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

These United States should retain the Death Penalty for murder.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+3
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/12/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,272 times Debate No: 17475
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (1)




1st round is acceptence. 2nd round is constructive, no rebuttal. 3rd-4th rounds are rebuttals. Cross examination is permitted. Good luck to my Opponent!

For the purpose of this debate the Death Penalty is defined as - The punishment of execution, administered to someone convicted of a capital crime.



Let the debate begin!
Debate Round No. 1



"A murderer deserves death penalty because he has trespassed against the whole society by killing one of its members."-unknown.

Seeing as I agree with the above quote, I strongly affirm this resolution. I offer the following contentions in support:

C1. Capital Punishment saves innocent lives.

SPA: Capital Punishment keeps a killer from striking again.

There have been many instances in our justice system where a murderer has reoffended, in fact a study from the U.S. Department of Justice finds that of prisoners released in 1994, 1.2% of those convicted of homicide were arrested for another homicide within three years of their release.[1].

There are also many specific examples, such as Kenneth Mcduff. In 1966 a Texas jury ruled for him to die in the electric chair for his brutal murder of two boys and a girl. However his sentence was commuted to Life Imprisonment when the Supreme Court struck down the Death Penalty. Mcduff was later released, and ended up killing at least 9 more people. Thankfully, he was executed by lethal injection in 1998[2]. He will never kill again. Had he been executed the first time at least 9 innocent lives would've been saved.

Another example is the recently executed Lee Andrew Taylor. While serving a life sentence for his brutal beating and murder of an elderly couple Taylor fatally stabbed another inmate after a "racial tension" incident occurred[3]. Thankfully, he was executed by Texas in 2011, never to kill again.

Yet another example comes from Clarence Ray Allen. Allen was serving a sentence of life without parole for murder, when he conspired with his fellow inmate Billy Hamilton to kill the witnesses for his crime. When paroled, Hamilton tracked down the witnesses and killed one of them, along with two other people[4]. Allen was, thankfully, sentenced to die for this new crime, and executed by the state of California in 2006.

These are only some of many examples of murderers who later murdered again. In many cases, anything less than the Death Penalty simply isn't good enough. The recidivism rate for an executed murderer is 0%.

SPB: Capital Punishment has a deterrent effect.

Many different studies provide many different results, some examples:

  • Studies from Emory University stating that each execution prevents between three and eighteen murders. [5]
  • A 2006 study from the University of Houston, stating that the Illinois moratorium on the Death Penalty led to 150 additional homicides [5]
  • A University of Colorado at Denver study showing that for each execution five muders were prevented.[6].

Raw statistics also support the deterrent effect. Take the state of Texas for example:According to JFA (Justice for All), the Texas murder rate in 1991 was 15.3 per 100,000. By 1999, it had fallen to 6.1—a drop of 60 percent. Within Texas, the most aggressive death penalty prosecutions are in Harris County (the Houston area). Since the resumption of executions in 1982, the annual number of Harris County murders has plummeted from 701 to 241—a 72 percent decrease.[7]

Or nation-wide:

By the beginning of the 1990s, however, states that wished to reimpose the ultimate penalty had fought their way through the endless thicket of appeals and restrictions imposed by the courts. In 1991, 14 murderers were executed while 2,500 waited on death row. By 1993 the figure had risen to 38 executions, then 55 in 1995, and 98 in 1999, a level not seen since the 1950s. At the same time, murder rates began to plummet—to 9.6 per 100,000 in 1993, 7.7 in 1996, and 6.4 in 1999, the lowest level since 1966. To put the matter simply, over the past 40 years, homicides have gone up when executions have gone down and vice versa. [8]

These are just some of many examples showing the deterrent effect. As Researcher Karl Spence from of Texas A&M University states (speaking about the moratorium on Capital Punishment from 1972-1976):

"While some death penalty abolitionists try to face down the results of their disastrous experiment and still argue to the contrary, the...[data] concludes that a substantial deterrent effect has been observed...In six months, more Americans are murdered than have killed by execution in this entire century...Until we begin to fight crime in earnest by using the death penalty, every person who dies at a criminal's hands is a victim of our inaction."

Observation: While the argument that an innocent could be executed is a very compelling one, the murders committed by prior offenders and the deterrent effect of Capital Punishment outweighs this small risk.

C2. The Death Penalty is a better punishment than Life without Parole.

SPA: Life without parole does not always mean life.

If the Death Penalty is abolished, the next thing to go will be life without parole. Already some European countries like Norway, Greece and Spain have abolished it [9]. There is already a movement to abolish life without parole in the United States for juveniles and even for adult offenders! [10][11]. While no one can truly know if these movements will gain traction, the evidence in Europe speaks for itself, sentences for murder in Europe are much lighter than those in the United States.

The law can also change, take for example the tragic case of Pamela Moss: "In 1962, James Moore raped and strangled 14-year-old Pamela Moss. Her parents decided to spare Moore the death penalty on the condition that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Later on, thanks to a change in sentencing laws in 1982, James Moore is eligible for parole every two years"[12]

Laws change, Governors change, sentencing changes, and people forget the past. The only way to truly know if a murderer will not ever be released is to execute them.

SPB: Prisoners view the Death Penalty as a harsher punishment than Life without parole.

One argument against the Death Penalty is that it does not force criminals to truly pay for their crime. While at first this seems to be a compelling argument, the evidence speaks against it. Criminals have the right to waive the appeals on their death sentence, very very few do. Executions in 2011: 25 so far, 1 waived appeals. Executions in 2010: 46, 1 waiver. Executions in 2009: 52 executions, 2 waivers. Executions in 2008: 37 Executions, 3 waivers.[13]. Nearly 96% of those executed in the past four years have fought to escape their sentence.

C3. Capital Punishment is constitutionally sanctioned.

There isn't much to be said on this point, so I'll make it brief. The Supreme court has upheld the constitutionality of Capital Punishment many times in the past, most recently in Bazes v. Rees.[14] Also, usage of the Death Penalty is contemplated in the 5th Amendment of the U.S. constitution when it states: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury..."[15].

Thank you so much to my Opponent for accepting this debate, I'm really looking forward to it, and I also urge a Pro vote!

7. Lowe, Wesley. "Consistent and Swift Application of the Death Penalty Reduces Murder Rates."

8. Tucker, William. "Capital Punishment Reduces Murder Rates."




As per the rules I will offer rebuttals next round. Some of my points are pretty much the opposite of his, so I will leave them as rebuttals next round. Here are the points that I'd like to throw into the debate:

1. State should not multiply guilt
Jesus once argued against the old eye for an eye maxim with his slightly cooler turn the other cheek maxim. Justice isn't about giving them what they gave you (that would make you just as bad) - it's about repairing the harm done. Of course there are people who may appear to be 'beyond repair' - but that doesn't give us the right to kill them. That right simply does not exist. As Ghandi said, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

This is why doing equal harm is in fact doing greater harm - by killing the killer, you too become a killer. It isn't about what the murderer deserves, it's about doing the right thing ourselves. If we say that what they're doing isn't right, then it isn't right for us either. The role of the justice system is best fulfilled by a value-orientated judiciary, not one that blindly kills killers without consideration for the moral consequences. It is my understanding that the United States' declaration of independance states that life is an unalienable right (the UN Declaration of Human Rights agrees too). I should not be at liberty to kill you, but even if I do, the state should still not be at liberty to kill me, because nobody is at liberty to kill. Otherwise the state itself is guilty.

2. Criminals deserve to feel punishment
What greater punishment could there be than having to spend every day of your life in a facility designed to fill you with remorse and guilt? As if the trial wasn't enough, you now have to live among cockroaches and serial rapists, eat crappy food and lose all your freedoms. Now compare the alternative. You only have one day to live, you are given a lavish last meal, and an injection that you don't even feel (assuming we're talking about the USA here). It's like being able to let go - an avenue of escape from the guilt and remorse we want criminals to feel.

Criminals don't fear death - in cases this serious, they rarely have anything left to live for. A minority even consider it a matter of distinction to be killed, as is evidenced by the small number of death row inmates who request to be killed in particulary inhumane ways. What they fear is the truth about their crimes. That's what we want them to face up to. They can't do that if they're dead. But it's more than that - justice is supposed to be about the interests of the victim, not the state. Say I kill my girlfriend and get sentanced to death. Does it honor my girlfriend that what happened to her also happened to me? No. She would want me to go to jail and face up to the terrible crime I have done.

3. Innocents
When I commit a crime, the only people who really know what happened (usually) are myself, and possibly the victim (if alive). The police can only guess based on clues. It isn't surprising that they often get it wrong. Usually, the whole truth is never revealed. The problem is that with any other punishment you can correct mistakes the police make. That's called due process - you need to be able to pursue your claim of innocence after conviction, as evidence becomes available. You can't do that if you're dead. So what if the evidence is only available after you're executed? This is particulary relevant in murder cases where the line between murder and manslaughter is very difficult to draw without actually being the killer, and so often just comes down to a war of words between attorneys.

Since 1973, 138 people in 26 states have been released from death row after they were found innocent ( This proves the police get it wrong. Dozens more appear to have been executed innocently ( We can never know how many were really executed innocently.

Even if one person is innocently killed, that's too many. Any other punishment it would be alright to have innocents, but when the state kills not a killer but an innocent person, even just one, then they create guilt and multiply it upon themselves. If I came to your house tomorrow, set up a sham court and convicted you to die before killing you, you would expect me to be punished. But if you replace me with the police, you would expect me to be applauded, so long as some other killers are also killed. Killing killers gives people no right to execute innocents.

Since you cannot stop 100% innocent executions, innocents will be executed cruelly and unusually for the crime of doing nothing wrong. I'm pretty sure there's a law against that one too.

4. Discrimination
It is a well-known fact that in the united states, much of the probability of whether you will be convicted depends on how much the judge likes you. Judges discriminate very actively and don't always look at the facts. In the case of death penalty, where a person's life is at stake, this can have disasterous consequences. Check out the findings of two studies here:

It isn't just about ethnicity. Poor people can't afford good lawyers, and so are disproportionally represented. That's not fair.

If we are to accept discrimination as a given, then we need to err on the side of caution because innocents will be convicted and killers will walk free anyway. Keeping people incarcerated has exactly the same net effect (removing potentially dangerous people from society) but provides a long-term due process mechanism for overcoming this discrimination, through things like the innocence project and so on.

Oscar Wilde once wrote: "One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishment that the good have inflicted." In many ways that sums up my argument. I concur that murder is really, really bad - but I simply say that if it's bad for me to murder you, it's also bad for the government to murder you. This is bad because you might be innocent, discriminated against, or unremorseful, and because by doing so the state only multiplies guilt rather than creating an oppertunity for the guilt to go away. With this in mind I call upon the United States to join with the EU and UN in their opposition to the death penalty, and await my opponent's argument with excitement.
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks for a timely response Con, now I will refute your arguments.

1. State should not multiply guilt.

--> No impact, this is obviously outweighed by lives saved.

--> This point doesn't even make sense. All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder.

--> Using this logic, Police should not be allowed to excede the speed limit to catch a traffic violater, and we shouldn't arrest and imprison kidnappers because the punishment is physcially similar to the crime.

--> The physical similarities between execution and muder do not make them anywhere near similar morally. If someone attempts to kill me, and I kill them in defense, the physical act is similar but morally it is the complete opposite of his.

--> He states the when the state executes an individual, they don't take the moral consequnces into consideration. Not only has he provided only his personal opinion as evidence, he has not even explained what those consequences are.

--> Also using this logic, we shouldn't imprison people either, because it's infringing on their personal freedom.

--> He argues that the Declaration of independence and the UN declaration of human rights both recognize a right to life. They both also recognize a right to liberty, which imprisonment takes away. Also, when these documents were created most countries had the DP and continued to use it, long after these treaties were ratified. They had the moral insight to tell crime from punishment.

--> He states that no one is at liberty to kill. This is completely false, People are justified in killing in self defense and soldiers are justified in killing during war (even if the war itself is not justified.) The DP is reactionary, and thus is not the same as murder.

--> I am mildly offended by how he compares brutal murder with a just execution. Heres a quote about how the victims of the murderer Peter Cantu died:

"As the teens cried and struggled, six gang members took turns raping them.

Finally, gang leader Peter Cantu told Medellin, "We're going to have to kill them."

Gang members Derrick O'Brien and Raul Villarreal looped a belt around Jennifer's throat, pulling with such force that the belt broke. Cantu, Medellin and Efrain Perez strangled Elizabeth with a shoelace. Then they stomped on the girls' throats for good measure."[1]

Heres an account of Peter Cantu's execution:

"At this point the warden asked the prisoner if he wished to make a final statement. Cantu, staring straight to the ceiling, replied defiantly "No!" The hope that many people had that this murderer would show some remorse or accept some reponsibility for his crimes was gone with one short word. With that, the warden instructed the executioner to begin the flow of lethal drugs. Cantu closed his eyes and breathed in deeply before exhaling heavily. He would not move again."[2].

Can we really claim that these are morally similar? The murder of an innocent is not the same as the execution of a guilty man.

--> English philosopher John Stuart Mill sums up this point nicely with this quote:

"Does fining a criminal show want of respect for property, or imprisoning him, for personal freedom? Just as unreasonable it is to think that to take the life of a man who has taken that of another is to show want of regard for human life. We show, on the contrary...our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself and that while no other crime that he can commit deprives him of his right to live, this shall."

2. Punishment

--> So what? Our focus must be on public safety, not revenge as you yourself said in your first point.

--> No evidence for this, his opinion only.

--> Evidence contradicts this, 96% of those sentenced to die fight to get it moved to life imprisonment.

--> If criminals do not fear death, than I wonder how police ever get criminals to surrender without killing them.

3. Innocence

--> His evidence shows no innocents that have actually been executed, the releases show that our current appeals system works! It would be much more concerning if there were no releases from death row ever.

--> Why is it ok to accept the thousands of innocents who die every year through car accidents for our own selfish convience, but the slight chance of executing an innocent man for something much less selfish, like public safety, is so unbearable? If it happens, it is extremely unfortunate, but it is no different than what happens to innocent people every day.

--> In his link, the vast majority of those sentenced were sentenced in the 70's, 80's or very early nineties. What this shows is that because of the rise of DNA and forensic evidence, along with recent supreme court decisions restricting the death penalty, this problem is much less severe now than in the past.

--> He tries to show people who were wrongfully executed, but the fact remains that in all of these cases, the people who are actually qualified to assess guilt or innocence (the Jurors, the Judge, the Supreme court, the state board of paroles and pardons, ect.) all found these people guilty. I'll take the veridict from the people who actually know about the case than writings from some dubious website any day.

--> This is outweighed by the innocents saved from the DP.

4. Discrimination

--> So what? Why should we let guilty poor people and minorities escape their penalty just because guilty rich/white people do? I'm sure rich people are also more likely to be acquitted when they're guilty, so should we release some guilty poor people just to be fair?

--> No solvency, absolutely no evidence to suggest that discrimination would stop existing if the DP was abolished.

--> Discrimination must be countered by eliminating discrimination, not by eliminating punishments.


My Opponent concludes that murder is bad. I'm glad we agree on this, as we all should. However he makes a very puzzling statement, saying that it's bad for the government to "murder". Again, he is falsely comparing murder to an execution. This also contradicts some of what he says, why would it not be ok for the government to execute people, yet it is ok for them to imprison them forever, which my Opponent believes is a worse punishment?

He brings in a quote from Oscar Wilde talking about how sickening punishments are to the guilty. This is very confusing, because he is arguing against the death penalty, yet he has stated that life without parole is a harsher punishment, so really this statement supports my side. So unless my Opponent is advocating the abolition of life w/o parole as well, his first and second contentions condradict eachother as does this statement.

If life w/o parole is truly a worse punishment, than not only are we saving innocent lives with executions, but we are also showing mercy to the worst of our criminals. If that is not kindness and justice, than I don't know what is.

I urge a Pro vote, and greatly anticipate my Opponents next round. Back to you, Con!



Excellent. In this round I will answer my opponent's contentions, then his rebuttals. I'd like to thank him for his swift response and insightful questions.

Pro 1. Capital Punishment keeps a killer from striking again.
Sort-of captain obvious. Life without parole also stops a killer from striking again. 1.2% homicide reoffence rate, quoted in your first source, also means that incarceration works for 98.8% of homicide convicts. And while there may be 1.2% that don't get it the first time (and who probably should not have been let out), that's also about the rate of false conviction for innocent people to a capital crime (

Here's the difference: under your model, more innocents die, because you'll always have murderers running loose (discrimination, police need time to investigate cases etc) so that 1% extra won't make much of a difference. Under my model, there are comparable homicide rates at best (and at worst, I could point to the fact that the United States, even with its death penalty, has the highest homicide rate in the world, so clearly the deterrant isn't working under the status quo). However, your model also executes the innocents. While mine doesn't stop false conviction, mine does stop innocent people dying because the police screwed up. I want my opponent to tell me why it's worth sacrificing more lives to do the same job.

Pro 2. Capital Punishment has a deterrent effect
First, I was actually going to make the opposite claim. Capital punishment has a brutalisation effect on people. People think that the police are brutal because they murder people, and so they need to be brutal too. Studies show that murder rates spike after executions have happened in a state ( Since the death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976, the homicide rate has fallen by about 40% (

Second, to be honest, I think both my and your points here are always going to be nothing more than statistical over-analysis. When I go out to kill somebody, I don't open the paper first and check whether there have been any executions recently, and if I don't check the paper, I will be no more or less inclined. Murderers don't think about why they're doing things beyond a superficial level (otherwise they wouldn't be murderers). Indeed, murderers don't often think through the consequences of their actions at all. They only respond to general societal movements, such as mass brutalisation, not to the effects of individual killings. Therefore the conclusion "1 capital offense stops x murders" is silly.

Third, for studies which claim a general trend, they establish correlation based on the two sets of data, but they do not establish causation. This is the case, for example, with Tucker's book. It is almost impossible to isolate all the factors that could have caused a rise in crime. A great many studies have in fact shown exactly the opposite trend. Reconciling this, scholar Joanna M Shepherd looked at trend by state rather than nationally. She found that of the 27 states that recently had executions, there was some deterrant effect but only in 6 states. In 13 states, by contrast, there was a brutilisation effect. (

Fourth, please provide a direct link to your articles, I couldn't find them by searching the sites you mentioned.

Pro 3. Life without parole doesn't always mean life
Justice needs to be restorative, not retributive. While Europe (and, for that matter, my own country of New Zealand) may appear to have lighter sentances and non-tough prisons, they have really low reoffending rates. As a result, homicide rates in Europe are much lower than in the USA. So if the justice system is doing exactly what it's designed to do, what's the problem with this? Fewer murders and less prisoners sound good to you?

Second, future movements are clearly irrelevant.

Pro 4. Prisoners view the Death Penalty as a harsher punishment than Life without parole.
This is because real criminals enter plea bargins to avoid dying, while people who enter not guilty and push for their innocence are killed by the system. As such the very people who deserve it most get it least. Besides, justice isn't about being as harsh as possible, it's about changing negative behavior.

Pro 5. Capital Punishment is constitutionally sanctioned.
So what if an ancient document contemplates the death penalty? All this shows is that it happened a long time ago. The declaration of independance, which tells us that people have an absolute freedom to life, tells us whether it should happen or not. The answer's no.

Con 1. State should not multiply guilt
Not all killing is murder - so you say that the government doesn't intend to kill murderers? Then what is a sentance!? Or are these men behind bars at war? Pro also states the same applies to traffic violaters and kidnappers. In these cases the state does create guilt, but it's fair because the crime isn't nearly as serious as murder. Removing somebody from society makes communities feel safer, killing somebody who may well be innocent in your community makes people feel scared.

State killing is not self-defence. Life imprisonment also removes the criminal, but the harm is much lower. That's one reason why murder is always immoral, no exceptions. Given a life and death alternative with equal effect, the life must be preferred or else you're just as bad ethically.

My opponent, and John S. Mill, are offended that killing a helpless murderer is morally equivalent to killing a helpless teenage girl. Never are we actually told why, though, so until then this point is null.

Finally, liberty means "The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life." Taking people to jail is not oppressive because it is consistant with one's way of life - choosing a life of crime yields a lifetime in the penitentiary. However, killing people is not consistant with the way of life of a murderer. Rather, it is consistant with the murderer's way of death. The right to life is presupposed by the very concept of liberty.

Con 2. Criminals deserve to feel punishment
Guilt is not revenge. Guilt is the antidote to hate and enables love. You cannot feel it once you're dead. That's not my opinion - it's a fact.

Life without parole is not "harsher" or more sickening, but it's better because people feel the guilt we need them to feel. That's not harsh; it's fair that people take responsibility for their actions. Thus I don't believe life in prison is a "worse" punishment, but rather a more "just" punishment.

Con 3. Innocents
My opponent's presumption that this shows the system is working is flawed. Supreme court justice Antonin Scalia makes this point nicely: we can't count the innocent because not all innocent can be exonerated ( After the case is done, attorneys and investigators lose interest because the guy is already dead. And yes, innocents are killed in car accidents - but why does this give the state the right to kill more innocents? By this logic you might as well give the state the right to kill everyone for no reason. Finally, my website was not dubious. It's run by scholars and academics, rather than by judges that I have shown to be biased.

Con 4. Discrimination
Sure, I don't have a solution. But that's not the point. In absence of a solution, we will have innocents trialled and executed. If they were trialled and could appeal after their punishment, then there's no problem. Thus ending the death penalty reduces the problem of discrimination until a better solution can be found.

Fighting a flood by spraying water at it won't make it go away, just as fighting murder by murdering won't end murder. Please vote con. Good luck for the final round!
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks Con, for a compelling and interesting debate.

*note, there are some extremely common arguments against the death penalty that my Opponent has not used. This is by no means an accusation, but if, for whatever reason, he posts new arguments in the last round where I cannot refute them I reserve the right to rebut in the comments section.

Innocent lives saved by prevention

This is, I feel, the most important argument in this round, and I want to put some extra focus on it so it's going first. The source Con links shows the number of wrongly executed to be 9. First of all, not a single one of these have been pardoned after death. They were all found guilty, and their sentences were upheld by people actually qualified to determine guilt or innocence. I respect my Opponent, I can tell from this debate that he's a very intelligent guy however he is not by any means qualified to determine the guilt and innocence of those executed, nor is the site he has linked. However, for the sake of what I am about to say, let's imagine for a moment that all of these people were innocent.

According to Cons source, since 1976 there have been 1260 executions. 9/1260=.0071. That's the rate of actual innocents executed, assuming that these people are innocent. The recidivism rate for murder is .012, or nearly double this. As you can see, the DP saves more lives than it takes.

Lets take a specific example.

In 1984 (sorry that it's not recent, it was the only statistics I could find.): "Of the roughly 52,000 state prison inmates serving time for murder in 1984, an estimated 810 had previously been convicted of murder and had killed 821 persons following their previous murder convictions."[1]

So if we were to execute all murderers, using my Opponents extremely high, unproven, rate of innocence the amount of innocents executed would be 369. (.0071 * 52000= 369.2). The amount of innocents killed by prior murderers is 821. 821-369=452. So the net amount of lives saved if we executed all murderers would be 452 in this example. Of course I am not advocating the DP for all murderers, rather only for the most serious and most evident cases. Thus this would eliminate most of the executed innocents, while retaining most of the second conviction murders. And of course, this does not even take into account the deterrent effect.

All moral arguments are outweighed by the governments obligation to protect innocent life.



Con argues that the brutalization affect counter-acts deterrence. I strongly disagree. The evidence he's linked is dubious at best, and intentionally misleading at worst. He offers no logical explanation as to how this affect works, because he again mistakes the DP for murder. Still, even if we accept this as valid, innocents killed by prior offenders outweighs.

Con says that the DP does not deter because murderers do not examine the news to see if any executions have taken place. This is true, however logic shows that people respond to dis-incentives. The possibility of death is the ultimate disincentive, and while it is true that potential murderers do not check the news for executions, hearing about them and knowing that if you get caught, death is a strong possibility will deter.

I have shown that a trend of deterrence exists, I have provided studies showing deterrence, and I have shown deterrence through common sense. This point stands.

He gives examples from other countries, but since this debate is about the United States I feel absolutely no need to respond. Further, any comparisons between states should not be considered valid because each state is very different from the others. Thus, any comparison of murder rates must be done from a specific state.

Life w/o Parole

Con states how Europe has a lower reoffending rate and lower homicide rates than the U.S. This is not a fair comparison, because Europe is not the United States. Europe is culturally different, demographically different, economically different, ect, than the U.S. so this is, to use the common phrase, comparing apples to oranges.

Con also states that future movements are irrelevant. They are highly relevant because they show what is likely to become policy in the future. History supports this, take gay rights for an example. Once an obscure belief held by very few, it is now becoming policy. Of course I cannot prove this will happen, but using historical precedents it is quite likely.

He also states that real criminals plead guilty, and he has provided no evidence or even reasoning for this claim.

People condemned to life w/o parole can still kill guards, other inmates, or escape. Here's some examples:

Martsay Bolder, sentenced to life imprisonment and murdered his cellmate.[2].

Donald Dillbeck- sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 1979, escaped in 1990 and murdered a woman while attempting to steal her car.[3].

James Prestridge-sentenced to life w/o parole for murder, escaped from prison and murdered his fellow escapee (serving a sentence for robbery)[4].

These are only a few of the many examples.


My Opponent bafflingly calls the constitution an "ancient document" while using the declaration of independence to support his case. The declaration was signed before the constitution was ratified. The constitution is the framework in which the U.S. works, and takes precedence over foreign treaties like the UN declaration of human rights.

State hipocracy

Again, Con misunderstands the difference between murder and the DP. For the state to multiply guilt, it would have to kill an innocent. If the state went out and murdered a killers family, than yes that would be immoral. However executing a guilty person is nowhere near the same morally than murder.

His response to my speeding and kidnapping analogy is "it's fair because the crime isn't nearly as serious as murder". This objection is puzzling, because if the physical similarities between an execution and murder equate the two to be morally similar, why does the gravity of the crime affect this? Either it is morally wrong for the government to impose a punishment physically similar to a crime or it is not.

He states that killing a murderer is not self defence, however I disagree. I have shown many cases where a murderer has killed again. Restraining them at any means needed, including death, is a form of self defence.

He states that I have not explained how executing a murderer is not the same as brutally murdering an innocent. I appologize, I thought this was obvious. Judges, I ask you to re-examine the account of murder that I've shown and compare it to that of the execution. Even if the death penalty is immoral, to claim that there is no moral difference between brutally murdering an innocent and humanely executing a guilty murderer is simply absurd.

He argues that we are not infringing on liberty by imprisonment, but his own statement condradicts this. "The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life."


Even if we accept this point as true, the innocents saved massively outweighs this.

Con appears very idealistic in this argument, arguing that these murderers will feel guilt. I believe that anyone who can commit murder that meets the aggravating circumstances for the DP is beyond feeling remorse, and even if this is false, our focus must be on safety.

Again, no non emotion based impact argued on this point.


I have already shown this point to be outweighed above.


Con argues that the DP is rife with discrimination. He has provided no evidence, and even admits he has no solution. Advocating a change in the status quo over a problem that wont be fixed with the change is foolish and has no solvency.

Vote Pro!


1. Stanford Law Review, 11/88, pg. 153


Don't worry, I have no intention of bringing up new arguments. These are my reasons for objecting to the death penalty - I know there are others.

This debate has really come down to two issues. The first is the "moral" harm caused by (or reduced by) the death penalty, where "moral" has been our little buzzword for "saves the most innocents." The second is the issue of "guilt," stemming from my accusation that the death penalty transfers the guilt from the convict to the state. I agree with my opponent that the first issue is more important than the second, however, the second cannot be dismissed just because it is less important than the first.

Moral harm
Innocents saved by stopping reoffending
This was my opponent's only big point. I told you that murderers will always be running around murdering people, death penalty or no death penalty, so having 1% more won't make a big difference. Last round he states that since my link showed 9 wrongly executed people, the recidivism rate is double that for murder. Obviously he did not look at my link very carefully. It gives 9 examples of wrongly executed people - there are others. And that's just the people we have so far found strong evidence for. As I stated last round, and as Antonin Scalia pointed out in the New York Times, the number of falsely executed people can never be known.

Innocents killed by mistake
I told you that as judges are not impartial and make mistakes, innocents will be killed with the death penalty. My opponent boldly (pun) states that judges are actually qualified to determine guilt or innocents so they won't make mistakes. Sorry, but even the experts make mistakes. Politicians are experts at politics, and just look at how many mistakes they make. Besides, the vast majority of the cases on the site I linked are backed up by evidence that wouldn't have been available at the trial, or even before the execution. You can't expect judges to know evidence that they are not given. Aside from that, his only rebuttal was to appeal to the fact that he thinks he has won the last point. Think again. Besides, the last point doesn't dismiss this one, only reduces it.

Deterrance vs Mass brutalisation
Can I first state how amusing it is to read that my opponent won't respond to examples from outside of the United States, which I gave as a response to his example in round one from ... outside the United States (the European abolishion of life without parole). Yet another double standard. Besides, the United States really needs to do something about its homicide rates, where other countries have shown it an effective answer that has never yet failed, which is completely relevant given the wide range of conditions that exist in all the countries and states that have abolished the death penalty.

He calls my evidence dubious and misleading - which is strange because my link on this point was to a peer-reviewed academic paper, whereas his was to a sensasionalist media site. This evidence proves that there is no causation, only correlation. It also proves that where there is correlation, it more often favors my side of the argument than yours. Therefore I find it strange to assert that "I have shown that a trend of deterrence exists" with no further explaination.

These inconsistancies in my opponent's case aside, my opponent claims to have had more logic on this point in the debate. People don't like to die, criminals stop and think about how crappy dieing would be before they commit their murder, and therefore decide not to murder. Sorry, but that isn't logic. That's a fairy-tale. First, criminals don't stop and think. Second, it's empirically false - I gave examples from individual US states, between US states, and between countries to show that the fairytale doesn't match up to reality. My logic is that we can see it happening. Anything else, as I say, is statistical over-analysis.

The bottom line
The death penalty kills many more innocents than it saves. The death penalty brutalises society, kills innocents, and murderers are still going to kill.

State takes on guilt
I told you that states who commit the crimes they punish are responsible for those crimes. I told you that unless this responsibility is used to repair the harm, rather than giving the murderer what they deserve, the use of that power is wrong on moral grounds. Prison is a reformative punishment because the harm of going to prison creates guilt. Death is a retributive punishment because it does nothing to repair the harm done, and only creates more harm. I told you that this is supported by the declaration of independance, where the right to life is an inalienable right. While it does say that there is a right to liberty, the concept of liberty presupposes a way of life, and therefore life as opposed to death.

My opponent's counter-analysis was essentially that the constitution says that if it happens you need to have a grand jury, therefore it must happen. Doesn't really follow. All that follows is that it happened. In days gone by, humans did do some pretty crazy things. I'm not saying it isn't important - it is - but it needs to be a living document, adapted to new situations as they arise, rather than an ancient one collecting dust. We don't need to keep alive an inhumane custom just so as to give effect to a law in the constitution restricting said inhumane custom. Indeed I think we should re-word the amendment just a little more strongly so as to do away with capital punishment, as is consistant with the declaration.

He also tells us that murder is only murder when committed against somebody who is innocent. That's stupid. If you owed me $10 and were behind on your repayments, could I legally murder you? No. Even if you were a murderer, I would still be prosecuted if I murdered you. This is the double standard I'm talking about. It doesn't matter how humanely I kill the murderer, I will be prosecuted nonetheless. The only other thing he said was that murder is self-defence. I told you that would only be true if there was no other option. Then my opponent (last round) stated the other option doesn't defend the state because prison guards die. That's like saying we shouldn't eat fish because fishermen die. The harm of 1.2% is outweighed by the 98.8%. The contention stands.

Criminals don't
My point was that we, and particulary the victim's family, need the prisoner to feel remorse and guilt for their crimes. This does not happen with the death penalty because you can't feel remorse once you're dead. My opponent states murderers are beyond feeling remorse. He gave no evidence to support that. 98.8% of inmates must forsake their life of crime for a reason. The only other thing he does is appeal to his moral harm point. First, I won that point. Second, that's no reason to dismiss this argument.

The bottom line
The death penalty is a calculated means by which a murderer can escape facing up to his crimes. No harm is repaired, no guilt is faced, and the purpose of the justice system is defeated.

The BIG finale
First, let me say it has been an honor to debate my opponent, who has done an excellent job of explaining what benefits there are to the death penalty, and has always responded promptly. The only problem is that these benefits are ephermal at best, and are massively outweighed by the harms that I have shown in all my substantive rounds. Please vote con and put an end to this barbaric practice.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
scholar: I will gladly debate you on that, send me a challenge if you're interested. A possible resolution cold be Resolved: The Death Penalty is a just form of punishment for those who commit murder
Posted by thescholar 5 years ago
I agree with larz, the state (despite political state) morally does not have the right to multiply guilt and morals, might i say religously. because the major mainstream western religons (christianity, judisam,catholisism) *excuse my misspelling the punishment for murder is hell.
Posted by larztheloser 5 years ago
Will have to post my response tomorrow morning sorry.
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
oh, jakezip someone else took it but send me a challenge if you want to debate me on this topic
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
alright, since everyone suggested it I'm changing it to 4 rounds and wandering yeah this is my favorite topic :)
Posted by jakezip 5 years ago
I can't decide to take this debate or not.
Posted by wjmelements 5 years ago
I almost took it... I would accept if there were only 4 rounds, though.
Posted by BlackVoid 5 years ago
Oh yeah, an I also suggest what Double_R said.
Posted by BlackVoid 5 years ago
I might take later; in a couple debates atm. Haven't faced a good opponent in a while.
Posted by Double_R 5 years ago
Just my opinion for what its worth... hardly anyone likes debating or reading 5 round debates. You might want to think about shortening it.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:51 
Reasons for voting decision: A very good debate on this topic. I think Con lost the arguments on execution being the same as murder and on deterrence. Pro's sources were better on deterrence, and I thought had better sources overall. Pro had formatting problems (underlining, spacing) and some spelling "hipocracy".