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Death Penalty

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 6/30/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,468 times Debate No: 77139
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (24)
Votes (3)





This is a debate between Lexus and myself on the death penalty. There are 72 hours to post each argument, with a maximum of 10,000 characters per argument. I request that Lexus accept this debate as soon as possible. A minimum Elo of 2,000 is required to vote on this debate.

Full Topic

The United States should retain a death penalty.


All definitions influenced by Wikipedia, the Google Dictionary, and the Oxford Dictionary of English.

United States - the United States of America, a country of 50 states covering a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the extreme Northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean.
Should - is correct to do (in the sense that "it is best that the United States retain the death penalty").
Death Penalty - execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense.


1. No forfeits.
2. All arguments must be visible inside this debate. Sources can be within the debate or in an external link.
3. No new arguments in the final round (including new positive arguments, new rebuttals not presented before).
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere.
5. No trolling.
6. No "kritiks" of the topic (i.e. arguments that challenge an assumption in the resolution).
7. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add resolutional definitions.
8. No deconstructional semantics. All words not specifically defined are defined by the ordinary definition that best fits the context.
9. The BOP is shared.
10. The first round is for acceptance only.
11. The second round is for arguments only, with no rebuttals; the third round is only for rebuttals, without defending one's own case; the final round is only for defense, with no rebuttals.
12. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss.


R1. Acceptance
R2. Pro's case, Con's case
R3. Pro rebuts Con's case, Con rebuts Pro's case
R4. Pro defends Pro's case, Con defends Con's case, both crystallize


...again to Lexus for what I hope will be a stellar discourse, and to voters and readers.



Allahu Akbar.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Lexus for accepting.

C1) Deterrence

The rational choice theory, also termed rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and modeling social and economic behavior [1]. It has been studied by economists and criminologists to see if criminals act as rationally as standard social humans.

The theory has its beginnings in 1968 with the work of Gary Becker. He claimed that criminals are rational. They, like law abiding citizens, respond to costs and benefits. He argues that crime also occurs due to rationality--a cost-benefit analysis by criminals themselves [2].

According to economist John Lott, “[C]riminals as a group tend to behave rationally--when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed.” [3] Thus, if criminals act rationally, if crime has greater costs than benefits, they likely won’t commit it. Even irrational actors can be deterred. Juveniles, who were once considered undeterrable, have actually been found to respond to arrest rates. For example, with a rise in teenage unemployment rates, they commit more thefts or other crimes. When violent crime arrests increase, juvenile violent crime rates drop [4].

The death penalty does deter crime via. rational choice theory. Economists have started to spearhead death penalty research, and are increasingly taking part in the debate, since deterrence is primarily a socioeconomic factor.

Economist Naci Mocan says, “Science does draw a conclusion. There is no question about it. The conclusion is [the death penalty has] a deterrent effect.” [5]

Joanna Shepard, an economist at Clemson University, uses state data from 1977 to 1999. According to her study, each death row sentence deterred, on average, 4.5 murders; each execution deterred 3 murders; one murder is deterred for every 2.75 years reduction in time spent on death row [6].

FCC economist Paul Zimmerman published two studies using state-level data, one with data from 1978 to 1997 [7], and one with data extended till 2000 [8].

There is a fairly strong consensus in econometric literature that the DP deters homicides. 17 studies show a deterrent effect of the death penalty, while only 5 dissent [9]. Of those five dissenting, Katz, Levitt and Shustorovich (2003) actually shows a deterrent effect [10], where the DP deters homicide rates. The reason no deterrence was found was because the study focused on the relation between the death penalty and overall crime rates, but the DP won’t deter non-homicide crimes significantly since it does not apply to assault, burglary, etc. Donohue and Wolfers (2009) published a dissenting study that is flawed since it assumes that executions happen the same year a sentence occurred [11], which is flawed since the average wait is 15 years.

The below graph shows the rate of homicides in New York State compared with the rise in homicide rates (with data collected from the source) [14]:

C2) The death penalty prevents recidivism

There have been many instances in the American justice system when criminals have reoffended. A study from the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that of prisoners released in 1994, 1.2% of those convicted of homicide were arrested for another homicide within three years of release [12].

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 [13].

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 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% [15]. So the worst criminals have extremely high recidivism rates, of up to 51.2%, while those who only murder have a recidivism rate of 0.9%. While the latter number may seem small, it is fairly significant because of the number of murders.

An example of this is seen in Kenneth McDuff, who was placed in death row for three murders. The sentence was then commuted to life imprisonment, and was later released. Following his release, he killed 9 more people, and was then executed for this. Lee Andrew Taylor is another example--he was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing two people--he then killed another inmate in prison.

The death penalty ensures a 0% rate of recidivism, since committing a crime ‘after death’ is completely incoherent.

Thus, the death penalty would prevent more deaths.

C3) Justice

The death penalty upholds justice. G.W.F. Hegel notes that autonomy separates humans from other entities. A table cannot be blamed for immoral acts since it has no autonomy to distinguish ‘immoral’ from ‘moral’. But the power of autonomy, and ability to distinguish between these poles, gives humans dignity.

“At the heart of [human dignity] is a twofold intuition about human beings: namely, that all, just by being human, are of equal dignity and worth, no matter where they are situated in society, and that the primary source of this worth is a power of moral choice within them, a power that consists in the ability to plan a life in accordance with one's own evaluation of ends.” [16]

Human dignity demands unconditional respect to individuals--which means humans can’t be reduced to mere tools, and equality and justice must be upheld with a sense of individual respect. Hegel observes, “[I]n punishment the offender is honored as a rational being, since the punishment is looked on as his right.” [17] The punishment is looked on as a right since it affirms that choices result in consequences--if a person makes a choice knowing it has a negative consequence, putting forth that consequence upholds justice.

While this may be seen as vengeance rather than justice, note that it isn’t vengeance so much as just retribution. You forfeit the right violated by you--that’s the basic consequence. Human autonomy is the ability to make a choice, and if a criminal has such an ability to make a choice such as murder, he elicits a certain consequence depending on the severity of the choice. If the death penalty is unjust, no punishment is just and the concept of punishment becomes an intrinsically unjust concept, but punishment is the consequence elicited by a choice, and, as such, upholds justice.

The resolution is resoundingly affirmed. Over to Con.



3. John R. Lott. More Guns, Less Crime, p 20.














17. Martin Perlmutter. “Desert and Capital Punishment.” Morality and Moral Controversies: Readings in Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy. 1981. 139-146.


I don't really have a lot of time because of work, so I ask that you post your round on the 5th of July, thanks.

C1. Non-efficient cost.

A. General burden.
According to a study done by Loyola Law School [1], the state of California has spent over $4 billion on the death penalty since it was resumed in 1978, which equates to over $300 million for each of the 13 executions that were carried out in the last 37 years. While this may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but in 2010 the state of California had a debt that rang to the tune of nearly $800 billion [2]. This is money that is uselessly spent on state executions that could be spent on relieving the debt crisis that the state is currently in, and allow for a higher quality of life for the people of California.
And this is not only specific to the state of California, either.

Since 1997, the state of Washington spent $120 million on 5 prisoners, equating to a $24 million court system cost per person, while the state currently has a debt of just under $80 billion [3][4].

The state of Maryland spent $186 million over five executions, meaning that each execution cost taxpayers $37.2 million each [3]. The state of Maryland also has a state debt of over $94 billion [5].

I could go on and on, but I decide to stop here. What I am trying to get at is that all of these funds that are going towards the death penalty are not necessary; instead they could go to improving the financial crisis that each of these states have. They could go to improving the quality of life of all of their residents instead of killing people without a just cause. The job of the government is to protect people and to ensure the maximum amount of rights that are necessary, not to decrease the quality or quantity of life of its inhabitants, and the amount of money that a state has a huge impact on this.

B. Less efficient than life in prison.
I could not find any statistics about a nation-wide average for the cost of life in prison without parole, so I will be using California as my basis. If my opponent asks I can delve deeper into the web to find nation-wide averages, but I believe that California is a fine example place to base this argument on.

According to statistics that have been offered by the Office of California's Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, the average annual price for housing an inmate in a jail is over $47,000, while the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation finds that the average cost is just over $44,500 [6]. Whatever the actual number may be, which should logically be thought to be roughly $45,000, is lower than a death penalty process.

If we assume that the average life-in-prison prisoner gets placed in there around age 20 and live to be around age 70, we see a time gap of 50 years. Using basic arithmetic (45,000 x 50), we get a grand total of around $2 million. When we compare this to the average cost of an execution in the state of California, which was stated earlier at a whopping $300 million, the disparity of these two numbers is absurd. The amount for a life-in-prison prisoner is less than 1% the cost of a death row inmate, which as a government cannot be condoned. If we concede that these California numbers are not representative of the United States as a whole, it does show that the current state of the death penalty (which I am arguing against) is highly innefficient.

C. Specifically expensive parts of death penalty.
Capital cases are more expensive because they include “five times more pretrial motions,” five times more investigation by the defense team, 66 times longer to select and exclude jury members, 30 days more in court, “twice as many lawyers (by statute),” and “longer and more complicated appeals.” [10] (p. 544).

This means that we are spending much more time in the courts, out of the courts, more money and more brainpower to understand these appeals. To put in simpler terms, the death penalty is spending too much time and money to be of any real use in its current state (which of course is what this debate is about). It is the job of the government to protect the rights and ensure the rights of the citizens, not to have a system that is so inefficient it requires nearly 7000% more time to select a nonbiased jury.

I wonder if this time and money could be spent better; rehabilitation or reinvesting into the educational systems seems like a good way to solve crime (though I need not to prove these, this is merely an aside).

C2. Morality.

A. Innocent death.
Innocence is not committing a crime that you are accused of, and in a society that holds onto justice such as the USA, if you have not committed a crime you are not expected to pay the dues of this crime.

However, as the Guardian explains in an article released on 28 April, 2014, the amount of innocent people that have been posthumously declared as innocent is at 4% [7]. "At least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the US in the modern era are innocent", they explain.

In a just society, we should not be putting the innocent to death. Having any innocent deaths is atrocious and undermines the values of justice -- which according to Kant is a respect for the right (or innocent, in this case) [8]. Posthumously announcing that one is innocent does not give them the respect that they deserve, instead it declares that the system was wrong and that the system is not based upon justice, instead retribution.

C3. Personal harms.

A. Families touched by murder denounce the death penalty.
It has been shown time and time again that families that have been touched by a person that may receive the death penalty do not actively or usually seek it when seeking justice for their loved ones.

If we look back to the Boston Marathon Bombing that occurred two years ago (April 15, 2013), then we can remember that this was a day that was filled with both terror and death. However, the parents of the youngest victim taken by the bombing do not want the death penalty to even be considered when Tsarnaev is convicted. They say in a letter to the Boston Globe, "[w]e are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal." What this means is that the family of someone who was taken by an act of terror do not want to see the killer die for his actions, just rot in prison [9].

Another good example of a personal harm created by the death penalty would be the case of Julie Welch, who was taken in an Oklahoma bombing. The family of Julie didn't seek the death penalty at all, and they said that executing people for crimes "is simply vengeance; and it was vengeance that killed Julie.... Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion. But it has no place in our justice system." This means that another bombing victim's family doesn't want vengeance to be part of the justice system, but instead for justice to actually be sought [8].

If the family of a victim does not want to suffer more pain due to the death of a criminal, then why are we allowing them to? We are not truly honoring the victim's family or the victim themselves when we do these actions, and this is not morally permissible by the government.


Debate Round No. 2


R1) Costs

Lexus first claims that the death penalty has immense costs for all states. According to a Seattle University study, a capital case in the state of Washington costed $3.07 million, while a similar case where the death penalty was not sought costed $2.01 million [1]. The Washington state budget is $81.8 billion [2], so a death penalty case costs 0.0245% of the budget in Washington. I will provide the example of Texas. Jon Sorenson and Rocky Leann Pilgrim published evidence that found that the cost of an LWOP case in Texas and a DP were the same [3]. The cost of the death penalty varies with different state jurisdictions.

Cost studies tend to underestimate the cost of the LWOP. Prisoners stay in prison longer than those on the death row do, and such studies often fail to account for such facts. If a person spends fifty years in jail, it would cost the state $2.35 million using the ~$47,000 estimate [4], compared to Washington State’s average death penalty cost of $2.01 million. In Texas, the DP costs $2.3 million to execute someone, which is still $350,000 less than an average LWOP cost [5], but even those high estimates of the Texas DP cost are probably wrong [3]. This indicates that an LWOP case in Texas costs more than an average DP.

Additionally, Lexus’ argument fails to account for plea bargains, that can even account for the entire cost of the DP. These plea bargains often reduce DP costs by huge amounts [6]. She cites Thaxton’s study on the costs of execution, but even Thaxton makes many key concessions. He concedes that the amount plea bargains save is unknown, so he calculates it himself, calculating the reduction as $0.4 million. He criticizes multiple studies with higher estimates. Scheidegger’s study (my source) was *not* criticized by Thaxton, and has a more reliable plea bargain reduction cost since the study reviewed 33 urban counties that are representative of the 75 largest urban counties in the US, while Thaxton focuses on solely Georgia. We have no reason to believe Georgia is representative of the United States.

Deterrence makes up for the costs. Lott calculates that the DP was responsible for 12-14% of the homicide drop in the 1990s [7]. The cost of one murder to society is $17 million [8]. If the DP deters merely one murder, it makes up for its average cost of $2.5 million and saves money.

Thus, the LWOP’s cost is underestimated, the DP’s cost is lessened due to plea bargains, and deterrence makes up for the costs.

R2) Innocents

First, DP exonerations exist to prevent much innocent death. Lexus’ number of 4.1% was the number of innocents inclusive of exonerations. 1.6% of the defendants sentenced to death were innocent and then exonerated, leaving 2.5%. Deterrence makes up for these 2.5%. A 12-14% homicide drop is *huge*, and simple calculations can show that more innocents have been saved by the DP than killed.

A utilitarian interpretation of justice is best, since the DP allows for saving more lives than killing. When you have a *choice* to save many and sacrifice some, it’s best to take that option. 68% of moral philosophers agree that utilitarianism upholds morality and justice best [9].

Also, the number of those innocents killed by the DP is disputable. One essay suggests that the rightful conviction rate for the DP is 99.72%, meaning only 0.28% of those on the death row have been innocents [10].

Thus, the rate of innocent death is disputable, and deterrence makes up for innocent deaths and is just via. utilitarianism.

R3) Personal harms

Lexus’ entire argument is that “families touched by murder denounce the death penalty.” I don’t think this is a sufficient argument for abolition because it has one core assumption--that the purpose of the death penalty is retribution and the families touched by murder gaining revenge. As I showed in my C1, the death penalty saves lives, and families touched by murder have *no* right to decide which life shall be saved.

Capital punishment being given to those who have committed a crime is *not* for the purpose of satisfying those wronged--it’s for saving lives and giving the criminal the consequence he is entitled to by making a choice. If families wronged by murder denounce the death penalty, then they are causing death--and families touched by murder have absolutely no right to cause death. As such, if the DP deters crime and is just for the purposes of giving the criminal his due, then families are irrelevant to the question, since all humans are equal before the eyes of the law, and these families don’t have greater power than the average citizen in deciding which life should be saved.

I agree that vengeance has no place in our justice system. Let me clarify by defining ‘vengeance’. Vengeance is “infliction of injury, harm, humiliation, or the like, on a person by another who has been harmed by that person.” [11] This definition would imply that vengeance in the criminal court is the same as satisfying the needs of the person wronged by exacting revenge on the criminal. But that’s not the justice upheld--the justice upheld is ensuring there is a choice alongside the force of human autonomy, and that every choice elicits a consequence. The one making the choice knows of a consequence, and the consequence is the *due*, whether or not the criminal wants it. Thus, to uphold human dignity and respect autonomy, the death penalty should not be abolished.

== Underview ==

So far, I have shown that the DP deters crime and is just. My arguments hinge on these two premises. Lexus’ primary contentions are innocent death, costs, and morality.

I have addressed innocent death by showing deterrence makes up for the innocent deaths, and that the stats on that issue are debatable.

I’ve shown that the costs are outweighed by plea bargains and deterrence--the low plea bargain count endorsed by Thaxton is flawed since it applies only to Georgia, whereas my source, Scheidegger, supports a higher plea bargain count; since there is a $17 million cost of one murder to society, if the DP deters even *one* murder, it entirely makes up for the costs.

And finally, I’ve demonstrated that Lexus’ final contention strawmans the position of the DP being just--the justice of the DP is not justice to the ones wronged by the killer; rather, it is justice to the killer themselves, in fulfilling the fundamental consequence elicited by the killer’s choice and upholding human dignity.

Thus, I negate. Over to Con. Note that Lexus must only rebut my own case in the next round and not defend hers.



3. Jon Sorensen and Rocky Leann Pilgrim. Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas During the Modern Era, p 158.




7. John R. Lott. Freedomnomics, p 135.







Thanks, tejretics, for another great round. Thanks, Allah, for creating the universe!
In this round I will be rebutting my opponent's R2 case.

New York Crime Drop
Tejretics claims that because there was a decrease in homocide after the legalisation of capital punishment, there is a direct correlation between the death penalty and that because of this correlation, we must allow the death penalty to happen. But what does his source say about this interesting correlation?

His source actually doesn't provide this information, at all. He cites synapse9, and at the end of the page they show this picture (below), which shows that the real "change" in murder rate happened in about 1993 [1].

Now, yes, immediately after the legalisation of the death penalty, there was a slight dip in the amounts of murders, I do concede this. However, just a few years after this dip in the amount of murders, the rate actually skyrocketted from about nine to about fifteen.

What this means, according to my opponent's logic (the logic being that if there is a spike or a trough in the data that this data is a direct correlation to the issue at hand), is that the death penalty actually *ended more lives than it saved*.

In an attempt to show that my opponent's source was not only faulty, but that the entire argument that New York had saved lives is faulty, I will show some corroborating evidence that shows that after the reinstatement of the death penalty, there was actually more murder.

In fact, QZ shows that the murder rate did decline immediately after the legalisation of the death penalty (below), but just a few years later the rates actually *increased*

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Now, I know what my opponent is thinking and is about to say... "it is true that this happened, but eventually the amount of homocides went down, so the death penalty must have done it!" Well, actually, no. As QZ shows in the above graph, there was just a big spike that lasted from the 1960's to the 2000's, but for the majority of the graph, the amount of murders was at a relatively low ~40 per million residents. Before the spike that resulted in the death penalty and after the spike, the rates actually didn't change that much. The 2010 rate is similar to the 1900 rate... or the 1920 rate... or the 1950 rate...

What I am trying to get across here is that the death penalty didn't do anything to pre-spike and post-spike conditions, more than 30 years later. My opponent's claim that it did is completely decimated.

The DP prevents recidivism

0. Point of order
If it is shown that there is a small difference between life in prison murder rates and death row murder rates, pro's point is able to be voided because the difference is so small that it is negligible.

1. In-prison recidivism is too small to really be worth mentioning
As tejretics points out, and I totally agree, having a dead person means that this person cannot commit any crimes, which means that they cannot cause any more deaths and lives are saved. However, this implies that the same thing cannot be acheived with life in prison.

Now, the crux of pro's argument is that a dead person cannot commit any crimes out in the world or in the prison. As for the first part of that statement, a person that is in for life without parole cannot either - they are in prison for life and they do not have any sort of possibility for parole. As for the second part of the statement, the difference between in-prison murder rates for death row and the general population is not really worth mentioning, as a report finds.

Between 2001 and 2007, states with the death penalty had a 4.25 per 100,000 inmates average murder rate, which meant that in each state during this time there were 4.25 people being murdered (on average). In the same time frame, states without the death penalty had an average of 0.92 per 100,000 inmates murder rate. This means that in each state, there was less than one person that was being murdered while in prison. Not only this, but seven of te twelve states that do not have the death penalty reported that they had zero homocides during that time frame [3].

Ladies and gents, this means that there is a 0.00092% difference of murder rates between those on death row that ultimately die on death row, and those that are just in prison normally. I concede that there is a difference, but the difference is so small that it is completely negligible.

This seems fairly defensive as an argument for a constructive case, but I'll rebut it anyways.

Basically what tejretics is arguing is that because there is a sense of autonomy to humans, they should have consequences based on their actions. And, I must say, I totally agree with this. But what my opponent is implying (because this is a death penalty debate, after all) is that the death penalty is the only way to preserve justice by giving consequences based on autonomous actions, which is totally wrong.

Based on what my opponent said, if we made the consequence for theft death, then that upholds justice and is completely valid. I know that this may appear that I am clinging to strawmen, but let me give you some quotes that actually prove that this is the case:

    • "... if a person makes a choice knowing it has a negative consequence, putting forth that consequence upholds justice."

    • "Human autonomy is the ability to make a choice, and if a criminal has such an ability to make a choice such as murder, he elicits a certain consequence depending on the severity of the choice. If the death penalty is unjust, no punishment is just and the concept of punishment becomes an intrinsically unjust concept, but punishment is the consequence elicited by a choice, and, as such, upholds justice."

Tejretics explicitly says that if someone commits a crime and the punishment for that crime is applied, it upholds justice. Back to our theft and execution example, if someone makes the autonomous choice to steal a Milky Way bar from a gas station, and the LAW says that it is illegal and you must be executed, that the action of execution is actually *just*. There is no way that this actually helps pro's burden to prove that the death penalty should still exist in the US because of the implications of such an argument, thus it is completely demolished.


Note: According to the debate structure that was outlined, it said that we are allowed to crystalise during our final round. However the rules say that this is not allowed. I propose that we follow debate structure over rules. Thanks
Debate Round No. 3


Crystallization is only crystallization of your own contentions--*not* of mine. Thus, even in the crystallization, you must just sum up your defenses, and perhaps an impact calculus comparing the impacts.

C1) Deterrence

I presented 9 sources for this argument--Lexus *drops* all sources except the source I presented regarding the New York homicide rate. All impacts still stand--I have shown studies and analyses by John R. Lott [1-2], both of which document direct correlational evidence for rational choice theory (including the DP reducing crime by 12-14% in the 1990s), a study by Joanna Shepard [3], two studies by FCC economist Paul Zimmerman [4-5], both of which document a direct correlation between the DP and dropping homicide rates, and I showed that there are, in all, 17 studies that favor the DP deterring crime as opposed to 5 opposing [6].

Additionally, a dissenting study by Donohue & Wolfers has been rebutted and thoroughly refuted by studies by Zimmerman [7], Cloninger and Marchesini [8], and Dezhbakhsh and Rubin [9]. Another study is flawed since it finds a direct correlation between DP and homicide rate reduction, but not crime rates [10]. Obviously, the DP won’t affect other crimes directly since it doesn’t apply to other crimes. So, that’s 18 studies against 3 (one is refuted, other is actually pro-DP despite claim).

As seen above, even if I entirely conceded the New York graph, it wouldn’t affect my impacts at all, and the argument still would stand in all its strength, having been dropped by Con. I shall, nonetheless, defend the New York crime rate as well.

First, I’m sorry for poor sourcing. The actual source of the graph is by economists Tella, Edwards, and Schargrodsky, documenting the graph below [11].

The second graph Lexus presents in support of her case is a graph documenting homicide rates in New York City [12], which is irrelevant, since my graph documents New York State [11]. Additionally, I would like to note that the graph is from an opinion blog, versus my graph documented by economists. So my source here is superior.

C2) The DP prevents recidivism

I disagree with Con’s point of order. Each life has some worth according to the criminal justice system--saving even one life has a huge impact. Since two lives outweigh one, that one life does add value, and life can’t be considered ‘negligible’, if it has such significant impact. Note that this isn’t a turn--the DP is just because two lives outweigh one, and so on, by this logic. Saving one life is greater than saving none, which means the value is not, by any means, ‘negligible’. If saving lives is to be valued, the DP saves one more person.

Let’s also look at this from a viewpoint of costs. The cost of *one* murder to society is $17 million [13], so if the DP prevents in-prison recidivism to even save one life, it saves a huge $17 million. This means the DP has a huge impact on costs if it prevents even one murder via. recidivism.

C3) Justice

Lexus first claims the argument seems defensive. First, I must clarify--what is a defensive argument? A defense is an argument that has no offensive impact, and only “mitigat[es] an argument made by the opposing team” [14]. But this stands as a contention of its own, affirming that the DP is just and upholds justice.

Her objection is that while choices elicit consequences, the DP is too harsh a consequence for any crime. But since homicides are the worst crime, they deserve a corresponding punishment. For example, stealing results in fine, a punishment that corresponds to the crime. While I’m not saying we must ‘rape the rapists’, I’m saying a punishment that, somehow, corresponds to, or is equal to, the crime committed, must be the punishment.

Fining deters thievery, and the DP deters crime. To counter this is to counter any form of punishment, and would result in abolition of punishment for crime, which would be a Kritik, thus wouldn’t be permitted. Basically, the criminals took a choice in committing murder, and *knows* the consequence it elicits, but nonetheless commits the crime. This means, the criminal expects the consequence, thus if the criminal were a rational being with dignity and autonomy, they would be entitled to punishment relatively equal to, or corresponding to, their crime. “Punishment acknowledges the autonomy and responsibility of offenders and the significance of the norms violated by holding offenders accountable. Failure to punish can be seen as an unacceptable form of paternalism where individuals are viewed as morally deficient and lacking an understanding of what they did.” [15]

Edward Feser writes, “[T]he aims of punishment are threefold: retribution, or inflicting on a wrongdoer a harm he has come to deserve because of his offense; correction, or chastising the wrongdoer for the sake of getting him to change his ways; and deterrence, discouraging others from committing the same offense.” [16] He notes, “We can’t correct someone who doesn’t deserve correction.” So, retribution and deterrence are the only options.

Feser also preempts the objection Lexus raises: “Now, what a wrongdoer deserves as punishment is a harm proportionate to his offense. If we allow that someone guilty of stealing $100 deserves to be punished, we must also acknowledge that he ought not to be punished by having $100,000 taken from him, or by having merely ten cents taken from him; he has not done anything to deserve the harsher punishment, but he does deserve more than the lesser punishment. In short, the punishment should fit the crime.” [16]

As such, the DP is just.


C1: Deterrence

The DP deters crime. Lexus drops the majority of the argument, only addressing the direct correlation between DP and the New York homicide rate. But the graph she presents is: (1) from an opinion blog, and (2) only documents NY State homicide rate, which is a red herring of my graph that relates to New York State. Deterrence also outweighs Lexus’ costs and innocent death contentions, and significantly rebuts Lexus’ personal harms contention.

C2: Recidivism

The DP prevents recidivism. Lexus downplays the value of one life, but the monetary value, at least, is huge. This also outweighs costs.

C3: Justice

Outweighs personal harms, and Lexus’ refutation fails proportionality.

Thanks to Lexus for what has been the most interesting debate I’ve had on DDO, and to bsh1 and 16kadams for inspiring my contentions. The next round is only for defense.

Thus, I affirm. Vote Pro.

1. John R. Lott. More Guns, Less Crime, p 20.

2. John R. Lott. Freedomnomics, p 135.









11. Rafael Di Tella, Sebastian Edwards, and Ernesto Schargrodsky. The Economics of Crime, p 396.







Thanks for the clarification on crystallisation, and for a great debate.

I'm not claiming that the DP has an immense cost for all states, or that it will have an immense cost for all of them if it was entirely legalised. But in general, and shown by evidence, there is a much higher cost for the DP in states where it exists. Tejretics admits that a case in Washington that seeks the death penalty has higher cost.

Tejretics says that studies tend to underestimate the cost of LWOP, and I actually agree. However, the cost of the death penalty is also underestimated. My opponent cites a study in Texas, where it costs $2.3 million to execute someone. This is in a book so I do not have complete access to, but because of the name Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas During the Modern Era, I assume that this study talks about up-front costs of the death penalty; things such as the drugs themselves, the court costs, all of that good stuff.

However (due to assumptions based on book titling and a bit of research about that book), they do not take into account the cost of housing a prisoner within Texas. In the graph below, we see the average amount of time between being sentenced and being executed throughout the US is actually huge. In 2012, the average time length from sentence to execution was at 190 months, or just under *16 years* on death row [1].

Tejretics graciously accepts our figure of ~$47,000 anually to house an inmate, and some math (47,000 * 15) gives us a grand total of $705,000 in total, just for housing an inmate. He says through his source that the death penalty costs $350,000 less than LWOP, but when we look at more than just up-front costs, we find that it costs *more* than $350,000 than LWOP.

Next, Tejretics brings up a point about plea bargaining and its effect on the cost of the DP. He cites a study by Scheidegger, but Scheidegger doesn't actually really help Tejretic's refutations when you do the math of what he is saying. There are a few key things that we know from this argument, from Tejretics and his sources:
  • About half of all murders in states with the DP end with a plea
  • Thaxton says that there is $400,000 less cost for pleas
  • Tejretics offers no alternatives to this $400,000 lower cost for pleas, just says it might be higher, thus we can dismiss it
  • Tejretics' source claims that the DP costs $500,000 more than non-DP (trials).
If about half of the population receives a plea bargain and gets X savings, we can say that everyone gets 1/2*X savings. For example, if half of all people make $20 a year, then the average for everyone is $10 a year. The same can be applied to the general death penalty population - if half of all people have an extra burden of $400,000, then the average burden is only $200,000. And earlier we actually showed that LWOP costs $350,000 less without this in account. In the end, LWOP still saves $150,000.


I am sorry but I can't finish this round, some real life issues were brought forward. Vote con!
Debate Round No. 4
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
This one's next for me, guys. Should have it up this weekend.
Posted by salam.morcos 3 years ago
And I'm done! That RFD took a long time. Sorry for all the commentary in blue. I just like to babble for no reason.
Posted by salam.morcos 3 years ago
Sorry - This is taking longer than I thought. I'm almost done. I should have it tomorrow.
Posted by salam.morcos 3 years ago
I'm working on this RFD. Hope to get this done by tomorrow.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Rofl :)
Posted by 16kadams 3 years ago
@bsh: His deterrence argument looks similar
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Nvm...I will get to this tomorrow.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
This looks interesting. I'll drop a vote later today.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
@Tej, your justice contention looks remarkably familiar.
Posted by tejretics 3 years ago
I lean towards Con
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by bsh1 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: There were a lot of excellent (but cost-focused) arguments presented in this debate. Most deterrence studies were dropped by Con. I would've liked to have seen more analysis done re: deterrence vs. cost. Even if the DP was more costly, might that cost be worth it if it deters crime? I didn't get too much comparative weighing there, at least in terms of the ineffable, un-quantifiable value of life. What I do get is a cost analysis of deterrence: "The cost of *one* murder to society is $17 million, so if the DP prevents in-prison recidivism to even save one life, it saves a huge $17 million. This means the DP has a huge impact on costs if it prevents even one murder via. recidivism." Given that, by debate's end, Con is talking about saving hundreds of thousands vs. LWOP, but Pro is talking about saving millions, it's hard not to vote Pro. The DP seems to only take a small portion of budgets and saves money in the long run, even if it may cost a few thousand more than LWOP. I vote Pro.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: The focus on costs ends up dooming Con's case. Con admits by the end of the debate that the actual amounts saved are likely relatively small, and never provides a means for their usage, merely stating that it could be used in a number of ways. The impact of those means of usage is never clear. Meanwhile, Pro's case remains mostly standing strong. Too many of the deterrence sources go dropped, and though reduced recidivism may be a small issue, it's never sufficiently mitigated to destroy it completely. The justice point isn't incredibly strong because I'm never given a solid reason as to why it's potent in this debate, especially when everyone seems most concerned with the combination of costs and lives. Autonomy is never weighed against either of these outcomes, and while I buy the reasoning behind the link to autonomy, expectations and justice, I just don't think Pro's garnering as much from this as he could. Still, he didn't need it, as he's winning the major points.
Vote Placed by salam.morcos 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: