The Instigator
dtaylor971
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
thett3
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

The death penalty should be abolished.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
thett3
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/23/2014 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,736 times Debate No: 49744
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)

 

dtaylor971

Pro

First round is reserved for acceptance only.

In this debate, the BoP is shared.

My BoP will be that the death penalty should be abolished.
My opponent's BoP will be that it should not be abolished.

Death Penalty: "the punishment of execution, administered to someone legally convicted of a capital crime."

Abolished: "formally put an end to (a system, practice, or institution)."

Forfeiture will result in loss of both conduct and arguments unless otherwise stated by the instigator (me.) If I forfeit, this rule is vise versa.
Plagiarism will result in a loss of all 7 points.

Good luck to anyone who accepts! I look forward to a good debate!
thett3

Con

Sounds good. I agree to the definitions and accept the debate.
Debate Round No. 1
dtaylor971

Pro

When I saw you accepted this debate, I literally spit out my soda. Let's make this a hall of fame debate, but keep in mind I'm 12. For the sake of it, I'll try to use your debate format. Let's get started, shall we?

==The instigator's case==

==C1: The cost problem==

The death penalty is a very high-costing type of punishment that costs taxpayers a big amount of money. For instance, Californians are forced to pay $300 million per execution [1], totaling over $4 billion for a system that has carried out no more than 13 executions [2].

Judge Arthur L. Alarcón and Paula M. Mitchell state[s], ”Since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more then 13 executions.”

There are 723 people on the Californian death row [3], and if all of them are carried out, it would cost over $216 billion to California taxpayers alone. In contrast, it would cost roughly $31 million [4] for each one to have a LWOP.

Simply put, it would be cheaper if California, and the U.S.A, used LWOP instead of the death penalty. We really can not afford much more debt as is, and we should take any step necessary to cut our spending. Even in Texas, the state with one of the highest murder rates in the country, spends a lot on the death penalty [5]. Thus, the spending of the death penalty serves little to no use compared to the consequences that taxpayers endure.

Now, we look at the possible things that the money could be used for. The biggest thing the money could be used for is extra crime deterrent. This would help not only capital crime go down, but other crime as well. If California could use the $300 million to education, police force, or any other aspect it is weak in/endangered of being weak in. While California would benefit the biggest from this, other states with high costs (most of them) would also benefit, even if not as much, from an abolishment of the death penalty.

***

==C2: Deterrent?==

The above question has been repeatedly asked by both the pro and con side of the death penalty, but remains "unanswered." Answering this question would make us go deep, deep in data that is highly confusing to inexperienced people with this subject. First, we must examine the murder rates in the states of the death penalty to understand if it is a "deterrent." The FBI conducted one study and got the following data [6].

Murder rate per states with the highest-costing death penalty: 5.1 - 12.5 (per 100,000).

Murder rate per states with no death penalty: 1.2 - 7.1 (per 100,000)

The states that spend the most on the death penalty have the highest murder rate per 100,000, while the states with no death penalty have a significantly lower murder rate per 100,000. This suggests the death penalty does not play a significant role, if any, at deterring crime. The murder rate trend per 100,000 over time suggests the same data [7] with the states that practice the death penalty roughly .50-1 murder (per 100,000) more than states that do not practice the death penalty.

Furthermore, many experts agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent . A study polling experts found that 88.6% percent do not think that the death penalty is a deterrent, while the "yes" category and the "no opinion" category are roughly the same, which is troubling. This study [8] analyzes the results of most , and finds that the death penalty is not a deterrent.

Also, I am sure that my opponent would try to use the 60% drop in murders of states with the death penalty as evidence for deterrence. However, while murders in death penalty states have dropped significantly, states without the death penalty have dropped just as much. This suggests that U.S.A law and police force was responsible for this drop, not the death penalty.

***

==C3: Innocence==

I'm sure you have all heard this one before: innocence. It is obvious that a few people on the death row, even a few that have been executed, were actually innocent. This means that the death penalty has wrongfully taken a life of an innocent one without good reason, which is technically the definition of "murder."


Now, we look at the statistics. There have been a total of 144 people who have been released from death row by innocence [9]. This means that as much as 3.5% of the death row may
actually be innocent of their convicted actions. This also means that the death penalty is carried out when people aren't positive that one actually committed a crime, which is completely inexcusable. If someone is innocent and gets put to death, there is a 0% chance that they will ever be able to live the life that they deserved.

And yes, the death penalty has killed innocent people. Take Jason O'dell. There were "serious questions" surrounding his guiltiness of committing the crime. Last-minute pleas to spare him were not recognized, and he was put to death. All DNA tests were burned up after, which suggests that the U.S.A did not want to be proved accountable for putting an innocent man to death. This is completely inexcusable. There would be a 0% chance of putting an innocent man to death if the death penalty was discontinued.

***

==C4: Lessons==

This will be a rather short contention. The subject will be that the death penalty teaches less of a lesson, if any lesson, to the convicts. The death penalty ends life, leaving the convict with less time to realize how wrong his actions were. LWOP gives them more time to realize how wrong their actions were. Thus, people on the death penalty do not learn as much that people on LWOP do.

In an unrelated note, everyone has equal rights, as many documents say. This means murderers have equal rights. This also means that murderers have the right of life, and it would be wrong to take it away from them. Two wrongs don't make a right, do they?

*********

I thank my opponent for his time and you for reading my arguments! I look forward to the opponent's contentions!

[1] http://www.deathpenalty.org...

[2] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[3] http://www.theguardian.com...

[4] http://www.mountain-news.com...

[5] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[6] http://filipspagnoli.files.wordpress.com...

[7] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[8] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

[9] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

thett3

Con

Thanks for the debate and for the arguments Dtaylor.


I negate: The death penalty should be abolished.

Crime and Justice international magazine explains that the criminal justice system has two purposes[1]: preventing and controlling crime, and achieving justice. Therefore if I prove that the death penalty serves one or both of these roles better than the alternative, I should win the round as I maximize the justice systems performance of its intended roles.

C1: Saves lives

A. Deterrence

The fact is that the death penalty does deter crime because people follow their incentives, as Rothbard explains[2], "While it is impossible to prove the degree of deterrence, it seems indisputable that some murders would be deterred by the death penalty." It's been observed that at least some murders would have been deterred, Luis Vera who fatally shot the tenant of an apartment he robbed in Brooklyn (where the death penalty has been abolished) later remarked[3]: "Yeah, I shot her...and I knew I wouldn't go to the chair".

There have been numerous studies on the deterrent effect such as a study from Emory finding that each execution leads to 3-18 fewer murders[4]. These studies are problematic in that crime is a multilayered complex issue and the death penalty is applied very rarely, but the little literature that exists larger concludes that the death penalty deters crime. The logic points to deterrence, and with such shaky statistics that's what we need to look to. Moreover there's nothing unjust about the death penalty (or if there is, my opponent hasn't proven so) so in order to maximize it's role of preventing future crimes, the criminal justice system should err on the side of caution and keep the death penalty. If the death penalty does not deter crime and we execute some violent murderers, no harm done. All that has happened is we have a few less murderers. However if the death penalty *does* deter and we fail to execute, we fail to keep innocent people safe.

B. Recidivism

Quite obviously, a murderer who's been executed can never again cause a death. Sadly, the same can't be said of criminals behind bars. Clarence Ray Allen was serving a life sentence without parole for murder in California when he colluded with soon to be paroled Billy Hamilton to eliminate the witnesses against him[5]. Allen intended to gain a new trial and this time one with no witnesses. Hamilton killed three people and wounded another before an armed neighbor returned fire, driving him off. When Hamilton was arrested the next week robbing a liquor store police learned of the plot and both Hamilton and Allen were sentenced to die.

The point is, imprisonment doesn't guarantee a murderer doesn't strike again. Imprisonment failed to deter Allen from causing more innocent deaths, but he certainly hasn't killed anyone since his 2006 execution.

In Texas, with prisons overflowing, Kenneth McDuff, a convicted murderer who's death sentence was overturned by the supreme court, was released in 1989. He proceeded to go on a killing spree, killing at least 7 women before he was once again sentenced to die and this time finally executed[6].

C2: The death penalty is just

There's no good argument against the death penalty. As John Stuart Mill argued[7]:

"Does fining a criminal show want of respect for property, or imprisoning him, for personal freedom? Just as unreasonable is it to think that to take the life of a man who has taken that of another is to show want of regard for human life. We show, on the contrary, most emphatically our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself, and that while no other crime that he can commit deprives him of his right to live, this shall."

The death penalty is a just penalty because it prescribes the most serious sentence to the most serious crime. Criminal penalties should match the crime in severity, and it's due to this that it's justified to punish a murderer with death. Since the death penalty is just, it meets the second goal of the criminal justice system.

Opponents case


C1. Cost

This argument shouldn't be considered because you can't put a price tag on justice or human life. Moreover it's questionable how much these statistics apply across the US as a whole considering my opponents own evidence describes the Californian death penalty system as "dysfunctional". California definitely needs to do something with it's system, either reforming it to execute more people or abolishing it altogether. If they can't get their system to actually execute people (California has an execution rate of 1.7% according to my opponents own numbers) I'm not so sure it can even be considered a death penalty. It's better to take a look at the states that actually execute people, such as Texas.

My opponents source 5 argues that the death penalty in Texas costs about $500,000 more than the amount needed to put someone in prison for life. First of all, even if this is the case if the death penalty actually deters crime like the evidence shows it's well worth the extra $500k. Secondly, the analysis says without a citation that the average cost for a non-death penalty murder trial is $3000. Theres no way that's true. Accurate numbers on the cost of murder trials are surpisingly hard to find, but as a typical example the Dunn murder trial cost taxpayers nearly $100,000[8]. I think the numbers on the cost of the death penalty in Texas are probably accurate and should be used to determine how much a workable death penalty system actually costs. An analysis from Iowa State University calculated the total economic cost of murder in terms of lost productivity, judicial costs, and other economic factors determined that the average murder costs society about $17.2 million[9]. So even using the extremely conservative cost estimate from my opponents source, if each execution in a workable system costs about $500,000 more than life without parole, if just one murder is deterred or one case of recidivism stopped for every 34 executions, society breaks even on the tangible costs (.5 million x 34 = 17 million) nonwithstanding the moral benefits of having another person alive which causes us to come out on top.

Moreover this fails to take into account plea bargaining. The threat of death causes criminals to plead guilty much more often than they do in non death penalty jurisdictions[10] forgoing the costs of the trial all together.

C2. Deterrence

The analysis of death penalty states to non death penalty states is comparing apples to oranges. I could cite lower murder rates in European countries that have abolished life without parole (such as Norway) to prove that life without parole doesn't deter murder just as easily.

The facts are laid out in my case: Studies have shown a deterrence effect, as does logic and an admission from an actual murderer. Really the issue boils down to "do criminal penalties deter crime?" and I think we can all agree the answer is a resounding yes. If the threat of punishment deters crime, it follows that harsher penalties would decrease crime more.

Pro cites a survey from criminologists stating that the majority of them don't believe the death penalty deters crime, but I have to wonder their reasoning which is not given. I won't argue that this doesn't present some trouble for the deterrence argument, but I think the evidence I've given outweighs it. Remember, if we deter even one murder from 34 executions we've come out on top. The small amount of executions if this were the true rate would lead to about 1-2 murders deterred a year which would have absolutely no effect on the murder rate but would still be beneficial for society overall. I think it's a safe assumption that *some* murder is deterred by the threat of the death penalty and that the true number is likely higher than 1 or 2 a year.

C3. Innocence

My opponent cites 144 innocents released from death row. This proves that the current system is working in freeing the innocent, and if you look through the list of released inmates almost all (all but 3) were convicted in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and not one has been convicted since 2003. It's *because* of statistics like these that death sentences are on the decline and have been for a while, Jurors are becoming increasingly reluctant to send someone to die without extremely hard evidence. Moreover huge advances in technology are lessening the probability of convicting an innocent every day. It comes down to a cost benefit analysis--I showed at least 10 people killed by murderers because they didn't get the death penalty, which far outweighs the (possibly innocent) one person my opponent cited.

C4. Lessons

I'm not too sold on this argument. We shouldn't care that much about teaching criminals right from wrong when compared to the innocent lives that could be saved. Moreover I think that putting murderers in a position where they're forced to "meet their maker" will cause them to think about their actions more than 3 hot meals a day until they die of old age will, not to mention the utter depravity of the crimes most murderers are on death row for.

Sources:

1. http://www.cjimagazine.com...
2. http://mises.org...
3. http://faculty.mdc.edu...
4. http://www.washingtonpost.com...
5. http://www.clarkprosecutor.org...
6. http://en.wikipedia.org...
7. http://ethics.sandiego.edu...
8. http://www.firstcoastnews.com...
9. http://www.soc.iastate.edu...
10. http://www.cjlf.org...
Debate Round No. 2
dtaylor971

Pro

I affirm the following: The death penalty should be abolished.

Wow! Fantastic arguments! I will start off with my rebuttals and then continue with a few more contentions.

Rc1: Saves Lives

A. Deterrence

My opponent states that the death penalty deters crime. However, this is a dangerous topic for either side to go on. Many studies have shown different results. However, we do not need a study to suggest that the death penalty is not a deterrent. There is irrefutable data that states with no death penalty have lower murder rates than states with the death penalty. Not only does this suggest that the death penalty doesn't do a good job of deterring crimes, but also that LWOP does a better job of deterring crime.

"For 2012, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.7, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.7 [1]" - DPIC (Death Penalty Information Center.)

Studies on the deterrence of the death penalty have been rocky and inconclusive, with data suggesting it both does an outstanding job of deterring crime and other data suggesting it does not. Even Rothbard states "it is impossible to prove degree of deterrence." The ACLU has found evidence that suggest LWOP is in fact a MORE deterring punishment than the death penalty [2].

Now, we look at the opponent's study. Apparently the study was questionable for the state of New Jersey to mark it off as "inconclusive," and have "little public impact." Furthermore, we see the same source that delivered his date, Washington, report that studies show that the death penalty is not a deterrent on murder rates [3]. A study by the National Research Council was the same as a 1978 study that showed the death penalty did not favor the side of either not deterring or deterring crime.

My opponent states that there is no harm done if the death penalty does not deter murders. What about the money we could've saved? What about the dead body in the chair that had been promised by the Constitution to have a right to life? What about the doctors who executed the man but SWORE to preserve life? There would quite obviously be some harm done. If the death penalty does deter and we don't use it, LWOP will deter too and we can keep innocent people safe.


Therefore, this argument is weak and relies on data that can, and has been, refuted by multiple sources. This argument stands neutralized.

***

B. Recidivism

FUN FACT: Both Ray Allen and Billy Hamilton are sports stars. Ray Allen is a player for the Miami Heat who is considered to be the best three-point shooter of all time. Billy Hamilton is the fastest player in baseball, on the Cincinnati Reds.

My opponent states that a murderer who has been executed can never again cause a death. This is irrefutable. However, it is not often in modern day (if even apparent) that a LWOP would escape from prison. Clarence Ray Allen murdered last in 1980, which was about 34 years ago [4]. The opposition's second murderer was in 1989, about 25 years ago. The point is, times have changed. I ask my opponent to name a more recent person who murdered another person due to not being put down.

Now, if the death penalty was abolished, money could be (and/or could've been) put into making sure inmates do not escape. Primarily, California could significantly up their security on LWOP prisons, leaving no chance for escape. In conclusion, we could take steps to make no chance of any LWOP escaping with the funding of the death penalty no more.

This argument stands refuted.

***

Rc2: The death penalty is just

In this argument, my opponent states that there is no good argument against the death penalty, and that it is just.

First off, if there were no good arguments against the death penalty, why is there still a debate on this? The cost is a good argument (I'll refute your rebuttal on that later, don't worry.) Second, the death penalty is not very just. There is speculation that article 8 of the Constitution does not approve of the death penalty [5]:

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

The U.S Constitution forbids cruel punishment, such as the death penalty. Taking away a life is cruel and inhumane, even if the person took away a life. We must still recognize the prisoners right to life. The U.N also says in article 3 that "everyone has the right to live" [6]. Therefore, the death penalty is not just. I have already refuted that LWOP is fit for the title "ultimate punishment for ultimate crime."

This argument is false.

***

Rc1. Cost

I will split this rebuttal up into three parts to correspond to my opponent's three paragraphs. First, he states that this shouldn't be considered because you can't put a price tag on justice or human life. However, the person you are submitting to death penalty is a human life, is it not? If there was truly "no way to put a cost on human life," we wouldn't be spending millions on the death penalty to prevent a killer from striking again, which is very, very rare on its own. Second, we put costs on human life literally on a daily basis. Military sends out millions of people to protect their country at the price of dying. The underlying flaw in this argument is that if you spend money on one thing, you can't spend it on another thing. Spending money on the death penalty ensures that the same money won't be spent on crime control, which could save MORE lives than the death penalty (crimes outside of murders would be affected, also.)

Second, my opponent argues my source 5 data. He states that the death penalty is well worth the extra $500k to save 3-18 murders. On balance, this would be true. However, my opponent fails to notice that LWOP deters murder also. His study is also based on just 12 executions in 2004-2006, which makes the data loose and unreliable. The methodology of it could also be flawed, as could any study. If an execution saved 5 lives, it is probably correct that the LWOP would've saved just as many. If we had to "upgrade" the LWOP to make it seem scarier, we could still save an adequate amount of money. Say that you save $100,000 on a LWOP case. You can now buy 439 college algebra textbooks.

Secondly, my opponent argues that my source is not true. He states that the average non-death penalty was in no way $3,000. However, he overlooks my source states a city called Lubbock County. Then, he says there were no citations. However, the source cites an L. Carver article in MLA format at the bottom of the page [7], THEN gives you an alternative link to show you where they got the cost information from. Did you overlook this?

Then, he proceeds to say that if one murder was stopped per 34 executions, we come out on top at a $17 million loss, while the average murder costs $17.2 million dollars. The subtotal is listed as 5 million dollars per murder, with 12 million dollars for the WTP. Once again, he assumes that LWOP deters NO murders at all (even though it obviously does.) If LWOP deters one murder in every 34 cases, it is just as effective and costs $500,000 less.

Last, plea bargaining. I would like my opponent to show just how often a person facing the death penalty plea bargains, so I can add up the cost and effectively refute it.

***

Rc2: Deterrence

A. I have already refuted and dealt with most of this. My opponent states that LWOP deters less murders because of European countries. However, this is false. Countries (all around the world) have much higher homicide rates [8]:

“The five countries in the world with the highest homicide rates that do not impose the death penalty have nearly half the number of murders per 100 000 people than the five countries with the highest homicides rates which do impose the death penalty (United Nations Development program)”

The top 10 countries that have the highest murder rate per 100,000 more commonly have the death penalty (6 out of the ten highest-rated countries in murder have the death penalty.)

Last, my opponent states that my survey is unreliable due to the lack of reasoning by the experts. However, my opponent probably did not read the full 20-page report [9] to find out the reasoning and data behind it. There is also a statement that pops out of the page:

"Since only four of the 251 inmates executed between 2004 and 2008 chose to be electrocuted, Zimmerman’s work suggests that whatever deterrent effect the death penalty may have had is now history. [10]"

Zimmerman's works show that lethal injections may have taken some, if not most, of the fear out of the death penalty. This draws us to the conclusion that if the death penalty did deter murders, it is very likely a decreased amount today. Also, if the death penalty deters 1-2 murders per year, it is common sense LWOP would, too.

Rc3: Innocence

This will only refute part of thett3's rebuttal because of the limited characters I have. My opponent states that 144 innocents released from death row shows that the system is working. It is working because it is realized as the "highest" form of punishment, and thus officers try to do everything in their power to prove a man is guilty. If LWOP was the highest form of punishment, there would be multiple releases also because it would be considered the highest form of punishment.

Thanks, thett3!

[1] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
[2] https://www.aclunc.org...
[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
[4] http://www.clarkprosecutor.org...
[5] http://www.americasfreedom.com...
[6] https://www.un.org...
[7] http://lubbockonline.com...
[8] https://fullfact.org...
[9] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
[10] "
DO EXECUTIONS LOWER HOMICIDE RATES?: THE VIEWS OF LEADING CRIMINOLOGISTS." Vol. 99, p. 498.


thett3

Con

My case

I. Lives

A. Deterrence

Pro claims that studies have shown the death penalty is not a deterrent. If they have, he hasn't cited them. Pro focuses all of his efforts attacking my study, which I admitted was problematic. Studies for the issue are going to be extremely difficult to conduct due to the multivariate issue and extremely small sample size. Pro does not respond to the logic nor to the citation of a murder actually admitted that while committing his murder he "knew [he] wouldn't go to the chair". We have to go with the logic that people follow their incentives. I'm sure Pro would agree that if we lowered the sentence for murder to a $1000 fine we would see more murder occur because having stronger penalties deters crimes.

Pro argues that since states with the death penalty have higher murder rates, clearly this means LWOP deters more murder. This is incredibly flawed as death sentences, even in states with the death penalty, are exceedingly rare. The only real question is does the threat of death deter murderers? Pro hasn't made any logical argument for why it doesn't.

Pro's source from the ACLU never claims that LWOP is a better deterrent to the death penalty, because it isn't. The threat hanging over you of having three meals a day, social interaction, and healthcare until you die is not the same as the threat of having your existence terminated which is the reason that practically everyone sentenced to die fights their sentence tooth and nail. Pro's third citation is an article from the Huffington Post who's title proclaims that studies say the death penalty is not a deterrent. This is Huffington Posts liberal bias seeping through, if you actually read the article it claims that the study found no reliable research either way. This is not at all the same as proving death is not a deterrent.

Pro argues that the harm from executing murderers is taking away their constitutional right to life, a right never established by the Constitution--in fact the Constiution explictly references Capital Punishment in phrases such as "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb" in amendment Five.

The only real takeaway here is that we need to look at it logically: do people follow their incentives, or not? Decreasing the incentive to murder by having the threat of the ultimate penalty is obviously going to decrease some murders, which helps maximize the purpose of the justice system. The system should err on the side of caution--there's no harm in executing some of our worst human rights violaters but there is a harm in letting innocent people die.

B. Recidivism

My opponent makes the claim that since my examples are old, these things don't happen anymore but that's just false. I cited those two because they're some of the worst offenders. A simple google search brings up an article published yesterday of a man who got only 8 years (!) for committing two murders and is now being charged with yet another murder[1]. Had he been executed, this likely wouldn't have happened. In the late 90s Westley Lowe compiled a short and incomplete list of murderers who were released, or escaped, or killed while in prison containing dozens of examples[2]. Britian, which has abolished the death penalty, has released murderers who killed again at least 31 people in the last decade[3]. Pro argues that without the death penalty we could spend the cash we save on increasing prison defenses, but unless he proves that abolishing the death penalty is going to do that he gains no advantage.

II. Justice

The Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty consistently since 1976. If it violated the 8th amendment, the Supreme Court would have ruled so. Pro gives no warrants on why it's "cruel" to gently kill a convicted murderer. Prefer my analysis of the proportionality of punishment and the Mills quote about how we show reverence to life by applying the ultimate penalty to those who violate it.

Pro cites a the UN Declaration of Human Rights but note that what the UN says is not objective, you should prefer the work of actual philosophers to their bold declarations. Moreover when the Declaration was signed in 1948 the vast majority of nations still had Capital Punishment because rights are not absolute. We all have the right to life, but we can lose that right if we violate the social contract in egregious ways like killing another.

Pro doesn't dispute my analysis on punishments having to match the crime, so you can vote Con.

The resolution is negated as capital punishment gives the state a tool to fulfill it's obligations to the justice system.

Opponents case

Cost

Pro doesn't dispute that you can't put a price on justice, he just tries to argue that we can't execute murderers because we are taking a human life. The problem is, as I've already said rights are not absolute. I could argue that imprisonment violates ones right to liberty just as easily, I was clearly referencing innocent life in my argument. Pro argues that we are putting a price on life by having active military, but this doesn't make much sense. Having a defense force is not the same as saying "We know the death penalty deters murder, but we are not going to use it because we spend too much on it". Pro argues again that we could spend the money we save on crime control, but there's no proof that affirming the resolution is going to lead to the state doing that. It's better to negate and for sure save some lives instead of affirm and hope the state uses the equivalent of a drop in the bucket to finance life saving ventures.

Pro continues to argue against the one study I cited instead of the logic of my argument. Obviously the death penalty is going to deter some murders and prevent some by disallowing criminals the ability to kill again. Pro argues that I'm somehow assuming Life Without Parole deters no murders, but obviously I'm not. My argument is that the death penalty is more of a threat and thus deters *more* murders because people follow their incentives.

Pro's article has no source on the cost of trials but it's safe to assume they're vastly more the $3000 dollars. Trial costs for automobile *civil suits* are well over 5 times that[4]. Moreover remember the Iowa State study--if an execution deters 1/34th of a murder that LWOP wouldn't, we still come out on top economically.

On Plea bargaining the source says on page 12 that in counties where death is an option, murderers plead guilty significantly more often (53.9% to 42,6%) forgoing the cost of a trial entirely.

Deterrence

My opponent insists on comparing countries across each other as if a rarely applied single facet of the justice system explains all variance. You need to prefer me on this because I'm the only one arguing logically--to affirm is to throw all logic out the window. To see why the death penalty almost certainly does deter, see my deterrence argument above.

Pro argues that since electrocution is now rarely applied the threat of death is no longer scary to inmates but we know this isn't true. If LWOP was a worse sentence than death virtually everyone in that situation would commit suicide, but relatively few do.

Innocence

Pro drops my analysis on how this proves the appeals system works. Pro also doesn't dispute my analysis that these overturned convictions are becoming extremely rare and one hasn't happened in over a decade. This actually serves as an argument against LWOP---if we wrongly convict this many death row inmates, where jurors apply a much stricter standard for conviction and where innocence watch dog groups actually pay attention--how many lifers are wrongly convicted, left to die behind bars? The numbers suggest a lot. The National Registry of Exonerations reports that since 1989 there have been 1339 exonerations[5]. About 500 of these were from life sentences of some kind. NTY says that in 2009 there were 140,000 people serving life sentences, most of which would've been for murder. Analysis of this data shows that *far fewer* people sentenced to life in prison are freed (500/140,000, ~0.35%) compared to those those freed from death sentences (about 100 sinces 1989/3095 current inmates[6] is around 3%) despite *vastly lower* sentencing standards. Thus, since life imprisonment seems less urgent and inmates don't have automatic appeals like death row inmates do, far fewer innocents get freed.

It looks like life imprisonment actually protects the innocent less than death does.

Sources:

1. http://www.baltimoresun.com...
2. http://www.wesleylowe.com...
3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk...
4. http://www.courtstatistics.org...
5. http://www.law.umich.edu...
6. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...





Debate Round No. 3
dtaylor971

Pro


Rc3: Innocence

My opponent states that no innocent people have been convicted since 2003 due to a boost in technology. Two things about this statement. First, my opponent concedes to my point that innocent people have been convicted due to the death penalty. If we abolish the death penalty, there would be a 0% chance of an innocent execution. Second, the technological advantages my opponent talks about can also be used to stop people on LWOP from escaping. It's also *because* of statistics like these that the escapes of LWOP are declining.

Second, my opponent states that he showed me at least 10 people killed by murderers, which drastically outweighs my one innocent person that I cited. But surely you can not believe there was only one possibly innocent execution, right? The Innocence Project has found a few guys that were innocent and spent time on death row [1]:

"Eighteen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row."

This shows that judges actually aren't that reluctant to send someone to death row without rock hard solid evidence. My opponent also does not realise that out of over 1,000 cases of the death penalty, there is no way of telling how many executions were of innocent people, as the government has actually burned DNA evidence to get out of a possible innocent execution (see round 2, contention 3 (Jason O'Dell.) Plus, there have been 12 men that have been very close to being proven innocent, after execution (Larry Griffin, David Spence, etc [2].)

Rc4: Lessons

Your rebuttal doesn't make too much sense. You state that inmates have escaped, but you don't want them to learn a lesson? Also, my opponent seems to overestimate the quality of prison. Articles state prison food "poor quality" and one of their options is "buying overpriced food [3]." If we don't teach prisoners a lesson, they are way more likely to do the same crime again because they don't know it's wrong, which seems to be a concern of yours.

Rc1: Deterrence

A. I have cited studies that have shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent, such as the expert study. There are more studies out there, such as [4], which says that deterrence studies are unreliable and there is no solid evidence for deterrence.

"We show that with the most minor tweaking of the [research] instruments, one can get estimates ranging from 429 lives saved per execution to 86 lives lost. These numbers are outside the bounds of credibility." (The Economists' Voice, April 2006).

My tenth source of round three was also a study that asked experts if the death penalty was a good deterrent, and most of them (with their reasoning) said no, it was not. Also, if you admitted your study was problematic then why did you use it?

Now, I see I forgot to refute your quote. Your quote is only from one murderer with only one opinion. Opinions among murderers vary, so one simply does not cut it. This piece of evidence has an absurdly small sample size, only taking one murderer's opinion into count. Thus, it is not a strong, reliable piece of evidence. If we only had a $1,000 dollar fine, then yes, murders would go up. I believe the death penalty is not a strong deterrent and can be matched by LWOP. I used the word "deterrent" too strongly.

If the death penalty is a big, good deterrent like my opponent says, then there shouldn't have to be a big number of executions to stop people from murdering. The simple threat of death should be enough to deter murders, as my opponent says, but the states murder record does not show so. As you state, the death penalty is really rare, but why? If it was really so big of a deterrent (and as you state, you can't put a cost on life) why don't we use it way more often?

My source from ACLU never directly states that LWOP is a better deterrent than the death penalty, but suggests that it is by using personal opinions. See the article asking the families what they would rather have the prisoners go through: death, or LWOP. They say LWOP, which suggests that the public is more scared of LWOP than the death penalty. I have already refuted that the meals in prison aren't too good. Also, the social interaction in prison is not necessarily "good".

My opponent attacks the Huffington Post with no evidence of it being "liberal bias." If you had actually read my text, I said it suggests that there is not any evidence it being a deterrent (as you pointed out) not that it *proves* it is not a deterrent.

The Constitution obviously states that people should have the right to life, such as "pursuit of LIFE, liberty, and happiness" or "nor shall any state deprive any person of LIFE, liberty, or property. [5]" As for Amendment 5, I have shown we can lower and possibly diminish the chances of any murderer escaping from prison.

B. Recidivism

The example that pro provided was obviously an avoidable error. It is absurd a man would only get 8 years in prison for a murder. This can be easily fixed by giving murderers more harsh sentences excluding the death penalty. His list that he cited was, once again, outdated. Technology has significantly improved to help stop prisoners from escaping, and there is no denying that technology is going to get greater and will likely pose a solution to stopping prisoners from escaping.

As for Britain, the people who were released can also clearly be stopped by simply not releasing them. If we abolish the death penalty in California alone, we potentially save 300 million per murder. 300 million dollars is a big fund, and we could potentially build an extra 28 prisons [6] with the money saved. In more moderate states, we could build a new prison every 8 executions.

RII. Justice

It is cruel to kill a convicted murderer because regardless of what the person did, he does not deserve death. Plus, it isn't exactly a "gentle" way to kill a murderer. Most inmates on death row wait 20 years in terrible prison conditions, then doctors make them stare death right in the face. Also, could you please state the Mills quote?

The UN Declaration of Human Rights is a document of proper morals, while not objective, it still portrays good morals in humans that we should follow. Even if rights are not absolute, we should fight to make them as absolute as possible. Con states a "social contract" which he has not stated. He also states if you break that "contract," you deserve death.

I have not directly refuted your analysis on punishments needing to match the crime because I have shown that LWOP is a proper "capital punishment," and it is fit for the worst punishment. Basically, living life in a living hell and death are equal, maybe with living hell above death.

R1: Cost

You never said that you can't put a price on justice, just that you can't put a price on life. If you really can't put a price on justice, would you be willing to pay 10 trillion just to punish someone (it's an absurd example, but it goes along of the lines that "you can't put a price on justice.) So we can put a price on justice. I have said that rights should be as absolute as possible.

The military does put a price on life, as we send people out to get killed and defend at a price of roughly $652 billion per year. We send people to the chair and get killed to try to defend the local population (teach them a lesson.) If we do abolish the death penalty and save money, then the state is going to do something good with it. It could be education, police force, state housing, etc.

I think your next rebuttal was saying that I argued a link YOU posted? You were arguing a link I posted (source 5, round 2) and I was trying to defend it. If it was the deterrence study, then I have already refuted it by showing a little tweak in the instruments could cause as much as 500 lives saved or 87 lives lost according to the studies. I have already said I do believe the death penalty deters SOME murders, just not a good amount.

Again with my source. It has another source at the bottom of the page. LOOK AT IT. My opponent doesn't show that the death penalty does deter more murders than LWOP, so therefore, his economic argument is not true. As for the plea bargaining, the costs of the death penalty are still higher than LWOP with the plea bargaining, which just goes to tell you how much the death penalty costs.

Rc2: Deterrence

Like the state argument, my country argument is logical because if the thought of LWOP scares and deters more would-be murderers than the death penalty, the country would have a lower murder rate. Once again, the death penalty does deter some murders, just not a good amount.

If LWOP was a worse sentence, not everyone would commit suicide. This is like saying all people on death row would commit suicide because they thing the death penalty is a terrifying punishment also state a few do, which just adds to my argument that LWOP is a good punishment.

Rc3: Innocence

I have already refuted this argument by showing that if LWOP was the highest punishment, judges would be more cautious to throw people into the sentence. Overturned convictions haven't happened in a decade, but we have come close to killing innocent people (see my 144 people study.) LWOP is less urgent because it is the second worst punishment (as seen by society,) so is therefore less urgent. Releasing 3% of people in "vastly lower" amount of LWOP is scary, as it goes to show how many people could have been innocent if we are still releasing so many people with a small number of LWOPs.

I'm out of characters. Thanks for the debate!

[1] http://www.innocenceproject.org...

[2] http://madamenoire.com...
[3] http://www.takepart.com...
[4] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
[5] http://www.law.cornell.edu...
[6] http://www.reedconstructiondata.com...

thett3

Con

Thanks Dtaylor. I'll just go over the debate, starting with my case.

I. Lives

Deterrence

My opponents only real arguments here are that the studies are unreliable. This is why my entire argument was logically based, that people follow the incentives the system provides them with. Pro's only response is that LWOP deters murder as well and of course it does, but the question is if it deters murder *as much* as the threat of death, and the answer is a resounding no. Virtually every death row inmate fights tooth and nail to get their sentence commuted to LWOP and like I've previously stated the threat of having your existence terminated is much greater than the threat of having shelter, food, and healthcare for the rest of your life. Prison certainly isn't an ideal place to be but the vast majority of murderers would pick it over death in a heartbeat, which is why so few "voluntary" executions where the condemned has waived their appeals occur. Pro insists on comparing apples to oranges by looking at different states, but the death penalty is a tiny facet of the justice systems and criminal cultures in each state. The real argument to look to is the logical analysis.

The takeaway here is to look at the logic. Pro has made only appeals to authority in his argument for why deterrence does not occur, but logically by reducing the incentive to murder by having a death penalty you will reduce some murders. The lack of a death penalty is why Luis Vera committed his murder. The jsutice system should err on the side of caution and execute murderers.

Recidivism

Pro never responds to the fact that murderers can and do kill again, he just tries to get around the specific examples I brought up. Pro argues that we can just not let any murderers out but this ignores that many of them kill again in prison as the list and the Allen example showed. Moreover, the only way to *ensure* that murderers are not let out is to kill them. Many countries around the world have abolished life without parole, and times change. Part of the reason the UK and the rest of Europe has such liberal prison policies is because they've abolished the death penalty so people wanting weaker sentences for criminals can focus their efforts downward and be rid of life in prison as well. Remember as well that prison escapes can also occur. Pro argues that we can construct more prisons with the money California would save from abolishing the "death penalty" but note that this ignores my argument that we can't look to California with its 1.7% execution rate as a state with an actual death penalty and that unless Pro proves abolishing the death penalty will lead to states investing the money in more prisons he gains no advantage.

II. Justice

Pro asserts that no one deserves death, but this is simply not the case. The punishment should match the crime and there's nothing wrong with someone losing their right to life as they can lose their right to liberty. Pro doesn't show any compelling distinction. Prefer actual philosophers to the UN. As Mill said, we show how we value life by applying the most stringent penalties to those who violate it.

Pro argues that we should look the UN for our morals but ignores that when the document was first issued virtually every nation has capital punishment. The right to life is not absolute and certain egregious crimes can cause one to lose it. Pro says that prison is a "living hell' but if it really was we should see a lot more inmates waiving their appeals and accepting their deaths. They don't.

The death penalty gives society another tool to punish it's worst human rights violaters.


Opponents case

Cost


Pro doesn't refute that the average murder costs society about $17.2 million. I've already proven that death is a greater deterrent than life imprisonment due to almost all prisoners steadfastingly resisting it. The costs of an actual death penalty using the appeals process is about $500,000 more than life without parole using the incredibly generous trial costs in favor of my opponents. Thus if the death penalty deters even 1/34th more murder than life without parole does, society comes out on top economically. I think from the logic of the deterrence argument it's safe to assume that at least this small amount of murders will be deterred, rendering the economic argument moot.

Pro's numbers are extremely questionable anyway. There's been some confusion on his $3000 dollars for a *murder trial* source, what I meant to say is that if you go to the *original source* from the Death Penalty Information Center, even the original source does not back up it's ridiculous assertion that murder trials cost $3000 other than "court officials say so". As my other evidence has shown, there's no way that's true. The Dunn trial for example cost $100,000. Automobile *civil trials* cost on average $15,000. I'm being extremely generous in not just throwing my opponents numbers out the window for lack of validity, but even assuming they're true I save society more green in the long run.

Pro responds to plea bargaining by asserting that even with it the death penalty still costs more. First even if this is true it mitigates his impact and secondly I'm coming out on top on the economy argument. The effect of plea bargaining cost offsets means that I have to deter or prevent even fewer murders to still win the cost argument. Over 10% more trials end with guilty pleas when we have a death penalty.

Deterrence

Most of this argument is taken out in my argument above. If life imprisonment was actually worse than death, the rational thing for most inmates to do would be to commit suicide. They don't. Pro hasn't given any warrants whatsoever for why life imprisonment would be considered a worse sentence than death, so you have to prefer my anaylsis because I actually warranted it.

Innocence

My turn on this argument is the best reason to vote Con. Life imprisonment doesn't protect the innocent better than death does. Life sentences are given with less scrutiny applied to the evidence and yet there is a *far smaller* exoneration proportion from life sentences than from death (.35% vs. 3%). If I lock someone up for the rest of their life I've effectively ended their life just as much as I would have had I just killed them. Life imprisonment results in locking people up, throwing away the key, and never looking back. The death penalty results in applying extra scrutiny to every case at every level to ensure that only the guilty get executed. Pro hasn't proven even a single wrongful death stemming from this impact. Prefer my lives saved as we have reason to believe they actually happen.

Pro also fails to refute that there hasn't been an innocent condemned to die that we know of for over a decade. Jurors are increasingly reluctant to sentence someone to die without extremely solid evidence which is why death sentences have been on the decline for quite some time. Jurors are more comfortable sending someone to life imprisonment even if the evidence isn't that solid because they figure that eventually the truth will out itself and the innocents will be freed while the guilty will remain behind bars. The evidence shows that, empirically, that's not the case.

If you value the freedom of innocents you need to vote Con.


Thanks for the debate Pro. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by 16kadams 1 year ago
16kadams
Hey thett the critiques against the pro-DP research have recently been responded to, so you could take a non-deterrence theory logical stance for the DP. And there is a lot of other research PROVING deterrence theory (like Becker's work in the late 60s, and John Lott's recent work).
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
RFD:

I'll briefly go through the points and provide my analysis.

Deterrence:

Pro's argument here is essentially mitigation. The fact that LWOP exists in status quo and would exist if abolition was implemented makes me lean Con on this one " there is some low level of deterrence, and therefore there must be some lives saved. I think it's difficult to quantify them, but Con has shown that there are some limited few who may not have committed single murders or mass murders.

Recidivism:

I buy Con's argument, which goes dropped, stating that they are more likely to kill in prison. Again, I have a hard time quantifying this, but some few is enough. Con has to do a bit more to show that escapes are not only possible, but likely, for me to buy that point.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
Justice:

This point just seems to lose strength over the course of the debate. Con is winning it, but throughout the debate, I'm asked to care most about the innocent and their outcomes, especially by Con. I think the arguments with regards to recidivism has practical implications that eclipse this.

Cost:

Again, I'm left uncertain as to why this matters by the end of the debate. Yes, costs matter, but if the only benefit to saving is opportunity costs, I have some trouble assessing this point, especially considering that neither side is providing a high likelihood that those funds will go somewhere specific. So any impact I get here is minimal at best. I'm buying Con's analysis here, mainly because I'm buying that more innocent lives are saved on his side of the equation.

Innocence:

I was buying Pro's analysis here until I saw Con's turn. This was something new to me, never seen this argument before, and it's fairly convincing. I buy that there are a large number of people who will never be exonerated if they're not put in the time-intensive situation during which their exoneration can occur, and especially if I buy that LWOP is worse than the death penalty, this is putting innocent people through lifelong purgatory. I think there are arguments that could have tacked this back, but I don't see them.

So in the end, I'm buying a small deterrent effect, a small but significant impact of recidivism, and a loss of innocent life resulting from abolition. Pro's expert sources do a decent amount to mitigate these, but not enough to erase them. I vote Con.
Posted by ClassicRobert 2 years ago
ClassicRobert
If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. This rfd wasn't as long as I was going to go, but I ran out of space.
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
Romanii
Lol I would do a lot more than just spit out my soda if I saw thett3 accept one of my debate challenges...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
dtaylor971thett3Tied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by ClassicRobert 2 years ago
ClassicRobert
dtaylor971thett3Tied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: A valiant effort by Pro, but this debate ultimately went to Con. I think that as Pro grows and gets more experience, he'll definitely become a fine debater. For me, this debate came down to deterrence, recidivism, cost, and innocence. Both Pro and Con understood that evidence on deterrence and recidivism was shaky, at best, but Con was able to back his argument with solid logic. Follow the incentives and all that. Con was able to effectively turn the cost argument by showing the cost of a murder and that if only one murder of 34 death penalties was stopped, we come out on top. Innocence was also turned effectively, as innocent people are better protected under the death penalty than with LWOP. So the debate goes to Con. Some advice to Pro: if you're going to have such a huge portion of your argument rely on LWOP being a better deterrent than the death penalty, really make sure you prove it. Before you write out your contentions, think of the logical conclusions that turns.