The Instigator
Con (against)
2 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
5 Points

Is Capital Punishment Justified ?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/29/2012 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,535 times Debate No: 22428
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)




Is Capital Punishment Justified ?

Close to 90 countries have the death penalty, but nowhere is it debated so often as in the United States where each state can formulate its own policy according to the Constitution. 38 of the 50 states allow the death penalty as a sentence although some, such as Illinois, have recently imposed a moratorium while they study the arguments for and against.

I will show that execution is in simplest terms is state-sanctioned murder and I will show that it devalues the respect we as Americans place on human life.


---> Constitution

-- You never proved it violated it, just plain said it violated it, my refutation will be of the same quality: It does not violate the constitution

---> Disregards life

-- I will later prove it SAVES lives.
-- How?
-- eye for an eye


C1: Deterrence

Before one can talk about the DP, one must look at the most controversial part of the DP: Deterrence. Before I get into raw facts I will talk about a simple thing: Deterrence theory.

Deterrence theory is pretty straight forward, it is that if you increase the penalties for something people will be less likely to do the thing with punishments. [1] It's a lovely thing isn't it? A simple and logical theory easy to grasp. The thing people fear most is death. Death, to some people, means everything ends. To others, you may go to eternal torture (Assuming we are hanging murderers that are christian). The thing people ear most is death, as this is a bigger penalty according to theory people should be hesitant to murder if the DP is in place.

---> Academic studies

This is very interesting, something I seldom thought of. When I first became pro DP I just used the philosophy above, and no research. But this firmly proves my point. Many series of academic studies show the DP deters crime [murder]. [2] Many people, the makers of this study, actually claim there is enough data and correlation to say there is an inherit deterrent effect to the DP. [2] The heritage foundation reports similar reports, from many economic professors and academic schools of thought, proving the DP deters crime and saves lives. [3] NPR shows a study saying each usage of the DP may even lead to 70 people saved! [4] Is this true? Maybe maybe not. But according to all of these statistics the DP has an inherit deterrent effect.

---> Lowe's findings

The reason I exclude Westley Lowe's findings (although he uses similar numbers) is because he is a book writer. Not making him less credible as he uses sourced information, but I wouldn't classify him in the academic findings above. Lowe finds that 3-18 murders are saved by usage of the DP. [5] He also finds historical linkages with deterrence from the DP in English occupied India. [5] He also finds when the moratorium of the DP occurred murder rates increased a significant amount. [5] He provides a nifty graph:

source 5

C2: Former convicts return to crime

Certian stats actually allow people on life sentenes parole in 3 years, others never. [6] The point is they sometimes get to go free. Now, I will explain how this is a problem.

There is no info on murder (on this study), but 2% of rapists commit the crime after released, 70% of robbers commit crimes once released. [7] Life sentces also usually decay over time, and the people are let out onto parole. [8] The problem with this is they commit the same crime after they are let out! [8]

Also 5% of death row inmates killed people in jail or during the escape, or if they are let out. [9] This means speadig up execution may be ideal, and putting them on life sentences means they now can kill more people while escaping/other inmates.

vote CON

[9] (PDF)
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you 16adams for accepting this debate so we can shed some light on this issue......

16kadams would love us to think that Capital Punishment is justified but it is not and here is why......


Let us look at the deterence theory....

My opponent says that "Capital Punishment is simple and logical theory to grasp" well I do not know about everyone else but the death of any human is far from a simple and logical theory to grasp.

Now imagine the moments before a person commits a homicide. Are we to believe a person would consider whether or not his state has a death penalty as opposed to just life imprisonment without the possibility of release? Common sense suggests that rational calculations about capital punishment statutes are not among the things that would cross the mind of a would be murderer. Yet as illogical as it sounds my opponent is asking us to accept this line of reasoning.

Academic studies

Studies on topics such as Capital Punishment can be biased. Confirmation bias is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in military, political, and organizational contexts. Would you read studies that go against your beliefs ?

My point being is that anyone can show statistics that support their arguments and hide the ones that do not. So, the next time you find yourself desperately Googling for some factual example that proves your argument is right, and failing to find even one, stop. See if you can put the brakes on and actually say, "Wait a second. If the things I'm saying in order to bolster my argument are consistently wrong, then maybe my argument is also wrong."

This is a recent article about deterrence. In this article entitled The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence, John Donnohue and Justin Wolfers examined recent statistical studies that CLAIMED to show a deterrent effect from the death penalty. The authors conclude that the estimates CLAMING that the death penalty saves numerous lives "are simply not credible." In fact, the authors state that using the same data and proper methodology could lead to the exact opposite conclusion that is, that the death penalty actually increases the number of murders. The authors state "We show that with the most minor tweaking of the research instruments, one can get estimates ranging from 429 lives saved per execution to 86 lives lost. These numbers are outside the bounds of credibility." (The Economists' Voice, April 2006).

Academic studies on Capital Punishment are next to useless

My answer to Lowe's findings:

There are some indicators that the death penalty has no effect.
Fact from 1976 to 1996, the number of executions per year in the United States has increased from 0 to just under 60. The homicide rate per 100,000 population has remained constant at just under 10.

Fact criminologists who belong to the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Law and Society Association were polled. Over 80% believe that our current knowledge does not indicate a deterrent effect. 75% felt that increasing the numbers of executions or decreasing time spent on death row would not result in a deterrence.

Fact in 1967 Thorsten Sellin compared the homicide rates between neighboring states in which some had the death penalty, and others did not. Sellin also compared murder rates before and after states either abolished or reinstated the death penalty. He found no statistically valid difference in rates in both cases. These results were summarized in a book by J.Q. Wilson. This might have been affected by the numbers of executions at the time; they had dropped to near zero in the U.S. so that even those states with death penalty laws on the books were not exercising them fully.

Former convicts return to crime ? The topic on hand is whether or not is Capital Punishment is justified or not I do not see how what a rapist does upon release is relevant .

My opponent stated the " 5% of death row inmates killed people in jail or during the escape, or if they are let out. [9] This means speadig up execution may be ideal, and putting them on life sentences means they now can kill more people while escaping/other inmates." There are not many people on death row that have been released unless they have been found not guilty. Speeding up execution would only add to the number of innocent people put to death. Since the reinstatement of the modern death penalty 87 people have been freed from death row because they were later proven innocent. That is a demonstrated error rate of 1 innocent person for every 7 persons executed. It is a central pillar of our criminal justice system that it is better that many guilty people go free than that one innocent should die(you cant appeal after you receive the lethal injection).

Just because some convicts return to crime does not justify Capital Punishment. Rape is not a murder. Bank robery is not a murder. If a man is found guilty of a homicide they can receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole(meaning they will never get out). Let us reflect to ensure that we are being just. Let us pause to be certain we do not kill a single innocent person. This is really not too much at all to ask for a civilized society.

We murder a person for the murder of another person that logic seems flawed to me.........

Vote against Capital Punishment

The death penalty has failed victims' family members in virtually every way, and many of us – including many who support the death penalty in principle – have come to support its end.

— Vicki Schieber, whose daughter Shannon was murdered in Philadelphia

A serial killer ripped Deirdre away from us in 1982. My family had no idea, then, that our ordeal was just beginning. All we knew was that the worst of the worst had happened, and the person who did it should pay the ultimate price – the death penalty. From 1982 until 1990 I lived day to day, appeal to appeal, decision to decision. We woke up every day wondering what might happen that day. Will there be another appeal? Another motion? What new decision might come down? The toll it took on me and my family was horrendous… Eight years of trials and retrials changed my mind about the death penalty. I learned the hard way that the death penalty is an albatross over the heads of victims' families.

— Jim O'Brien, whose daughter, Deirdre, was murdered

I'm here to tell you, as the Mother of a homicide victim, that the death penalty brings as much pain as it does relief, that it creates an entirely new layer of pain, and that many survivors of homicide victims would prefer that the offender in their case spend a lifetime of unimaginably painful confinement before dying a lonely and often painful death behind bars. And then still face whatever comes next.

— Janice Greishaber, whose daughter, Jenna, was murdered

When my brother was murdered I thought I was supposed to support the death penalty... Little did me and my family know then that when Michael Ryan was sentenced to death, we were sentenced too. Our sentence has been going on for 20 years and there has been no execution. For 20 years it has been all about Michael Ryan. He is all my family and I ever hear about. Jim is never mentioned… Having seen what the death penalty has done to my family, I have since changed my mind and now think it should be abolished.

— Miriam Thimm Kelle, whose brother, Jim, was tortured to death


---> deterrence theory

The basis of my opponents refutation is people are scared more of jail then the DP, because jail you never get let out. But this is false, as LWOP (life without parole) ends over time and many people get released after only a few years. [1] LWOP may be PLWOP, partial life without parole. The argument of you never get let out is false.

Also, many of these crazies enjoy killing. LWOP means they still get to do what they like best: kill. They can escape, then kill. They kill inmates, guards, visitors. LWOP is not as secure as putting them to rest, and they still get to do what they like. Also jail is pretty nice. They have TV's, and other recreational activities. [2] While waiting on death row you get crap.

---> Academic studies

My opponents first case is based on it might be biased, but then couldn't the study you posted be biased? My opponents arguments here are faulty as now her evidence is invalid, UNDER HIS OWN ARGUMENT. Kinda back fires... But her argument is based on people will prove their own conclusions, yet the studies I cited [some of them] where from anti DP advocates!

I will provide counter studies to his:

"The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston." [3]

"A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides." [4]

Also my opponents study is claiming against the study I found odd form the npr source, yet if you read the source it attacks the ones with large numbers, and does not attack the ones from smaller numbers. It states 86is to large, and so is 400, yet the studies I am showing say 3-18. Those are within the credible bounds, and therefore your refutatio does not even scathe my studies.

---> Lowe's findings

My opponent then puts counter studies, (which is adequate) but claims the murder rate stayed the same after its moratorium ended. "The results are boldly clear: executions deter murders and murder rates increase substantially during moratoriums. The results are consistent across before-and-after comparisons and regressions regardless of the data's aggregation level, the time period, or the specific variable to measure executions." [5, 6]

Then my opponents claim is experts disagree with me. Well having a PHD makes them better? The majority of economists are Keynesian, ok? They all denied the housing bubble would occur. The experts failed. Having experts agree with you is not a justification to prove anything.

She then cites the classic study of the states with the DP have higher crime rates. This is faulty as it does not take into account population, economics, society, and attitude. States with the DP are very populated. [7] Obviously things like Texas are going to have higher crime rates then Minnesota. You have to look at trends on the state level. What was the crime rate before and after the moratorium in X, and what was the crime rate before and after Y implemented the DP. The stud you cited does not account for the trends that my studies look for, and basically does a one shot comparison and ignores the state level data.

---> Convicts returning to crime

The point was LWOP lets people out as I showed, and criminals just go back and do more crimes once releases, and LWOP will lead to more deaths that way.

My opponent then states many death row inmates are not released. There have been man people released on death row once assumed innocent. [8] In america 140 have been released. [9] As 5% commit crimes again, we can assume having LWOP which lets people out more frequently will raise these rates or encourage other murders to happen while in jail. The point is LWOP means more murderers murder again.

Then my opponent then says my comparisons are faulty, and ignores my other statistic. the 5%, the 5% of murderers kill again. My opponent forgets this. As this is true LWOP will likely increase this as more get released under LWOP, and the DP keeps most of them in high security areas until executed or murdered.

Then my opponent leaks the classic wait what if he is innocent argument.
"As for the penal system accidentally executing an innocent person, I must point out that in this imperfect world, nothing that is worth having comes without risk. After all, far, far more innocent lives have been taken by convicted murderers than the supposedly 23 innocents mistakenly executed this century. " [10]

And there where 7000 executions. It said that in one of my sources. That's a great accuracy rate.

Then my opponent links a new argument on the family. I would like the voters to note the quotes are blank statements, it hurt our family. But does not explain how. These quotes are faulty, as giving the DP would seem like closure knowing he is going to rot in h-ll (assuming your a christian), or an atheist says he no longer exists, its over. Either way it would logically give closure to most victims.


Dropped arguments by con:

disregards life



The DP saves lives and deters murder, which makes it justifiable. My opponents arguments have been refuted, and he has dropped a few, for these reasons I urge a CON vote.

[5] Dezhbakhsh, Hashem and Mehlhop Shepherd, Joanna, "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a 'Judicial Experiment'" (Aug 19, 2003). Emory University Economics
Debate Round No. 2


Constitution: My opponent said "I droped my argument" which is not true. What I said was that "each state can formulate its own policy according to the Constitution."

Deterence theory:
My opponent has said "as LWOP ends over time and many people get released after only a few years. [1] LWOP may be PLWOP, partial life without parole. The argument of you never get let out is false." Now if my opponent would have researched this point a little more he would have known that many states here in the U.S. where a convict can be released on parole after a decade or more has passed. But for example, sentences of 15 years to life or 25 years to life may be given this is called an "indeterminate life sentence'" while a sentence of "life without the possibility of parole" is called a "determinate life sentence" or "civil death" meaning you will never get out. Execution is an irreversible punishment, death row convictions in the U.S. are considered with greater care. So as U.S. executions have declined, the proportion of inmates serving life without parole sentences has grown. Today, 1 in 11 prisoners is serving a life sentence, and one-third of those inmates will never be eligible for parole. As you can clearly see my argument that you never get out is far from false.

Next my opponent has said "many of these crazies enjoy killing. LWOP means they still get to do what they like best kill." But in fact prison murders are more rare than one might imagine there were five homicides inside all of New York's state prisons between 1996 and 1999.

His next argument is that as he said "While waiting on death row you get crap." Which is false. Death row inmates at San Quentin in California live in single cells which are larger than maximum security confines elsewhere, they have better access to phones and they have contact visits in plexiglass booths rather than in community halls. They have the only private accommodations in the 33prison network which is crammed with 160,000-plus convicts. Death row prisoners are served breakfast and dinner in their cells, can usually mingle with others in exercise yards while eating their sack lunches and have exclusive control over the television, CD player or other diversions in their cells.

"Death row inmates probably have the most liberal telephone privileges of anyone in state custody," said Terry Thornton, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officer, explaining they need ready access to their attorneys and can often make calls from their cells over a phone that is rolled along the cellblock. Not bad for a convicted murderer in a state prison wouldn't you agree?

This next article I could not believe......White supremacist gang hit man Billy Joe Johnson got what he asked for from the Orange County jury that convicted him of first-degree murder which was a death sentence.

It wasn't remorse for his crimes that drove him to ask for execution it was the expectation that conditions on death row would be more comfortable than in other maximum-security prisons and that any date with the executioner would be decades away if it came at all. This man requested the DP because on death row conditions are so much better.

Academic studies:
A clear scientific consensus that the DP does NOT deter. Scientists agree by an overwhelming majority that the DP has no deterrent effect. They felt the same way over ten years ago, and nothing has changed since then. States without the DP continue to have significantly lower murder rates than those that retain CP. And the few recent studies purporting to prove a deterrent effect, though getting heavy play in the media, have failed to impress the larger scientific community, which has exposed them as flawed and inconsistent.

Results reveal that most experts do not believe that the DP or the carrying out of executions serve as deterrents to murder nor do they believe that existing empirical research supports the deterrence theory. Fact, the authors report that 88.2% of respondents do not think that the DP deters murder. At the same time, only 9.2% of surveyed experts indicated that they believed the death penalty results in a significant drop in murder cases (56.6% completely disagreed with that statement, while 32.9% thought the correlation between CP and lower homicide numbers to be "largely inaccurate" 1.3% were uncertain). More than eighteen percent of surveyed experts went even further and actually expressed the belief that the death penalty leads to a higher rate of murders, something the authors call the "brutalization hypothesis".

Lowe's findings:
My opponent wants you to believe that CP deters crime. Factual evidence can and should inform policy making. The evidence for CP as an uniquely effective deterrent to murder is especially important, since deterrence is the only major pragmatic argument on the pro-death penalty side. If CP really has any effect on homicide rates, that effect must be small. Worse, it might go the wrong way!

Those who defend the deterrent value of the DP offer little systematic research to support their view. Instead, they rely on an intuitive feeling that CP should be uniquely effective. When the available evidence doesn't support that conclusion, they argue that the evidence is imperfect. It is. But if there were any substantial net deterrent effect from capital punishment under modern U.S. conditions, the studies we have surveyed should clearly reveal it. They do not.

Convicts returning to crime: My opponents argument is that a convict may get out if they receive LWOP. I have shown it is false and if they receive a "determinate life sentence" they will never be released.

My opponent has said my "what if he is innocent argument." is not a valid argument.

The risk that INNOCENT people will be caught in the web of the death penalty is rising. The increased rate of discovery of innocent people on death row is a clear sign that, even with the best of intentions, the criminal justice system makes critical errors--errors which cannot be remedied once an execution occurs. Courts are allowing executions to go foward even in the presence of serious doubts about the defendant's guilt. The current emphasis on faster executions, less resources for the defense, and an expansion in the number of death cases means that the execution of innocent people is inevitable.

The victims family quotes are relevant. The DP does not help them heal and is not the way to pursue justice for victims.

Conclusion: CP doesn't deter murder and it takes a life which shows it is not justifiable.

Life imprisonment without parole satisfies incapacitation. I'm not aware of anybody in recent history escaping from life without parole. There is clearly no possibility of restitution or rehabilitation if the felon is executed. So the decision on whether to alllow CP hinges on retribution and deterrence. Absent any conclusive evidence that capital punishment deters murder, that leaves retribution as the real issue. In order to justify capital punishment, we have to accept that retribution is a legitimate objective of the criminal justice system. Retribution is used to justify "an eye for an eye. Retribution is based more on emotion than on rational policymaking. And, let's say for sake of argument that retribution is legitimate. Isn't LWOP as well? In endorsing CP based on retribution, one is really saying that the marginal gain in retribution value from execution compared to life without parole is what justifies the policy.

Vote against CP it is flawed. CP in our society cannot be justified in any circumstance. If one INNOCENT person is executed it cannot be justified!!!!


dropped arguments from con:

My refutations on the constitution
and disregards life

As essentially i had the first chance to argue, I will not refute my opponents arguments, and let him have the last word. He added many new arguments this round which should be discarded.

=Reasons to vote PRO=

-- He dropped my arguments
-- I have better and more sources
-- I have proven the DP saves lives making it justified
-- Proved death row inmates would like LWOP as they can still escape and kill
-- LWOP means you can get let out of jail on parole after 60 years (that's why only 1/3 are eligible for parole at any one time)

Once again, I really had the first word in R1. So to make it fair I am not going to refute the already debunked arguments, and urge a pro vote.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by KILLUMINATI 6 years ago
yea i was confused as well about that
Posted by wiploc 6 years ago
It confuses me that the guy going first calls himself Con. I can't keep the players straight.

In future, make your resolution a statement, not a question. "Resolved: The death penalty should be abolished." And then be Pro, because you are affirming the resolution.
Posted by DragonX 6 years ago
I say yes because of numerous statements I've already mentioned
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by wiploc 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:20 
Reasons for voting decision: Very impressed with firstguy's sources.
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Dropped lots of arguments and more sources.