The Instigator
CharmingAnecdote
Con (against)
Winning
27 Points
The Contender
Richard89
Pro (for)
Losing
24 Points

The death penalty should be offered as a form of punishment.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/9/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,921 times Debate No: 1620
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (20)
Votes (17)

 

CharmingAnecdote

Con

The death penalty is currently offered as a form of punishment in 38 states. There are many reasons why it should not be, however.

First, twelve people should not be allowed to judge whether or not someone has the right to live. We cannot place value on one person's life over another's. Someone who has been convicted of murder is still a human being. They still have a mother and a father and they still have the right to live. Killing the person convicted of a murder is not going to offer closure to the families of the victims. It is not going to bring back those who have been killed.

Then there is always the chance that the convicted person is innocent. Especially with recent developments in DNA testing, many previously convicted criminals are being exonerated. Since 1973, over 125 people have been released from death row because of evidence of their innocence. Why take the risk of executing an innocent person when life in prison without parole is just as effective in stopping innocents from being hurt by the criminal. A decision to imprison someone for life can be reversed. Death is a tad bit more final.

Yet another reason is the plain and simple cost. At the trial level, a death penalty case costs, on average, $470,000. The same case, when triad without the death penalty being offered costs around $47,000. This is a huge difference! Also, consider that this is just ONE CASE. In an appeal, cases involving the death penalty generate over $100,000 in additional costs than those which do not involve the death penalty.

I think that will do for my opening argument. Good luck to my opponent!

(Facts from www.deathpenaltyinfo.org)
Richard89

Pro

I would like to start out by saying I couldn't agree with you more when you say that "We cannot place value on one person's life over another's." That is why the death penalty is the only real solution ensuring that justice is truly served. Because to allow one to live who has denied that right to another is to value his life above theirs. By committing a brutal murder the individual has nullified their own right to live. After all, isn't the most fundamental principle of justice that the punishment should fit the crime? I would also like to point out that although it is unfortunate for the individual's family it should have absolutely nothing to do with the course of law. If we let emotion overrule reason and justice we would have chaos. For families of the victims the death penalty is the only closure they will ever get by ensuring that the felon will never have a chance to harm others like he harmed them. Not to mention the fact that if you incarcerate an individual for life in a state without the death penalty what is to keep that individual from murdering inmates? What does the convict have to lose anyways? He can't be executed, so what is to deter him? There is also always the possibility of the convict escaping and brutally ending more innocent lives. You seem to be under the false impression that capital punishment is nothing more than revenge.
I would contend that prison without parole is not as effective a means of crime deterrent as it takes most of the sting out of the justice system, and-quite frankly-just doesn't fit the punishment to the crime. As you say DNA testing has resulted in clearing up many old cases and it is even more apparent that the chances of convicting an innocent person today are almost nonexistent, and even without DNA the trial process has become so rigorous that it is highly unlikely that an innocent individual will be found guilty unanimously by a jury of 12. The reason executions cost so much is because of the lengthy process through appeals to ensure beyond doubt that the individual is truly guilty. I do wish to make it clear, however, as I close, that I fully support the state's right to choose which it will endorse even if I disagree.
Debate Round No. 1
CharmingAnecdote

Con

I'd like to start out by saying thank you for agreeing to be my opponent.

First, I would like to say that I did not mean to imply that the emotions of the family should affect the punishment of the criminal, merely that committing another wrong does not make the original crime better. If we decide that the criminal has given up their right to live, we are no better than they are.
Just because one person decided something does not make it ok for us to make the same bad
decision.

I don't believe that punishment is about revenge at all. It is about reform. It should be about allowing people who have made bad decisions change. Putting someone to death leaves no room for reform, no room for remorse even. Putting someone in jail will allow them time to think about the crimes that they have committed, it is an attempt to show them that what they have done is wrong and morally reprehensible.

In regards to your claim about crime deterrence, that is actually not true. According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, in 2006 states without the death penalty had a murder rate that was 40% LOWER than those with the death penalty. Offering death as a punishment is not going to stop someone from killing an innocent person; it seems that spending their entire life in jail with no hope of seeing light without bars in front of it is a stronger deterrent than death can ever be.

The chances of convicting an innocent person are FAR from nonexistent. Our justice system is not perfect and it never will be, but we allow for those imperfections to be corrected through appeals and the death penalty cuts that off. There is always a chance of reexamining evidence once better technology is available.

Also, I believe you misunderstood the statistic I used in regards to cost. It is $470,000 to try ONE case. That does not include the numerous appeals which cases go through. Just as it is ONE case without the death penalty being offered that is $47,000.
Richard89

Pro

I enjoy a good debate on an important issue so thank you for offering me that opportunity. However, it seems to me that this debate is just going to keep going in circles. You say that if we execute murderers we are no better than they are, but I would once again argue that the opposite is true. I believe that the only morally right and responsible thing to do is to ensure that these criminals are never allowed the opportunity of committing these brutal acts again. If we simply lock them away for the rest of their life in a state that does not allow for capital punishment then what is to keep these individuals from murdering while in jail? As I said before, they have nothing to lose in so doing. In addition to that you can never rule out the possibility of their escaping, and in our current justice system it is far from uncommon to see these people back on the streets after a few years. I don't think I can stress this point enough. If we allow them to live we are in fact valuing their lives above the lives of the countless innocent. We can never fully vouch for their safety while these people are allowed something they so reprehensibly denied others.
I don't think you fully understood what I was trying to convey in our last round. I was referring to capital punishment and not punishment in general. I assure you I was not trying to insult your intelligence by assuming such a thing. It just seemed to me that the structure of your opening argument seemed to indicate that you felt that execution equaled no more than an act of vengeance. So if I offended you I apologize sincerely.
I disagree that punishment is about reform. Reform can be a happy outcome of punishment, but it is not the purpose of punishment. Punishment is a penalty imposed for wrongdoing. In the case of murder there can simply be no expectation of or allowance made for reform. Unlike minor crimes, murder is a crime that can never be undone or recovered from, and it is certainly one we are morally bound to never let the same individual perpetrate again. The criminal can simply never be trusted in society again, and can never be trusted around inmates.
I'm afraid that in order to attempt to prove their point deathpenaltyinfo.org used very unrealistic and misleading averages. Some states are more prone to crime than others and that goes for both pro and anti-capital punishment states. However, since there are so many fewer states against capital punishment than there are for, the average can only be misleading at best. For a state-by-state look at crime statistics I recommend going to http://www.disastercenter.com...
U. S. Crime Statistics Total and by State 1960 - 2006
I understand that the certainty level for trials can not always be 100%, but DNA testing is proven to be at least 99% accurate and the rigorous court proceedings usually eliminates any reasonable doubt from the case and more often than not proves undeniable guilt. If it is not proven adequately there is no possibility that 12 people will agree on one decision. That is why we have the court system set up the way we do. To provide as much certainty as is humanly possible and protect the innocent. I'm all for better technology, but to use your logic a case could never be officially closed and the process would never end.
I understood the statistics you used. In fact, they usually go much higher than that, but we are debating the moral issue and not the monetary. However, to briefly cover that topic, court cases would not cost nearly as much if we would limit the appeals process to within reasonable bounds. You are more likely to die of old age than execution on death row.
Debate Round No. 2
CharmingAnecdote

Con

I would like to start out by refuting what you said about my statistic about deterrence of crime. The Death Penalty Information Center (deathpenaltyinfo.org) used populations from the US Census estimates for the year and then the murder rates were taken from the FBI's "Crime in the United States". It was then calculated to be per 100,000 people, and then averaged the numbers found. They did not use "unrealistic and misleading averages". You also claimed that because of the difference in numbers of the states that the average could be "misleading at best", but an average negates the number of states because you divide by that number.

To ensure the credibility of that point further I found an alternative source saying essentially the same thing, that the death penalty does not deter crime in the least. The following is from a quote from an article in The Huffington Post by Cassy Stubbs entitled "The Death Penalty Deterrence Myth: No Solid Evidence That Killing Stops the Killing":

"Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School and an expert on statistics, testified to Congress that the Emory and Denver studies were "fraught with numerous technical and conceptual errors," and "fail[ed] to reach the demanding standards of social science."" (The Emory and Denver studies are two frequently cited studies which claim that the death penalty deters crime)

"John Donohue, Yale Law School professor and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Justin Wolfers, Wharton School of Business professor and Research Affiliate at the NBER, analyzed the same data used in the Emory and Denver studies, as well as other studies by the same researchers and many other nationwide reports. They found that if anything, executions increase homicides, concluding: "The view that the death penalty deters is still the product of belief, not evidence ... On balance, the evidence suggests that the death penalty may increase the murder rate.""

Both these quotes illustrate what my original statistic comparing states with the death penalty to those without did, that capital punishment does not stop people from killing. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com...)

You also asked what is to stop the convicted from killing again in prison. The answer is to move them to a higher security prison. If they are going to attempt to commit more crimes even while under lock and key then we must decrease the opportunity for them to harm people. Maximum security prisons are there for just this sort of situation. Solitary confinement should effectively cut off any attempts of the convicted from harming other inmates or guards. If they never have contact with people, they cannot very well harm other people.

A description of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution tells of how the inmates are only let out for one hour each day and are otherwise kept in solitary confinement. The one hour out of their cells each day is for showering and a slight amount of time in the recreation area. In their cells they have no form of entertainment whatsoever. For 23 hours out of each day they can sit and stare at the wall, or maybe stare at the bars, or even stare at the ceiling! A facility such as this would effectively prevent the inmates form committing any acts against guards or other inmates. (http://www.state.tn.us...)

I don't understand how you can have unyielding faith in our justice system ("the rigorous court proceedings usually eliminates any reasonable doubt from the case and more often than not proves undeniable guilt") one moment and then be totally incredulous as to its ability to function the next ("in our current justice system it is far from uncommon to see these people back on the streets after a few years"). Really, neither is true. While it is true that our justice system has its flaws, it is not incompetent to the point of letting people walk who have committed violent, undeniable crimes. At the same time it is NOT 99% effective and to think it is so would be incredibly idealistic. The truth lies somewhere in between.

We must create a system for punishment that reflects that. It must allow for the punishment of criminals by detaining them and cutting them off from society so as to prevent crimes from being repeated. This can be through higher security prisons and no chance of parole. It must also allow for those people who are wrongly convicted to have a chance to regain what they rightly deserve, their freedom. We can never, in good conscience, allow even one innocent person to be sacrificed because of our fear that someone has a glimmer of a chance to escape from prison. Steps can be taken to make it nearly impossible for that to happen, but we can never ensure that an innocent person would never be killed if the death penalty is used.

Death is the ultimate verdict which neither the government, nor the people have the right to sentence. If you make the choice to take from someone their most precious gift, their life, then that is murder. It is never ok to take someone's life, no matter the circumstances.

Furthermore, it is not valuing the convicted's life over the victim's. We are not saying that they are more important or deserve to live more than the deceased; we are merely recognizing that EVERYONE deserves to live.

In conclusion, I ask that the audience thinks very hard on both sides and votes, not based upon their preconceived notions of the topic, but only upon the arguments presented by both sides.

Thank you for the debate, Richard89; it has been truly a pleasure.
Richard89

Pro

Well first of all I'm afraid my closing statement will not be as long as I was hoping it would be due to time constraints. I'm afraid I conveyed the wrong message when I made the statement about the averages. I would hope I understand the laws of averages by this time(if I don't then I'm in BIG trouble). What I was trying to say was that some of the states that support the death penalty have a far higher murder rate than the majority of states. While looking at the statistics state by state show a far cry from a 40% difference. As to execution being a deterrence I was not referring to crimes of passion or premeditation but rather as it relates to the common criminal. However, I admit that this is more of a personal belief rather than a common fact.
Maximum security prisons are all good and well, but that does not solve the main problem...how to guarantee the safety of society. Escapes from maximum security prisons have happened before and continue to happen at a rather disturbing rate considering the security measures imposed. So I have to reject the assumption that this is the ultimate solution.
"I don't understand how you can have unyielding faith in our justice system ("") one moment and then be totally incredulous as to its ability to function the next ("in our current justice system ")...At the same time it is NOT 99% effective and to think it is so would be incredibly idealistic. The truth lies somewhere in between. "
Once again I'm afraid you misinterpreted what I was saying. I said that DNA testing has been proven to be at least 99% accurate and that the rigorous court proceedings usually eliminates any reasonable doubt from the case - more often than not proving undeniable guilt. I was not contradicting myself when I then said that it is far from uncommon to see these people back on the streets after a few years. The prosecution phase is very thorough and rigorous, but when it comes to sentencing I believe the system is broken and justice is simply not served.
"Death is the ultimate verdict which neither the government, nor the people have the right to sentence. If you make the choice to take from someone their most precious gift, their life, then that is murder. It is never ok to take someone's life, no matter the circumstances."
Well I'm afraid we will just have to agree to disagree on this. I believe the people have the right to decide whether or not to permanently remove these dangerous individuals from society via execution, and I still maintain that by the decrees of law, reason, and morality we are bound to remove these cancerous infections that plague our society. A friend of mine was murdered by her husband a few years ago while on her honeymoon in a manner most coldblooded, so I feel particular repugnance to the idea that this man still has a right to live after what he has done.
Though I wish I had time to more adequately address some of the issues in your closing argument I'm afraid this is the best I can do. However, in closing I wish to applaud my opponent, CharmingAnecdote, for her intelligent and sincere arguments for her cause. She has represented her side very ably and maintained a polite demeanor throughout the debate. I must admit that, being my first debate, I entered into it rather unprepared.
GOD BLESS
Debate Round No. 3
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by goldspurs 9 years ago
goldspurs
"How do you know which laws are valid and which aren't?"

Its called reading. You should try it sometime.

" Jesus talks about forgiveness and love, turn the other cheek and what not, eye for an eye is an old testament law."

Yes, Jesus did preach forgiveness, but He meant it when talking about personal revenge, not civil justice. If his teachings of forgiveness was meant for goverments trying to maintain civil obedience than we would have to get rid of the whole justice system, allowing everyone to whatever they want and not face punishment. Nice try.

"Jesus was put to death by the state for doing things they found abhorrant, I suppose with your rationale, they were justified in doing so."

Don't know how you came up with this assumption. The only people besides murderers that I believe should be executed are pedophiles. Jesus was neither, so why would I think it acceptable to murder a Man who committed no crime?

"I never said I was an atheist either. Typical arrogant Christians."

Because their is such a fine line between agnostic and atheist. Typical? Generalizing a whole group with something negative like that marks you a bigot. Must be so proud.
Posted by attrition 9 years ago
attrition
How do you know which laws are valid and which aren't? Jesus talks about forgiveness and love, turn the other cheek and what not, eye for an eye is an old testament law. Jesus was put to death by the state for doing things they found abhorrant, I suppose with your rationale, they were justified in doing so. I never said I was an atheist either. Typical arrogant Christians.
Posted by goldspurs 9 years ago
goldspurs
Attriiton,

you obviously don't understand anything about the Bible. With the New Testament many laws from the Old Testament are not valid anymore. I do not have to sacrifice an animal for my sins because Jesus was the Ultimate Sacrifice for ALL my sins. I do not pick and choose. You have nothing to base this off of.

And no my religious beliefs are NOT your business. I believe that people should be condemned to die when they have snatched the life of someone else. I could become an atheist today and I would still believe this.

Another thing is why shouldn't my religious beliefs influence my opinions? Your atheism obviously influences yours.
Posted by audraxheartsxyou 9 years ago
audraxheartsxyou
I don't care what you base your opinions on.

Don't take it so harsh.
Posted by attrition 9 years ago
attrition
I don't know what your point is about the Old Testament vs. the New Testament is. As a Christian, you believe that Adam and Eve were literally the first two people on earth and the whole creation story is in the Old Testament. So don't pretend you don't believe what the Old Testament says. Eye for an eye is in the old Testament. You can't just pick and choose the Bible verses you want to believe in, you are other wise a hyppocrite. You religious beliefs are my business when you influence public policy through them.
Posted by goldspurs 9 years ago
goldspurs
Attrition and Audra, so what if my opinion is influenced by religion? It isn't any of your friggin business what I base my opinions on. So get bent.

Good for you Attrition for not believing the Bible. Aren't you the rebel. You misinterpret the Bible though. You are talking Old Testament laws not New. Get it right.

I and plenty of other people believe it is morally right to end the life of someone who has taken a life.
Posted by audraxheartsxyou 9 years ago
audraxheartsxyou
I was just stating the fact that it should be separated.

It makes plenty of sense.

"Yes, I am a Christian, yet I believe when you take an innocent person's life you have forfeited your own right to live."
Posted by attrition 9 years ago
attrition
LDer09,

Below is a list of men put to death after which questions as to their guilt have been raised and were quite possibly innocent.

# Carlos DeLuna Texas Conviction: 1983, Executed: 1989
# Ruben Cantu Texas Convicted: 1985, Executed: 1993
# Larry Griffin Missouri Conviction: 1981, Executed: 1995
# Joseph O'Dell Virginia Conviction: 1986, Executed: 1997
# David Spence Texas Conviction: 1984, Executed: 1997
# Leo Jones Florida Convicted: 1981, Executed: 1998
# Gary Graham Texas Convicted: 1981, Executed: 2000
# Cameron Willingham Texas Convicted: 1992, Executed: 2004
# Also Noted

Source: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

I looked through Exodus, I already know the Bible is for the death penalty. That's very clear. If you believe in Exodus, you also must believe in Leviticus, check out chapter 11, which speaks of the various animals you are allowed to eat, to which if you have every eaten pig or shellfish you have gone against God. If you do not burn sacrifices to God, you do not honor him. In fact for committing adultery, both people should be put to death. (Levitticus 10:20) Do you believe this as well? If you had a specific chapter and/or verse I would have looked it up. The Bible is for a lot of things I don't believe in. I don't believe in the Bible at all in fact. It's kind of like saying "Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by the Wolf and I can prove it, just look in the book"
Posted by LDer09 9 years ago
LDer09
Attrition read Exodus it talks about murder. Also our government is mostly based on Locke's social contract which states that if you take away someone's right to live then you will be written out of the social contract meaning that your a goner. I am proud to say I am a Texan and the fact that we actually use our death penalty unlike California and or Florida does not bother me one bit. I like knowing that all though crime rates maybe up I am still safe cause someone kills a friend they die too. Its really great knowing that. And if by some chance they off me I'm good with that too. Cause they will be killed soon if not by the death penalty the other murderer. Stop with cost argument please. Its stupid. The reason it costs so much is because people want to make sure the murderer is guilty. Wouldn't you want to be sure? Also Attrition the recent new about that guy who was in jail for 20+ years who just got out doesn't mean anything. Only that DNA testing and what not was not great in 1988. Its better now so we can know for sure. Religion should not factor into this but if you guys are going to drag in then like I said earlier read Exodus.
Posted by attrition 9 years ago
attrition
When a person is found guilty of a crime, the justice system is saying that beyond a shadow of doubt that the person is guilty of committing said crime. Surely you know that there have been case after case in which an innocent man is sent to prison and later found to be innocent. Very recently in the news, a man was in prison for 20+ years when new DNA evidence found he was innocent. If even the remote possibility exists that an innocent man can be put to death, it IS immoral no matter what you believe. Not to mention the pragmatic fact that with the built in appeals process, the costs of death penalty cases far exceeds life imprisonment. I don't know how you draw the conclusion that I think the whole justice system should be scrapped. I am simply referring to the part of the justice system that sends a person to their death to which there is no chance of a correction to an erroneous verdict. How can you say religion doesn't influence you opinion when you are obviously in favor of the old testament 'eye for an eye' argument? Modern society should not adhere to that.
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