The Instigator
ftpowell
Con (against)
Losing
13 Points
The Contender
wat3rm3l0n
Pro (for)
Winning
19 Points

the death penalty

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
wat3rm3l0n
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/10/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,999 times Debate No: 10039
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (0)
Votes (6)

 

ftpowell

Con

The death penalty should not be used as a punishment for a number of reasons. The two I will be focusing on in this debate are listed below.

1. The death penalty has the potential to cause the death of innocent people if it is incorrectly applied. The justice system is not without flaws, and suspects are often wrongfully convicted of crimes and later released. In a case where the death penalty is carried out, the penalty can never be reversed.

2. The death penalty is murder. Murder is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought." Therefore, the only difference between murder and capital punishment is the term "unlawfully." The punishment itself is the crime that it is being used to punish people for.

3. Advocates of the death penalty sometimes cite the deterrent effect of the death penalty, but I challenge anyone to find reliable evidence to support this. The types of crimes committed which are punished by the death penalty cannot be deterred.
A murder can be a crime of passion, in which case it cannot be deterred because it is impulsive. A person who commits a murder in the heat of the moment does not think about consequences.
A murderer could also be motivated by profit. A criminal of this type almost always operates under the assumption that he or she will not be caught. If you don't think you'll be caught, they are unlikely to seriously consider the consequences.
In general, the type of criminal that commits a murder is not deterred as easily as other criminals and ordinary citizens.
wat3rm3l0n

Pro

The death penalty should be used as a punishment in certain circumstances.

1. The justice system is not without flaws, but that does not mean the death penalty should be eliminated. What will happen to those that are guilty? What are the current possibilities? Release them in a couple of years for them to do more harm or continue to spend more money to keep them alive until they naturally pass away? As for the innocent people, let's take a step back. How are more people found innocent compared to the past? Is it not a result of new scientific techniques, advancement in technology, investigations by journalists and the dedication of expert attorneys? Should this not encourage sharpening the justice system to improve rather than eliminating the death penalty and come upon the question of what to do with the guilty people one now? Were the victims that died not also innocent?
*****
Marilyn Kay Plantz Executed May 1, 2001 by Lethal Injection in Oklahoma
Plantz hired her teenage boyfriend Clifford Bryson and his friend William McKimble to kill her husband for about $300,000 in life insurance. Entering his home after work, he was ambushed by Bryson and McKimble and beaten with ball bats while Plantz and kids were asleep in bed. Plantz got up and instructed them to "burn him" to make it look like an accident. They drove him to deserted location, doused him and his pickup with gasoline and set it on fire. McKimble pled to Life and testified. Plantz and Bryson were tried jointly. Bryson was executed in 2000.
The Office of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney
http://www.clarkprosecutor.org...

Lois Nadean Smith Executed December 4, 2001 by Lethal Injection in Oklahoma
Smith, 61, was convicted of the July 4, 1982 murder of 21-year-old Cindy Baillee in Gans. Baillee was the former girlfriend of Smith's son, Greg. Smith, along with her son and another woman, picked up Baillee from a Tahlequah motel early on the morning of the murder. As they drove away from the motel, Smith confronted Baillee about rumors that Baillee had arranged for Greg Smith's murder - charges which Baillee denied. Smith choked Baillee and stabbed her in the throat as they drove to the home of Smith's ex-husband in Gans. At the house, Smith forced Baillee to sit in a recliner and taunted her with a pistol, finally firing several shots. Baillee fell to the floor, and while her son reloaded the pistol, Smith laughed and jumped on Baillee's neck. She then fired four shots into Baillee's chest and two to the back of her head. An autopsy revealed nine gunshot wounds to Baillee's body.
The Office of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney
http://www.clarkprosecutor.org...

Reginald Reeves Executed May 9, 2002
Victim: Jenny Lynn Weeks, 14
A convicted killer was executed by injection Thursday for the 1993 fatal beating and rape of a 14-year-old girl he befriended after she ran away from a group foster home. In a lengthy final statement, Reginald Reeves, 28, apologized repeatedly. "I do apologize with all my heart and soul," he said as the victim's mother nodded. "I want you to know I do love you. We're all one big family in humanity." Reeves surrendered to police in Clarksville in northeast Texas in 1993 a day after the body of Jenny Lynn Weeks was found stuffed in a closet of a vacant home. Medical examiners determined died of strangulation. "She was chewed on, bitten, raped and sodomized, then severely beaten, beaten to death, then wrapped up in a rug and dumped in an old abandoned house," Red River County District Attorney Val Varley said. In the final entry in her diary dated Sept. 9, 1993, Weeks wrote of being a bit lonely but otherwise happy living at Reeves' apartment. She was killed later that day. Testimony showed Weeks was in a group foster home when she joined another resident, a 17-year-old girl, who was running away to Clarksville, about 30 miles away. The other girl met up with her boyfriend, a friend of Reeves, who offered to share his apartment with Weeks and she agreed.
Source: http://www.prodeathpenalty.com...
*****
2. Essentially, yes, they're pretty much the same. However, the term malice should also be taken into account for. Malice, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another. The reason for the death penalty is murder. The victim was maliciously ‘punished.' Should the murderer not get ‘punish' the same way? Even if some may say yes, they can't. The criminal is not going to get drown, suffocated with a pillow, set on fire or abused to death. The death penalty is supposed to be quick and painless. The result maybe the same, but process and the intent is different. The decision [intent] was voted for the ‘greater good' of the society rather than a personal gain.

3. A person who commits a murder in the heat of the moment might not think about consequences. However, in planning the act, the murderer would be fearless because he/she is convinced that the result can't be worst than a slap on the hand and a few years behind bars. Sure there's lifetime in prison, but isn't that a waste of taxes and money that can be used to advance technology to better shape the trail process?
If there's no consequences, who cares if we get caught? What are they going to do? They can't 'kill us.' Is that what we want?

"If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call." John McAdams - Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence
Source: http://www.prodeathpenalty.com...
Debate Round No. 1
ftpowell

Con

I would like to start out by saying that you make a couple of valid points.

First, keeping murderers in prison does waste tax money, I'm not arguing that. I would say, however, that saving money is a poor reason to kill a human being. I'm certain that those individuals who are found innocent after spending some time on death row were glad we "wasted" some money on them.

Second,the justice system is improving, and we should be striving for that. However, there are still a few items to address. First of all I do not believe that the number of innocent people put to death is necessarily relevant, but I suppose it's a matter of how much you believe this penalty is worth. Do you believe that it is acceptable to kill a few innocent people as long as most of them are guilty? I do not. I am of the opinion that it is unconscionable to put the life a human being in the hands of a system that has so many inherent problems. The justice system does improve constantly, and thanks to scientific advancements, the chances of misinterpreting evidence are slim. There is still, however, the matter of human error. Prosecutors are not perfect , and they can and have taken the liberty of omitting key information from trials.

I believe that you are engaging in a fallacious argument with the examples you provided. You are appealing to the emotions of people who like to see people get what they deserve. The detailed descriptions of grisly murders serves no other purpose than to incite people to rage against anyone accused of a murder. This is not productive, and as such should be left out of the debate.

As a side note, I'm not entirely sure that "www.prodeathpenalty.com" is the most reliable and unbiased source for information on this particular topic.

Alan Gell is one example of a man who was nearly put to death for a crime he did not commit. He sat on death row for 4 years before finding out that the witnesses who testified against him were in fact the murderers. The prosecutor had withheld key evidence including a taped conversation in which one of the witnesses talked about making up a story about the murder. I'm not saying Alan Gell was a good person. He had been arrested numerous times for other crimes, but he was not guilty of the murder. Would it have been acceptable to see him executed for the "greater good" of the death penalty. On that note, what exactly is the "greater good"? Is it the alleged deterrent effect?

As for the definition of murder, I do believe malice should be taken into account. Do you honestly think that there is no malice in a capital punishment trial? The families of the victims are often too eager to see someone die for their loss. It really doesn't matter so much if the person is guilty, thy just need it for "closure." I believe Hungarian Philosopher Agnes Heller said it best when she laid it out logically:

"If you support the death penalty, and only one single innocent person is killed, and killing an innocent person is murder, then you become murderers, and so you deserve to be killed."

As for the deterrent effect, I found several sources that have reviewed this topic, and most claim there is little to no deterrent effect related to the death penalty.

According to a survey of the former and present presidents of the
country's top academic criminological societies, 88% of these
experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a
deterrent to murder. (Radelet & Lacock, 2009)
Source: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

Consistent with previous years, the 2008 FBI Uniform Crime
Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The
South accounts for over 80% of executions. The Northeast,
which has less than 1% of all executions, again had the lowest
murder rate.
Source: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...

I have trouble with the perceived inherency in the deterrent effect of capital punishment. Killing someone does not automatically deter people from the activity he or she is being killed for. I will acknowledge the following as an extreme example, and not necessarily indicative of the effects of capital punishment. It is, however, worth considering as an analogy of the deterrent effect in general.

Did the execution of Jesus Christ deter Christianity?
wat3rm3l0n

Pro

Saving money was not one of the reasons for the death penalty in this argument. Applying the money else where other than keeping guilty murderers in lifetime prison was the argument. Using the money we spend for lifetime prisoners that killed others can be spent on improving the trial process and the justice system as a whole. How else are more innocent individuals found "innocent" in the past few years? Was it not improvement in the investigation process, new scientific techniques and advancement in technology?

I agree that there is still the matter of human error. An in any situation, there will always be a special case no matter how much we try to avoid it. Even in mathematics, as unbiased as it is, there are still uncertainties and errors that just can't be solved. That's why we round and estimate to get as to close reality as possible. In this case, you said "the justice system does improve constantly, and thanks to scientific advancements, the chances of misinterpreting evidence are slim." As a result, it is now our responsibility to try and improve the current system as much as possible to make the chances of misinterpreting evidence even slimmer than ever. It is easier said then done and there are sacrifices that must be made.

The innocent individuals are constantly brought up, but what is the real reason for the death penalty? Is it not mainly for the guilty criminals? You haven't mentioned them or presented a better solution. If the death penalty is eliminated, what will happen to those that are guilty of murder?

The examples are real cases, not made up execution summaries. The only possible biased information I presented was the quote I included, in which argues the point of deterring criminals with the death penalty. I'm aware of the biased information from the sites. However, other than the quotes in which what I agree to an extent, all the other information are summary of facts on real execution cases. I've checked with other sources and determined these cases are valid before including it. Emotional appeal isn't productive and can be left out, but are you not committing the same fallacious argument you mentioned? I've just presented true example cases; it's up to the reader's judgment of the situation. From your first rebuttal, "I'm certain that those individuals who are found innocent after spending some time on death row were glad we "wasted" some money on them." If I am appealing to the emotions of people who like to see people get what they deserve, are you not appealing to sympathy and striking fear? I'm not sure if the words "grisly murders" are exactly void of emotions and ineffective to readers. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, grisly is inspiring horror or intense fear and also inspiring disgust or distaste. Again, the descriptions were merely a summary of real execution cases.

Alan Gell wouldn't be the best example to use in this argument, but I can see where you're going with this. What is the greater good? Essentially, this is a form of utilitarianism. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, utilitarianism is "a doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; specifically : a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness [good] of the greatest number." No, the "greater good" is was not the alleged deterrent effect, but rather we do retain more guilty criminals, keeping them from causing more harm to the group at large.
Note: Alan Gell was release in 2004 from death row and became an anti-death-penalty activist. In 2006, Gell was charged with cocaine possession and statutory rape of a former girlfriend, who was fifteen years old.
http://lists.washlaw.edu...

Wait, I'm confused with your argument here for malice. You're assuming that we execute someone knowing they're innocent. Why would we want to kill an innocent person with malice? The death penalty is given to those with reasonable evidence that they are guilty of murder. If you're saying the families of the victims are desperate to have someone dead for "closure" while the wrongdoer is still out and about, I doubt that's a valid argument.

Okay, say there isn't the deterrent effect of capital punishment and we eliminate the death penalty. Do you think the murder rate will decrease as a result of this? What do we do with the guilty murderers? You have not provided a viable solution. We can stop capital punishment like you said. Stripped of the death penalty, the new legal system can best do now is to sentence them to life in prison. Based on your statistics, the murder rate has been consistent; thus, from these figures of merit the number of guilty murderers will just accumulate in prison. Space will be limited. Now, we ask ourselves the question, "Should we pack all the murderers together?" Now, let's think of how these prisoners got into prison in the first place. They killed someone. What is to stop them from reenacting their behaviors within the prison walls? With such limited space that prison will now offer, the psychological affects of being crammed with other inmates will bound to induce further violence. You can go as far as to say what an inmate will kill other fellow inmates for space. What is to stop them? They are no longer prone to the death chair. So would you say you rather let them die by each others hand within the prison walls? Isn't this another form of the death punishment for them? Doesn't the eighth constitutional amendment state that there is to be "no cruel or unusual punishment?" It will be almost impossible to regulate so many inmates in terms of searching them for weapons and safe guarding them from other prisoners and etc. No, we don't want this to occur. How bout we just put them all in solitary confinement where no interaction can be made with other inmates, we just need a few hundred more acres of land and a few billion more dollars for that. No problem right? Also, let's not forget the amount of money that it will take to fund them for the rest of their lives. All the prisons are full; we need more prisons and more guards as well.

If you don't mind me asking, who will be funding all of this? You? Me? Why not just pull some money out of the health-care committee?

"Did the execution of Jesus Christ deter Christianity?"
Guilty murderers can't be compared to Jesus Christ. In saying so, you are putting Jesus Christ and the common people on the same level. Murderers do not have divine powers nor can they create supernatural proceedings, thus the comparison is not equivalent.
Debate Round No. 2
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Vote Placed by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
ftpowellwat3rm3l0nTied
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Vote Placed by watar3 7 years ago
watar3
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Vote Placed by ftpowell 7 years ago
ftpowell
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Vote Placed by wat3rm3l0n 7 years ago
wat3rm3l0n
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Vote Placed by Nails 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by nheilbrun 7 years ago
nheilbrun
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