The Instigator
Nicholas_Neal
Pro (for)
Winning
15 Points
The Contender
KeytarHero
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points

The death penalty should be abolished

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
Nicholas_Neal
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/25/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,522 times Debate No: 17261
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (5)

 

Nicholas_Neal

Pro

I am pleased to be debating Clinton Wilcox. I challenge him to a debate on whether or not the death penalty should be abolished. I am going to make the case that it should based on two main reasons.

1.The Death Penalty has killed innocent people and will always carry that possibility.

Since 1973 there have been 138 exonerations of people on death row. Now admittedly this is small number, however it still brings up an ethical question about the death penalty.

"Is killing the guilty worth killing the innocent?"

I say it is not worth it, because when the death penalty kills the innocent, it becomes the very thing that it tries to punish. The judge, jury, and executor become morally guilty of, at the very least, manslaughter, except that manslaughter isn't premeditated. No matter how many restrictions and reforms we would place on capital punishment, the fact that human beings can make mistakes will always make the death penalty a risk to the innocent. Since both Clinton and I are pro-lifers, I will also point out that maintaining a penalty of such risks violates the sanctity of human life. It would therefore make much more sense to replace the death penalty with a punishment that is both harsh yet reversible, such as life imprisonment. The death penalty is a math test with a pen, only deadlier.
(On the number of exonerations http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...)

2.The death penalty is not an act of immediate self defense.

Very few people are pacifists, however when generally discussing the ethics of violence, it is only seen as justified in immediate self defense. That is the only situation where killing is necessary to preserve one's own life. With the case of the death penalty, killing the suspect is not necessary. Imprisonment has already kept him or her detained. So even in cases where the death penalty does kill the guilty, it is an unnecessary homicide and therefore unethical.

I look forward to hearing Clinton's response to these two arguments.
KeytarHero

Con

I would like to thank Nick for issuing this challenge. Obviously as the Contender, I will be making the case that the death penalty should not be abolished.

-Opening Argument-

My support for the death penalty rests on three key points.

Contention One: By murdering someone in cold blood you forfeit your own right to live.

The law is established to protect its citizens. If you murder someone in cold blood, how can you expect the law to protect you? Is it really fair, or right, to murder someone then turn around and claim that you shouldn't be killed? If the punishment is supposed to fit the crime, is it really fitting that a murderer should be allowed to live out the rest of his life in a jail cell rather than be deprived of the fundamental right to life that he has taken from someone else?

Contention Two: Justice must be done.

The death of a family member or friend is always hard to deal with. Capital punishment is not about revenge, it is about justice. Should we expect a wife to be happy that her husband's murderer is rotting away in a jail cell because he ruthlessly took her husband from her? Is it really fitting to tell someone that even though their loved one was murdered, we're just going to lock the murderer away for a long time as punishment? This is not a fitting punishment for a murderer.

Contention Three: A dead murderer can't repeat their offense.

Even though escape from a maximum security prison is rare, it does happen. If a murderer hasn't been put to death, they run the risk of escape and repeating their offense. Even if they don't escape, they can still murder other inmates.

Even though I do support the death penalty, I think it should be greatly restricted (as I will get into when I respond to Nick's objections).

1. The death penalty has killed innocent people and will always carry that possibility

This is a very unfortunate side effect of the death penalty, especially as flawed humans. This is why I don't think we should just bring up the death penalty with every murder conviction. I think they should be restricted. For instance, there should be no shadow of a doubt that the person is guilty of murder, probably backed up by DNA evidence and especially with a signed confession.

For example, I don't know if anyone can doubt the fact that Kermit Gosnell is a murderer. [1] Whether pro-life or pro-choice, he killed seven babies that were born alive, and one woman through a botched abortion (to say nothing of the countless children he killed through his illegal late-term abortion practices). There is no doubt he is a murderer, and I would be completely comfortable if he were given the lethal injection (not comfortable because he is dying -- I really don't want anyone to die, but comfortable because he deserves the punishment and there is no doubt he is actually guilty of it).

As a pro-lifer, I don't view this as contradictory to my views. I do believe life is sacred. However, I also believe that if you murder someone, you forfeit your right to live. I don't want anyone to die, and capital punishment is not about seeing people killed. It's about justice. People who murder deserve to die. I don't want them to die, as a pro-lifer I'd rather not see them killed. But crimes must come with punishments, and the punishments should fit the crime.

My question to you would be as follows: Death is, of course, not reversible (unless Jesus comes to your funeral). So why should a murderer get a punishment that is reversible?

2. The death penalty is not an act of immediate self-defense.

While the death penalty is not an act of immediate self-defense, neither is war. I don't know where you stand on war, but people who are not pacifists see war as a necessary action. Just like being pro-capital punishment and pro-life are not mutually exclusive, neither are being pro-life and pro-war. No one likes war (unless you're a power hungry tyrant like Alexander the Great), but wars are necessary at times. Capital punishment is also necessary because the crime it is punishing is so heinous.

I don't view the death penalty as an unnecessary homicide, largely for the reasons I've outlined in my argument. By keeping the murderer alive there is always the chance he will repeat his offense, either escaping to do so (which is admittedly rare) or by murdering a fellow inmate. And again, I see no reason why the murderer deserves a reversible punishment since the crime he committed is not reversible.

I look forward to Nick's response, and to our next round.

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com...;
Debate Round No. 1
Nicholas_Neal

Pro

If the punishment is supposed to fit the crime, is it really fitting that a murderer should be allowed to live out the rest of his life in a jail cell rather than be deprived of the fundamental right to life that he has taken from someone else?

Punishments don’t have to mimic the crime to be fitting. Rape is a severe crime, yet we do not have a rape penalty. Should we have a fraud penalty where people who commit fraud are told they will be given a certain punishment, yet are given a worse punishment instead? We punish harsh crimes with a harsh yet different punishment, because there is a moral limit to how we punish criminals. If we shouldn't’t punish people with rape or fraud, than should we also not punish them with death?

Should we expect a wife to be happy that her husband's murderer is rotting away in a jail cell because he ruthlessly took her husband from her? Is it really fitting to tell someone that even though their loved one was murdered, we're just going to lock the murderer away for a long time as punishment? This is not a fitting punishment for a murderer.

We shouldn’t maintain a penalty that potentially kills innocent people simply to make the victim’s family feel better. Also life imprisonment is no cake walk. It is a very harsh punishment. There are other, non-lethal ways to find closure in this situation, like forgiveness.


Even though escape from a maximum security prison is rare, it does happen. If a murderer hasn't been put to death, they run the risk of escape and repeating their offense. Even if they don't escape, they can still murder other inmates.

All right so we are both pointing to risks that are admittedly rare. My rare risk is the execution of someone innocent, your risk is that the murderer potentially escapes and kills someone. The thing is, the threat of someone innocent dying from my risk is more direct. An innocent execution will always result in an innocent death. If a murderer escapes he or she doesn’t necessarily have to murder someone, plus in all likelihood they will soon get caught.

As far as inmate murders go, solitary confinement can be an alternative to the death penalty. Also if the guard sees the murderer about to kill an inmate, I do support him using lethal force to stop the murderer. That would be an act of defense.

there should be no shadow of a doubt that the person is guilty of murder, probably backed up by DNA evidence and especially with a signed confession.

Abolishing the death penalty will guarantee no innocent executions. Even with those restrictions, human error will still work into the system.

My question to you would be as follows: Death is, of course, not reversible (unless Jesus comes to your funeral). So why should a murderer get a punishment that is reversible?

Because they might not really be a murderer. If the punishment is reversible, then we can correct such mistakes. We should remember that old adage that “The smartest man in the world is the guy who invented the eraser.” Human judgement can be mistaken and to give it the power of life and death will result in fatal mistakes.

people who are not pacifists see war as a necessary action.

War is a topic for another debate, but you don’t have to be a pacifist to oppose non-defensive wars. This goes back to my point of how immediate self defense is the only justification for homicide, thus even executing the guilty is not the justified form of homicide.
KeytarHero

Con

"Punishments don’t have to mimic the crime to be fitting. Rape is a severe crime, yet we do not have a rape penalty. Should we have a fraud penalty where people who commit fraud are told they will be given a certain punishment, yet are given a worse punishment instead? We punish harsh crimes with a harsh yet different punishment, because there is a moral limit to how we punish criminals. If we shouldn't’t punish people with rape or fraud, than should we also not punish them with death?"

True that a punishment doesn't have to mimc the crime to be fitting, but really, what other crime fits a murder committed? If someone's life is taken away, what form of retribution would be fitting besides taking the murderer's life? By simply throwing someone in jail, that's the same punishment a rapist, thief, and mugger get. The only difference is the amount of time they're locked up for. Why should a murderer be punished in the same way someone who commits a less serious crime is punished? There are ways to make rectification for any other crime committed. If you steal something, the punishment could be to repay what is stolen. For a rape victim, in the case of pregnancy, the man responsible could be required to give child support (I don't know if this is really how they're punished, but it should be). There is no way to bring a murder victim back. There is no way to "make it up" to the victim's family.

"We shouldn’t maintain a penalty that potentially kills innocent people simply to make the victim’s family feel better. Also life imprisonment is no cake walk. It is a very harsh punishment. There are other, non-lethal ways to find closure in this situation, like forgiveness."

I agree that the best thing for the victim's family is to forgive the aggressor. But forgiveness doesn't mean that the aggressor gets of scot free, and it doesn't mean that he shouldn't still be punished for his actions.

"All right so we are both pointing to risks that are admittedly rare. My rare risk is the execution of someone innocent, your risk is that the murderer potentially escapes and kills someone. The thing is, the threat of someone innocent dying from my risk is more direct. An innocent execution will always result in an innocent death. If a murderer escapes he or she doesn’t necessarily have to murder someone, plus in all likelihood they will soon get caught.

As far as inmate murders go, solitary confinement can be an alternative to the death penalty. Also if the guard sees the murderer about to kill an inmate, I do support him using lethal force to stop the murderer. That would be an act of defense."

The problem is that police don't have foresight. Even for a murderer who hasn't escaped, the inmate may still be able to kill another inmate before a guard catches them. We have no way of knowing whether or not they will be able to succeed if we keep them incarcerated.

"Abolishing the death penalty will guarantee no innocent executions. Even with those restrictions, human error will still work into the system."

I think if the evidence is overwhelming enough, such as in the case of Kermit Gosnell, the risk of human error is pretty negligible. This is why I would want it to become rare, and only in the cases where there's very little chance of being wrong. Maybe on top of the conditions I already listed, we could throw in a couple of reputable eye-witnesses. I'm not saying that many or even most murder victims should be given capital punishment. I want to avoid innocent deaths, too. But in cases where the evidence is so overwhelming that the risk of human error is negligible, it should be pursued.

"Because they might not really be a murderer. If the punishment is reversible, then we can correct such mistakes. We should remember that old adage that 'The smartest man in the world is the guy who invented the eraser.' Human judgement can be mistaken and to give it the power of life and death will result in fatal mistakes."

I understand this. But that's why we allow a jury to decide. That way it's not just one person making the decision. Sure, some innocent people have slipped through onto death row, but again, if we tighten restrictions on capital punishment, that will make it much less likely for an innocent person to be put to death.

"War is a topic for another debate, but you don’t have to be a pacifist to oppose non-defensive wars. This goes back to my point of how immediate self defense is the only justification for homicide, thus even executing the guilty is not the justified form of homicide."

Sure, war is a topic for another debate. But some of the arguments against it are comparable. Innocent people die in wars, too. And wars are not an immediate defensive action. Sometimes wars are preemptive, and sometimes wars are just a result of bad blood between two nations. Sometimes wars are to preserve a way of life. There are many different reasons for war. I don't like capital punishment any more than you do. However, I don't necessarily see it as immoral as someone who kills forfeits their own right to life.

Again, I thank Nick for this very thought-provoking debate, and I look forward to our final round.
Debate Round No. 2
Nicholas_Neal

Pro


For my closing remarks, I would like to ask “which is more prudent?” Maintaining an irreversible penalty in spite of human error or replacing it with a penalty that is incredibly harsh yet reversible in case of a mistake. My opponent has made the suggestion that life imprisonment is somehow “getting off scot free”. That is absurd. Locking someone away for the rest of their natural life is an incredibly harsh punishment that still can be reversed in the case of error. He states that he supports restrictions on the death penalty, which is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be innocent executions the way that abolition of the death penalty would.


My second question is “which is more respectful of human life?” Establishing a punishment that only doubles the death rate or refusing to give flawed human judges the power to kill non-defensively? My opponent has stated that by taking life one has forfeited their own life, but does this forfeit bring the victims life back? No! It only doubles the death rate. It is an unnecessary homicide, something that we as pro-lifers should always oppose.


With that I end with a quote from one of the most eloquent defenders of human life of the 20th and 21st century.


“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary. (Pope John Paul II, St. Louis, MO, January 1999)


I thank Clinton for participating this debate, and I appreciate his arguments though we disagree. Vote Pro.


KeytarHero

Con

As this debate is now drawing to conclusion, I would just like to ask, again, should the punishment fit the crime and if so, is rotting away in a jail cell a fitting punishment for someone who commits murder in cold blood, especially since rotting away in a jail cell is a punishment for certain other crimes which don't involve the taking of human life? Is there really a punishment fitting a murder charge (or even a multiple murder charge) other than being put to death? If you take a life in cold blood, you forfeit the right to live. You have no reasonable expectation for society to protect you from harm if you ruthlessly harm others.

I agree that we should take every step necessary to ensure that the innocent do not be put to death through this procedure. This is why I would advocate stricter requirements for capital punishment. There should be no shadow of a doubt the person is guilty: DNA evidence should be present, probably two or three reputable witnesses, a signed confession, etc.

It is true that by putting the killer to death you are not bringing the victims' life back, but murder by its very nature is an irreversible crime. Therefore, it deserves and irreversible punishment. Capital punishment is not about revenge, it's about justice. There is no justice if someone who takes a life in cold blood gets to live out the rest of his life. Not to mention there's always the chance he can repeat his offense (either escaping and killing someone outside of jail, which would be rare, or killing someone inside the walls of the prison).

As I close, I would just like to reiterate that I don't see being pro-capital punishment as going against my pro-life stance. For me, being pro-life has always been about protecting innocent life, from the unborn to the elderly. This is why someone who takes a life in cold blood no longer deserves protection; someone who takes a life forfeits his own right to live. And if he is allowed to live, there is a chance, however small, that an innocent person will be struck again by this murderer.

I thank Nick for instigating this debate with me, and I am glad to have him on my side as a pro-lifer, even though we disagree on this issue. Please vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
thett3
nevermind, fixed it haha
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
thett3
i meant to put sources as a tie!!!! sorry! is there a way I can change my vote?
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Double_R 5 years ago
Double_R
Nicholas_NealKeytarHeroTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Good debate for both sides. Each participant made their points but Pros points were just a little bit more compelling. The strongest point was of the risk of killing an innocent person, not adequately refuted.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Nicholas_NealKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: There are a number of issues with this debate for example there is no normative basis and both sides just assert one thing or the other is right or wrong. I would have liked to see KH address the threat to innocents directly (more innocents die every day falling down stairs) and the "beyond a shadow of a doubt" is a vague criteria. 4:3 Con mainly because Pro closed with questions and KH produced an argument.
Vote Placed by JoshBrahm 5 years ago
JoshBrahm
Nicholas_NealKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I think this was a great debate. While I'm a bit on the fence, my current opinion is probably closer to Con's, assuming we could actually become confident that we don't execute anymore innocent people. I was generally more impressed with the way Pro argued his case though, although it wasn't a slam dunk for either side. A great discussion, and I'm grateful to have read it and to know both contenders personally.
Vote Placed by thett3 5 years ago
thett3
Nicholas_NealKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The only particuarly compelling argument brought up from the Con side was the punishment fits the crime, Pro responded nicely to this, and the innocent being executed argument was not properly responded to. However, Con was a very solid Opponent and showed how Pro's contention about the DP not being self defense was irrelevant. 3:2 Pro.
Vote Placed by BennyW 5 years ago
BennyW
Nicholas_NealKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: This was very well debated on both sides. Objectively it is hard to pick a winner, however I think pro had the advantage.