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

The prohibition of the death penalty.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/23/2012 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,081 times Debate No: 23804
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (20)
Votes (1)




Resolved: The USA should ban the death penalty within its states.


1.The —used as a function word before a proper name

2.USA United States of America(not limited to just the conjoined 48 states)

3.should —used in auxiliary function to express obligation, propriety, or expediency

4.ban to prohibit especially by legal means

5.death penalty —the penalty of death for the commission of a crime

6.within —inside the range of (an area or boundary)

7.its belonging to or associated with a thing previously mentioned or easily identified

8.state a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government

All defintions presented above are final, and cannot change within the debate.

First round is for acceptance only


No Trolling
No Forfeits
No Changing of Definitions

I hope to have a great debate on this topic.


I accept. Lets have a good debate! :D
Debate Round No. 1


The use of the death penalty in the United States of America, is a terrible practice and should be banned for the following contentions: 1. Irreversible Mistakes 2. Costs 3. Weak form of Justice 4. Unalienable Rights

Contention 1: Irreversible Mistakes

A. Killing of innocent people - The object of the justice system, and the establishment of it, was to provide justice for the crimes committed to the persons, places, or things by which it is obligated to protect, and to provide proper judgement in the case of legal disputes[1]. The object of the justice system was not to kill innocent people, as it is murder and unethical and detrimental to the country as a whole. If just one innocent person is killed through the justice system, it has not done its job and contributes to the illegal crimes by which it prosecutes.

B. The possibility of an innocent killing - Since 1989, over the last 23 years, more than 2000 people have been convicted of a crime, and then had their ruling changed to innocent while they were in prison[2]. Compare these numbers to the amount of people who have been sentenced and/or put to death in 2010, which was over 3000[3]. This leaves the possibility that out of those 2000 people set free, all of them could have been on death row and/or killed, which is unjust.

C. Irreversibility - When someone is killed by the state through the death penalty, there is no possibility of bringing those people back if later found to be innocent. Death is irreversible, and cannot change. Therefore if an innocents persons life was taken, it cannot be recovered to allow that person to live their life freely. With the fact that there is no coming back from this there is the clear possibility that a man, deemed innocent but proven guilty, could have been executed.

D. Troy Davis - By far one of the premier cases in 2011 was the one involving Troy Anthony Davis. For those unaware, Troy Anthony Davis was executed by the state of Georgia on September 21, 2011. The odd problem with this case, is that substantial evidence was not there to justify this killing. There was no evidence to show he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is an example of a man who could be later proven innocent of his "crime", but by then it will be too late, he will be already dead.

Contention 2: Costs

A. The prices of death row - Allow me to direct your attention to the following statements "Death penalty cases are much more expensive than other criminal cases and cost more than imprisonment for life with no possibility of parole. In California, capital trials are six times more costly than other murder trials.(1) A study in Kansas indicated that a capital trial costs $116,700 more than an ordinary murder trial.(2) Complex pre-trial motions, lengthy jury selections, and expenses for expert witnesses are all likely to add to the costs in death penalty cases"[4] .

B. Layoffs of Law Enforcement officers - The immense costs of death row inmates, are purely detrimental to the budget of prisons and states. In January, the Jacksonville Sheriff's office alone laid off 50 police officers[5]. The loss of these 50 police officers in the state of Florida are critical to the safety of the citizens and people in that area. Not to mention, that there have been other layoffs which have taken place in other cities.

C. Release of criminals - Florida released 3,000 inmates due to a budget cut, but in 1988 executed 18 people at a costs of 57.2 millions dollars[4]. This is a terrible practice to have, because it can lead to the release of convicted criminals back into the areas of the free population. This contributes to the dangers that legally free citizens and innocent people have to face, and in turn jeopardizes the safety of millions of people

Contention 3: Weak Form of Justice

A. It can be a way of avoidance - The criminals convicted in crimes that are punished by the death penalty, don't serve out life sentences, unless the judgment is decreased to a life sentence. The fact that the death penalty ends this person's life is an avoidance of what they should be subjected to. If a person is killed they don't have to live their life anymore with the guilt of the crime they committed, or endure the conditions of prisons. Sure, some families will see it as good that the person who killed their "loved one" or "sibling" is being put to death. But many of the families disagree with this, because they either don't believe in putting someone to death, or they believe that the person should be forced to live out their days, within the confines of a prison setting.

Contention 4: Unalienable Rights

A. The Declaration of Independence - If a person should read the Declaration of Independence, which was put into action July 4, 1774, they will come across the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"[6]. In having a death penalty within the United States, the states are merely contradicting and degrading the very people who helped make the USA into a "free country". The fact that the states are controlling the lives of people and "playing God" as some would say, is completely and utterly wrong. Even though these people have in almost all cases, have been convicted of killing, the government shouldn't be able to say who lives or who dies. Especially in the case of American citizens.

I now turn the debate over to Con.




==Con Case==

C1: Retributivism (Kant)

Kant argues that a legal system is established in order to set the wrongs to rights in a society. The government is the protector of the common good and must insure that the individual wronged in a criminal case is adequately and proportionally punished. We can deduce that criminals deserve proportional punishment based on an analysis of the universalization maxim – when a criminal steals he essentially destroys the very concept of property and when a criminal murders he destroys the very concept of the importance of life. Even from a non-Kantian point of view, this makes sense because the criminals’ very actions show disregard for sacredness of rights and the law established in the U.S. As such, the legal system has an ethical responsibility to ensure that criminals are not given unequal benefits in society, i.e. when a criminal kills another and is not proportionally punished then this criminal in essence has more rights than the victim. [1]

==Pro Case==

C1: Irreversible Mistakes

Group all his sub-points (they are functionally the same)

My first response is that in today’s modern society the chance of killing an innocent is negligible at best. Due to technological advances in criminal forensics, it is possible to have 99% accurate DNA testing. This makes exoneration of the proposed guilty very effective while on Death Row. Death Row is as long as it is because mistakes are trying to be mitigated as much as possible. The ACLU writes "In the U.S., as of June 2002, 108 people including 12 death row inmates, have been exonerated by use of DNA tests. The increasing use of DNA testing to help confirm the innocence or guilt in capital cases is one among many reforms that will help ensure that innocent people are not sentenced to death." [2]

My second response is that his arguments are mostly speculation. In terms of the amount of people that could potentially be killed, he leaves it up to the readers of this debate to infer that since X amount of people were saved, then mostly all the people on death row were innocent. Note: Do no default to an innocent position after all the testing has been done. After pretrial and post-trial DNA testing, countless appeals trials, new evidence, etc. those people were still seen as guilty.

My third response is a TURN: Death penalty prevents murderous recidivism. According to the BoJ, 1.2% of murderous felons released from prison committed murder again – some accounts of multiple murders per felon. This means that by abolishing the death penalty there will be more murders of more innocent people in my opponent’s theoretical world. [3]

AND life without parole does not solve the recidivism issue – in-house homicides occur against other inmates. According to the BoJ from the years 2001-2002 87 prisoners were killed from direct homicides, not including possible cover-ups “accidental deaths”, manslaughter, and attempted murder. [4]

My fourth response is a TURN: Death penalty deters. According to a study at Emory University, the death penalty deters an average of 18 murders and the moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois lead to an additional 150 murders. [5]

C2: Cost

My first response is that there is no weighing mechanism in this point. Who cares? My opponent is essentially saying that since it costs a lot then we need to sacrifice our ethical responsibility for the sake of saving. I argue our overall ethical obligation to ensure justice outweighs because money is simply a means towards an end, and if a state wants to legitimately protect its interests with the use of the death penalty, it is in their right to do so.

My second response is that my opponent tries to say if we ban the death penalty than we will save our police officers. There is no evidence to support this claim. We are in a period of austerity where cuts need to be made, but the resolution is a carte blanche prohibition of the death penalty in all states.

My third response is that the release of criminals was (1) not a direct result of the death penalty. My opponent needs to prove that it is because of the death penalty this release was made, but (2) he makes it out worse than it is – most criminals released were marijuana offenders who probably shouldn’t have been jailed to such an extent anyway (but that’s a different debate).

C3:Weak Form of Justice

There are literally no warrants here, except my opponents own opinion. However, cross-apply the Kant analysis in that this is the only pure form of justice because we are giving the criminal what he has made into a universal law. But moreover, justice could never be served if the criminal is given the right to life over his/her victim. The scale would be tilted in favor of the criminal.

C4: Unalienable Rights

My first response is a TURN: that if we use my opponents analysis all types of punishment would be void, for example the jail system because jail is an inherent violation of ones right to liberty which is an unalienable right. If this is true than my opponent will lose the calculus debate right off the bat since his world has no punishment what so ever.

My second response is a TURN: The Declaration is based on the political philosophy of John Locke. Locke was a supporter of the death penalty because people that killed removed themselves entirely from the social contract, which strips them of their protection under the law. Moreover, Locke believed death penalty was necessary in order to sustain a social contract based highly on respect for rights and avoiding the violation of those rights.




[4] Bueaeur of Justice Statistic. Suicide and Homicide Rates in State and Local Prisons


Debate Round No. 2


Contention 1: Irreversible Mistakes

His 1st response: Chance of killing negligible because of technology advances.

Issue: Technology doesn’t convict people of crimes; a jury of peers takes care of that. They accomplish this by hearing the evidence and seeing the evidence, and then are persuaded by attorneys on both sides. However, with many cases, people cannot afford the best lawyers and are sometimes stuck with lawyers who are incompetent and not very well equipped. This causes them to be at a severe disadvantage if they are innocent, because the lawyer will sound inferior to the DA and the jury will vote for the state.

2nd response: Mostly Speculation on the innocent killings and people were still seen as guilty after appeals.

Issue: For starters, the object of my “possibility of innocent killing argument” was to demonstrate that if so many people were later found innocent and only so many people are on death row, it increases the possibility that at least one person executed now, or possibly in the future can be an innocent party. This means that the death row system would be liable and wrong in executing an innocent person.

Turn 1: Recidivism and 1.2% of murderers commit a murder again

Issue: This is close to 1 out of every 100 murderers, commits another killing. The problem with this evidence is it does not limit the findings to those who are facing 1st degree murder charges. What this means is that the 1.2% could have been from people committing 2nd and 3rd degree murders, which are not offenses punishable by lethal injection or any form of death penalty.[1] Furthermore, the source provided only states “homicide” meaning, all people in jail whether for manslaughter or premeditated murder must be executed. So if someone is in an involuntary manslaughter accident, they must be killed by the state. So even if someone was killed in a car accident, this person must be executed. On the “AND”, those 87 murders could’ve been by anyone, such as a person serving 5 years on a drug charge, which actually makes this argument/turn an advantage for Pro on the cost contention. When people are released from jail they are given a check of 75.00$ or less and sent on their way. They are less likely to be hired at a felon unemployment rate of 75% their first year out [2]. The lack of social status and hardships outside the jail, lead to the recidivism Con talks about.

Turn 2: Deterrence.

Issue: As a Richmond study shows [3], the link between murder rates dropping and the death penalty is not statistically significant. Likewise, states who execute more people through the death penalty don’t have lower rates of murderous crimes, which show the death penalty is not a sufficient deterrent.

Contention 2: Costs

His 1st response: Who cares? We shouldn’t sacrifice ethical responsibility for sake of saving.

Issue: With this being said, there is no possible way of saying it is the state’s ethical responsibility to murder someone because they have done the same. It is morally and ethically wrong on both sides of this account

2nd response: No link between officer layoffs and money.

Issue: Since money and budget cuts are the cause of officer layoffs and using the death penalty is very costly to the state and justice fun, these two distinctly link to one another. A study by Professors show that the cost to implement the death penalty in NY would be able to fund 250 officers and house 6000 inmates[4]. This answers the third response as well.

3rd response: No link between release and death penalty

I have misquoted in the first argument and left out a portion of the quoted area. “In Florida a mid-year budget cut of 45 million…forced the release of 3000 inmates. [4]

Contention 3: Weak Form of Justice

Response: Justice wouldn’t be served if criminal given right over victim with no death penalty, because favor would be toward criminal.

Issue: If state as the right to mandate who lies and who dies, it abuses its power because after the execution, it has been given sole power of right to live over the killer of the victim. This is giving the states right to kill through vengeance which is unjustified.

Contention 4: Unalienable rights

Turn 1: All punishments become void because of right to liberty.

Issue: Prisoners do have liberty just within a confined area. They have the liberty to any religion, to say as they please, to do whatever they want to do as long as it coincides with the rules of the prison, the rules the prison has set for the particular criminal, and doesn't violate the rights of other prisoners. This must be accepted as the right to liberty has not been alienated, because the right to mental liberty has not been taken away, and the Declaration doesn't specify whether liberty is mental or physical.

Turn 2: Locke’s philosophy

Issue: Not a sufficient turn as Locke’s philosophy may have been observed, but he didn’t draft the declaration, Jefferson did. Whether he believed in the penalty or not is nullified in this debate, because you can take a philosophy and alter it to fit your beliefs.

Retributivism: If someone kills it is understood that their right to life is not there as they have acted on the idea that their right to life doesn’t exist.

Issue: This is a flawed concept on the basis of right to life.” For Jefferson, as for some other political philosophers of this period, the idea that governments should have the power to deprive persons of all of their natural rights would have been abhorrent – the perfect recipe for tyranny. Governments could not legitimately claim such a power unless the people had explicitly granted it by their free consent but any people who did so would be foolhardy beyond belief, or would in fact attempt to do what it could not do, namely attempt to renounce or alienate rights which they could not in fact divest themselves of.”[5]

Sources will be provided in the comments, as the second comment.


Pro Case

C1: Irreversible Mistakes

First, my opponent completely misunderstands my argument about technological advances. Taking and utilizing DNA samples is not done by the defense team – it is done by the police force which then submits its evidence to the court. It doesn’t matter how much the defense team is paid. And even conceding that the defense might not be as legally atune as the prosecution, the law requires that all evidence available for both sides.

He dropped my ACLU evidence which tells you that DNA testing is 99% accurate and has led to the exoneration of many people on death row and has acquitted many people pre-trial.

Second, my opponent argues that since there were so many people wrongfully convicted then the possibility increases. However, he dropped my specific warrants for this point: 1) as DNA testing becomes more reliable, the probability of future wrongful convictions decreases – remember being on death row can be 8 – 15 years, spanning into a time when DNA testing was not adequately utilized. 2) after all the DNA testing and many appeals the person has still not been found innocent, the chance that he was is negligible and simply becomes speculation.

Third, on the recidivism TURN, my opponent argues that 1.2% is only like 1 out of 100 murderers. Yes, that would be like 1.2%. However, regardless of the margin we know (unlike my opponent’s innocents being killed speculation) that these re-occurrences of others being killed are actual innocents being killed by people released from jail. He dropped my other warrant which tells you that recidivism murders do not only have to be 1 murder, there can be multiple murders that have occurred.

My opponent tries to argue further that this stat isn’t just for 1st degree murderers. This would only hold if I help the belief it should only be for 1st degree, however multiple states have the death penalty for 2nd degree as well. Also, from an analytical perspective it would be quite rare if someone convicted of manslaughter then committed murder again. It would make more logical sense that someone who actually committed a murder prior would be the one to kill again.

My opponent argues that my in-house recidivism argument could have been anyone. That’s true, but he is missing the underlying point of my argument. My argument is more analytical than empirical. I’m not saying since we don’t execute murderers that these 87 people died, but rather life without parole does not solve recidivism. The advantage of the death penalty in comparison to life without parole is that the death penalty incapacitates the criminal 100%, whereas life without parole leaves the ability of the criminal to kill again. My opponent brings up this strange argument where he says since it costs a lot then criminals won’t have jobs if they are released. Problem: high jail costs are not the only reasons why the economy sucks right now.

Fourth, on deterrence my opponent presents a study which indicates states which have the death penalty have higher rates of crime than those that don’t. First, prefer my study since it is more contemporary and uses statistics closer to today. My opponent’s study uses statistics as old as the 1960s. Second, my opponent’s study only analyzes state wide as opposed to district wide. This is important because some districts utilize the death penalty more so than others, so the death penalty is not just a state wide phenomenon. Third, prefer my study – it examined 3,054 counties (better than examining the whole state) and found monthly there was reduction in the homicide rates in these counties with wider use of the death penalty.

C2: Cost

First, my opponent says it is unethical for the state to kill people – thus the cost matters. There is no warrant for this anywhere in my opponent’s case.

Second, my opponent argues the death penalty and cost are directly related because prohibiting the death penalty would lead to more money. Problem: my opponent cannot prove that this money would be allocated towards police or jail infrastructure.

Third, my opponent drops my argument that we wouldn’t need to have jam-packed prisons if the drug laws were modified and modernized. Don’t blame the death penalty for faulty drug laws.

C3: Weak form of justice

My opponent repeats that killing is wrong, especially through vengeance. So again I respond that there is no warrant here.

C4: Unalienable Rights

My opponent says Jefferson altered Locke’s philosophy. This is insufficient because the conclusion, i.e. that natural rights exist, does not mean those rights cannot be taken away. Remember, within a state of nature it is permissible to kill in certain circumstances. But moreover, the Declaration of Independence has no legal weight – the Constitution does. In the 5th Amendment the Constitution recognizes the existence of these negative rights and goes on further to say they can be taken away with due process of law.

I would argue further my opponent did not do much research in terms of Jeffersonian philosophy because Jefferson never supported complete prohibition of the death penalty. [1]

Con Case

C1: Kantian Retributivism

My opponent says this notion violates the Jeffersonian, Lockean and other political theorists’ beliefs that giving the government the right to take away its citizens lives will lead to tyranny.

First, this doesn’t address the warrants in the argument itself. The argument is that when a criminal murders another individual they are universalizing the action and explicitly stating (by their actions) that killing is permissible. As such, in order to make the world right, the government must execute the person doing the killing. Refer to my argument above for more analysis.

Second, the argument my opponent presented is referring to a complete government restriction to all claims of natural rights – life, liberty and property. This is not the case in terms of the death penalty.


Debate Round No. 3


I unfortunatley have had a lot come up in these past few days. I will be conceding this rebuttal round due to big assignments for finals. I know his may result in loss of the debate. I would plea to my opponent to cut the debate off last round, but that wouldn't be fair to him. I would be happy to debate this at a later date, preferably later in the week. I would suggest copy and pasting arguments from this debate and just finishing up the rebuttals. Thank you for a great debate up until this point CiRrK.


I have enjoyed it :D We can debate again in the future
Debate Round No. 4
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by photopro21 6 years ago
this debate was awesome. Question for ciRrK (since the debate is already over). If a criminal has to be proportionally punished as you argue under Kant, how is proportionality always maintained via the death penalty? (i.e.: if they torture their victims and then kill them slowly why do we give them just a lethal injection?)
I mean its more proportional than life sentences, but still.
Posted by PolicyKing501 6 years ago
I will, but after this one is completed first. I prefer to not debate the same topic against two different people at the same time.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
Will you just accept my debate challenge? You can copy/paste your arguments.
Posted by PolicyKing501 6 years ago
I meant "do deserves the steepest penalty" not don't.
Posted by PolicyKing501 6 years ago
I just feel as though in both cases, they both are a wrong. I don't feel as though the murderer deserves the steepest penalty allowed, outside of death. I don't believe that people, whether they kill and rape a child, or are on death row, should have their lives ended by another. Do I believe rape and torturing children is sick and sadistic? Yes. But I also believe that we will one day all face our maker, however, when that is to be, is not our decision.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
Well to me obviously not. But even if we operate under a framework assuming that executions are immoral, its the assertion that they are of the same magnitude as the initial murder that bugs me. Two things being immoral doesn't entail them both having the same degree of permissibility. That is, theft is considered to be immoral, but not as immoral as murder for instance.

I do appologize for my hostility. I have very strong opinions on this topic for personal reasons
Posted by PolicyKing501 6 years ago
so there is no possibility of them both being immoral?
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
I never said that you did. You said, and continue to say, that such things are morally the same. Which is abhorrent.
Posted by PolicyKing501 6 years ago
I have never agreed that one is more or less moral than the other, which is what you seem to not understand. Neither are moral to me at all, because a human being is still being killed. I have the position of indifference on the issue of that, when it comes to morality.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
I don't understand how someone couldn't be hostile to someone saying that killing filth like Peter Cantu or Timothy McVeigh is the same morally as torturing and then killing an innocent child. I cant fathom that viewpoint, I honestly can't.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro loses Conduct automatically for the forfeit. I'll look more at this later to judge arguments.