The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
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The death penalty should be legalized

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/26/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,101 times Debate No: 72406
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




Well, here it is. First round is acceptance.

I haven't specified any jurisdiction, so please don't bring in the U.S. Constitution or laws specific to any one country. If you must make legal arguments, then please make them general, so that they may be applied to *most* jurisdictions.

All the best. :)


I accept! May the best debater win C:
Debate Round No. 1


Before I start, I want to thank Con for accepting this debate. I’m looking forward to it! I will begin by presenting my opening arguments, and then I’ll wait for Con’s in the next round. I specified that the arguments must not be restricted to any jurisdiction, so Con is welcome to use any contextual references given that they constitute the norm and not the exception.

The Judicial Argument

In law, there are a few core purposes of sentencing, including (but not limited to): punishment, deterrence, reformation, protection, and reparation. (Source 1) I will begin by examining how the death penalty works in relation to these.

  1. A criminal judgment punishes an offender for his unruly conduct by pronouncing on him a sentence proportionate to the gravity of his crime. Here, the death penalty works. This punishment is reserved for the most serious of crimes, including murder, kidnapping, genocide, espionage and treason. This is, in essence, a form of “justice” for society, which has suffered as a result of the crime.
  1. A criminal judgment aims to deter the rest of society from committing similar crimes. The death penalty captures what many people fear tremendously – death, and thereby disincentivises them to commit such a crime. There is little evidence to suggest that this has achieved success in many Western countries, which practice long and drawn out death row processes. However, countries which practice the death penalty in a quick and sure way have seen much greater success, as their citizens are more likely to treat the threat of death seriously.
  1. A criminal judgment aims to reform the criminal, or ensure that he/she does not commit the crime again. Here again, the death penalty succeeds. The death penalty is reserved exclusively (with a few cases falling through the cracks) for criminals who display zero remorse and zero potential for reformation. Coupled with the severity of the crime, optimal social safety can only be achieved by taking his/her life.
  1. A criminal judgment aims to protect the rest of society. While many may argue that this can be done in jail, the state has a duty to safeguard other criminals as well, who have been temporarily deprived of their liberty. The death penalty is the surest way to know that a criminal cannot recommit an act of comparable severity against a civilian or a fellow inmate.
  1. Finally, a criminal judgment aims to provide some form of reparation to the victim(s). Criminals facing the death penalty have usually commited a crime that deprived their victim(s) indefinitely of life or liberty. A judge therefore attempts to offer their victims and/or their families some form of reparation for their suffering.

Now, it is important to note that while judges aim to fulfil as many of the above criteria as they can, it is unnecessary for all them to be fulfilled in pronouncing a sentence of death. A judgment may instead be focused on any one of these. For my opponent to successfully prove that the death penalty should be made illegal, therefore, he has to prove that none of these are worthy reasons to deliver such a sentence.

The “plea bargain” argument

Plea-bargaining is used in many countries, wherein a criminal is encouraged to cooperate with police investigations in return for a more lenient sentence. When the punishment at hand is death, the criminal has the greatest possible incentive to help the police. The benefit this provides to society is immense, because it enables the police to crack down on the roots of the problems. This is especially effective in dismantling criminal organizations, including drug rings, vice rings and the like. As a result of this, many deep-rooted problems can be resolved.

The “dignity” argument

Several people have argued that the death penalty fails to accord life with dignity, simply because the state is taking a life. However, the death penalty fundamentally honours human dignity by treating the criminal as a free moral actor and holding him accountable for his decisions. It must be noted that criminals who were not in sound mental state at the time of the crime have mitigated sentences.

Society works on the principle that each person receives what is due to him. This order is disrupted by criminals. It is therefore a direct consequence of a rational person’s actions that he faces the death penalty. The state has no obligation to forgive someone who took someone else’s life or liberty in a “moment of weakness” or for any similar reason.

The argument of “inhumanity”

Several people have argued that the death penalty is an inhumane, brutal punishment in practice. For all who are proponents of it, however, it must be accepted in practice as well. If the practice is found to be too brutal, we have to find ways to mitigate its brutality. Several jurisdictions are already in the practice of doing so, by finding more painless ways to end the lives of criminals.

I have, thus far, presented some arguments in favour of the death penalty. I look forward to those of my opponent.

P.S. 18Karl, I have had to make sudden plans (as recently as last night) to travel overseas as a result of a mixture of circumstances. During this trip, I may not have access to Internet and so may not be able to upload my argument in time. If that is the case, I apologise most sincerely, and hope that we can re-continue this debate when I return. Of course, I hope that it does not get to that. All the best!




3. Response letter to the New England Journal of Medicine regarding an article titled "When Law and Ethics Collide — Why Physicians Participate in Executions," by Atul Gawande, MD
July 6, 2006

4. "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice,"
Aug./Sep. 2004

5. District Attorney of Clatsop County, Oregon
"The Myth of Innocence,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology
Mar. 31, 2005




I would like to start by offering a policy in this debate, as the proposition side has offered none, and then I shall start by refuting his case and why stating that the status quo is already a sound position. Note that the BoP lies almost entirely on the opposition, as he wants to change the status quo to a pro-capital punishment society.


I will attempt to be as analytical as possible. The opposition proposes we use the death penalty to punish crimes like "murder, kidnapping, genocide, espionage and treason." This is justifiable enough, and hence throughout the debate, we shall use this. Hence, for the sake of this debate, the death penalty shall be used for crimes of "murder (in some cases), kidnapping (in fatal cases), genocide, espionage and treason" and no other crimes whatsoever. Hence we have excluded the death penalty from illicit drug dealers and arsonists etc.


The burden of side proposition is to show that (a) the death penalty deters crime, (b) that the death penalty protects society, (c) that the death penalty prevents the criminal from going to be to society and committing another crime, and (c) provide some sense of justice for one. The burden of side opposition is to show that all of the opposition's arguments fail. In doing so, I shall (hopefully) be affirming my final baseline case, which is "that although the death penalty might be theoretically a deterrence, an illogical reality destroys this reliance on theory"


1.) Deterrence

This deterrence theory falls under attack from many empirical studies. A survey of studies by Lamperti (2010) showed that states without the death penalty consistently had a lower murder rate than those which had the death penalty. The survey included a study done by Dann (1935) that included the analysis of homicide rates in Philadelphia 60 days before and after five very publicized execution. He found that the homicide rates 60 days after the execution was shown to be consistently higher than the 60 days before the executions. This might be a mere matter of correlation-causation, but it is not so as we shall see in the brutalization hypothesis that I would like to present later on. [1] More might be said on this: Zimring (2009) surveyed two control groups, Singapore and Hong Kong (both are socio-economical twins) and found that even Singapore might show that the death penalty actually deters crime, the murder rates in capital punishment (CP) Singapore and no-CP Hong Kong are more or less similar. Hence, Singapore's low crime rates are actually because of the economics of the country, not the death penalty. [2]

These studies, coupled with many others, show consistently that the death penalty is ineffective at reducing crime from happening in society. However, this might be counter-intuitive, because the utilitarian defenders of CP assume humans to be rational actors. However, a study by Gupta (2011) shows that the amygdala is very active during decision making, attaching stimuli with the perceived emotional result of an action. [3] This means that huge amounts of emotions are connected with decision-making, hence reducing the effectiveness of RCT (rational choice theory), as the cost-analysis benefits of something might be entirely emotional and irrational.

2.) The Moral Argument

Side proposition attempts to say that justice is delivered by the death penalty. However, this is objectionable. For it is wholly inconsistent to assert that since one has killed another, a third-party (the state) should intervene and take the life of another. I shall take the demonstration of this in a more logical manner:

P1. All who killed should get killed
P2. x killed a
P3. y has the duty to kill x

The irony in this is the following: in P3, y has the obligation to kill x, but P1 states that all, not some, who kill should be killed-so hence, wouldn't someone have the duty to kill y if y kills x. This obligation goes on ad infinitum. And even if the retributivist logic of the side proposition can be accepted, this is also built upon the fact that everyone has a sound mental and sociology combination. Many murderers are intellectual limited, and have been the victims of racism, child abuse, poverty etc. Steiner (2005) argues that since these factors effect the criminal's action, then shouldn't the family of the criminal take some of the blame for this? We find that all of society is to be blamed, but only the defendant guilty. Hence, on these a priori respects, this argument fails. But I would argue later on that even on a pragmatic basis, this argument also fails. [4]

3.) Protection of Prison Inmates

The opposition argues that the death penalty will stop criminals from killing each other. However, this can almost be done exclusively inside high-security prisons. According to John Connor, the "reality is that the death penalty is not, and never has been, a deterrent. Prison safety depends on proper staffing, equipment, resources and training." Apart from this, prisoners in states with the death penalty in the United States are four times much more likely to be killed in prison than in states without the death penalty. [5,6] The justification for the death penalty in terms of keeping prisons safe are, hence, empirically invalid and ultimately falls.

4.) Plea Bargain Argument

The opposition's presentation of the argument is slightly misconceptualized. "A plea bargain (also plea agreement, plea deal or copping a plea) is any agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and defendant whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some concession from the prosecutor." Side proposition has described the phenomenon of confession and cooperation with police, not "plea-bargain." However, this might be refuted on the grounds that te death penalty has been used as a threat for false confessions many times. In 2013, an intellectually disabled man pleaded guilty for a crime that he did not commit-he was sentenced to 21 years. He was told that "[the government is] gonna put you [on] the electric chair." [9]

5.) Inhumanity

Side-proposition gets into this talk about how we could mitigate the death penalty's brutality by using alternative methods. However, all methods of the death penalty are necessarily painful. The least painful method imagineable, lethal injection, is often very much more painful than other methods. 43% of all lethal injection execution prisoners remained conscious during the injection period, making them experience the horrible and nasty pains of the final life-ending poison. [7] If the proposition says that even if this is so, all forms of ending lives are painful, then we must now introduce the brutalization effect.

Some of this was presented in the first rebuttal, but more word should be said on it. Bowers (1980) produced a study that showed that murder rates after New York executions from 1907 to 1963 would have a mean increase of two to three in the 4-12 months directly after the executions. [8] These studies are also consistent with the study conducted by Dann (1935), which showed that murder rates would often increase after very highly publicized executions. [1] This is ultimately due to the fact that when a state kills executes a man, it is henceforth seen (in a criminal's mind) that killing is perfectably acceptable, as the state is supposed to be a moral third party which delivers justice.


1.) Innocence

A study released by Gross (2014) showed that at least 4.1% of all those who have been executed are innocent, or was either held guilty on doubtable evidence. [10] A study released by the same author (2005) showed huge increase in exonerations of those who were guilty for murder from 2000 to 2003 (as seen in Figure I below)-under the proposition's policy, these innocent lives would have been executed. [11]

History is not free from cases of miscarriages of justice. In Taiwan, a military court recently exonerated Ching Kuo-Ching, a Taiwanese AF private who was accused of a rape of a 5 year-old girl. In reports, Ching wrote to his parents to say that he was tortured into making his confession. He was executed in 1997 after undergoing 37 hours of intense questioning by air force intelligence services. [12] Ultimately, the justice system cannot be considered a justice system when it is executed innocent prisoners in a hapless and valueluess practice called capital punishment.


The opposition's case has been mostly refuted upon moral, empirical and logical grounds. The death penalty has been showed to not have any deterrence effect whatsoever in many cases, and apart from this, the death penalty kills innocent people in the name of "justice." Ultimately, studies that show that the death penalty deters are inconclusive, and the death penalty actually makes society a more dangerous place for people to live in. We must hence reject the death penalty on these grounds, and hold that the death penalty is an obsolete form of punishment that must not be "legalized" in any form or manner whatsoever. The resolution is negated!



Debate Round No. 2


I have to apologise to my opponent. As a result of the circumstances I mentioned in the first round (emergency travel and very intermittent access to the Internet), I will not be able to research and put up a satisfactory response to my opponent's arguments in time. If my opponent is willing, I would like to hold off on this debate for now, and continue it at a mutually beneficial time. If my opponent does not agree, I am willing to concede this debate at this point.


Welp, no votes please!
Debate Round No. 3


republicofdhar forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


Just got internet access. Sorry again, 18Karl. :(


datz kay. no votes plz
Debate Round No. 5
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by republicofdhar 1 year ago
Sorry about the tiny text, I didn't realize that my font size was so unreadable!
Posted by republicofdhar 1 year ago
@18Karl daaaaamn okay good luck!!
Posted by 18Karl 1 year ago
I can wait. You're just giving me more time to swamp up the massive collection of studies I have on this subject ;)
Posted by republicofdhar 1 year ago
Heheh sorry guys! Maybe I'll put up that resolution another time. @18Karl I'm currently swamped with 3 debates and a very busy weekend (all my fault) so I'll probably put up my arguments in the next 2 days alright! :)
Posted by Finalfan 1 year ago
This is like abortion: I'm not touching it with a ten foot pole. There are good arguments for both side and I can't make up my mind!
Posted by E-L-L-E-N 1 year ago
Shadow_Drew13 haha same. I was like ohhhh i'll choose this one then I realized the instigator was pro like me.......
Posted by Shadow_Drew13 1 year ago
I would debate with you, but you're the pro, soo...
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Voting like a rebel