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

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 4/12/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 1,726 times Debate No: 112698
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
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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.


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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by canteenkenny 3 years ago
Several of the anti-DP arguments have no true merit. Of course the DP is not infallible, but them no human institution is. If you mean innocent people can be executed, change the rules to prevent that. And it is absolutely moral. At least a moral as nature, which punishes us regularly for infractions against her. And obviously it does not a deterrent. Criminals don't weigh punishment & benefit; they either don't expect to get caught or they don't care. And there is one absolutely certain benefit of the DP. That particular murderer will never, ever commit murder again. And cost? If we had a reasonably healthy justice system (we don't but could), the silliness of our expensive circus trials would end and the endless appeals would too. Again, changing the rules of the system, and not eliminating one of the tools to administer judgement/justice....that's the answer.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
I had to write this for a class debate and the funny thing is, is that I disagree with everything I said :)
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
Scroll all the way to the bottom and start there. It is the beginning of my argument.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
Scroll all the way to the bottom and start there. It is the beginning of my argument.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer and rapist that was put to death in 1994. According to the Crime Museum, "Gacy began to rape and kill young men. Over a period of just a few years, he murdered 33 people." He worked for birthday parties and targeted young men. He raped them, killed them, and buried them under and around his house. He was known as the "Serial Killer Clown" who was convicted of raping and killing at least 33 boys. He was put to death quickly and painlessly with lethal injection. This is an appropriate use of the death penalty. Horrendous crimes such as this cannot be ignored. These young boys were all innocent when they died. They had their whole lives ahead of them. Today, our team argued that the death penalty does not violate the 8th Amendment and the death penalty reduces the number of crimes committed in the first place because the threat of death scares the criminals. Our group strongly encourages you to think about all the aspects of Capital punishment. Capital punishment should be allowed throughout the United States and it is an efficient way of punishing those who commit capital crimes. Additionally, the government has never proven anyone innocent after execution. There are many stories on the internet about this, but that is just what they are, stories. The United States Federal Government has never proven any of these theories correct. Someone who has taken away the lives of others deserves to have their life taken away. If you don"t want to be put to death, then don"t commit the crimes punishable by death. Remember, the dead cannot cry out for justice. So it is the duty of the living to do so for them.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
To wrap up, the death penalty was inhumane in the past, but it has changed quite a bit over time. Lethal injection has been discovered, which is swift, straightforward, uncomplicated, and involves very little pain. Consequently, nobody will have to watch or hear about a ghastly, and frightful death sentence. This is more humane than having to live a rough life in prison, and having to get to put to death in brutal ways. Today - unlike in the past - Capital Punishment is a humane, unselfish, and simple form of punishment to eliminate the criminals who have committed crimes punishable by death.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
Some people also say that the death penalty is an inhumane and cruel way to solve the issue of large crimes getting committed. Before the mid 1900"s, a few ways of getting executed were electrocutions, and dismemberment (removal of limbs), getting beat to death, and starvation. I agree that those types of punishments are without a doubt inhumane. But, these techniques are rarely used today. Over time, people have realized that using these harsh methods to put people to death were not the right thing to do. Today, lethal injection is the main way in which people are put to death in the USA. Lethal injection is a humane form of Capital Punishment because it is quick and painless. Scientific American states, Lethal injection is used for capital punishment by the federal government and 36 States, at least 30 of which use the same combination of drugs. These drugs contains anesthesia, relaxants that paralyzes body muscles, and salts that speeds the heart until it stops. According to People Magazine, Jodi Arias, a 32 year old female who killed her lover in a first degree murder said she would rather get put to death than live her life behind bars, because she saw death as an ultimate freedom. Even some prisoners would choose to get put to death rather than living a dreadful life in prison. The death penalty would end an inmate"s suffering, while removing any regrets of poor decisions they have previously made lingering in their mind. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Supreme Court has ruled capital punishment constitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts quoted, "We begin with the principle . . . that capital punishment is constitutional. It necessarily follows that there must be a means of carrying it out." This quote is saying that capital punishment does not violate the constitution, and it exists for a reason. The fact that the death penalty is constitutional means it is humane and does not violate the 8th Amendment.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
Some people say that you cannot ensure that innocent people are put to death. It is true that it is impossible to be 100% sure someone is guilty, however it is also impossible to be 100% certain someone is innocent. According to the book Death Penalty Cases, the Supreme Court requires a series of seven rigorous steps in a death penalty case to ensure that the case is carried out strictly according to the law. DNA evidence, crime scene sciences, and detective techniques help ensure that all possibilities of innocence are explored and ruled out. The Death Penalty Information Center states the average time spent between being sentenced to death and executed is about ten years, allowing significant time for innocence to be proven. A thorough investigation continues even after the defendant is sentenced. Furthermore, a recent study from the National Academy of Science showed that 4% of death row inmates are proven innocent and exonerated. Many people interpret this means that 4% of people executed are innocent. In reality, it means that 4% of people sentenced are exonerated, released, and not executed. This illustrates the commitment to continued investigation after conviction and the extensive system in place. Generally speaking, there are many misconceptions regarding innocent deaths. According to the Seattle Journal for Social Justice, "Since 1976, the United States has executed over 1,400 offenders: none of them have since been granted a posthumous exoneration." A posthumous exoneration means someone has been proven innocent after they have died by the government. In conclusion, capital punishment has a thorough system in place with a multitude of steps to ensure the defendant is guilty. Executions are never carried out unless the police and detectives are certain that the person has committed the crime. The investigations continue even after the guilty verdict is given. The death penalty is an effective way of punishing the people who are not innocent.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
Deterrence is discouraging an action because of future consequences. In this case, deterrence is reducing the number of crimes committed. If someone is aware of the frightful consequences of committing a certain crime, then they may not choose to commit the crime in the first place. If someone is considering committing a horrendous crime in a state where the death penalty is legal, then they may want to think twice. To begin, a July 2003 study conducted by professors at Emory University showed that each execution results in an average of 18 fewer murders. 18 people was just 1 more person than the 17 innocent people who died in the Parkland, Florida school shooting. A shooting like the Florida shooting would never have happened if one criminal had gotten executed. Next, The Washington Post states, A 2003 study which was authorized in 2006 conducted by professors at the University of Colorado at Denver concluded that each execution results in 5 less homicides, while commuting a death sentence results in 5 more homicides. A homicide is someone killing one or more people. The reason less homicides would be happening in the first place is because the killer would be afraid to murder innocent people if they knew that they may get put to death afterward. The 43rd President if the United States George Walker Bush quoted, "I support the death penalty because I believe, if administered swiftly and justly, capital punishment is a deterrent against future violence and will save other innocent lives." This former president believes that the death penalty deters murder. There are numerous studies, observations, and calculations both included and excluded in my argument that show that less crimes, murders, and homicides occur with the death penalty in place. If a criminal is aware that they may be put to death after committing a gruesome, frightening crime they may want to rethink.
Posted by ranjess 3 years ago
Many argue that the death penalty is unconstitutional, violating the 8th Amendment. But, the death penalty does not violate the 8th Amendment if the punishment appropriately fits the severity of the crime that someone has committed. This is true because according to Cornell Law School, "Congress or any state legislature may prescribe the death penalty, also known as capital punishment, for murder and other capital crimes. The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty is not a per se a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment." The death penalty is not painful, cruel, or an unusual form of death. There is no torture or or brutal techniques of killing involved in Capital Punishment. Banning the death penalty in all states is unconstitutional because of the powers of the states stated in the 10th Amendment. states that the 10th Amendment is, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This means that each state can have a different opinion on things and make their own laws. All in all, the death penalty clearly does not violate the 8th Amendment because it is not a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
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