whom Thaxton believed to be the only systematic study. Kuziemko concluded that when New York State restored the death penalty, plea bargaining resulted in accepting harsher sentences. A limitation to that study was that the only capital crimes at the time were the murder of police officers.

I cited Scheidegger [8. http://www.cjlf.org...] I don't see a reference to Scheidegger by Thaxton.

Thaxton considered cases in the state of Georgia between 1993 and 2000. Scheidegger used data from 33 counties selected as representative of the 75 largest urban counties. That's more representative of the country than just considering Georgia. Scheidegger considered about 1800 murder and manslaughter cases, while Thaxton considered about 400 death notice cases.

Thaxton “assumed data” to complete his study, a common practice. For example, suppose the age of the defendant were missing for one particular case. Rather than eliminate the case, the average known age of defendants would be used for the statistics.

Thaxton acknowledges that Georgia is peculiar in not having the usual system of dividing murder into degrees, so first degree murder cannot be plead down to second degree murder. A plea bargain on the basic charge must go to manslaughter, with a penalty of 15 years in prison. As a consequence, Georgia prosecutors opt for the death penalty when they think they charges only merit LWOP. That allows a plea bargain in the penalty phase of the trial. That means the non-penalty phase of the trial will always be as expensive as if it were a death penalty case, and that plea bargains will be less likely because with the guilt phase completed there is less uncertainty in the ultimate trial outcome.

Thaxton does not count the costs of increased time in prison for life without parole (LWOP). In Thaxton's data, the average age of those convicted of capital murder was 27. In serving LWOP, the prisoner will be confined 50 years at an average cost of about $29,000 per year, incurring a total cost of about $1.5 million. [15. http://www.ssa.gov...] The average time spent waiting for a death penalty is about 15 years. [16. http://tinyurl.com...] Consequently, on average about $1.1 million is saved in total costs.

The bottom line for Thaxton's Georgia data is that the trial costs are $2 million more, plea bargaining saves $0.4 million on average, and the imprisonment costs are $1.1 million less. So for Georgia, the death penalty costs only about 25% more.

The cost of achieving a death penalty conviction and execution varies substantially. California houses death row inmates in special facilities costing three times as much as ordinary facilities, and their ordinary prisons cost twice the $29,000 Federal costs. Texas spend only $17,000 to house an inmate for a year. Virginia averages only six years to execution. Consequently it is reasonable for a Georgia study to show a net extra cost of 25% for death penalty cases while urban counties have net lower costs.

The costs of imprisonment are on an upward trend. If that is figured in, “LWOP cases will cost $1.2 million - $3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases.” [17. http://www.prodeathpenalty.com...]

Con argued that money saved by eliminating the death penalty could be spent on additional policing. I do not agree that there are any savings, however it's quite unlikely that if there were any savings it would go to increased law enforcement. Con cites no data where that happened.

C2. The death penalty can be waived for extradition

If the US believes it worthwhile to return a prisoner to the US from a country that will not extradite if there is a possibility of death penalty, the death penalty can be removed for that particular case. There is nothing unusual about the procedure. For example, in the U.K. Home Secretary David Blunkett had told American officials he would approve extradition only if the United States waived the right to impose the death penalty.” [18. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...] Having a death penalty and optionally waiving it has no disadvantage.

C3. Innocence

Con did not respond to my arguments in R2. He did not address the post-2000 era of DNA evidence, did not cite a single recent unjust execution, and did not distinguish death penalty cases from lesser crimes not subject to so much scrutiny.

Contrary to Con, I made no claim about deterrence. The statistics are too complicated to argue in the space allotted. Serving justice is sufficient reason to have a death penalty. It's logical that at least some few murders are deterred.


Mikal

Con

Rebuttals


R1) The DP is just

Note that Roy says that he’s not going to argue deterrence and that he’s going to stake the entire debate on winning his “justice” argument. If Roy loses this argument, he offers no affirmative justification for the death penalty.

Roy’s only real support for this argument is an appeal to authority [a logical fallacy]. Roy invokes Immanuel Kant’s opinion, but offers no reason why it’s immoral not to adopt a death penalty. I could just as easily appeal to authority by saying ‘the EU condemns the DP as immoral.’ [1] But more importantly, ‘rule utilitarianism’ tells us that if on balance, the death penalty does more harm than good, then it is immoral to adopt it.

Roy also loses this argument because:

(1) It undermines his argument that ‘we have to put really bad people to death’ if we’re willing to offer them plea bargains so they can avoid death. Roy answers this by saying that there are “countervailing considerations,” such as providing finality to victims and avoiding law enforcement costs. By admitting that other factors can “outweigh” the need for a death sentence, Roy concedes that if I win my cost argument or any other countervailing interest, this justifies banning the death penalty.

(2) The fact we put innocent people to death turns justice. The following source confirms 10 examples of innocent people being put to death and says there are likely many more such examples, but investigations are typically closed after a person is put to death.[3] Roy claims that forensics solves everything, but juries are still willing to convict based only on eyewitness testimony.

(3) The racist manner in which the death penalty is applied turns justice. A black defendant is twice as likely to be charged with the death penalty as a white defendant for committing exactly the same crime.[2]

A system that determines who dies based on cost and race cannot be “just.”

R2) Cost

Roy essentially makes two arguments for “cost savings” from the death penalty: (1) plea bargaining and (2) incarceration costs. I will respond to each in turn.

(1) Plea bargaining

Roy spends a really long time refuting Thaxton’s study of Georgia statistics, which found that plea bargaining induces between 1.5 and 2 guilty pleas per capital defendant who elects to go to trial. It’s honestly not worth quibbling over the numbers here - we can use the estimate from Roy’s study, which found that the DP induces 2.4 pleas per capital trial [p. 14]. However, Roy does not dispute Thaxton’s cost savings statistic of $195,000 per guilty plea, which is based on a completely separate study of Maryland statistics.[4] Even using Roy’s study’s estimate that for each capital trial we induce 2.4 guilty pleas and factoring in the cost savings from plea bargaining, the cost of a capital trial is still $1.53 million more than a non-capital trial.

(2) Incarceration costs

Incarcerating death row inmates in their own special prison ward [called “death row”] is really expensive. Roy claims only California does this, but so does Texas and every other state. [10] Professor Steiker of Harvard Law School notes that across all states, the cost of death-row incarceration is much higher than for general population incarceration. [5] Roy’s $29K number is for regular incarceration. Death-row incarceration actually costs $90,000/yr more per inmate than regular incarceration. [6] Based on this number [and Roy’s $29K statistic], 15 years of death row incarceration costs $1.8 million. In contrast, Roy said imprisoning someone for “life” (50 years) costs only $1.5 million.

Also, Roy is forgetting that the state often pays for a capital trial for nothing because although the jury finds the defendant guilty, it refuses to impose death at the sentencing phase. In California, only 7% of capital trials result in an execution. [11] So in 93% of cases, the state pays an extra $2 million for the capital trial but still has to pay for 50 years of incarceration costs as well.


Roy also argued for two “plans” to save money: (1) impeaching judges and (2) requiring all appeals be brought within 2 years. I will respond to each in turn.

(1) Impeaching judges

Roy argues we should censure or impeach any judge who fails to always rule in favor of the death penalty. However:

First, judges are capable of justifying their decisions using legal rules. It’s not ever clear that any given decision is 100% political.


Second, in most states juries are the ones that are tasked with imposing death at the sentencing phase.

Third, Roy’s plan is unconstitutional. Under Article III of the Constitution, judges are appointed for life to insulate them from political backlash against their decisions. Congress isn’t allowed to impeach judges for decisions it doesn’t like.

(2) Limiting the time for appeals

Roy wants to require that all appeals be filed within 2 years of conviction, but this is also unconstitutional. Each person convicted of a crime is entitled to two appeals: a direct appeal in state court and a habeas appeal in federal court. The law requires that the habeas appeal be filed only after a defendant loses on direct appeal. [7] Roy’s “2 year” rule is designed to eliminate habeas appeals [because direct appeals often take longer than 2 years]. This is unconstitutional under Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, which states: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended."

Additionally, Roy argues we can shift the burden for paying for capital trials from city governments to state governments. However, state governments are strapped for cash too. The GAO source I cited last Round says that states are just as strapped for cash as local governments are. California, for example, has been slashing education spending for years to make up for budget shortfalls, which shows that state spending on the DP would trade off with education, and our bad education system costs our economy $2.3 trillion per year. In addition, many states have a state police department, which directly trades off with DP spending. “In New Jersey, for example, the state spent $16 million on the death penalty in 1991. As a consequence, the state could no longer afford to pay 500 police officers and was forced to lay them off the same year.” [8] State spending is no better than local spending.

Roy also never proves a state would be willing to shoulder local court costs.

Last, Roy drops the opportunity cost argument. The money from the DP would be *better* spent on expanding police forces because the certainty of punishment has a larger deterrent effect than the severity of punishment. We only solve a paltry 65% of murder cases. Even if the death penalty had a net cost of zero in the long run (due to cost savings), it still has an opportunity cost because the money is better spent on police.

R3) Extradition

Germany refused to extradite known terrorist Mohammed Hamadi to the US, citing concerns about the death penalty. [9] Hamadi was later released and escaped to Lebanon, thereby avoiding US interrogation. [9] Spain has refused to extradite 8 alleged members of al Qaeda to the US, citing concerns they would be put to death. [9] Roy cites a source saying that the UK was once willing to extradite a 9/11 suspect to us as long as we “promised” not to employ the death penalty, but some countries [like Germany] don’t trust our assurances. If we can’t interrogate terrorist suspects, counter-terrorism efforts are *seriously* compromised.


R4) “Lives saved” in prison


Roy does not explain this well enough, and the thesis is not clear. Don’t vote on it unless Roy explains it better.


Sources

[1] http://tinyurl.com...

[2] http://tinyurl.com...

[3] http://tinyurl.com...

[4] Source 1, Rd. 2

[5] 2010 U. Chi. Legal F. 117, 149

[6] Id. at 119.

[7] http://tinyurl.com...

[8] 71 Fordham L. Rev. 2735, 2759

[9] http://tinyurl.com...

[10] http://tinyurl.com...

[11] http://tinyurl.com...



Debate Round No. 3
RoyLatham

Pro

Con has the burden to prove that capital punishment should be abolished, a significant change from the status quo.

Justice requires a death penalty

I claimed directly that the purpose of the justice system is provide justice, and Con did not disagree. I asserted that there were two self-evident examples of crimes so heinous as to deserve the death penalty. There is no scientific method of that determines the punishment for robbing a bank or any other crime. It depends upon a concept of justice. Con's refutation must begin by saying that he thinks it unjust to kill a person who tortures a child to death. He argued that justice was too expensive and too risky, but not that the punishment was unjust.

I did not cite Kant as an authority, I gave Kant's argument, which is that the level of punishment is determined by equity with the crime, and that it is immoral for a society to fail to uphold justice. That's a common concept, and it is appropriate for me to attribute the argument to it's source. I also argued that the death penalty brought closure to the victims, and that plea bargaining could close many unsolved murders. I pointed out that plea bargaining under the death penalty could bring disclosure of criminal associates or higher-ups, further enhancing justice overall.

The resolution is about what “should” be done. For example, we can affirm, “People should live in peace.” That's a trivial affirmation that states a goal as being one that should be affirmed. It isn't negated by the practical difficulty of achieving the goal. If the Constitution prohibits something that it should allow, then the Constitution should be modified.

There is nothing unconstitutional about impeaching a judge for failing to uphold the law, because the judge's oath is to uphold the law. The way to prove a judge is not upholding the law is when he makes a point of saying so, as anti-capital-punishment judges have done. Con never argued that the judges were upholding the law, he argued that nothing could be done about it. Impeachment is extreme; I also argued tightening the wording of the judicial oath, appointing judges with a better commitment to upholding the law, and revising procedures to ensure better enforcement. These are practical methods.

If countries want to keep serial killers and terrorists safe in their countries despite guarantees from the the US they won't be executed then fine, they can bear the cost of keeping them. If they free terrorists, obviously they were never going to turn them over.

Con's claims that the death penalty is given twice as often to blacks for “the same crime” as whites. Con cites a bogus link. No two crimes are “the same.” It's up to juries to make the determination, and because most of the capital crimes are in urban areas, black people will be serving on most of the juries that make the determination.

Most of the overturned convictions cited by Con were a product of inadequate counsel assigned at the original trial. That problem is solved by shifting the cost to the state. The so-called “CSI effect” has caused juries to be more skeptical of prosecution evidence. None of the claimed false executions was for a conviction after 1992. There is no law that DNA evidence must be present, but juries are nonetheless much more demanding of solid evidence. Beyond that, there is a higher level of legal safeguards ensured by automatic appeals. Con cites opinions that as many as 0.5% of prisoners are falsely convicted, but that's for all crimes, not for death penalty cases where all the extra steps are provided.

Without the death penalty, a killer serving LWOP kept in prison for an average of 50 years. The chances that he will kill a fellow inmates or a guard during those 50 years are small, but nonetheless serial killers keep that tendency, and there are dozens of such instances. There are many wrongful deaths due to the state keeping a killer who should have been executed alive and in good health. Abolishing the death penalty does not evade responsibility for wrongful deaths.

The death penalty cuts long term costs

The extra cost of having a death penalty is computed according to

death penalty cost = cost of a capital trial and appeals + extra incarceration cost during trial – cost of a non-capital trial and appeals – savings due to plea bargaining – savings due to shorter incarceration

Using the Federal average cost of incarceration; the average age of convicted murders and current average time to sentencing; life expectancy tables; Con's numbers for trial, appeals and plea-bargaining derived from Georgia; and using Con's claim that the yearly cost of incarceration before trial is double the yearly cost of life imprisonment, the calculation is:

death penalty cost = $2.0 million + 15 * $29K – 0.2 *$2 million – 35 * $29K= $1050K

Trial costs will always be more because of extra scrutiny, but states without local obstruction show the extra trial costs can be reduced to $1 million. Virginia has demonstrated an average time from conviction to execution of six years with all the present safeguards. The data from a study of urban areas across the county indicates that plea bargaining can offset the extra prosecution costs if a capital case costs less than 2.4 times a non-capital case, and in two states the ratio is about 1.6. Finally, it's unreasonable to suppose that the cost of incarceration will not rise over a period of fifty years. Using a modest assumption, total costs more than double.

The cost is then

$1 million + 6*$29K – (2.4 /1.6)*$1 million – 44*$29K*2 = - $2.9 million

That's a savings of $2.9 million, with most of the savings in the long term incarceration costs of the killer. Note that in none of articles on the cost of the death penalty cited by Con are the long term incarceration costs even acknowledged as costs, and the plea bargaining savings are rarely acknowledged. Opponents cite only the higher trial costs and ignore the savings.

Con claims that $16 million in death death penalty appeals caused New Jersey to layoff 500 police. His source is not an original news story, but merely someone repeating the legend. The $16 million was the total cost of the death penalty prosecutions, and $16 million in cuts were made to law enforcement the next year, 1992. [19. http://tinyurl.com...] The New Jersey budget message for the year [20. http://tinyurl.com...] reveals that budget for New Jersey was over $12 billion. Law enforcement cuts were 0.12% of the budget. The idea that New Jersey or any state was driven to the verge of bankruptcy by death penalty costs is absurd. In the $12B budget the state provided about $550 million in extra funding to localities so local real estate taxes could be cut. There were $265 million in state expenditures cuts based on audit committee recommendations for waste reduction. The Governor pledged that “everyone in government would share the sacrifice,” including law enforcement.

Shifting the costs of prosecuting capital crimes to the state solves the problem of localities being bankrupted by a single expensive case, and it ensures that the defendant can always be given top-quality counsel from the outset.

The Debate

The confusing issues in a death penalty debate mainly arise from death penalty opponents using political activism to foil death penalty laws in some states, like California, and then claiming the bizarre results they brought about are typical. The problems do not exist in states that do not obstruct the laws. Opponents calculate costs ignoring all but trial costs. Opponents never speak of carrying out just punishment.

In this debate, my opponent added additional complications by repeatedly misstating my position, proclaiming he addressed my "only argument" when I had made others.

Justice requires a death penalty for the most heinous crimes. The upfront costs are trivial in a state budget, and in the long term cost savings accrue.

Mikal

Con

Roy is a great debater, but at this point there is no way he can win this. He has stated "he will not argue deterrence," and then banked everything on winning “justice” and “cost,” but he drops key arguments under cost. In one last attempt at winning, Roy tries to shift the BOP to me in the final round, stating that I have the BOP because I’m arguing for a change to the status quo. However, as Roy points out, the resolution is whether the United States (as a whole) should adopt the death penalty. Because some states have it and some don’t, the BOP is shared. Roy fails to uphold his half of the burden.

Justice

This argument = fail. Roy says it’s immoral not to have a death penalty, but not immoral to have one that we never use. Roy is perfectly happy if the State merely uses the death penalty as a plea bargaining tool. Roy himself said that it is good that the Green River Killer was offered a plea bargain because by getting the location of all the bodies, we saved law enforcement costs. If cost can outweigh the need to have the death penalty in a particular case, why can’t cost outweigh the need to have a death penalty at all? Roy himself admits that cost trumps justice.

In addition, I had two turns to justice. First, innocent people are sometimes put to death. Roy claims that this hasn't happened since 1992, but my own source notes that in the modern era, lawyers have focused more on exonerating people who were still alive, since it is pointless to investigate cases when the person was already put to death. Roy claims that the “CSI effect” means that people won’t convict without DNA evidence, but what would you do if you were on a jury and the only evidence of who murdered someone was an identification from one eyewitness? Would you let the alleged killer go free because there was no DNA evidence? Prosecutors have stated that even in modern times, juries are still willing to convict people - even in murder cases - with only eyewitness testimony. [1] There is still a risk of innocent people being executed. Here is a list of exoneration from death row that have happened in modern times (2010-2014). [2]

The second turn to justice is that the racial bias of prosecutors determines which murder defendants are charged with a capital offense and which are charged with a non-capital offense. The prosecutor decides when to charge death and is twice as likely to charge a black defendant with death than a white one [controlling for all other variables]. Roy tries to get out from this argument by saying that there will be black people on the jury, but the prosecutor’s charging decision is more important because it directly affects who gets put to death. Roy claims that the “circumstances of the offense” matter. I agree. In Texas (between 1976 and 2011), 99.6% of the state’s executions were for the murder of a white victim. [3] It’s not that no one kills black people in Texas, it’s just that Texas doesn't consider that to be a crime worthy of death. Thus, in most death penalty cases, the race of the offender and the race of the victim are the biggest factors in determining who dies. That’s not a “just” system.

Because the innocence and racism arguments turn justice, this is a sufficient reason to vote Con.

Roy’s last two arguments here are: (1) Kant and (2) an argument about “should.” First, Kant did say that the punishment must fit the crime. But we don’t rape rapists, so we don’t have to kill killers. This crude “eye for an eye” sort of justice is unnecessary. A life without parole sentence sufficiently “matches” the crime of murder to ensure justice. Second, Roy argues that when you say “people should live in peace,” you can’t argue about how hard it is to live in peace. However, saying the government should do something is less abstract than saying people in general should do it. Rule utilitarianism tells us that it’s immoral for the government to adopt a policy if the cost-benefit analysis shows that the costs to society outweigh the benefits.

Opportunity cost

Roy misinterprets this argument the entire debate. Even if the death penalty saves money in the long run, in the short run it trades off with spending on other things because states have limited budgets [and cannot go into debt]. So even if Roy wins “no net cost,” I still win on opp. cost.

States should be spending the money instead on education and police. Roy drops that our failing education system costs us $2.3 trillion per year. This is the biggest impact in the debate. We should spend all the money we can afford on improving the education system. Roy also drops the study that each additional police officer prevents 24 serious crimes per year. Instead of spending $1 million/year on the death penalty, a state could hire 20 police officers and prevent 480 serious crimes. [4] Roy also drops the study that police have a larger deterrent effect than does the death penalty, so money is always better spent on more police, rather than the death penalty. Roy loses on this argument alone.

Cost

Roy makes a HUGE mistake here by dropping my responses to incarceration costs. He drops that death row inmates are incarcerated on a separate ward. This separate ward is known as the “death row” in the prison. Roy drops that because they require separate facilities, incarcerating a death row inmate for one year costs $90,000 per year more than incarcerating a normal inmate for a year. Roy’s statistic of $29K is the cost of incarcerating non-death row inmates.

If you use the correct cost of death-row incarceration in Roy’s cost equation, you get:

death penalty cost = $2.0 million + 15 * ($29K + $90K) – 0.2 *$2 million – 35 * $29K= $2.28 million

This means that factoring in the savings from plea bargaining and incarceration costs, the death penalty costs $2.28 million more per inmate than a sentence of life without parole. Roy’s argument is completely eviscerated here by dropping that death-row incarceration is more expensive.

Roy’s only potential saving grace here is arguing that incarceration costs will increase over time. However, it costs $90K more per prisoner to incarcerate a death row inmate. As long as the cost of incarcerating a death row inmate rises at the same rate as the cost of incarcerating a normal inmate, the $90K cost-differential would remain unchanged. In addition, Roy completely ignores the fact that court costs rise over time as well (empirically), even faster than prison costs. The salaries of prosecutors and defense attorneys often rise quickly because they have to stay (somewhat) competitive with the private sector to attract decent attorneys. If court costs double over 50 years [as Roy assumes of incarceration costs], a capital trial would cost $4 million.

Because even factoring in all the cost savings, the death penalty is still $2.28 million more expensive per case, vote Con. Roy has no contention to balance against this.

Roy admits that one of his plans to save money is unconstitutional (limiting appeals), and tries to rely on censuring judges. However, in most states juries are the ones who impose capital sentences, so what good would censuring judges do? Juries are the reason that in 93% of capital trials in California, the state pays for the capital trial but the jury refuses to impose death. This is really expensive. Florida spends $23 million per execution because it pays for a ton of capital trials that do not end in a death sentence. [5] This is also a reason to vote Con.

Lives in prison

Roy’s thesis here is still unclear. There are 87 times more murders inside prisons in DP states than non-DP states, so the DP is not a good deterrent inside prisons. [6] Regardless, the risk of a terrorist attack because we cannot interview extradited suspects outweighs. Roy completely drops extradition. Vote Con.


[1] Skype call with bluesteel, re: his convo w/SF prosecutors
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://tinyurl.com...
[4] median police salary = $52K
[5] Fordham at 2758
[6] http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 4
132 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by spacetime 1 year ago
spacetime
Wait, was this a team debate with Bluesteel and Mikal?
Posted by 16kadams 2 years ago
16kadams
FVCK you grammercy

Debate me instead nub
Posted by Grammercy 2 years ago
Grammercy
u beat #2 and are #1 but u fon't want too debate me cause i noob. idont know why i am not good as 2 and it take shorter. i just practice english and i practice more wit god person
Posted by Grammercy 2 years ago
Grammercy
i debate few noobs then i try
Posted by Grammercy 2 years ago
Grammercy
plkz debate me
Posted by Grammercy 2 years ago
Grammercy
what is that mean?
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
Genghis_Khan
wtf?
Posted by Grammercy 2 years ago
Grammercy
I lernd that grammercy mens thanks in old egnlish. so i used it, and to be cheesy i wud be thankfull if u debated me on the dopic so i can learn. my grammer might get better too. i am from guatemala so if u can help me i would be thankful :]
Posted by Grammercy 2 years ago
Grammercy
I dont think I wqould win butt maybe I can convince u since I know how criminales work
Posted by Grammercy 2 years ago
Grammercy
thas dumb that Pro lost. Con death penelty deters criem. I used to b a criminal and d only rason I didn't kel some of my victems was b/c I was afraid of the punishmant. I am new and liek learning and would liek to debate you. Maybe I am wronk, but it is pretty obvious that the death poenalty can be a good thing. I am working on lerning english to so it would help since you are lok smart. plz friend me
36 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 3 years ago
9spaceking
RoyLathamMikalTied
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Reasons for voting decision: can't decide
Vote Placed by Bullish 3 years ago
Bullish
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Reasons for voting decision: pro's main contentions were cost and justice. He says he does not argue deterrence, but in his first argument he equates justice with people's belief in security, which is deterrence. Pro makes good arguments on closure the DP brings, and the benefits of plea deals; Pro did not elaborate further on deterrence effects. However, Pro fails to conclusively prove that DP decreases costs, even on the long run; he does propose solutions, but whether the solutions are practical is questionable. Con's only argument that had merit was the cost aspect. Factoring in incarceration, appeal, trial and failed trial costs and off set for plea bargaining, Con showed pretty well that each DP trial will cost significantly more. Con did not make logical or consistent arguments. He uses data, for example, on all cases instead of DL vs LWOP in multiple occasions. He fails also to mention that 85% of texans are white. Cons sources were of questionable reliability.
Vote Placed by MysticEgg 3 years ago
MysticEgg
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Reasons for voting decision: A good debate. I feel roy should get the conduct, because he was more direct and brutally to the point, but Con was more airey. However, con deserves the argument points, because he argued his case better. He gave stronger cases and he addressed points more directly, which was somewhat ironic, because Roy was to the point of the argument, just not to the argument's heart. In any case, Con had stronger defencive arguments and responded better. Sources and S&G were both fine. Excellent debate.
Vote Placed by progressivedem22 3 years ago
progressivedem22
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Reasons for voting decision: This was quite an interesting read through, but ultimately I have to give this one to Mikal. Sources were pretty much tied -- though a Skype call is an unconventional source, I'll admit -- conduct went to Mikal since Roy was arguing in the comment section even after the vote was underway, and arguments went to Mikal because he rightly pointed out that extradition and deterrence were dropped.
Vote Placed by tulle 3 years ago
tulle
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Reasons for voting decision: Took me 4 hours just to write the RFD -___- it's in the comments.
Vote Placed by Le.Doctor 3 years ago
Le.Doctor
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Reasons for voting decision: Good debate. Both of you did exceedingly well. My views are in the comment section.
Vote Placed by Krazzy_Player 3 years ago
Krazzy_Player
RoyLathamMikalTied
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Reasons for voting decision: These top level debates is extremely hard to judge but in R4, Roy drops "deterrence" as pointed by Mikal. So my 1 point goes to Con also pointing out that this has nothing to do with conduct.
Vote Placed by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
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Reasons for voting decision: PRO's justice argument just wasn't compelling. CON argued that just because there are some crimes which are very bad does not mean that criminals who commit them need to be executed. And, the fact that some innocent people are executed casts serious doubt on the justice of capital punishment as an institution. The cost issue is a wash, because the costs of seeking the death penalty are more closely associated with systemic complications and not the actual process of executing someone. Moreover, the fact that having the death penalty expedites the plea bargaining process isn't necessarily a good thing. CON's highlighting the DP's racial bias casts doubt on whether or not the DP is a good thing to have, especially given the fact that PRO essentially framed the DP as a legally coercive instrument in his second point. The extradition point was interesting, and PRO didn't sufficiently respond to it. All in all, though, this was a really novel and well done debate on both sides.
Vote Placed by Romanii 3 years ago
Romanii
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct and S&G are tied, as, while there were a few problems on both sides, they are too minor to make a significant difference in my vote. I'm also tying sources, as both sides used pretty reliable ones as far as I can see without clicking on them, and I don't feel like doing a more detailed analysis of them than that. ARGUMENTS. There seemed to be 2 major parts of the debate: justice and cost. Con edged out on the "justice" part with his points supporting the possibility of executing innocent people (i.e. unreliability of eye witness testimony, racial prejudices). Con definitely dominated the cost part, as he gave a very strong case as to why the money is better spent elsewhere, and effectively rebutted Pro's contention regarding the DP as a plea bargaining tool (which, by the way, I thought was absolutely brilliant until I heard Con's reponse XD ). All in all, best DP debate on DDO, but Con definitely won this with his arguments.
Vote Placed by Magic8000 3 years ago
Magic8000
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments