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Should Capital Punishment be Legal in the United States?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/17/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,543 times Debate No: 49330
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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First round is acceptance,
By accepting this debate you accept that you have burden of proof and that legal is defined as permitted by law.
I look forward to a great debate!


I accept.

Capital Punishment is also known as The Death Penalty. I will be using the terms imterchangably.

In this instance, we are simply arguing whether it (the death penalty) should, not whether or not it is right; these are genuinely exclusive terms.

I look forward to this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting this debate and my argument will be as follows:

Cost of Punishment:
When a prosecutor decides to seek the death penalty in a criminal case, the cost of the case is 1.26 Million dollars, whereas a non-death penalty case costs 740,000 dollars. If a prosecutor decided to seek the death penalty, that would cost taxpayers 1.7 times MORE than if they did not seek the death penalty. On top of that, it would cost 90,000 more dollars per year if they were on death row than if they were in general population.[1]

Racial Discrimination
A Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology study found that African American defendants were 1.7 times more likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants and African American defendants who killed white victims were 4.3 times more likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants who killed African Americans.[2] In the United States, the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under law. Because of the statistics stated, that equal protection is not happening and biased juries are sentencing more minorities to death than white people. There are evidently issues with who is sentenced to death.

Arbitrary Sentencing
It has been shown by Amnesty International that whether a defendant may get the death penalty depends on a few factors, which prosecutor they have, the location of the crime, plea bargaining, and in which region the crime took place. I also found a graph showing that regions have a huge role in which defendants will receive the death penalty and which don't.
Executions by Region[3]

Notice how many more defendants in the South are executed than defendants in the Northeast. This can raise the question of whether those defendants truly deserved the death penalty.

I believe that I have summarized both why the death penalty is immoral and why it should be illegal in the United States. It has been shown that capital punishment costs taxpayers an unnecessary amount of money, that minorities receive the death penalty more than white people, and that the death penalty can be an arbitrary punishment. These are all good reasons as to why the death penalty should not be legal in the United States.

I once again thank my opponent for accepting this debate and I look forward to his rebuttal, but I would also like to remind him that we are not debating the morality of the death penalty.




I thank my opponent for his response, and thank the audience for taking the time to read and assess our arguments,

As this debate is based on an assumption that morality will not be the main focus of arguments, I will be utilizing various articles regarding the origin, cost, and purpose of the death penalty. This includes the possibility and effectiveness of alternatives, the nature of capital punishment cases, the possible, plausible, and likely reasons behind the cost of capital punishment cases, and possible ways to alleviate the issues presented by capital punishment.

Deterrence Effect and “The Cost of Murder”

A correlation has been found between the use of the death penalty, and the number of murders in that state. Case studies from the states of Texas (1980-2000) and California (1938-1967) show a noticeable dip in the occurrence of murders. This does not look at the number of murders that were not legally documented. The person that conducted the study used FBI records to get a realistic count of the number of murders that were committed, giving calculations that leads to a conclusion of 42 lives saved per one execution. Though this is an isolated account, and cannot be assumed to be directly applicable to the rest of the United States, but must be taken into account as an example. We must consider the fact that, at least to a degree, we utilize the successes of others to achieve success ourselves. Further, the case study done in California shows the opposite effect. Following ruling by the Supreme Court that the Death Penalty is unconstitutional, there was a rise in the number of murders committed. Initially, it was a matter of the complexity of the cases involving the Death Penalty; there was a rise from 3.9 deaths per 100,000 people to 5.4 deaths per 100,000 people over a seven year period (1960-1967). However, following the aforementioned ruling by the Supreme Court, this number rose to 14.5 deaths in 100,000 people in 1980. I will note this is only a correlation, but it is a strong (in relative terms) correlation. [1}

This leads me into an interesting study I found upon researching the various costs that relate to murder. A group of economist has suggested a possible “value” that can be placed upon the act of murder; tangible and intangible costs are included, and a low-end cost of a little over 4 million and a high-end cost of almost 9 million was reached [2].Iowa State University suggests a much higher “value” of a little over 17 million [3]. (I understand “almost” and “a little over” are arbitrary terms, but the actual values can be seen on the aforementioned webpages) Though it is odd to place a dollar value to human life, this allows an argument based upon dollars and cents, which is the only other argument, current legality being the other, which is viable.

As mentioned by my opponent, the cost of a case in pursuit of the death penalty costs $1.26 million; this figure has been reported as a median. The cost of a death-penalty case has been estimated to be at least 50% more than a non-death-penalty case. In at least one state, this figure is 3 times as much. [4] All of these numbers seem to be related to the length of the cases involving the death penalty. The intricacies of the automatic appeals process adds cost, habeas corpus appeals add cost, but none of these are directly related to the actual execution of the individual, so it is feasible that such things can be changed [5].

The possibility of a policy change does not imply an attempt to change policies. In light of this, I will be looking at the total number of murders since 1978, and apply the each of the three dollar amounts provided by the “cost of murder” studies. I will be using an excel spreadsheet to add these numbers.


I copied the entire collection of crime rates, and pasted them into a Word document;

I then copied the column titled “murders”, and copied and pasted that into a second Word document;

I then deleted all years prior to 1978. Following this, I used Microsoft Excel, and used the “AutoSum” feature;

The sum that was given through this process is 63,226 deaths (1978 to present).

I will now multiply this sum (of 63226) by the dollar amounts given by the two studies mentioned earlier.

(Number of murders since 1978) * (cost of murder) = (total cost of murders since 1978)

63,226* $4,000,000 = $252,904,000,000

63,226 * 9,000,000 = $569,394,000,000

63,266 * 17,000,000 = 1,075,522,000,000

Even the most conservative cost (of 4 million), the cost of murders far exceeds the cost of the Death Penalty to the state of California by at least 50 times.

Saving Lives

There have been studies done that attest at least three saved lives to the use of the death penalty, with a possible high of 18 lives. If this is a possible outcome of the Death Penalty, it is a plausible reason to allow the death penalty to be a legal punishment. [7] If this is the case, there need only be policies put in place that ensure that guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Similar to rape cases, it is generally assumed that the person improsined is the guilty individual. Others are then driven away from behaavior that could lead to an arrest, and conviction. As mentioned in my first point, this was a very real factor in the past. The issue does not lie with the Death Penalty itself, but rather the tangible finances surrounding it.







Debate Round No. 2


Risen forfeited this round.


It is unfortunate that my opponent forfeited the last round. I would have liked to see how CON intended to refute my arguments.

In light of this, i will simply address a few if my opponents points, in order to solidify my arguments.

Arbitrary Sentencing

I will concede that there are several factors in determining a sentencing for the Death Sentence. I will also concede that there is a distinct difference in the number of Death Penalty sentences in the South, versus the North. However, two things that i would like to note:

1. The differnece in the number of Death Penalty sentences is as large as it is partially because there are more southern states that execute criminals, as well as more Southern states that have kept the death penalty legal.

2. The act of taking an innocent person's life is morally repugnant to most people. If a criminal is to be executed, it must be assured as close to possible that this person is actually a criminal.

Racial Discrimination

I will concede that there is some racial discrimination. I did not see any statistics regarding the nature of the crime committed; it cannot be assumed that the nature of the crime committed was similar. For that statistic to be reliable, it must make some mention of posible causes. The correlation is the only thing noted, and correlations does not imply causailty. It cannot be assumed that the race/ethnicity of the criminal has an effect on the sentencing. My opponent does not explore that.

**I would like to make a note, prior to anyone voting on this debate. The links that i have provided are not currently working. I am unsure why, as they were active when i linked them. Any voter who wishes to check these will have to check the website by hand, meaning they will have to begin with the homepage, and search through to the relevant webpages in order to ensure a thorough understanding. If necessary, feel free to comment, and i will do the search again to reach the same webpage, and offer you the necessary process. **

I hope you will vote Pro for this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Risen 7 years ago
I forfeit this debate due to time restraints, I would like to thank my opponent for debating this with me and apologize that I could not straighten out my schedule!
Posted by Pfalcon1318 7 years ago
what is going on?
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