The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Resolved: The United States of America should abolish the death penalty

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 4/2/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 1,412 times Debate No: 112156
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (0)




The debate will be structured as follows.

R1: Acceptance
R2: Opening Arguments
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Defense and closing arguments. No new arguments shall be introduced in this round.


I accept, but I want to ask my opponent for a few concessions. I would ask him to allow me to make new arguments in the final rounds and not him, given my disadvantage of going last. I would also like him to define "The United States". Thanks in advance for a fun debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Before we begin, I would like to pre-emptively thank my opponent for what I'm sure will be a fun and informative debate.

I will also define the United States of America, as requested by my opponent.

United States of America: The 50 states of the sovereign constitutional republic officially known as the United States of America.

I will be basing my case, that the death penalty should be abolished, on two main contentions; the practicality and the morality of the death penalty, both of which I will show to be poor enough to warrant the abolition of this dated practice.

Contention 1: Morality

The death penalty in practice is immoral because it is not infallible. Since 1973, 144 people that have been put on death row have been exonerated [1]. What this statistic demonstrates is that the justice system is not infallible, and people have been wrongfully placed on death row. In the past, people have been exonerated of their crimes years after they have already been killed. There have been at least 15 executions since the late 80's in which there has been deemed a strong chance that the person executed was in fact innocent [2].

A major problem with speculating how many people have been wrongfully killed is that we will never know for sure. Law professors have stated that there is simply no accurate way, outside of pure speculation, to determine whether someone that has been executed was innocent or not [1]. This, in and of itself, should be a very troubling statement. The fact that people are being killed regularly while some doubt of their guilt lingers is a stain on the moral fabric of society. It is antithetical to the meaning of the word justice to allow the execution of Americans when it is a well-known fact that wrongful executions are a real possibility and have happened in the past.

Despite the complex nature of determining the extent to which wrongful executions have been conducted, a study [3] was published, which concluded that, if all inmates on death row were to remain indefinitely on death row, the exoneration rate would be around 4.1%. This is almost two times greater than the actual exoneration rate, which is near 1.6%. What this tells us is that there have likely been more innocent people executed than have been exonerated. When we consider that the number of those exonerated in the past 30 years is 144, we can see what a truly staggering number that is. Hundreds of innocent Americans killed by their own justice system.

Ask yourself how many innocent Americans the government should be allowed to kill. If the answer is 0, then there is no logical position to support other than the full abolition of the death penalty.

Contention 2.1: Cost

There is a misconception that executing criminals is more convenient and less costly than imprisoning them for life. This is, of course, false. Studies have been conducted in a number of states:

In Oklahoma, a study (4) discovered that, on average, capital cases cost 3.2 times more than non-capital cases.

In Washington, a study (5) examined death penalty cases since 1997 and discovered that taxpayers had to foot a $120,000,000 bill overall. After the reinstatement of the state's death penalty, it was found that each execution ended up costing taxpayers around $24,000,000.

In Kansas, a study (6) from the Kansas Judicial Council concluded that a case involving the death penalty costs, on average, 4 times as much as a similar case where the death penalty is not sought.

A study (8), discovered that death penalty cases cost states upwards of $20,000,000 more per year than cases seeking alternative sentences. It found that states with the death penalty spend 3.5% of their budget on upkeep on the legal institutions required to uphold the death penalty, compared to 2.9% spent by states without the death penalty.

On top of the costs of the trial itself, prisoners generally spend 20 years on death row before their execution, so the costs of keeping incarcerated prisoners alive apply to them as well during this time.

Reports done on the cost of keeping prisoners incarcerated discovered that the current cost of keeping an inmate in state prison is $47,102/yr [7]. Even when assuming that a prisoner sentenced to life will live out 60 years in prison [which they often do not come to close to], the cost does not exceed $3,000,000. This is miniscule compared to the tens of millions of dollars spent on death penalty cases.

Donald McCartin, a judge that has sentenced 9 people to death row, has stated that it is 10 times more expensive to kill an inmate than to keep them alive.

Contention 2.2: Benefit? Nope.

Of course, if the death penalty is costing so much, then there must be a payoff. Right?

Wrong. A 2009 survey (9) of leading criminologists in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology showed that over 88% of them say that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder. Murder rates in death penalty states have consistently remained higher than those in non-death penalty states.

We can observe here that there is absolutely no correlation between upholding the death penalty and murder rates.

There are no credible statistics that prove causation between the death penalty and crime rates. In fact, the states without the death penalty tend to have lower crime rates than those with it. This shows that there is no correlation between the death penalty and crime rates, and thus it fails to properly carry out one of its only functions. The fact of the matter is that American taxpayers are being forced to squander millions of dollars on an institution that just isn't doing what it should be. Like in any sane business venture, a ridiculously expensive project that isn't providing any benefit should be abandoned to cut everyone's losses.


The death penalty is a stain on the American justice system. The sole purpose of the justice system is to provide justice for both the victims and the accused and protect society from crime. I have shown in my two contentions above that the death penalty does neither. It has been proven that mistakes have been made in death penalty cases, and people have been wrongfully killed by their own justice system. The exact number of people that have been wrongfully killed will never be known, but there is no doubt that number is greater than what we already know. On top of this failure, the death penalty fails to provide any meaningful reduction of crime rates, while eating up millions of taxpayer dollars. There is no justification to keep this wasteful and immoral institution in place.




I ask the judges to forgive some formatting and other errors due to writing this in small ten minute blocks on my cellphone. Thanks in advance

My opponent is arguing the position that the death penalty should be completely abolished. I don"t have to argue the status quo to win this debate.I just have to show one case where the death penalty is justified. If I show that one case, then the law can be properly constrained to just be used for that one situation. Undeniably the purpose of the justice system is to provide justice. If justice does not occur than criminals get the impression that society does not care.

This is similar to what occurs in Broken Windows Theory. Broken windows theory is the theory that allowing visible signs of lawlessness and just general scum baggery will signal to others that the behavior is acceptable and have a sort of snowball effect. Allowing murderers to roam around prisons instead of putting them on the fast track to being killed creates an environment where people think it"s okay to shank each other.

Broken windows theory was proven when New York conducted experiments attacking graffitti and "quality of life" crimes in the early 90s and seeing a sharp reduction in crime that followed.

But some recent experiments also support the conclusion that broken windows theory is correct.

"researchers exposed study subjects to a mix of orderly and disorderly images. Then they administered a challenging math exam, which the participants had to grade themselves on afterwards. The higher they scored, the participants were told, the larger the cash reward they received. Without saying as much, that grading model essentially cleared a path for cheating, if the subjects were so inlined.

And cheat many of them did"and more so if they"d looked at a certain kind of visual cue. In fact, the researchers found that subjects who were exposed to more disorderly images prior to the exam were 35 percent more likely to cheat, and cheated by a much greater magnitude, than did participants who saw more orderly images.

All the evidence suggests that by killing the scummiest people, we could prevent a lot of prison rape and shankings and all that good stuff.

Bargaining Chips

Keeping the death penalty is important because it can help close cases. Killers will often plea bargain down to life helping investigators bring closures to families by securing confessions or helping to find bodies of missing persons. According to Foy Latham: "In the case of the Green River Killer, the killer pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated murder and agreed provided information to help locate remains, closing the cases and providing closure to the families."

Counter Plan

I suggest we save costs by fast tracking deaths. Speeding up the appeals process is one way, but Roy Latham suggested some other ways in his debate against Mikal. "The main reason that it costs so much to prosecute death penalty cases is that judges opposed to the death penalty allow trivial or even ridiculous legal arguments to be used as an excuse to delay carrying out the sentence. Some judges go so far as to violate the law in supporting appeals."

Roy Latham continues by saying " A remedy is to tighten the judicial oath and to provide an independent panel to censure judges who pursue politics on the bench. The ultimate remedy is impeachment by the legislature to restore legislative power to the proper branch of government.

Some lengthy appeals are generated when the initial counsel did not provide an adequate defense. This happens when a rural locality cannot afford expensive outside counsel to defend the accused. State governments should bear the costs; those costs will be saved later by a shortened appeals process.

Finally, all appeals based upon legal process should be required to be filed within two years of the initial conviction. That would prevent judges from granting delays based upon appeals filed in sequence"

Preventing Deaths

The infamous serial Killer and Necrophiliac Ted Bundy killed atleast 30 women.

According to the attorney who defended him the number is likely much much higher. Ted Bundy escaped from prison twice, and killed both times, one time walking into a sorority and killing 2 of the 4 girl"s there.

Not only should we have the death penalty but there should be a fast track to execution. To keep people safe from People like Ted Bundy.

It"s not just people on the outside of prison we need to keep safe either. The murder rate for lifers is about 5 for every 100,000. If we can put these murderers on the fast track to death row, we"ll save probably about 4 or 5 lives a year.

Another Plan

Another plan I think would work great is bringing back Gladiator combat among death row inmates. This could be paid for by redirecting the billions of dollars spent on football stadiums and other sports in major American cities to state sanctioned killing events.

This type of event could give the former murderers a chance to redeem their lives by becoming heroes and and by killing piece of crap murderers.

It would make the family members of victims happy by watching the person who tortured their relatives get slain. It would also help quench the American vengeful blood lust that permeates us and is the reason why enjoy things such as football or boxing which are inferior substitutes for gladiatorial combat.


Why should we care about bringing About so much happiness?

I offer the moral framework of utilitarianism, since an ethical framework has not been offered thus far. Utilitarianism is assumed for most debates but let me spell out what it is here.

"moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility in maximizing happiness or pleasure as summed among all people. It is, then, the total utility of individuals which is important here, the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people."

We know that pleasure is good and that pain is bad, and as humans we don"t know much else, but that much cannot be debated. If pleasure is good, we should act in a way that maximizes pleasure for the most people, and quenching the general bloodlust of the American people as evidenced by their sport watching habits and the events that followed 9/11 as well as satisfying relatives of victims harmed by murderers will bring about the most happiness. Vote gladiator combat. Vote con
Debate Round No. 2


I will be using this round to rebut my opponent’s contentions.

He starts off by asserting that to win the debate, he only needs to show one case where the death penalty is justified, and then the law can be properly constrained to “just be used for that one situation.” This is incorrect. To prove that the death penalty should be kept, it is up to Con to show that it is both effective and practical. If Con cannot refute my arguments against the status quo, but instead proposes an alternate system in which the death penalty is used, then he must show that his new system is effective, practical, and cost-efficient.

Broken Window Theory

While this theory makes sense, Con makes a big assumption. This assumption is that, if we don’t kill criminals, then we are signalling to others that criminality is acceptable. This is a huge leap in logic. A life imprisonment accomplishes the same thing; it shows that committing serious crimes will not go unpunished. Con has not shown that the death penalty does better than life imprisonment at deterring criminals, and thus has not shown that life imprisonment is not an equal substitute to the death penalty’s role in the “broken window theory.”

Con’s evidence for the validity of the broken window theory is not evidence that is particularly in favour of the death penalty. It only shows that we need to have punishment for crimes, it does not show that the death penalty, and not alternatives like life imprisonment, is the right punishment. I have shown in my opening argument that there is no correlation between crime rates and the use of capital punishment, and thus this proves that the death penalty is not a necessary punishment under the broken windows theory.

For Con’s broken window argument to be effective, he will need to prove correlation and causation between the use of the death penalty and lower crime rates. If not, we can substitute the punishment of life imprisonment and abolish the wasteful death penalty.

Prison Crime

Con states that be killing criminals, we can prevent crime inside prisons. He presents no evidence for this, and there are serious holes in this reasoning. Like I pointed out in the opening round, executions cost a lot of money and take up a lot of court time [which is not in high supply]. Con is suggesting that we kill those who commit crimes inside prison, on the taxpayer’s dime, without providing evidence that this will actually reduce crime inside prisons.

There are already methods, such as solitary confinement, that don’t cost the taxpayers as much as executions, aren’t dishing out the irreversible punishment of death, and have actually been proven to work. Con will need to prove that killing inmates is more effective than solitary confinement at reducing prison crime levels to justify spending more taxpayer money on the executions.

Con’s Counter-Plan

Roy Latham’s plan is extremely vague and does not prove the effectiveness of this shortened appeals process, nor that it saves costs. On top of that, he only notes one cause of lengthy appeals, and assumes that this is the only thing that makes killing criminals more expensive than locking them away for life. The burden of proof is on Con to provide a more detailed plan to reduce costs, instead of just saying “we’ll reduce appeals somehow, and this will save us an undetermined amount of money.”

Another serious problem with reducing appeals is that it increases the likelihood of innocent people being executed. Remember, the reason that the appeals process is so long is because it is the ultimate injustice for the state to kill an innocent man. I have shown in my first contention in my opening round that it is already proven that the justice system makes mistakes when handing down sentences for capital punishment, people have been exonerated all the time, and often many years after their sentencing.

The call for reduced appeals in not new, some states have been asking for it for some time now, an example being Texas. Recently, a mortal blow was administered to those asking for reduced appeals. A man who was exonerated after 12 years on death row came out against the proposal to reduce appeals, revealing that had the appeals process been shorter, he would have been executed [1]. This is just one example.

The fact of the matter is, that right now, despite the lengthy appeals process, innocent people are being sentenced to death and it is very likely that they are being killed [as shown in my opening round.] If we reduce this process even further, we are almost guaranteeing that more innocent people will be killed.

Preventing Deaths

Con gives one example of Ted Bundy, who escaped from prison and killed more people. He states that if we institute a fast track for murderers, we reduce their likelihood of escaping, and can thus save “about 4 or 5 lives a year.”

There is a big problem with this argument. Con keeps bringing up a “fast track to execution,” but this proposal is so vague that we cannot take it seriously. I have shown that his only proposal so far, to reduce the appeals process, will actually cost more innocent lives. Already, the execution process often fails to protect innocent people, a faster one would only cause the careless executions of more innocent lives

The crux of the argument is how many innocent lives are we willing to take. Is it acceptable for the state to execute innocents under the pretense of reducing crime?

Gladiator Combat

This is not a proposal even worth considering. Con makes a number of assumptions and contradictions.

Firstly, he states that Americans will be just fine with redirecting the billions spent on popular sports into gladiator combat. He has not proven that gladiator combat will be more popular than the most popular sports in America and the world. The assumption that modern people, many of whom cannot even stomach gory movies, will be perfectly fine with funneling billions of dollars into gladiator areas, is very naïve one.

Secondly, he contradicts himself. He states that these vents could give murderers a chance to redeem their lives and become heroes, but he also states that the family members of those killed would be please by watching those who killed their loved ones get slain. What if the murderer actually becomes a hero of the arena? What of the family members of those who he killed? They would get no justice, and they would have to watch the killer of their loved ones become a vilified hero of the American public. There is not justice in that.

The utilitarian argument by Con assumes that utilitarianism is the most ethical framework. However Con just assumes that gladiator combat will provide happiness for Americans. He states that their “sport watching habits and the events that followed 9/11” prove this. However, this is big assumption. Americans don’t watch sports where people are brutally murdered. Also, he fails to note how the military actions after 9/11 were only popular until it was revealed how many innocent civilians were being killed.


Con has failed to provide any good reasons to keep the death penalty as it is. He has also failed to provide any real and effective alternate solutions to keep the death penalty. Therefore, his case has failed. Vote Pro.





Once again, done completely with my iPhone. Please excuse format and choppiness

Pro"s "moral argument" is that if a single innocent life is lost as a result of this policy, itshould be eliminated. After his section on morality he concludes by stating;

"Ask yourself how many innocent Americans the government should be allowed to kill. If the answer is 0, then there is no logical position to support other than the full abolition of the death penalty."

He wants to discuss practicality of policies, but acts as if no policies should result in the loss of innocent life. To see the absurdity of this, try applying that statement to other policies. Seatbelts cause conservatively estimating 100 deaths per year, by trapping people submerged in water or whose cars exploded.

Some of those people undoubtedly wore seatbelts merely because it was the law, meaning the policy kills 100 people per year. To put what we are debating in perspective, pro is arguing against something that causes 20 deaths per year, if we assume 2% are innocent (not all people exonerated are innocent, many may be exonerated due to evidence being withheld that "may" have swayed a jury), than we are talking about 1 innocent life lost every 4 or 5 years because of this policy.

Yet seat belts save several thousand lives per year, and could save more if there was higher compliance. When we judge the merits of a law based on how many innocent lives are lost, we need to weigh that against how many innocent lives are saved. If you buy my utilitarian argument from last round, you only need to look at how many people the law makes happy, and given a 67% [1]support of the death penalty from the general population, we can see keeping the death penalty legal would cause more happiness from that point alone. However if you don"t buy my utilitarian argument than by the end of this round you will still agree that the death penalty still saves more lives innocent or not, than it takes.

If I can prove it saves more lives than is costs than I hands down win the moral argument and the debate, and that is even on the off chance the rest of my arguments fail.


My opponent starts off his deterrence section by not knowing how to properly use and utilize statistics. Saying that "88%" of criminologists say the death penalty is not a deterrent. However if you actually read things in detail, you can see this is misleading.[3] These criminologists were asked to set opinions aside and look at what the empirical data suggests. If asked instead does the empirical evidence support that the death penalty is definitely not a deterrent, you may have gotten a similarly high number. The reason for this is because the scientific consensus up until 2012 was represented in the a national research council study:

    "The committee concludes that re- search to date is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates.

However this doesn"t address some of the lesser known studies done on this subject as well as studies conducted after 2012. Studies I"ll mention.

Pro goes on to argue that because murder rates and crime rates are lower in non death penalty states that it must mean the death penalty has no deterrent effect. This is untrue. Maybe rednecks in the red states most likely to implement the death penalty are just more prone to fly off the handle, or maybe people in low crime areas feel safe so they feel like they can be more merciful to criminals.

The states that have higher murder rates also tend to lead the nation in domestic violence as well, and it"s possible wife beaters are more inclined to support the death penalty. All that speculation is beyond the scope of this debate.

There are two types of deterrence we need to look at. The first was mentioned in the prior round. If we removed most or all of the people doing life without parole we could eliminate their contribution to the problem with inmates murdering each other. To state the obvious, if these people aren"t around to kill other inmates, they can"t kill other inmates. If you remember in the previous round I stated that we could prevent up to 5 of these killings a year by making the death penalty more common and happen at a faster rate. The first type of deterrence is removing murderers from existence so they are rendered physically incapable of murdering. The second type of deterrence is preventing people from murdering to start with.

If there were some periods of time in states where the death penalty was used and then not used and then used again, could we hope to compare the murder rates before and during and after these periods to see correlation.

Hold on, there was a time when this occurred. There was a moratorium set on murders by the Supreme Court several years ago where we observed an increase in murders in death penalty areas, followed by a decrease in murders once the moratorium went away. We also have periods of time where the death penalty was more common than other times, where we can study the effects of increasing and decreasing the number of murderers killed. Below is an excerpt from a previous debate I done on the topic excluding citations which can be found in that debate. [5]

    Studies have been done to show that as many as 18 lives are saved per execution [1].

    "In the early 1980s, the return of the death penalty was associated with a drop in the number of murders. In the mid-to-late 1980s, when the number of executions stabilized at about 20 per year, the number of murders increased. Throughout the 1990s, our society increased the number of executions, and the number of murders plummeted. Since 2001, there has been a decline in executions and an increase in murders."[2}

    At the time some people thought this could be coincidence so a regression analysis was done and showed that there was less than a 1 in 18,000 chance that the correlation was random. Pretty much any study on the death penalty you look at since the 90s shows that the death penalty and actual execution have a real deterrent effect and actually saves lives. [2][3][4][5]

    Cass Sunstein writes

    " If the recent evidence of deterrence is ultimately shown to be correct, then opponents of capital punishment will face an uphill struggle on moral grounds. If each execution saves many innocent lives, the harms of capital punishment would have to be very great to justify its abolition"[6]

    My opponent may show a number of death penalty states where it seems that deterrence isn't working but

    A recent study offers more refined findings.

    "Disaggregating the data on a state-by-state basis, Joanna Shepherd finds that the nationwide deterrent effect of capital punishment is entirely driven by only six states"and that no deterrent effect can be found in the twenty-one other states that have restored capital punishment. What distinguishes the six from the twenty-one? The answer, she contends, lies in the fact that states showing a deterrent effect are executing more people than states that are not."



    The death penalty saves lives . If you reject the death penalty then you do it at the cost of several innocent people."

I addressed costs in opening arguments, which serve as rebuttals, so all counter rebuttals and conclusion will be saved until next round.

Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Wylted 3 years ago
Yeah we will.
Posted by Varrack 3 years ago
yall ought to reset this. I was hoping to read it
Posted by Wylted 3 years ago
Regardless of the results of this, I wouldn"t mind doing this again when I have more time to conduct new research.
Posted by Wylted 3 years ago
I apologize in advance. I lead with my left hand
Posted by Midnight1131 3 years ago
Sorry m8y, but no new arguments in the last round.
Posted by Wylted 3 years ago
I will steal that argument. If they are innocent who cares, they go to heaven anyway
Posted by Wylted 3 years ago
I will steal that argument. If they are innocent who cares, they go to heaven anyway
Posted by asta 3 years ago
If your innocent, God would probably send you to heaven. Atheists tend to convert to a religion on their death bed out of the fear of hell. Innocent people only make up 4% of the convicted population for murder. To put that into perspective, many states where the death penalty for murder is the law didn't execute an innocent person, because executions are so rare.

There is the cost argument but if people are executed publicly in a stadium, then people would have to pay ticket money for the execution and this can pay for the associated costs.

Also, ticket money can pay for victim restitution.
Posted by Varrack 3 years ago
Lmao @ Wylted
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