The death penalty should be abolished.
Debate Rounds (5)
I affirm the resolution that the death penalty should be abolished. By "death penalty", I am referring to the punishment enacted by various jurisdictions across the world (including many parts of the US), whereby certain criminals (as decided by that jurisdiction's legal system) are killed by the state as punishment for the crime that they committed.
I ask that this first round be used only for accepting the debate, and clarifying any terms that my opponent may feel needs to be. We will then have a four-round debate afterwards which will proceed as normal.
As with all such broad topics, it's impossible for me to know exactly how redinferno is going to approach his side of the debate - accordingly, I can't get too much into specific argumentation on my side straight away. As such, I'm going to open with one general principle that outlines my opposition to the death penalty, which will be expanded upon as appropriate after redinferno lays out his case.
The principle is this: that, no matter what kind of person you're looking at, no matter what s/he's done or is accused of doing, it is not justified to have the death penalty either enacted against them or hanging over their head like a decades-long Sword of Damocles waiting to strike. To elaborate, we can understand there to be exactly three types of people who are on death row:
=== 1) INNOCENT PEOPLE ===
There is an obvious harm to the possibility of killing an innocent person - given that any justice system will have flaws, there will always be people who fall through the gaps, making this an option that cannot be ignored. See source  for such possibilities - especially the section where it mentions people, in Georgia and South Carolina, who have been posthumously pardoned decades after the fact. If executions have been carried out on innocent people in the past, how can we be certain that they're not being carried out on innocent people now?
But even if we assume that the justice system will perfectly weed out the innocent before execution, there is still the fact that there are many innocent people who are put on death row.  Imagine what it would be like to be one of these people, knowing that you're innocent of the crime, yet knowing that the government could kill you nonetheless. Imagine the stress that you would undoubtedly go through everyday, with this fear of death hanging over you constantly. Now imagine this ordeal potentially continuing for decades - anything up to 20+ years (time taken from examples in ).
Is any of this something we should wish upon innocent people? It is bad enough and unfortunate enough for innocent people to be in prison - but it is even worse for such people to be on death row, fearing that the government could put them to certain death at almost any time in the near future. This is something which can be avoided (unlike where innocent people are merely put in prison), and something which has to be stopped.
=== 2) GUILTY PEOPLE FOR WHOM REHABILITATION IS A VIABLE OPTION ===
In this circumstance, the case is hopefully clear and relatively self-evident, so I won't delve too much into the specifics. Essentially, rehabilitation is where someone realises the error of their previous criminal ways and is reintegrated into society as a law-abiding citizen. If this possibility is open to the guilty, why should we prevent it by sentencing them to death?
=== 3) GUILTY PEOPLE FOR WHOM REHABILITATION IS NOT A VIABLE OPTION ===
These are people who could never be integrated back into society: perhaps they are career criminals or so violently anti-Establishment that they would continue to commit crimes just to spite "the system". But even so, death need not be the answer, for two main reasons:
a. For some people it will be giving them the chance to become martyrs for the cause - see the reaction to Saddam Hussein's sentence of execution for reference.  Turning criminals into martyrs only helps those sympathetic to the criminal in their propaganda campaign to win people over to their cause. This is especially bad if that cause is terrorism - as will most such cases - but it also has an application in other cases, where the propaganda leads to a more general undermining of the justice system as a whole.
b. Even if the factors in a. don't apply, there is still no reason to kill the prisoner: for if they have committed a heinous crime, death is the easy way out for them. It would be better to let such people languish in prison, without hope that a lenient parole board / appeal judge will let them out years later to re-offend. Indeed, this approach seems to find general favour with the U.S. public - see the points made for life without parole in source , or the Gallup polls  that show support for the death penalty decreasing by anything up to 20% when respondents are explicitly given the alternative of life without possible chance of parole.
If they are guilty, then why waste public money on the mandated appeals that will result from being sent to death row? Why subject the victim's family to the knowledge that the perpetrator may yet be released if the appeals board is susceptible and lenient enough? Why mitigate the suffering that results from spending the rest of their natural life in prison, and knowing that they have no chance of being released? Is that not punishment enough?
=== CONCLUSION ===
I may, as yet, have reason to introduce other substantive arguments as the debate progresses. But for the time being, for the reasons already outlined, the resolution is affirmed. I await my opponent's response.
 Compare/contrast the figures on "Do you support the death penalty for murder?" and, summarised, "What if there was an alternative of life without chance of parole?", at: http://www.gallup.com...
I believe that prisoners who have been convicted executed with any appeal or staying. I also believe that to avoid innocents being executed, the death penalty should be used only and every time there is hard, undeniable evidence on the person. As it is innocents are rarely executed.
=============OBJECTION TO 2=============
For the second group of people, those who may be shown the error of their ways: Why should they be allowed to live even if they will not commit crimes again? Where is justice for the victim and his family members. If someone takes another person right to live then why should he be given the chance to live.
Also if there were a chance that they could be released what would deter them from committing murder just once?
Even if you did allow them to be reintegrated into society how can you be sure that will not commit murder again? How can you separate those will not commit murder again from those who might?
================OBJECTION TO 3==================
a) How many people are actually like that? Apart from Saddam Hussein , how many people are actually considered martyrs and how dangerous can it really be?
Before I respond to B I will point out some problems with life in prison.
Keeping murderers in prison poses a threat to other inmates guilty of less serious crimes as well as prison guards and innocents outside the prison. Many times, in prisons, inmates have killed other inmates and guards sometimes in an attempt to escape and sometimes even escaped from the prison and murdered more innocents outside the prisons
Long term prison costs when added up cost over $25,000. Because of Life without parole has led to many prisons being overcrowded, not only making it more dangerous for other inmates and guards but forcing more prisons to be built. More prisons are being built but crime is not decreasing.
Why should taxpayers waste money on housing people who have taken other peoples lives and building more prisons.
Costs that come from the death penalty are only there because people remain on death row for long periods of time. If the maximum time for them to remain on death row made something like 6 months or a year then those problems would be gone.
===============Objection to 3b===========
They killed someone else so killing them is a just punishment. There's no reason to let them suffer in prison with all the problems associated with keeping them there. If they killed someone in a painful way like shooting him, then they can be killed in a similarly painful way.
=== ON MY OPPONENT'S VERSION OF THE DEATH PENALTY ===
To be honest, I expected my opponent to support the death penalty as it currently stands - that is, accepting appeals as necessary to try and ensure that innocent people don't get executed. However, he is entitled to his own counter-view, which he put as follows:
"prisoners who have been convicted executed with [sic] any appeal or staying....to avoid innocents being executed, the death penalty should be used only and every time there is hard, undeniable evidence on the person. As it is innocents are rarely executed."
I have two, inter-related, problems with this:
1) My opponent seems to believe that "hard, undeniable evidence" is enough to weed out innocent people from being killed, but he forgets that this is the common standard for murder trials in the first place.  Anyone who has been convicted of murder - due to the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" - will have been deemed to have hard, undeniable evidence against them. However, the list of (at the time of writing) 139 people that I presented in the last round  is evidence enough that people sent to death row, with such a standard having been met at the trial, may still be innocent. My opponent's criterion is clearly not enough to weed out the innocent.
2) Therefore, it seems clear that many more innocent people than at present would fall through the net, and be executed for a crime they did not commit. Out of the 139 innocent people I listed, the overwhelming majority of them were on death row for 2 years or more, and would thus have been executed under my opponent's policy of killing them after "6 months or a year". He appears to be correct when he says that, "as it is innocents are rarely executed" - but his policy is a deviation from as it currently is, and many more innocent people would die as a result.
My opponent having implicitly conceded that the death of innocent people is bad - having provided the aforementioned point that "innocents are rarely executed", and not rebutting my argument that death row/death is bad for innocent people - his counter-proposal thus falls.
=== REBUTTAL AND REINFORCEMENT OF ORIGINAL SUBSTANTIVE ===
My opponent's arguments can be understood as coming under several categories. I rebut them as follows:
=== WHY WE SHOULDN'T KILL PEOPLE WHO HAVE KILLED OTHERS ===
My opponent frames his argument for the death penalty as a pursuit of justice, asking: "Why should [the criminals] be allowed to live even if they will not commit crimes again? Where is justice for the victim and his family members."
There is an important difference between justice and vengeance. Justice for the victim requires only that the perpetrator be found and be removed from society until/unless the criminal tendencies within him have been removed. This is why an early admission of guilt is usually taken into consideration in sentencing, for it is usually presumed (often accurately) that the sooner someone admits guilt, the more likely they are to be remorseful of their crime and thus able to be rehabilitated into society.
Life imprisonment serves these goals nicely. If they have been rehabilitated, they will be granted early release; if they have not, then it will become life without parole. To go further than justice requires, therefore - to demand the death penalty, for instance - is (logically enough) to not be just, and instead to be engaging in vengeance: it is literally acting to "an extreme or excessive degree."  There is a reason that we discourage people from acting as vigilantes, and enforce a dispassionate criminal justice system, namely that emotions (such as "that scumbag killed my daughter") cloud the senses, and make it incredibly difficult to accurately determine what constitutes justice. It does not help fair process in the legal system if the entire jurisdiction is gripped by emotion, killing people when life without parole would do just fine.
Against this, my opponent asks: "Even if you did allow them to be reintegrated into society how can you be sure that will not commit murder again?" The answer is that they are checked by psychiatric and psychology experts, and examined by a parole board to determine this very fact. They will usually even then not be let out completely - parole will come with limits: a geographical or temporal curfew, constant check-ins with parole officers and electronic tagging, to name just a few. These restrictions seek to give a relevant level of freedom whilst stopping recidivism rates as far as humanly possible. Any recidivism that takes place is surely down to a failure of these restrictions, not down to releasing them in the first place. Notice that my opponent recognises that unreleased criminals commit crimes inside prison, against people who may actually be innocent as well as those who are really guilty: in other words, recidivism happens in prison as well as outside of it, and release is not the causal factor here.
=== KEEPING MURDERERS FROM CAUSING HARM IN PRISON ===
My opponent says: "Keeping murderers in prison poses a threat to other inmates guilty of less serious crimes as well as prison guards and innocents outside the prison."
Not every murderer is inclined to pose such a threat, nor to try and escape. There is already a system in many prisons whereby such threats are neutralised by measures such as solitary confinement, withdrawal of privileges and/or having a single bed room, to name but a few. This issue causes no significant problem for my case.
=== COST ISN'T A DAMAGING PROBLEM ===
"Why should taxpayers waste money on housing people...and building more prisons."
My rebuttal breaks into two:
1) Often, prisons are overcrowded not due to too many murderers, but due to low-level criminals being sent to prison when perhaps they shouldn't. We should change this before resorting to killing people.
2) Taxpayer funding stops being wasteful if: a) prisoner levels drop as per 1) above; and b) we give LWOP people minimalistic accommodation, thus increasing their miserable existence in jail. Retribution, as far as it may have a role in punishment, will be achieved here.
=== MARTYRS ===
My opponent asks: "How many people are actually [martyrs]? ... [H]ow dangerous can it really be?"
These are essentially two questions, which I shall deal with in order:
1) Any religious extremist, who has committed a crime related to their extremism, will be seen as a martyr. This covers not only Islamists - such as Saddam Hussein - but also Christians like Paul Hill, a pro-lifer who murdered an abortionist and was executed.  This may not be a majority of such criminals, but is significant enough a phenomenon to be an issue worth being concerned about.
2) Allowing such martyrs to exist is dangerous because it feeds into the supporters' propaganda machine, labelling the state as the "enemy" who murdered their hero - the publicity of such an execution essentially gives them free publicity to state their case, making it more likely that moderates will be convinced by their rhetoric and be suckered in. This is especially problematic with Islamist extremists, who often glorify death and suicide as an instant path to paradise - by killing such a person, we are feeding into their idea that their hero is in Paradise, making it once again more likely that moderates will be convinced to follow in his footsteps.
 http://www.armyofgod.com... shows a supportive website calling him a martyr.
redinferno forfeited this round.
My opponent states " Anyone who has been convicted of murder - due to the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" - will have been deemed to have hard, undeniable evidence against them."
However in cases where innocent people die it is often because a verdict was given without strong evidence.
Excerpt from source: " Kendall Ryland added, "[It] made me sick to think this guy was executed based on this investigation.... They executed this guy and they've just got no idea - at least not scientifically - if he set the fire, or if the fire was even intentionally set.""
Hard undeniable evidence would be where there is a video that was clearly not forged – as in the case of 3 men 1 hammer incident – or where a significant number of witnesses attest to it or any other such case where it one would have to assume that a studio worked on forged a video over a period of months or years or that a group of unrelated people decided to falsely attest or another unreasonable explanation and not one like the excerpt above.
As pro suggested this can be solved through better prosecutors, not through banishing the death penalty. In this case there would be no reason for an appeal to prove innocence.
My opponent states that "Justice for the victim requires only that the perpetrator be found and be removed from society until/unless the criminal tendencies within him have been removed."
Justice involves punishing the perpetrator. That only prevents the crime from happening again and prevents other people from becoming victims. If the perpetrator is not punished then no justice has been done for the victim.
I agree that vengeance is different from justice. I agree that people could let their emotions cloud their judgment and give punishments exceeding the crime. The punishment that is given to the perpetrator must fit the crime and the only punishment to fit the crime of murder is death.
My opponent states " they are checked by psychiatric and psychology experts, and examined by a parole board to determine this very fact. They will usually even then not be let out completely - parole will come with limits: a geographical or temporal curfew, constant check-ins with parole officers and electronic tagging, to name just a few." Despite the checks and restrictions crime is often repeated.
My opponent states "Any religious extremist, who has committed a crime related to their extremism, will be seen as a martyr. "
No moderate would ever become a terrorist because other extremists are executed. If someone thinks of dying bombing himself or terrorizing a instant path to paradise then he is already and extremist or on his way to becoming an extremist and will become one whether or not other extremists are executed.
People who know that terrorizing is not an instant path to paradise will not become convinced by executions. Executions will not affect other people opinions. Supporters' cannot convince moderates to become extremists just by glorifying someone who was executed.
The majority of such criminals – as few as they are – are muslim extremists. The few others do not pose a significant problem.
I also wish to state even if they could use the death penalty to state their case, supporters' could just as easily use the life without parole.
I wish to add one more argument first. Research suggests that the death penalty deters people from committing murders.  In the years with high numbers of executions the murder rate decreased. As the number of executions decreased murders increased and later decreased again as the the number of executions increased.
My opponent has four main arguments/rebuttals, and I will deal with them under the same headings:
=== DETERRENCE ===
This issue is subsidiary to the question of justice. If I successfully show that it is unjust for the state to kill criminals, then the entire issue of deterrence falls also. There are many policies that would probably deter crime just as well (if not better) - CCTV in private homes and the establishment of a police state being just two - but the question of whether we should implement such policies must depend on the philosophical consideration of justice. So, for the reasons I'm about to re-inforce in this round, the issue of deterrence is not important enough to swing the debate either way.
=== MARTYRS ===
My opponent argues that: "People who know that terrorizing is not an instant path to paradise will not become convinced by executions. Executions will not affect other people opinions. Supporters' cannot convince moderates to become extremists just by glorifying someone who was executed."
He does not provide any evidence for this view, though, and leaves it asserted. This misses the entire concept of the "radicalisation of Muslims" that can take place when Muslims feel that the country in which they live (say, the UK or the US) is acting against the interests of their religion. Such radicalisation leads directly to former moderates seeing the logic in extremist versions of their doctrine, and being converted. See  for an example of this phenomenon being noticed in the U.S., and  for an example in the UK.
This prospect of radicalisation becomes a problem when the cause of the propaganda campaign is the result of killing such people. My opponent further states that the supporters of such criminals could just as easily use LWOP (life without parole) for their cause rather than the death penalty. This is not the case: a cornerstone of many extremist religious belief - especially in Islam - is the idea of such martyrs are destined for Paradise. LWOP clearly does not have the same effect as the death penalty in this regard, for by keeping them alive LWOP does not "send them to Paradise", in their eyes. There is a fundamental difference between the two here, of which my opponent has not taken account.
=== INNOCENCE ===
My opponent argues that cases "where innocent people die it is often because a verdict was given without strong evidence." In support of this claim, he quotes the case of Cameron Willingham as mentioned in source . However, this is not an accurate reading of this case. Reading deeper into the case as presented within the same source, we see that the evidence which allegedly finds Cameron Willingham to be innocent was discovered as a result of advances in scientific method: the court, therefore, believed according to the methodology of the time, to have hard, undeniable evidence against Cameron - for example, the burn patterns on the floor were taken as evidence that accelerant was used.  There is no way to rule out the possibility of such advances determining current standards as flawed and inaccurate, and thus we should not use irreversible methods of punishment such as death penalty. If Cameron had been sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death row, he would still be alive now, and quite possibly acquitted as a free man.
This selfsame prospect of advancement, and other considerations, rules out the examples that my opponent gives as hard undeniable evidence - to quote him, "a video that was clearly not forged...or where a significant number of witnesses attest to it."
Technological advancements may yet prove that what we currently understand to "clearly not be forgery" was forged. The fact that computer geniuses could very easily have access to, or themselves create, such technology should not give them a license to sentence innocent people to death. Also, it is easy to imagine a situation where many witnesses attest to something happening when it didn't: maybe the real murderer was in disguise; maybe they all thought that the defendant committed murder, when in actual fact the victim survived that incident to be killed at a later date; maybe the witnesses are members of, or bribed by, the Mafia (or a similar organisation) to say that they saw the crime happen, etc.
The fact that such room for error exists is evidence that irreversible methods of punishment (such as the death penalty) should not be undertaken. For as I've argued throughout, right from round 2, and my opponent has not denied, it is unacceptable for innocent people to be put on death row with the prospect (or actual incident) of them being killed by the state. There being no good enough safeguard against such possibilities, the death penalty should be abolished.
=== JUSTICE ===
This is perhaps the most important contention of this entire debate, for if the death penalty is just, then it should be reformed rather than abolished; but if it is unjust (as I argue), then no reformation is good enough and it should be abolished immediately.
My opponent said that: "Justice involves punishing the perpetrator." This is obviously correct. What is missed here is that LWOP also punishes the perpetrator: under this conception of justice alone, there is no reason to go one step further and introduce the death penalty. Furthermore, I have argued that LWOP could actually entail more punishment than the death penalty. As I said in Round 2:
"...if [criminals] have committed a heinous crime, death is the easy way out for them. It would be better to let such people languish in prison, without hope that a lenient parole board / appeal judge will let them out years later to re-offend."
On vengeance, my opponent responded thus: "The punishment that is given to the perpetrator must fit the crime and the only punishment to fit the crime of murder is death." But this is mere assertion on his part - why is death the "only punishment" suitable for murder? I have argued from the very beginning of this debate that rehabilitation should be a cornerstone of the criminal justice system - consequently, the only punishment suitable for any crime is one that allows for the criminal to realise their error of their ways and become a law-abiding member of society once again. And even if the person is "unreformable" - either because they're actually innocent or because they're, say, a career criminal - then LWOP gives the innocent a get-out clause (whereas death clearly does not) and the career criminal a better form of punishment than does the easy way out of death.
My opponent lastly said, on this topic, that: "Despite the checks and restrictions [before parole] crime is often repeated." This is not an argument for the death penalty; this is an argument, which I support, for more stringent checks and restrictions. Just because it's hard to stop recidivism in criminals, that doesn't mean that it's OK to kill them.
=== CONCLUSION ===
For all of these reasons - because the death penalty is unjust; because people wrongly convicted deserve a get-out clause in their sentence, which isn't possible when they are killed; because it gives a propaganda victory to extremist martyrs; and because the issue of deterrence is subsidiary to that of justice - I urge everyone to vote PRO. Thank you.
Concerning case of the Cameron Willingham, my opponent states "Cameron Willingham to be innocent was discovered as
a result of advances in scientific method: the court, therefore, believed according to the methodology of the time,
to have hard, undeniable evidence against Cameron - for example, the burn patterns on the floor were taken as
evidence that accelerant was used."
According to the source he quoted The evidence used at that time was not truly 'hard undeniable evidence' but
merely, as his source put it, 'folklore, than fact. Hunches handed down for generations.' The evidence had little
My opponent states 'Technological advancements may yet prove that what we currently understand to "clearly not be
forgery" was forged. The fact that computer geniuses could very easily have access to, or themselves create, such
Technological advancements, however, are made gradually and not in large leaps. In the case of the
Dnepropetrovsk maniacs it was stated that "In theory a photo can be faked, but to fake a forty minute video would require a studio and a whole year." In this case no sudden technological advancement could have made it possible for the video to be faked. When I said large number of witnesses I meant something like a large crowd, in public perhaps, where court can be sure that the witnesses saw it exactly as it happened.
The only reason for a moderate to become an extremist is for him to believe that heaven is a one way ticket to paradise and extremist try to convince them this. Other extremists' excecutions cannot lead moderates to believe what extremists say.
My opponent states "the only punishment suitable for any crime is one that allows for the criminal to realise their error of their ways and become a law-abiding member of society once again." I have to ask, does this mean that if someone realises the error of their ways before even being punished and completely changes, he should not be punished? Death suits the crime of murder because it is the exact same thing the perpetrator has done. If he takes someone's life then his own life should be taken.
"And even if the person is "unreformable" - either because they're actually innocent or because they're, say, a career criminal - then LWOP gives the innocent a get-out clause (whereas death clearly does not) and the career criminal a better form of punishment than does the easy way out of death."
There is no reason to go that far and make the punishment worse. Death is enough for someone who takes anothers life.
I agree that it is subsidary to the issue of Justice but I hold that nonetheless it tips the scale towards my side.
CCTV in private homes is too large a breach of privacy to accept. The death penalty does fine though.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 7 years ago
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