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RFD - Death Penalty - Taj vs Midnight

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8/8/2015 11:17:10 PM
Posted: 2 years ago


Con states that the BOP was on Pro, but this is obviously wrong because (1) Con made a case for his side and (2) Pro should have gone first if he had the BOP. If I acknowledged that the BOP was on Pro, then I should ignore Con's case entirely because he has nothing to prove, and can't win by making his own arguments. If both users make cases, then the BOP is shared. This is a basic rule.

Con's Case

C1 - Morality

Con argues (1) the DP has majority public support and (2) it is just. I don't see how 1 has any big impact or how 2 argues that it is just. His reasoning is "if a criminal takes a life, why does he get to live?" Pro states mercy should be practiced too, and that morals are relative. I'm not really persuaded by anyone here.

C2 - Deterrence

Con argues that (1) the DP logically should deter homicide via the "fear" factor and by observing recidivism rates, (2) each execution deters 3 murders (Layson), (3) murder trends are higher w/o the DP and lower w/ it. Pro contends that (1) executions vary even when the DP is in place, (2) executions dropped along with the US homicide rate starting in the 30's and on, (3) Con's recidivism stats are mostly of non-violent offenders. I never saw Con show support for non-violent offender executions though, and Pro seemed to imply that if Con presented the stats as he did, then he must either support such a notion or his stats are unreliable. Pro later pointed out that Con's graph did not include data from 1968-77 in which Con claimed a spike in murder rates.

Con replied in the last round with the following points: (1) prevention doesn't occur immediately, but rather after the fact. (2) Pro's graphs analyze the homicide rates of DP and non-DP states, which isn't accurate. This does seem like a pretty reasonable point, especially when we already know that Con's graph compared DP and non-DP states. (3) The 1.2% figure, as Con noted, only applied to three years after release. The 12.5% figure wasn't addressed by Pro, nor was the prisoner-homicide point, which brings me to point 4 of Con's: "Pro has not really refuted how the DP actually prevents recidivism, but rather it does it small amount". Even if Pro could mitigate the effects of deterrence and recidivism, it wouldn't eliminate them.

On the charge of correlation not being causation, I don't necessarily disagree with Pro here. Con himself concedes that other factors affect the homicide rate of the nation. But if Pro can't show that the homicide rate is likely affected by something other than the DP, then I ought to buy Con's claims as they are the only ones up for observation. Correlation isn't always causation, but it *can* be, and if there is strong evidence to show that is when examining serious jumps and drops in trends, then I can be convinced that it is likely the cause. In sum, while both sides dropped points [Con dropped the 30's homicide reduction (which actually is evidence of Pro depending on correlation/causation himself even though he criticized Con for it)], I think Con's arguments win out as his graphs are more reliable than Pro's and his points cut to the evidence more. I mean, Con had the last-reply advantage which helped him, but Pro has that on his case too, so let's go look at Pro's case.

Pro's Case

C1 - Cost

Pro gives a lot of stats about the cost of the DP. I'll just name a few: (1) a DP trial costs 8x more than non-DP trial, (2) a DP case costs $1M more than a non-DP case, (3) death row wait costs $137k. Con responds saying that (1) Pro's case doesn't support plea bargaining, (2) LWP is actually about $4M ($2.2M + $2.01), and (3) cost varies by state. Pro returns fire by saying that (1) plea bargaining frequency has no connection with the DP, (2) there's no difference between DP and non-DP states when it comes to plea bargaining, (3) plea bargaining cases aren't DP cases and shouldn't be taken into factor, (4) by crunching a ton of numbers, LWP is cheaper than the DP, even in California which was the only state Con focused on, (5) varying state costs are irrelevant since Con never showed other states' costs and compared them. To add, In the costs argument, Pro used half a dozen sources while Con used zero. Pro's argument won through because he effectively showed why the plea bargaining point didn't work, he showed why state variance was never proven, and why California's DP costs were more than LWP cases, which was the bulk of Con's cost rebuttal.

C2 - Error rate

This argument is pretty simple: errors have been made, and people have been wrongly executed. Con responds with: (1) LWP prisoners do not have any special appeal, whereas death row prisoners have a better chance of being freed if they are innocent (unfortunately for Con, he doesn't give any sources, so this whole point is a bare assertion), (2) the DP error rate is extremely small, and is getting even smaller with the growth of technology. Con also says that if the deterrence theory is true, then way more lives are saved than innocently taken. Pro's reply was pretty disappointing - he didn't attack either of Con's points to any significant impact (Con got lucky here since Pro didn't seem to catch his mistake of not sourcing LWP appeal) and basically restated that the system is not foolproof. Both seem to agree that the system isn't 100% perfect, but Pro needs to transition how any error rate at all warrants abolishing it altogether. Personal opinion seemed to be the only thing propelling this response. No impact for Pro.

C3 - Crime reduction

This is a defensive argument, so I'm not sure why Pro is making it part of his case. Even if Pro can show that the DP doesn't reduce crime, that is no reason to abolish the DP, it's just a reason to keep it that was successfully negated. The only way Pro can make an impact is by showing that the DP raises crime - the point of neutrality has no effect on either side. This argument is also at odds with Con's other deterrence argument (C2), so if Con can win this, it may add more impact for his side. But we'll see.

What also is upsetting is that the "correlation is not causation" point Pro made on Con's argument applies here as well. It doesn't matter whether you're showing something does or does not reduce crime - other factors may be there to alter the crime rate. That all depends on Con's response though.

Pro states that Vermont has a low crime rate, as compared to states like Texas, but Con shows how the crime rate jumped in Vermont after the DP was abolished. Pro never responded to these points, but instead repeated that the DP doesn't lower crime. He also mentioned that no crime reduction favors abolition, but how? I'm left unconvinced by his assertions. The fact that this argument is defensive + Con already argued this makes if a moot point for me.


Let me say that I thought this was a great debate, and that Taj and Midnight have both improved a lot since I've been on. As I stated earlier, Con won C2 (deterrence) and Pro won C1 (costs). So who wins this debate overall?

1. Deterrence (prevention of crime) is a bigger impact than costs, because the saving of life > money.
2. Pro's defensive argument went to Con, due to Pro dropping Vermont/California and just restating his observation.
3. Con's C2 was actually split into C2 and C3 at the end, making it larger than Pro's winning argument. The contention contained a lot of contentions in itself, such as state trends, studies, the logic of the theory, and recidivism; Pro's cost argument just focused on one point alone: the DP costs more.

I vote Con.