The Instigator
Avamys
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
KeytarHero
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

This House believes the Death Penalty should be Abolished

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/22/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,173 times Debate No: 30516
Debate Rounds (5)
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Avamys

Pro

Here are a few definitions:
Death penalty--the legal punishment a criminal receives that causes him/her to die
Abolished--cut out of the system, be no longer used

Here are the rules:
No swearing or calling names
Rebuttals and arguments allowed at any time. The first round is for acceptance only.
When using facts, state sources

So, quite easy, right?
KeytarHero

Con

Thank you for issuing this challenge. I look forward to your opening argument.
Debate Round No. 1
Avamys

Pro

Thank you for agreeing to this debate. So here I go.

First, I would like to state that the death penalty is an act of murder. It is the act of taking someone's life away forcefully, which is wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right. The crime of murder (or other serious crimes such as kidnapping) carries our harshest of sentences such is our disdain for the crime. However, the death penalty is nothing more nothing less than "legal" murder carried out in a cruel and calculated manner by the state.

Secondly, the death penalty cannot be reversed once carried out, which raises a number of issues. These serious flaw issues have again recently been highlighted in a report by the American Law Institute. Judges and juries do make mistakes. No legal system in this world can boast of cent percent discipline when it comes to crime investigation. There are chances that lack of proper investigations may land a wrong person in the conviction box, and even send him to gallows. One also has to understand that execution of an individual cannot be rectified if the person was found to be innocent after the execution. On the other hand, a person serving a life term can at least be set free once his innocence has been proved.

There are indeed such cases where the "criminal" is innocent. Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the US, due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. Imagine what would have happened if their lawyers did not present the evidence in time.

Sometimes innocent people cannot be saved. I quote from David Dow, Texas death penalty lawyer, author of "Autobiography of an Execution". He said: "Learn about the Michael Richard case. He was mentally disabled. On the morning of his execution, in 2007, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on the constitutionality of lethal injection. Lawyers in my office scrambled to file a petition for Richard raising the issue, but he was executed because we did not finish by the time the court closed at 5. The court would not stay open late for us. I think if we had been able to get the petition filed, he would still be alive today." If the death penalty did not exist, Michael Richard, an innocent man, would have been alive.

Justice Harry Blackmun was 85 years old and near the end of his tenure on the Supreme Court when he declared in 1994 that he could no longer support the imposition of the death penalty. "The problem," he said, "is that the inevitability of factual, legal and moral error gives us a system that we know must wrongly kill some defendants, a system that fails to deliver the fair, consistent and reliable sentences of death required by the Constitution."

I quote from Anthony Graves, a man who was exonerated from Texas' death row in 2010: "I know how easy it was for them to take my freedom and set out to kill me. I feel that if it was that easy, I"m sure there have been many mistakes in the past, that many men and women on death row are innocent. It"s not an infallible system. Anyone can be sentenced to death for a crime they didn"t commit. That alone is a reason that the death penalty should be abolished." He says that it is highly possible that an innocent man could be put to death for a crime he did not commit. That is not only injustice, but also cannot be reversed.. There is no way to give a person back his/her life.

Now, you might say I only quoted from the people who would gain from abolishing the death penalty. Let me quote Bob Curley, who lost his son to murder: "When something like this (the murder of a loved one) happens, you feel violated, and your sense of what"s right and what"s wrong gets thrown out the window for a time. It"s not something that you get over, and there"s no closure. I have channeled my anger in a positive way by working to prevent child sexual abuse, and the death penalty convictions of innocent people." Even he, a person who lost his son to murder, worked to prevent death penalty convictions of innocent people. Those people would most likely have been charged with crimes such as murder. Influenced by his loss, he probably would have stood on the opposite side, but did not.

You cannot say family of victims of murder like the death penalty. Some of them say the bloodshed is not a way to honour their beloved's life. (Please see: http://mvfhr.org...)

Thirdly, the death penalty is unfair. It is not fair of the state to murder the murderer when it does not rape the rapist or burn the house of the arsonist. If death penalty is legalized on the grounds of tit-for-tat concept of justice, then all other crimes should be punished accordingly.

Those in favor of capital punishment also ask why the taxpayers should have to take the burden of housing a convict, and providing him with the necessities of life. Instead, executing him will save a decent amount of money, which can be channelized towards the development of the nation. However, I would like to point out, as I mentioned above, what if the person was innocent? Can money give him back his life? I do not think so. Also, the cost of death penalty is actually higher than the cost of letting a criminal live. Most of us fail to realize that executing a death sentence does not save a lot of money. This is because, the cost incurred prior to and during the trial, involves an endless stream of appeals, legal wrangling, etc. For such trials, special motions and extra time for jury selection are required. Investigation charges also rise exorbitantly, especially by the prosecution. Lawyers and judges need to be paid, as well as simple things such as electricity. Thus, a lot of money is used during the process.

Some also say that the death penalty stops people from killing. I think otherwise. Most murders are done in the heat of passion, wherein a person fails to think rationally, so to think the fear of death penalty will reduce homicides is unreasonable. If the government wants to send a message that killing is wrong, how can it convey the same by killing a person? Killing to convince people that killing is wrong, doesn't sound right, does it? "An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind", is what Mahatma Gandhi said. Death as punishment for death is not the solution.

A murderer who has mercilessly killed people once, may escape from prison and end up killing others. Life imprisonment means chances of parole, which gives the criminal a chance to get back at those who testified against him. He can also take revenge from the victim's family. This leaves the victim's family living a life of fear all the time. Death penalty ensures the murderer can commit no more crimes in the future. That, however, does not mean we must keep the death penalty. Couldn't life without parole be considered? That can also effectively stop the criminal from taking revenge or murdering again.

Is the death penalty really that effective? The time frame between the sentencing of convict and his actual execution is quite lengthy - at times spanning a decade or even more. By the time this execution is carried out, only a few people (mostly the victim's and criminal's family members) keep a track of the trial. As time elapses the deterrence effect of sentencing a person to death starts decreasing. Even those in support of death penalty agree with this fact, and argue that the legal fraternity should speed up such trials and execute the convict at the earliest so that the deterrence effect as a consequence of death penalty is maximum. But then, speedy trials would again mean more chances of an innocent person being sent to the gallows, and that is something which we can't afford to do.

I look forward to hearing your arguments and rebuttals!
KeytarHero

Con

I wish to thank Pro for instituting this debate. As Con, I will be arguing that the death penalty should not be abolished. I will briefly make my case, then I will respond to Pro's arguments.

-Opening Argument-

My support for the death penalty rests on three key points.

Contention One: By murdering someone in cold blood you forfeit your own right to live.

The law is established to protect its citizens. If you murder someone in cold blood, how can you expect the law to protect you? Is it really fair, or right, to murder someone then turn around and claim that you shouldn't be killed? If the punishment is supposed to fit the crime, is it really fitting that a murderer should be allowed to live out the rest of his life in a jail cell rather than be deprived of the fundamental right to life that he has taken from someone else?

Contention Two: Justice must be done.

The death of a family member or friend is always hard to deal with. Capital punishment is not about revenge, it is about justice. Should we expect a wife to be happy that her husband's murderer is rotting away in a jail cell because he ruthlessly took her husband from her? Is it really fitting to tell someone that even though their loved one was murdered, we're just going to lock the murderer away for a long time as punishment? This is not a fitting punishment for a murderer.

Contention Three: A dead murderer can't repeat their offense.

Even though escape from a maximum security prison is rare, it does happen. If a murderer hasn't been put to death, they run the risk of escape and repeating their offense. Even if they don't escape, they can still murder other inmates.

Even though I do support the death penalty, I think it should be greatly restricted. With the advent of DNA testing, there is less and less likelihood that innocent people will be incarcerated and put to death by capital punishment. While reasonable doubt is enough for a murder conviction, I do think that no doubt should remain in order for someone to qualify for capital punishment, just so we minimize the risk of an innocent person being executed.

Pro's Case:

Pro's definition of capital punishment as murder is incorrect. Murder is to intentionally take innocent life without strong moral justification. Pro says that capital punishment is the act of taking someone's life away forcefully, but surely you are justified in forcefully taking someone's life in an act of self-defense. So forcefully taking someone's life is not always wrong. He also says that two wrongs don't make a right, but that begs the question. The case at issue here is whether or not capital punishment is wrong in the first place.

The fact that capital punishment can't be reversed is one of the reasons I believe it is appropriate punishment for taking a life, which is a crime that can't be reversed or "repaid." It is also true that an innocent person may be executed by mistake. But we take risks all the time that put innocent people at risk. Does Pro believe that there are wars that can be justified? If so, then surely it's inconsistent for him since wars put innocent people at risk. If not, there are other actions we take that put innocent people at risk. Cars are legal, even though we risk innocent pedestrians being hit. We allow two-story houses, even though innocent people may fall down the stairs.

According to Pro's logic, we should do away with all punishment. Does it really matter that capital punishment is irreversible? What about a man who is wrongly convicted, spends 20 years in jail before finally being reversed when the truth comes to life? Does it really matter that it was merely twenty years, rather than the rest of his life, that was taken away from him? Should we, then, abolish life imprisonment, following Pro's logic?

Now, as per Pro's own rules, most of his arguments should be thrown out because he only sourced one. I can't check on any of these quotes to see if they are genuine, but even looking at the quote by Bob Curley, it does not indicate that Bob is opposed to the death penalty, per se. Bob is not working to end capital punishment, he is working to overturn the convictions of innocent people. Two very different things.

The only thing he did source was a link regarding some families of victims of murder. So no, I can't say that all families of victims like the death penalty, but I can certainly argue that some of them do. Pro's source only shows that some families don't like it, not that all of them do. Besides, I'm not sure it's any less justice to put a convicted murderer to death, even if the family wants a lesser sentence.

Capital punishment is not unfair. It does not support a "tit-for-tat" system of justice. Most crimes that are committed can be restituted by a cash award, and a fitting punishment of time in prison. Even in the case of rape, we don't "rape the rapist," but we do negate his right to bodily autonomy by locking him away in jail.

I did not make the argument that capital punishment saves taxpayers' money (as I'm not convinced that's a legitimate reason to allow it). However, his rebuttal to this argument I never made should be discarded since he did not support his contentions with facts (how am I supposed to know that putting a criminal to death actually saves taxpayers' money?).

The death penalty does, in fact, stop people from killing. Killing is a crime that most people find unthinkable, but becomes easier as you do it. Don Marquis, in a famous essay about why abortion is wrong from the position that killing robs us of our future of values, argues that killing someone habituates someone toward that immoral behavior. [1] In other words, the more you commit an immoral act, the easier it becomes to do it in the future, and it may even become habit-forming.

Regarding his argument about parole, as I indicated earlier even if a life sentence without parole is considered, that still gives the murderer a chance to kill other inmates or officers.

Whether or not the death penalty is effective in deterring criminal behavior is irrelevant to my case. Punishment, while effective as a deterrent, is about giving the criminal what is due to them. Why do we gives rapists 10 or more years in prison, when after only a few years the only one who will really remember it will be the victim? Length of time seems irrelevant to the effectiveness of the punishment.

I have given three distinct reasons why the death penalty should not be abolished, and Pro's case has not stood up. I look forward to our next round.

[1] Don Marquis, Why Abortion is Immoral, 1989.
Debate Round No. 2
Avamys

Pro

I apologise in advance for my terrible arguments, as I am not as experienced as my opponent. So here I try my best to rebut my opponent's points and explain my own.

1. "According to Pro's logic, we should do away with all punishment. Does it really matter that capital punishment is irreversible? What about a man who is wrongly convicted, spends 20 years in jail before finally being reversed when the truth comes to life? Does it really matter that it was merely twenty years, rather than the rest of his life, that was taken away from him? Should we, then, abolish life imprisonment, following Pro's logic?"

I would like to explain my 'logic'. I think that we should abolish the death penalty as it is irreversible, and that actually matters. When the innocent person is set free, he can witness his ledger being washed clean and cleared of any wrongdoing he was not guilty of. He could then be released and spend the rest of his days doing what he wants. There is still a chance of the innocent man regaining his social status and see justice done, as he was accused of a crime he did not commit.

2. "A dead murderer can't repeat their offence."
Well, certainly, a murderer cannot do anything if he is dead. However, an innocent person who is executed cannot do anything and live life as well! I understand your point about modern science such as DNA, which is very accurate. But people can still be framed using the same piece of 'evidence' such as a planted fingerprint or hair strand. We cannot make sure that no innocent person will be executed.

Justice Harry Blackmun was 85 years old and near the end of his tenure on the Supreme Court when he declared in 1994 that he could no longer support the imposition of the death penalty. "The problem," he said, "is that the inevitability of factual, legal and moral error gives us a system that we know must wrongly kill some defendants, a system that fails to deliver the fair, consistent and reliable sentences of death required by the Constitution."
(http://m.deathpenaltyinfo.org...) So here Justice Harry Blackmun, an experienced and knowledgeable person in the legal world, says that there would definitely be innocent people punished. Why should we allow that to happen?

There are also other ways to reduce the risk of a criminal repeating their offence. You mentioned that a criminal could kill fellow inmates or guards so life without parole would not be effective. I would like to point out that no jail in the world would allow a criminal, especially one whom committed such a serious crime, to roam free within the prison. They would either be escorted by guards while being handcuffed or stay locked up in their cell in solitary imprisonment. They have no weapon of any sort, but the guards have guns. When such dangerous criminals are not in their cell, we could have them handcuffed and escorted by three or more guards as an effective way of preventing them from killing again. When they are in their cell alone (solitary imprisonment), they cannot really do anything as there is no one for them to kill.

3. "Justice must be done."
Is killing the murderer the only way to deliver justice? Can a life term without parole not do the same? When serving a life term, prisoners lose their freedom. They cannot eat exactly what they want, read whatever books they want to read or live where they want to live. At the same time, as mentioned above, they cannot repeat their offence. A life term without parole is a suitable punishment for the crime of murder. The murderer took away his victim's right of doing what he wants to do, so if we lock him up, we are actually taking away his right of doing what he wants and preventing him from repeating his offence. The murderer then experiences the lack of freedom. Is this not justice? You argued that he should not live because he did not let his victim live (he took away his victim's life).

Yes, a criminal should be brought to justice, but does that mean, that in our pursuit for justice, we should resort to extremes (taking the life of a criminal away is the ultimate punishment one can receive), and wrongly punish the innocent?

4. Killing is not the way to teach others not to kill
As I mentioned in the first round, killing a murderer is not the way to teach the society not to kill. How can you teach someone not to do a certain thing when you are in fact doing it yourself? It is just like a parent lecturing his/her child on the harms of smoking while smoking a cigarette, or an older brother telling his younger sister not to play video games because they hurt eyesight while playing Wii. It does not work out.

Most murders are done in the heat of passion, (such as when a boyfriend sees his girlfriend cheating on him) wherein a person fails to think rationally (such as in a state of anger or when drunk), so to think the fear of death penalty will reduce the number of murders by a huge fraction is unreasonable. The murderer would most likely not be thinking with a clear and logical mind, and in his moment of fury, I am sure the news of an executed murderer is not the thought that flies into his mind. This piece of news would not stop the murderer in any way. If the government wants to send a message that killing is wrong, how can it convey the same by killing a person? Killing to convince people that killing is wrong, that doesn't sound right, does it? Can the death penalty really prevent, educate or frighten people into not killing others?

I look forward to your arguments and rebuttals!
KeytarHero

Con

I thank Pro for his rebuttal.

My case:

Contention One: By murdering someone in cold blood you forfeit your own right to live.

Pro did not respond to this argument, so I extend it into next round.

Contention Two: Justice must be done.

I would say that yes, the only way to deliver justice to a convicted murderer is to kill him. The crime is irreversible, so the punishment should be, as well. When a murderer kills an innocent person in cold blood, he doesn't just remove his freedom. He robs that person of all of their future experiences, plans, etc. A convicted criminal may have restricted freedom in jail, but they still get to experience life, limited though it is. The murder victim will not.

Contention Three: A dead murderer can't repeat their offense.

Pro's argument about how an innocent person who is killed can't live their life is irrelevant to this point. Also, his quote by Justice Blackmun is simply an appeal to authority. I can find quotes by justices who support the death penalty.

Sure, there's a chance that they might find someone else's DNA at the crime scene, but they wouldn't necessarily just find a random piece of DNA (such as someone's eyelash) and use that to prove the person it belongs to committed the crime. Certain pieces of DNA evidence (such as fingerprints on the murder weapon) would be more relevant than others. Plus, DNA evidence would be used with other pieces of evidence, such as eyewitness accounts, possibly a signed confession, etc. Even if you argue that innocent people might be killed, that doesn't show that capital punishment is immoral in practice. What if there is no doubt? What if the person confessed, was pointed out by several eyewitnesses, his fingerprints were on the gun, and the bullets definitely came from his gun?

Finally, a convicted murderer in prison may not have many chances to kill, but the chances would still be there. Plus, escaped convicts are rare, but criminals still do escape from prison.

Pro's Case:

If someone was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 20 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit, he doesn't simply get to "come out" and watch his ledger being wiped away, then do whatever he want. If he was married, chances are his wife has left him. He no longer has a job. He likely doesn't have a house, car, or really anything left to his name. He has to essentially build up his life from scratch again. It seems like according to Pro's logic, we should do away with life imprisonment since there's the chance that an innocent person will be incarcerated. In fact, who's to say there aren't innocent people who have served life sentences who were never exonerated?

Capital punishment is not about "teaching others not to kill." It's about administering justice. You don't punish someone to teach others a lesson. You punish someone because they have done wrong. Capital punishment should not deter someone because it shows them killing is wrong, capital punishment should deter someone because they don't want to commit a crime and be killed for it.

Pro says that most murders are done in the heat of passion, but has offered no evidence of this. So I don't know if it's true. As per first round rules, this argument should be rejected unless Pro can support it in the next round.

Pro has dropped his argument about capital punishment being more expensive than life imprisonment, which is fine since it's not an argument I made, anyway. He has also dropped his argument regarding the time frame between the crime and punishment.

Conclusion:

I have supported my three contentions in my argument (in fact, Pro did not respond to one, so it is extended). Plus, I have shown how Pro's arguments don't work to show that the death penalty should be abolished.

I look forward to our next round.
Debate Round No. 3
Avamys

Pro

I thank my opponent for his rebuttals.

1. "Sure, there's a chance that they might find someone else's DNA at the crime scene, but they wouldn't necessarily just find a random piece of DNA (such as someone's eyelash) and use that to prove the person it belongs to committed the crime. Certain pieces of DNA evidence (such as fingerprints on the murder weapon) would be more relevant than others."
I would like to point out, a person who framed another would have critical pieces of evidence such as the framed person's fingerprints planted on the murder weapon. DNA is accurate, but it cannot tell whether the person did the action willingly or not, or if the evidence was planted.

"Plus, DNA evidence would be used with other pieces of evidence, such as eyewitness accounts, possibly a signed confession, etc. Even if you argue that innocent people might be killed, that doesn't show that capital punishment is immoral in practice. What if there is no doubt? What if the person confessed, was pointed out by several eyewitnesses, his fingerprints were on the gun, and the bullets definitely came from his gun?"

Some people pay 'witnesses' to give an account in order to frame the innocent. If innocent people are killed, capital punishment should be wrong because this system punishes innocent people, not only that, but in an irreversible way. If the person confessed, then he/she is guilty! Even if there is no doubt, it doesn't mean we should keep the system to punish them alongside innocent men.

2. "Capital punishment is not about 'teaching others not to kill.' It's about administering justice."
As you say, capital punishment might be about administering justice. But should we administer justice in a way that it kills the innocent and does not discourage people to commit crimes? No form of punishment will help the society if they do not discourage people to commit crimes. The crime rate will not fall, and the number of executions will rise. It is not all about justice. We should consider the innocent people who are being killed as well. In fact, death penalty makes the murder rate rise.

" In 1958 the10 states that had the fewest murders "fewer than two a year per 100,000 population -were New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Utah, North Dakota and Washington. Four of these 10 states had abolished the death penalty. The 10 states, which had the most murderers from eight to fourteen killings per 100,000 population were Nevada, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, and Virginia... - all of them enforce the death penalty." (McClellan, G., 1961).

So here we can see that the states which enforce the death penalty have the highest murder rates. So, if we abolish the death penalty, we can make this number go back down.

3. Most murders are done in the heat of passion
Justice Stewart held in the Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia:
"...We may nevertheless assume safely there are murders such as those who act in passion, for whom the threat of death has little or no deterrent effect." (as cited in Carrington, 1978. p. 87).

So here it says that murders are done in the heat of passion, and that the threat of the death penalty does little or nothing to discourage it. You say that death penalty is the administering of justice, however, every law should have the ability to minimise crime and through that create a safer society in which people do not often commit crimes and there is no need to rely on the police to scare the criminals.

4. "By killing the murderer forfeits his right to live."
I quote from the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human rights Article 3 "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." (http://www.un.org...)
So yes, murder is wrong, as it violates a person's right to live and his/her security. However, this also means that the murderer cannot be executed as he/she is a human being and therefore has the right to live.

You bring up interesting points and rebuttals, and I hope through debating you I will improve my skills!
KeytarHero

Con

KeytarHero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
Avamys

Pro

I see that Con has forfeited. He has therefore been unable to voice his rebuttals, so I extend my points into this round.
KeytarHero

Con

Unfortunately, I did forfeit last round because I didn't get my response in on time. I will just go ahead and concede the debate. Please vote pro.
Debate Round No. 5
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