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RFD: Tej v. Hayd (Capital Punishment)

YYW
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1/12/2016 4:43:36 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
1. Resolution


The United States should abolish all capital punishment used by the state and federal governments.

http://www.debate.org...

2. Burdens and Procedural Stuff

a. Burdens


The resolution is normative, meaning that the burdens are equal. This is fair and consistent with conventional practices. If this does not make sense to you, consult my voting guide with the link contained on my profile for further details.

The resolution reads "The United States should abolish all capital punishment used by the state and federal governments." The relevant country is the United States. The subject is the abolition of capital punishment. The scope is capital punishment on all levels of government. This is a well written resolution, for the reason that it preempts federalism arguments, which mean that the primary issue is about the issue of capital punishment rather than the role of government.

Consequently, PRO must argue that capital punishment in the US should be abolished by the states and federal government, while CON must argue that the states and federal government should not abolish capital punishment. Ostensibly, this reintroduces the federalism issue, but because the resolution says "used by the state and federal governments," this prevents the reintroduction of the federalism issue for the purpose of mitigating CON's burden. Again, this speaks to the resolution's balance, as CON cannot simply argue that either the states or the federal government should abolish capital punishment. As such, both PRO and CON will be solely debating the issue of the death penalty, and not the role of government.

b. Procedural Stuff


Both PRO and CON asked me to vote on this debate, in nearly simultaneously sent but unique PM's. Both are friends, so there is no personal conflict at play here. This is also an "opt in" debate, meaning that the higher voting standard applies... I'm skeptical, but whatever.

c. Comments about the Debaters

Both are reasonably talented debaters, and both are what you might call "ahead of the curve" in the way of writing and debating. Generally, this would be a good debate to use for the purpose of showing noobs how to debate. Both Tej and Hayd have, in the time they've been on the site, considerably improved in this way as well. In reading this debate, I'm happy to see the progress, development and promise that both show.

3. Arguments

PRO has four arguments from (1) rights; (2) cost; (3) racism; and (4) innocent lives.

(1) Rights and the Role of Government: PRO asserts that government's purpose is to protect its citizens" inalienable rights, as exemplified by the Declaration of Independence's, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that the right to life is an inalienable right, and capital punishment is violative of that right, meaning that to execute anyone is for government to overstep its purpose and function.

(2) Economics: PRO argues that life imprisonment would cost less than a death penalty, because average cost of defending a trial in a federal death case is $620,932, about 8 times that of a federal murder case in which the death penalty is not sought. Similar evidence on the state levels make the same point. PRO concludes that the death penalty is significantly more costly than life imprisonment.

(3) Discrimination: PRO asserts that the death penalty unfairly targets and discriminates based on ethnicity. As an illustrative example, PRO cites the case of Louisiana, where the odds of a death sentence were 97% higher for those whose victim was white than for those whose victim was black. PRO posits that this is consistent in other states (OK, GA, FL, MS). PRO makes a secondary point under this heading as well: "The death penalty is a broken system, it punishes not based on the crime, but on your ethnicity, your wealth, and the quality of your lawyer." PRO has hard evidence to support this: ("26 Death Row inmates"received a new trial or sentencing because [of] their attorneys' incompetence; [and] 33 defendants sentenced to death were represented at trial by an attorney who had been, or was later, disbarred or suspended.") That's a very strong argument, especially where PRO posits that sentences are more heavily contingent upon quality of representation than facts pertinent to the circumstances. PRO explains: "Poor people are also far more likely to be death sentenced than those who can afford the high costs of private investigators, psychiatrists, and expert criminal lawyers."

(4) Innocent people are bound to be executed: PRO warrants this by stating that between 1973 and 2015, 148 innocent citizens were exonerated and released from death-row, and 4.1% of those executed were innocent.

CON argues that the death penalty's abolition would be unjust because it would destroy utilitarianism and tends to minimize utility.

As such, CON has given me two unique standards of justice: utility, and "fairness and morality in decision-making." The reason that these are unique from each other is because they are not the same thing. What is useful (by any utilitarian calculus) is not necessarily what is fair or moral (by any other standard).

Con has 2 arguments: (1) government policy and behavioral incentives; (2) Recidivism; (3)

(1) Government Policy and Behavioral Incentives: CON argues that Rational Action Theory, which posits that all mentally stable humans perform a cost/benefit analysis prior to committing any action, implies that individuals may be deterred from engaging in antisocial behavior where policy makes the costs of engaging in that behavior higher than an individual benefit might be. Thus, criminal penalties may deter homicide. CON asserts that the death penalty in the United States deters 18 homicides annually, and is responsible for 12-14% of the crime drop in the 1990s.

(2) Recidivism: CON argues that the likelihood of repeat offenses justifies the death penalty. CON states that 1.2% of those convicted of homicide were arrested for another homicide within three years of release; and that in 2009, 8.6% of those on death row had a prior homicide conviction, and over 5% of those on death row committed their capital crime while in custody or during an escape. CON adds that recidivism rates for homicides are actually fairly high, despite journalistic claims to the contrary. 12.5% of those whose greatest offense was homicide were arrested in 6 months, and, over 5 years, 51.2% had been arrested again. Of those whose only offense was homicide, the rate was 0.9%
YYW
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1/12/2016 5:15:53 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
4. Clash

a. Innocent Lives: innocent people accused of crimes (pro) v. crime victims

As a judge, the first area of apparent clash in the debate is the amount of innocent lives on the line. CON explains that justice itself is what's on the line, and in that CON defines justice as "fairness and morality in decision-making." PRO's concern is for those innocent people who may be executed by the government, whereas CON's concern is for those who would become crime victims in the death penalty's absence. PRO tells me that 4.1 % of those who are executed in the US are innocent, but I don't know how many people that figure represents, and I don't even know how many people are executed based on what PRO presented me.

CON tells me that 18 innocent lives are saved, but the causal link between the presence of the death penalty and the lives saved is weaker than PRO's because of PRO's evidence of how sentencing is affected by things other than factual circumstances (and not guilt or innocence) than guilt or innocence. CON does not offer a reason for why high exoneration rates prevent the specific miscarriages of justice that PRO cited (execution of innocents despite extensive appeals); so CON's rebuttal in this instance is circular (i.e. 'we don't execute innocent people because many are not executed') and the impact falls short.

Beyond that, PRO tells me that "The committee concludes that research to date is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, these studies should not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide."

So, because I have insufficient information to outrightly weigh the numbers against each other (assuming statistical validity), I can only say that "some lives may be saved in both worlds" and therefore the winner of this area of clash must reduce to who has the stronger causal link. PRO does because of his evidence and analysis with regard to the factors other than guild or innocence influencing sentencing outcomes.

b. How Government Should Work: inherent rights v. social utility

(i) Inherent Rights: CON argues that "Pro seeks to first interpret the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. But it"s not up to Pro to interpret either. The Supreme Court is the body charged with the interpretation of the Constitution." This is nonresponsive to PRO's argument, because PRO's argument primarily concerned what the limits of government power should be (i.e. government should not take from people their inalienable right to live under any circumstance), so the impact of this rebuttal is weak with respect to PRO's argument. The reason PRO wins this area of clash is because it essentially went unrebutted.

(ii) social utility other than cost:

On rebuttal, CON spoke only of how racism exists, but "Application of life without parole and other forms of imprisonment would also be racist. Abolishing the death penalty won"t prevent racism." Yet, this does not rebut PRO's argument, which was broader. PRO used "racism" an a host of other factors as evidence of how the death penalty's imposition was arbitrary. CON did not address, for example, attorney incompetence, or any of the other areas of analysis PRO offered to show that the death penalty was arbitrary.

On the policy point, PRO returns with an acute undercut to behavioral models which postulate that the death penalty has any deterrent effect: "Claims that research demonstrates that capital punishment decreases or increases the homicide rate or has no effect on it should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment" because those studies do not factor in the effects of noncapital punishments that may also be imposed, use incomplete or implausible models of potential murderers" perceptions of and response to the use of capital punishment, and use unreliable methods. PRO also produces evidence which correlates the death penalty with higher incidences of murder. While correlation isn't causation, reverse correlation negates causality, and therefore PRO wins this point.

On recidivism, PRO rebuts by stating that, essentially, that point falls because those who are sentenced to life without parole no longer present a threat to society, such that they cannot go murder innocent people in the public, because they are not released. This directly rebuts CON's point (that murderers who are released present a threat to society because when exposed to society they re-offend in similar ways), because it highlights how the death penalty is not necessary to protect society, meaning that the utility CON attributes to the DP is not only attributable to the death penalty. Thus, when weighing social utility other than cost, and balancing that against PRO's right to life, the only way I could vote CON on this issue is if DP was the only way to protect society from re-offenders. It's not, as PRO shows, meaning that PRO wins this point.

c. Money

CON argues that "There"s no weighing mechanism to analyze cost. Lives outweigh costs, since the government"s legislation is to prevent harm to others." but he doesn't explain why, for example, Lott's $17m "savings" is the case. We have a claim and an impact, but no warrant in this case. PRO didn't really substantively rebut this, but CON didn't really substantiate it either. That said, it goes to CON though only by default.

5. Outcome

Innocent lives and social utility were what this debate primarily focused on. PRO wins innocent lives because he showed a stronger causal link between the DP and innocent people being executed than CON showed a causal link between the DP and innocent lives being saved. PRO wins social utility because he showed that the utility which necessarily follows from the DP was not necessary to the death penalty, and could be obtained from means other than capital punishment; thus, the right to life takes priority over a non-unique benefit, especially where the causal link between it and the DP is not especially strong, for reasons outlined by PRO on rebuttal.
YYW
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1/12/2016 5:50:17 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
6. Comments

If debaters bring up hard data (e.g. how many innocent lives are saved in the PRO or the CON world), then I need to actually know what those figures are. CON says 18, and PRO gives me a percentage. The reality is that because CON's causal link between the DP's existence and innocent lives saved was weak, and because PRO just gave me a percentage, I can't quantify as a judge how many lives are actually being saved. All I can say for either of you is that "some" lives are saved.

So, in that "some" lives are saved (a non-specific amount), then I've got to consider how likely are those "some" lives to be saved (notice that this is a different question than the probability that a specific amount of lives will be saved). The impact is nebulous, and thus the strength of causation is what the vote comes down too, and PRO both had a much stronger causal link, and he offered compelling reasons which largely went unrebutted as to why CON's causal link was weak or dubious. Recognize that isolating causality is a tough thing to do, though, especially when the argument is that "X people would have been killed, but for the DP."

Also, when a person makes an argument that the DP is arbitrary because it's imposition is not based on guilt or innocence but extraneous circumstantial factors (e.g. attorney incompetence or race), it's not enough to rebut one of the factors (race and not attorney incompetence, etc.) of how the DP is arbitrary to win the point.

Moreover, if you've got a framework of justice, you need to be really clear about what that is, what it means, and how every one of your contentions link to it. CON's framework in this case was just sort of 'there' taking up character space. It wasn't 'used' so much as it was 'offered', and the FW that was offered didn't really give me a good idea of how to vote based on it (although if I did vote based on CON's FW, I'd have to vote for PRO based on PRO's point about how unfair the DP is, as a result of its arbitrary imposition, pursuant to the standard of justice CON offered). This is, however, a more sophisticated form of argumentation that takes some time to master.
tejretics
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1/13/2016 10:37:19 AM
Posted: 10 months ago
Thanks for the detailed feedback, YYW. I have a question, though:

The innocent lives argument of Hayd's was separate from my deterrence argument, such that the statistical link has to be weighed differently. Hayd's sole response to my deterrence argument was based on the National Research Council, which entirely dropped studies by Zimmerman and by Lott. Both of those studies actually find a statistical link between the DP reducing crime, and back it up with psychology. I also gave research on how criminals respond to incentives and arrest rates, and my Lott study showed how majority of the causation is a result of the DP. All the NRC report's problems were addressed, and I showed how Lott's studies were *immune* to them. So I had a clear causal link: (a) criminals respond to arrest rates, and criminal psychology, and (b) calculations that the DP is largely responsible for the DP-crime rate correlation as well (re: Lott's study).

I agree that Hayd had a clear causal link between innocent deaths. But if my deterrence argument is shown to be *probable,* then you must also analyze magnitude. Your impact calc on this only analyzes probability, and I *do have* probability (with respect to the NRC study, etc.). So even if Hayd's causal link was stronger, it doesn't mean I showed probability as well. The difference in probability was not so clear as to not factor magnitude into the decision--and by magnitude, I'm winning lives lost.

What do you think of this?
"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
tejretics
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1/16/2016 12:19:43 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
Please respond to my question.
"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
YYW
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1/16/2016 2:11:57 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
At 1/13/2016 10:37:19 AM, tejretics wrote:
Thanks for the detailed feedback, YYW. I have a question, though:

The innocent lives argument of Hayd's was separate from my deterrence argument, such that the statistical link has to be weighed differently. Hayd's sole response to my deterrence argument was based on the National Research Council, which entirely dropped studies by Zimmerman and by Lott. Both of those studies actually find a statistical link between the DP reducing crime, and back it up with psychology. I also gave research on how criminals respond to incentives and arrest rates, and my Lott study showed how majority of the causation is a result of the DP. All the NRC report's problems were addressed, and I showed how Lott's studies were *immune* to them. So I had a clear causal link: (a) criminals respond to arrest rates, and criminal psychology, and (b) calculations that the DP is largely responsible for the DP-crime rate correlation as well (re: Lott's study).

I agree that Hayd had a clear causal link between innocent deaths. But if my deterrence argument is shown to be *probable,* then you must also analyze magnitude. Your impact calc on this only analyzes probability, and I *do have* probability (with respect to the NRC study, etc.). So even if Hayd's causal link was stronger, it doesn't mean I showed probability as well. The difference in probability was not so clear as to not factor magnitude into the decision--and by magnitude, I'm winning lives lost.

What do you think of this?

That's incorrect, and my RFD specifically addressed those issues.
YYW
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1/16/2016 2:35:49 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
At 1/13/2016 10:37:19 AM, tejretics wrote:
Thanks for the detailed feedback, YYW. I have a question, though:

The innocent lives argument of Hayd's was separate from my deterrence argument, such that the statistical link has to be weighed differently.

That is incorrect. While your claims and warrants were the same, the area of clash comes out in the impacts: in both cases, innocent lives. As I explained in my RFD, both you and Hayd addressed the issue of protecting innocent lives (which was the impact); but there was a difference solely in "which" innocent lives were to be protected: with you, it was 'those who may be victimized by those who commit crimes which could warrant the death penalty' (a very attenuated class of persons), and with Hayd, it was 'people who are innocent that might be executed'. The impacts are the same ("innocent lives") and they must be weighed against each other.

The problem is that the chain of causation with your argument was weaker than Hayd's, and Hayd seriously undercut your Lott, et al. study, for reasons that I indicated in my rFD, and which you never really responded too. It's not enough to "have" a study that says some things. You have to explain the reasoning, or--if you don't explain the reasoning--you're just making an appeal to authority. With Lott, you 'sort of' did, but the reason why Hayd won that point is that he sharply undercut the study, and the results, in a couple of different ways, while at the same time having a stronger causal argument between "the death penalty" and "protecting innocent lives."

Hayd's sole response to my deterrence argument was based on the National Research Council, which entirely dropped studies by Zimmerman and by Lott.

No, it does not. Hayd's rebuttal did this, as I explained in my RFD: PRO returns with an acute undercut to behavioral models which postulate that the death penalty has any deterrent effect: "Claims that research demonstrates that capital punishment decreases or increases the homicide rate or has no effect on it should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment" because those studies do not factor in the effects of noncapital punishments that may also be imposed, use incomplete or implausible models of potential murderers" perceptions of and response to the use of capital punishment, and use unreliable methods. PRO also produces evidence which correlates the death penalty with higher incidences of murder. While correlation isn't causation, reverse correlation negates causality, and therefore PRO wins this point.

That was a one-two punch. First, it undercuts Zimmerman and Lott's methodology; second, it produces evidence that is directly inconsistent with their claims. The existence of reverse correlations negates causal arguments that require at least correlation to be true. Zimmerman and Lott's analysis, for it to be true, must be at least present correlations between the existence of the death penalty and reduced instances of crime in some sense. If there is no correlation, then there can be no causation, or, if there is a reverse correlation, then the claim that depends on correlation falls. It was the latter, which Hayd showed, which is why he won the point. (What he did is identify an implication that must be true for the results to stand, which he negated, which meant that the argument fell, and he thus won the point.)

Both of those studies actually find a statistical link between the DP reducing crime, and back it up with psychology.

That's wrong, and misrepresentative. "Statistical links" aren't enough. What matters is what inferences we can draw from the data, and what the data mean.

I also gave research on how criminals respond to incentives and arrest rates, and my Lott study showed how majority of the causation is a result of the DP. All the NRC report's problems were addressed, and I showed how Lott's studies were *immune* to them. So I had a clear causal link: (a) criminals respond to arrest rates, and criminal psychology, and (b) calculations that the DP is largely responsible for the DP-crime rate correlation as well (re: Lott's study).

You were putting forward behavioral criminal models; the totality of which Hayd really undercutted. Basically, to analogize.... what Hayd did is break apart the house's foundation, while you were laying tiles in the bathroom. The bathroom may be nicely completed, but if the overall structure is crumbling, the house is still destabilized.

I agree that Hayd had a clear causal link between innocent deaths. But if my deterrence argument is shown to be *probable,* then you must also analyze magnitude. Your impact calc on this only analyzes probability, and I *do have* probability (with respect to the NRC study, etc.).

I don't have to analyze anything; I just report what happened in the debate, and whose argument was stronger and whose argument was weaker.

Magnitude, btw. means the vastness, size or extent of something. So, for the purpose of the debate here, magnitude is going to translate into a quantification of "how many" innocent lives are saved. You couldn't --and didn't-- give me a reliable number, nor did Hayd. That's why the most I could conclude from both is that "some" lives will be saved on both sides, which then made the subsidiary issue of clash: which world is more likely to save some (i.e. a nonspecific quantity; which was the magnitude, and was nebulous) lives. Hayd won because he had a stronger causal link.

So even if Hayd's causal link was stronger, it doesn't mean I showed probability as well. The difference in probability was not so clear as to not factor magnitude into the decision--and by magnitude, I'm winning lives lost.

You both has causal arguments connecting your policy preferences (i.e. dp v. no dp) to protecting innocent lives; and thus you both were talking about probability. The issue is whose argument is stronger.

And you were not winning magnitude; that point was equal. In any event, magnitude is contingent on probability, and you lost probability.