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

The Death Penalty Should be Abolished in the USA

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/2/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,067 times Debate No: 80420
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




First Round is for Acceptance only.

Resolution: The Death Penalty Should be Abolished in the United States of America

Death Penalty: punishment by execution.
Should:used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticising someone's actions
Abolish: formally put an end to (a system, practice, or institution).

Good luck!


I accept and look forward to a thoughtful exchange.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks, treeless, for accepting. I will now present my arguments.

1. Death sentences are not handed down consistently. In 31 states, death is a possible punishment. In 19, it is not. In Oklahoma, 6 percent of murderers get death. In Texas, 2 percent of them do. (As of 2004)(1)There's a lot of inconsistency between the states, but there can also be inconsistency due to other factors. For example, the jury,must decide whether the defendant should die or not. The jury can easily decide different things in different cases depending on the people on the jury. Of course, this is true with guilty/not guilty verdicts, but when people die due to the composition of a jury, there is something wrong. Another inconsistency is the prosecution of more people for the death penalty when a white person is murdered. Again as of 2004, black people who murder white peoples get the most death prosecutions, then white people who murder white people, then white people who murder black people and finally black people who murder black people. This valuing of some life over other life is clearly absurd and results in people getting killed for offences that they wouldn't die for if they only murdered someone else. This inconsistency is a strong reason for abolishing the death penalty, because it is being applied unjustly.

2. Innocent deaths. Since 1973, 130 people have been released from death row after they were found innocent (2). 130! That means that almost certainly, out of the 1416 that have been executed since 1976 (3) at least one innocent life was ended. If the death penalty was not in existence, that person (or those people) would have spent a long time in jail, sure. However, there is a likelihood that new evidence would have come out to free those people if they were not executed. Also, the act of killing innocent people is a terrible one morally. If the state does do it (it probably does) how is it any better than the murderers it is targeting?

3. The death penalty is supposed to be a retributive measure. If you murder, you are supposed to get murdered. However, only 2.5% of murderers get death sentences(1). That means that the death penalty is not about retribution. It is about chance. The jury can decide on subjective things such as the character of the defendant or the defendant's remorse. Therefore, the death penalty can be retribution for the jury not you enough, or you not crying as hard as they would like. The death penalty must be applied to all murderers, or all of one type of murderer to even begin to be fair. The Supreme Court ruled such a system unconstitutional in Gregg v. Georgia (4). Therefore, the death penalty cannot legally be applied in a fair manner and should be abolished.

4. The death penalty leads to murders. In 2013, the murder rate in death penalty states was 4.72 per 100,000 people. In non-death penalty states, it was 3.88 per 100,000 (5). It is true, correlation does not equal causation. But at the very least, the death penalty is not a better deterrent than life imprisonment. At worst, the death penalty could be leading to more murders by angering individuals. A system which is not working should go. The death penalty is clearly not working as a deterrent.

5. The death penalty costs more than life imprisonment. It is a common misconception that the death penalty is cheaper. It really is not, and will never be. Due to the large amount of appeals and oversight, it cost $90,000 per year per inmate to hold someone on death row in California in 2008 (6). The average wait on death row for Americans is 10 years(2). That adds up to a lot of wasted money. In fact, California could save over 120 million dollars a year by abolishing the death penalty (6). That's right. By abolishing an inefficient an unfair system, California would save money. Imagine what could be done with 120 million dollars! It could be spent on health, education, parks, even crime prevention. Surely this helps society more than killing people.

6. International consensus. In the UN in 2014, 117 countries voted to abolish the death penalty worldwide. 38 voted to keep it.(7)The death penalty is on the way out in the rest of the world. Clearly, most countries have realised that the death penalty is expensive, unfair and kills innocents. Hopefully, the USA does at some point as well.




In regards to Pro's first argument of "consistency", I would like to point out that consistency has nothing to do with legality or why something should be banned. Different states have different laws via the 10th amendment which respects the state to have jurisdiction and control over their own laws and its execution. Should we then get rid of the 10th amendment all together to solve the various inconsistency among state laws? To continue to his argument of racism, the argument is another debate all together, as racist bias is not exclusive to capital punishment. Racists judges give longer jail terms to black people and Asians, but does this mean that we should also ban jailing people for crimes[1]? I ask Pro to be consistent in his argument and concede that he is also arguing for banning jails due to inconsistent racist sentencing.

Pro's second argument is about innocent deaths. This is a more relevant argument. However, innocent sentencing is not a problem of capital punishment but a failing of judgment from the prosecution and the judge. I propose that capital punishment be used only when there is undeniable proof such as a confession or video/photo evidence of the crime, along with strong forensic evidence. Given the logic that innocent sentencing should ban capital punishment, the same argument must be made for jails as well, as an innocent man serving nearly a life-sentence in jail is arguably as cruel as killing an innocent man. The argument that states killing murderers makes them no better than murderers is to also say that killing a criminal in self defense, makes the defender no better than the criminal. According to Forbes, 4 percent of people were innocently executed from data collected over 30 years [2]. I dare not say this is acceptable or negligible, but this is more a problem with the prosecution and the judge, and not the principle itself.

Pro's third argument states that death penalty should be banned because not enough people get executed for murder. The supreme court did not rule capital punishment unconstitutional.

"The imposition of the death penalty does not, automatically, violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment. If the jury is furnished with standards to direct and limit the sentencing discretion, and the jury's decision is subjected to meaningful appellate review, the death sentence may be constitutional. If, however, the death penalty is mandatory, such that there is no provision for mercy based on the characteristics of the offender, then it is unconstitutional." [3]

In fact, the supreme court urges that "the characteristics of the offender" be taken in consideration to be shown "mercy". Pro's argument here is either a dishonest representation or a misunderstanding of the ruling.

Pro's fourth argument states that murder rates in death penalty states are higher than non-death penalty states. This fails into take into consideration all the facts that play into crime and murder in general such as poverty, population density, and culture[4]. Pro's argument that the death penalty not being a deterrent (if one were to humor him despite his lack of evidence) should be cause for the death penalty to be abolished, the same argument must be made for life-imprisonment or jails in general, as jails have not deterred criminals from being criminals, it follows based on Pro's logic that jails should also be abolished.

Pro's fifth argument is about costs. I do concede that the current system makes it so that the death penalty is an expensive punishment to carry out. However, this is a flaw of the jurisdiction and not the principle of the crime itself. It is also cheaper to not send criminals to prison at all and give them probation and a stern warning. Does this mean we should follow this course of action?

Pro's sixth argument is about international consensus. If he is appealing to the tyranny of the majority opinion, then this argument would certainly be reasonable. However, morality is not dictated by majority rule. If majority of people were in favor of capital punishment, would Pro change his view on the matter?


My argument is fairly simple.

Every person's life is sacred to one's self. This is why we view murder as something so atrocious, because we view life as having significant value to ourselves. We created laws in agreement that one's life should not be taken without good reason, such as self-defense. Those that defile this agreement should be punished accordingly. If one takes life or the lives of others, then he forfeits his own life, as per breaking the social contract that binds us as a society. Justice is ideally the equal punishment or redistribution for a crime committed, and in the case that equal punishment or redistribution are impossible, the greatest possible punishment be given. To some people this might be life in jail, to others it might be execution. The victim's family and friends should have some say, as being partial victims themselves, as to which punishment is more appropriate. And should that be a death sentence, then so it should be given the severity of the crime.

Debate Round No. 2


Con claims that some of my arguments are irrelevant. I believe that he misunderstands those arguments (which is, admittedly, partly my own fault)

RE Inconsistent Application (my arguments 1 and 3). Con claims this argument is irrelevant because the inconsistent application of the penalty is not enough to abolish it. My argument is that it is. The inconsistent application, I said, could not be changed successfully and therefore the death penalty should be abolished. I also argued that leaving the death penalty to juries was unfair, but the Supreme Court says that the death penalty must be left to juries. Therefore, I argued, the only fair thing to do was to abolish the death penalty. Con has misunderstood this, and claims that I said that the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. I never said such a thing.

RE Innocent Deaths (my argument 2). Con rebuts my innocent deaths argument by claiming that prosecutions and judges should be improved and the death penalty should stay. Con also argues that the death penalty should only be used in cases with strong evidence. My argument is that no matter how good the jury, judge and prosecutors are, and no matter how compelling the evidence is, there will still be some innocent deaths. These deaths will be irreversible, even if new evidence arises after death. In my opinion, it is not worth it to pay the price of just one innocent death, for a system that is not even proven to be more effective than a life sentence.

RE murder rates and deterrent (my argument 4). Once again Con fails to understand my argument. I said that the death penalty clearly did not deter murders more than life in jail, therefore there is no reason to apply it. I did not say that it was not at all a deterrent and I did not say that life in jail was a 100% deterrent, as Con seems to think. Also, Con says that the difference in murder rate is due to other factors. However, he provides no evidence that states with the death penalty have more of those contributing factors.

RE cost (my argument 5): Con concedes my point but says that cost is not a main factor in this debate. He says that by following my logic, probation should be used instead of jail for murderers. Probation is not a deterrent, while jail is. Con's argument falls apart. I would also argue that, while true that expensive alternatives are sometimes better than cheap ones, Con provides no argument that the death penalty is better than life in jail. He also does not mention the $120 million annually that, in California alone, could be used on hospitals or schools.

RE international consensus (my argument 6): Con uses the obvious argument that 'if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too". Con is correct. However, my 6th argument is a minor point in the debate, and is not meant to be a main reason to get rid of the death penalty. It is simply meant to illustrate that many experts and people world-wide agree with me, and that that should be taken into consideration in a small way.

According to Con "Justice is ideally the equal punishment or redistribution for a crime committed, and in the case that equal punishment or redistribution are impossible, the greatest possible punishment be given". I accept this. My argument is that life in jail is equal to the killing of an innocent. The mental anguish that murderers feel in jail should not be underestimated. The murderers must think about what they have done and the consequences. For the years they have left, they must realize that they will have no freedom. They must realise that what they have done is the worst thing that a human can do. However, if you simply kill murderers, the punishment is not equal. The murderers get an easy way out, and don't have to feel remorse. Even if the death penalty is as bad for murderers as life imprisonment, I would still argue, given the litany of problems I have found in my other arguments, that life imprisonment should be used.

Thanks to Con for his excellent arguments.


-Rebuttals Expanded-

-Inconsistent Application-
The problem with the "inconsistent application" argument is that it argues inconsistency to be a valid reason to abolish something. Should we then get rid of prisons too? As people are more likely to be unjustly sentenced for longer and harsher terms based on their race (racism, which I remind, is a point Pro makes in round 2)? Pro does not address the inconsistency in the logic of his own arguments. In regards to the Supreme Court ruling, the Court upheld the death penalty, upheld the need for a jury, and upheld that there be a capacity for "mercy" to be shown based on the person's character and individual case. I do not see how this helps Pro's case.

-Innocent Deaths-
No system will ever be perfect. There will always be flaws. The point is that the innocent deaths are not fault of the death penalty, but the poor way the prosecution and judge judged the situation despite the lack of near-absolute proof. An innocent man that spends life in prison is arguably just as bad if not worse.

Pro admits that correlation is not the same as causation. Showing a one person difference between x:100,000 does not at all support that the death penalty make people more violent by proxy. I have already shown the causes for violent crimes in the previous section, and if Pro feels strongly about his statistics, it is his burden to prove that his argument is sound after admitting its flaw. In regards to the death penalty not being a good enough deterrent, this is a relativity issue to begin with, as some inmates prefer one over the other. Both are bad, it is not a matter of which is a better deterrent, as both still do not prevent crime from taking place. It is more so a matter of giving which sentence provides the greatest punishment for the criminals in question.

Pro misrepresents my rebuttal. My argument is that any form of punishment will incur a price. If the focus of justice is to be cheap, then you might as well avoid a trial in the first place to save money. Also the death penalty itself is not inherently expensive, it is the current system that makes it so. However, as I already pointed out, this whole question is irrelevant as you cannot put a price on justice.

Pro's arguments revolve around the majority fallacy (argumentum ad populum), what the majority believes is right does not make it so.

-My Case-
Pro concedes that "Justice is ideally the equal punishment or redistribution for a crime committed, and in the case that equal punishment or redistribution are impossible, the greatest possible punishment be given". He then goes on to state,
"The mental anguish that murderers feel in jail should not be underestimated. The murderers must think about what they have done and the consequences." However, this is not the case for all prisoners [1][2]. Some prisoners enjoy prison life, and contrary to being repentant, they boast about how good they have it in prison to the victims. I am, of course, not stating this is a universal case, but the argument remains that one must have options when deciding which punishment is "the greatest possible punishment". Perhaps sometimes that means life in prison. Other times, you have to take what the criminal values most, which is his life. As Pro does not dispute my argument of social contract and forfeiture of one's life upon gratuitous murder, I also take he accepts this premise.

I look forward to his conclusion in the next round.

Debate Round No. 3


Mrpersondude forfeited this round.


As my opponent forfeited the round for whatever reason, I extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
>Reported vote: AtkinsonCameron// Mod action: Removed<

4 points to Con (Conduct, Arguments). I voted better conduct for Con because Pro forfeited a round. I voted more convincing argument for Con based on his constitutional argument in Round 2. It was a sounder basis to argue from.

[*Reason for removal*] While the allocation for conduct is justified, the voter has to do more than just point to the focus of a single argument given by one of the debaters in one round. They have to show that they read the whole debate, and evaluate both sides of it, not simply state that one side had a better argument in R2 without explaining why.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by bsh1 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: ff