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RFD for Death Penalty Debate

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11/8/2015 10:27:01 AM
Posted: 1 year ago

This is an RFD for the debate between neithergirlnorboy and whiteflame, titled "death penalty." [] If you have any questions relating to my RFD, reply to this forum post or send me a message; I will answer them, though only to a reasonable degree.


This RFD might be a bit rushed, so I apologize for that. Short version: none of Pro's impacts stand up. Pro doesn't manage to provide any form of impact calculus, and fails to weigh any arguments against others. The only offense I'm getting from Pro is deterrence/recidivism and justice. Both of them are thoroughly refuted, and I'm left preferring Con's ideology of rehabilitation enhancing justice, innocent lives, costs, and the deep flaws in the criminal justice system. I can vote Con based on all of Con's impacts, since Pro is literally winning nothing.

Con's Case:

(1) The criminal justice system

Con first argues that, in the initial U.S. criminal justice system, rehabilitation was the most stressed aspect. He says that there has been a major transition from a focus on rehabilitating criminals to sheer retribution. This link is clearly supported. His evidence -- there are psychologically disabled people in prison. Con doesn't exactly expand on the impact, but there is the fact that crime has *increased* as a result of this new light of focus. All of this is entirely *dropped* by Pro. That's one impact in favor of Con. Advice to Pro: do not drop any points; everything your opponent says has to be rebutted.

Con then argues that the justice system itself is unfair. The argument here is basically that people who get the death penalty likely have poor representation; people with good lawyers escape the death penalty. That socioeconomic status matters entails it's unfair. (Con should be able to expand on this link better, especially since he fails to establish fairness --> justice, but this is sufficient to stress on the impact.) This is entirely dropped as well.

(2) Justice

This is, as agreed by both sides, the most important -- and significant -- impact in this debate, so I will take some time to address it.

Con argues that institutionalizing vengeance -- as the death penalty does -- is inherently unjust. Pro argues the opposite: that retribution, "eye for an eye," is just. Pro doesn't give me any warrants for their framework, while Con does. To warrant this, Pro would have to apply this principle of a crime befitting an equal punishment across the board -- which Pro fails to do. I prefer Con on the retribution/justice point. Pro also notes that reducing the pain of the victim's family is not the purpose of the criminal justice system. Con also argues that there is significant innocent death. Pro says it's less in number, but *concedes* the presence of innocent death. Pro makes multiple concessions here. Pro concedes that (a) some innocent deaths do exist, and (b) innocent deaths present the gravest injustice. Conceding that innocent deaths present the *gravest* injustice is problematic for Pro, since Pro accepts that justice is the main point of contention; if Con wins justice, Con gains the objectively strongest impact. Pro concedes so much. He even says that "[t]he right to life is the most fundamental of rights. No state should be allowed to take it away easily . . . [it] has to be foolproof and not amenable to subjective readings." Pro drops that the death penalty is not foolproof, so the right to life gives Con this impact as well.

Con demonstrates that "strengthening the law" won't nullify *all* innocent death, and that utilitarian impact is sufficient to win Con the justice point.

(3) Pragmatic impacts

First, deterrence. Deterrence is only theoretical. Pro never demonstrates that deterrence is at work. He has absolutely no sources. He doesn't explain anything. He fails to warrant that deterrence exists. I have no idea why this is even to be evaluated as an impact. Everything Pro says under this is a bare assertion. Debaters should presume that every judge is tabula rasa, i.e. has no outside knowledge. Thus, judges shouldn't vote on insufficiently warranted arguments. The lack of any warrant to deterrence, and whiteflame's evidence that there's no evidence even within the scientific literature, is sufficient to award this to Con. Further, Pro also doesn't explain why LWOP won't deter crime. As for preventing recidivism, the LWOP problem arises again, and Pro fails in demonstrating that the DP's impact is greater than that of the LWOP.

Second, costs. This is such a clear Con win. Con argues that the DP presents severe costs. It's just entirely dropped by Pro. The "court clog and cost" argument is entirely dropped. Goes to Con.


Con wins objectively. There's no front where Pro has any chance of winning. Every single argument Pro raises at all within the debate is thoroughly refuted by Con, and Pro is unable to withstand Con's counter-onslaught of arguments. The impact of justice, critical to the debate, completely goes to Con. Con entirely demolishes Pro's retributive framework, and deterrence is entirely refuted. Pro just concedes all impacts under justice and the criminal justice system. Pro doesn't have any impacts on their side whatsoever. Con clearly argues how the DP warps the criminal justice system, and Pro doesn't contest any of it. The utilitarian harms are also in Con's favor. There's no means to vote Pro. I vote Con.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass