The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The death penalty should not remain legal in the United States.

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/18/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,118 times Debate No: 10517
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (21)
Votes (1)




I affirm the resolution, "The death penalty should not remain legal in the United States."

I would like to use this round as an introduction and to define key terms:

death penalty- a sentence of punishment by execution; capital punishment. [1]

murder- the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. [2]

legal- permitted by law. [3]

*"Death penalty" may be replaced with "capital punishment" throughout the argumentation because they have the same meaning.*

This round has solely been utilized to clarify what the debate is covering and to decipher critical definitions associated with the resolution. In this first round, my opponent has the opportunity to bring up any concerns or stipulations about any of my wording and use of definitions. If my opponent is satisfied with the way I have presented the opening, I would prefer if he/she refrains from posting argumentation in round one (As Instigator, I feel the need to post beginning contentions) and simply type the response, "I accept SAC's definitions and am prepared to debate."


I look forward to an interesting and intricate discussion.


My only concern about definitions at this time is regarding the necessity in defining the term "murder," as it does not appear in the resolution itself. Furthermore, the definition seems to be a possible set-up for an argument on the affirmative, which wouldn't be quite kosher.

However, I will wait to see my opponent's case before crying "abuse." :)

So, I humbly accept this challenge, and await my opponent's case.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting the debate.

Opening Statement:

The death penalty violates our constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantee of due process of law and the equal protection of laws. The enactment of the death penalty serves to be inconsistent with fundamental values of our democratic system. Capital punishment does not deter crime, and it is uncivilized in theory and unfair in practice.


I. Discrimination and Racism:
a)In 96% of the states where there have been reviews of race
and the death penalty, there was a pattern of either race-of victim
or race-of-defendant discrimination, or both. (Prof. David Baldus report to the ABA, 1998).
b) 98% of the chief district attorneys in death penalty states are
white; only 1% are black. (Prof. Jeffrey Pokorak, Cornell Law Review, 1998).
c) A comprehensive study of the death penalty in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving a death sentence rose by 3.5 times among those defendants whose victims were white. (Prof. Jack Boger and Dr. Isaac Unah, University of North Carolina, 2001).
d) A study in California found that those who killed whites were over 3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks and over 4 times more likely than those who killed Latinos. (Pierce & Radelet, Santa Clara Law Review 2005).

II. Deterrence:
a) According to a survey of the former and present presidents of the country's top academic criminological societies, 88% of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. (Radelet & Lacock, 2009)
b) Consistent with previous years, the 2006 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The South accounts for over 80% of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1% of all executions, again had the lowest murder rate.

III. Financial Factors:
a) The California death penalty system costs taxpayers $114 million per year beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life. Taxpayers have paid more than $250 million for each of the state's executions. (L.A. Times, March 6, 2005)
b) In Kansas, the costs of capital cases are 70% more expensive than comparable non-capital cases, including the costs of incarceration. (Kansas Performance Audit Report, December 2003).
c) In Indiana, the total costs of the death penalty exceed the complete costs of life without parole sentences by about 38%, assuming that 20% of death sentences are overturned and reduced to life. (Indiana Criminal Law Study Commission, January 10, 2002).
d) The most comprehensive study in the country found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the costs of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment. The majority of those costs occur at the trial level. (Duke University, May 1993).
e) Enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole. Based on the 44 executions Florida had carried out since 1976, that amounts to a cost of $24 million for each execution. (Palm Beach Post, January 4, 2000).
f) In Texas, a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. (Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992).

IV. Public Opinion:
a) The May 2006 Gallup Poll found that overall support of the death penalty was 65% (down from 80% in 1994). The same poll revealed that when respondents are given the choice of life without parole as an alternate sentencing option, more choose life without parole (48%) than the death penalty (47%).
b) A 1995 Hart Research Poll of police chiefs in the US found that the majority of the chiefs do not believe that the death penalty is an effective law enforcement tool.

These contentions are supported from this source:

If difficulty is experienced in retrieving the file, the main center for death penalty information is:

Additional Contentions:
I. Cruel and Unusual: The death penalty goes against the eighth amendment. It is cruel and unusual due to the uses of various forms of execution. Even lethal injection can bring hours of pain when it does not function properly.

II. The right to life and killing: Everyone has the right to life. It is immoral and unethical to take the life of someone. The death penalty kills the convicted and levels the government with the perpetrator. It teaches the old "eye for an eye" theory. However, an eye for an eye makes the world go blind. The death penalty encourages more uses of killing the convicted and does not set a healthy example for society.

III. Innocence: There are still cases where the convicted was actually proven innocent, but after the execution was finished. There is margin for error and the death penalty does not give back a life that may be innocent.

IV. Actual Punishment: The death penalty does not give the convicted the best form of punishment. Capital punishment ends the life of the convicted and he/she finds himself/herself getting out of trouble in a relatively painless way. Life in prison is a real punishment for the convicted: it gives him/her an especially long time to think about his/her shame and the way he/she ruined his/her life.

This shall be all for now. I await my opponent's response, and thank her and the audience for participating.



I apologize for the delay, & thank my opponent for the debate. Let's do the thing!

---Pro Case---

I. Racism: while this argument seems statistically compelling, my opponent offers no analysis to connect these statistics with the death penalty over any other mechanism of criminal justice. At that point, my opponent is advocating that we also stop enforcing ALL justice, since racism to some extent is inherent in all human institutions, including the justice system. I also recommend taking a look at the dates on these studies. While racism hasn't disappeared in the last ten years, it is progressively being diminished via efforts of the state. There are systemic fixes that will address these statistics. However, this is not an independent reason to eliminate an effective and necessary piece of the social contract.

II. Deterrence: I will openly concede that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent for crime. But, that isn't the purpose of the death penalty as outlined in my case, or by penological experts at this time.

III. Financial: yes, a death penalty system is expensive and time consuming. It must be, considering that taking a person's life should be something that a society should give due consideration. However, the cost alone is, again, not a sufficient reason to ban the use of capital punishment in society. Not only does the death penalty still maintain a 60%+ approval in many states despite their knowledge of the costs, but it is a retributive measure that keeps the social contract in balance, which is the cornerstone of U.S. functionality.

IV. Public Opinion: since all data about death penalty are very apt to contain margins of error, arguments for or against support are a wash at best. Basically, support for the death penalty is either about even or a bit above majority in any given source. Clearly, however, since 37 states still mandate its usage, legislative mechanisms have seen the need for it to be employed. This is a direct show for their support via representative democratic practices.

Ia. Cruel and Unusual: nope. It just doesn't. Supreme Court decisions confirm this. Also, the various forms are only to give the convicted a choice in the manner of death, so that has no link to that amendment.

IIa. Life: also nope. While I will affirm natural rights, capital punishment is very much NOT the same as "eye for an eye," in letter or spirit. The legal procedures involved negate this, as does all social contract theory that the U.S. employs in its founding documents and ideology. See forfeiture theory.

IIIa. Innocence: first of all, that margin of error is inherent in all human institutions. Since we've imprisoned people that were innocent, that should also not be a punishment option, since imprisonment is often perceived as far worse punishment than the death penalty.

Second of all, that margin of error is shrinking vastly with new forensics technology as well as the evolving procedures of death penalty indictments. This is not enough to outweigh the impacts provided in my case.

IVa. Actual Punishment: this is highly contradictory in two ways:

1. He can't argue "cruel and unusual punishment" if he's also going to argue that the death penalty isn't an "actual punishment." Clearly, if life imprisonment is worse than the death penalty for the criminal, then he can't claim life imprisonment as an alternative. This is CRUCIAL, because most of his statistics use life imprisonment as the only suitable alternative for heinous crimes.

2. He can't argue that the margin of error is a bad thing, either. As I stated previously, we can still convict innocent people and send them to prison. If sending them to prison is worse than putting them to death, then the margin of error is ample reason for us to stop sending convicted criminals to prison, as well.

---My Case---

I. The United States conception of justice calls for retributive punishment, and the death penalty satisfies this conception when the crime is dire enough.

The entire system of justice in the U.S. is based directly on social contract theory. Locke maintains that, though we may seek our own justice in the state of nature, the reason that we form societies and appoint governments is to guarantee equitable and effective protection of our natural rights.

However, this system cannot properly function if the most heinous of crimes are not satisfactorily punished. According to social contract theory, once a person has chosen to rob another of his or her natural rights, that person has forfeited his or her protected place in society. He or she, in fact, has entered into a state of war with said society, and deserves a proportional punishment. Otherwise, how would the state preserve itself and maintain citizen confidence in its ability to protect those living under its jurisdiction? While options such as life imprisonment exist, they will not elicit the same retributive effects as capital punishment.

Current penological discourse in the U.S. is clear on this point: as social contract theory elaborated centuries ago, human beings have a natural urge for retribution when their rights have been violated. It isn't enough to simply gain one's rights back; Hammurabi's code, the first set of written laws in human history, provides the "eye for an eye" concept. While justice has progressed beyond this simplistic notion of retribution, it cannot forsake the principle. We've seen time and time again that certain crimes extend beyond our institutional ability to punish. At that point, in order to ensure the stability of the social contract, the state must show its commitment to the innocent (as Locke states, in the "state of war," the concerns of the innocent are always to be preferred).

Therefore, within the U.S., capital punishment is not only important to the stability of the justice system, but to the stability of the social contract balance within the nation. While it may not seem to statistically deter others from committing heinous crimes, it does directly deter vigilantes from taking justice into their own hands when the state fails to protect the innocent from the most dangerous of criminals. As my opponent states, though support for the death penalty has waned a bit over the last several decades, it is by no means unpopular, especially depending on the state that one is considering.

2. Outlawing the death penalty at a federal level violates states' rights unnecessarily, which diminishes the representation of citizens in given states.

As I'm sure all readers are aware, the death penalty is a type of punishment that is designated by state mandate. As of 2008, approximately 37 states employ the death penalty in some form. Furthermore, data reveals that different state populations feel vastly different about employing the death penalty, which is reflected in its allowance as well as its legal provisions.

Besides the fact that this further supports my first argument (which is that citizens in the U.S. see the death penalty as a necessary part of retributive justice), it indicates that eliminating capital punishment at a federal level would not only violate the principles of representative democracy on which our country functions, but state's rights.

The purpose of establishing constitutional state's rights is clear: the structure of our government relies on the rule being as vested in the people as much as possible. Considering that most of the states in the nation with very few exceptions show a 60%+ approval of capital punishment, a law or constitutional amendment that outlawed a state's use of capital punishment would clearly run contrary to the will of the people in each state. This violation of the right to self-governance is unnecessary and destructive to our democracy.
Second Treatise of Civil Government, John Locke
Debate Round No. 2


Clearly, my opponent has done a terrific job in both refuting my case and strengthening her own. I had no idea what social contract theory was, and thank my opponent for the opportunity to learn more about it.

Whatever I would have argued in this round, I know my opponent could have easily rebuked. Christmas is around the corner, so why give my opponent something that she'll have to waste more time doing? Thanks for the debate, alto2osu. I never thought I'd be understanding or favorable of the death penalty, but your case is quite persuasive.

Thank you. Goodbye.


Thanks to SAC, as well. :) I'm actually sitting in my father's living room right now, and I only get to see him once a year. So, I hope you enjoy your Christmas, sir, and I hope we can debate again soon.

Merry ChristmasHannukahKwanzaaEtc. :D
Debate Round No. 3


studentathletechristian8 forfeited this round.


alto2osu forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
21 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by studentathletechristian8 7 years ago
I talked about this with Cody_Franklin a little bit. I must have been tired, trying to do other things, etc., and thought I had given alto the vote. It wasn't until a comment was posted that I realized I had messed the vote.
Posted by untitled_entity 7 years ago
....but you didn't get Alto the arguments category.
Posted by studentathletechristian8 7 years ago
I should make myself a little clearer at the end. I knew I had fvcked up when I saw alto's comment and when I saw where my vote went.
Posted by studentathletechristian8 7 years ago
I know what you guys are thinking, but I would like to explain myself.

I admitted my defeat in this debate. I know I lost. I remember when this debate was in the voting period, and since no one could really see it unless they went on our profiles, I put in a vote with several minutes remaining to give alto the arguments category.

After the voting period ended, and we could see whom I voted for, I knew I fvcked up. Alto posted a comment on this debate, so I looked and saw the mistake.

Don't jump to conclusions.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 7 years ago
Yeah, seriously. Low blow.
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
Low blow, SAC.
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
What a disappointing voting period.
Posted by Maikuru 8 years ago
Wow, harsh. I wish I had seen this one. sac8, what's the deal?
Posted by alto2osu 8 years ago
Wow...being able to see who voted what really changes my mind about what kind of person I thought I was debating.
Posted by alto2osu 8 years ago
I know, right? I ended up sick right before winter break ended, and I completely forgot that this thing existed. No one had looked at it in forever, so I didn't think anything of it. Enemy, thy name is complacency. :P
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by studentathletechristian8 8 years ago
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Total points awarded:30