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

The death penalty should be abolished

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/2/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 9,890 times Debate No: 25361
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (42)
Votes (1)




I would like pro to argue first—I dunno, I like that setup better—and the BOP on PRO. I hold that, on balance in the US, I am for the status quo. And I am con, and pro usually gets the burden.


Death Penalty -- "Capital punishment or the death penalty is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for [murder]."[1]

Abolished -- Formally put to an end—in this case legally.

Should -- ought


Remember, pro starts. Proceed.



I thanks adams for the opportunity to debate.

I will be making three arguments. I will offer two direct contentions that argue in favor of life imprisonment over capital punishment. The first is a philosophical/psychological argument that dwells mainly on morality, justification and focuses the goals of retaliation to criminals towards rehabilitation/segregation and away from punishment. The second contends how well the death penalty acts as an efficient system of justice in accomplishing the goals of our judicial system in comparison to life imprisonment. The third contention highlights one large flaw of capital punishment.

C.1 Deterministic affect

Now, in reality I'm a hard determinist but I'm not going to argue for that as this would get way too off-topic. This argument convinced me when I was a compatiblist any way, so I don't think it's necessary to go that far. I am simply going to argue that deterministic affects are large enough to undermine the credibility of the death penalty and further the argument for life imprisonment.

Generally when people think of the death penalty as a means of punishment, they believe it should only be reserved for the more extreme cases, such as rape and murder. The death penalty is a harsh crime so it's only logical that it would only be used for the most extreme cases. The people who commit these crimes no doubt have a very grave sense of morality, but I'd argue the death penalty is simply not justified for these cases. This is because the argument that it is justified completely fails when considering other inescapable factors. Through basic philosophical reasoning and psychological evidence we can determine that what a man does is shaped very much by things irrelevant to his will. It is common in a court case that the sentenced man might be defended on accounts of insanity. The argument flows in such examples that the blame for the man is somewhat alleviated by his mental conditions. Well I would argue that every mans mental conditions, though certainly not fitting the term crazy, are very much a result of environmental, social, genetic and other external influences.

It follows that if this is the case, much of the blame for the savage actions of a man is diminished. As I said, there is certainly sufficient grounds for these claims. When pondering the concept of "free-will", it is almost inevitable to come to the conclusion that we are not nearly as free as we think. Deterministic factors affect our every action and the way we think. Growing up in a home and environment that thinks and teaches a certain way will most likely lead you to think that way. If you have a drunken father who beats you and an uncaring mother when you grow up, you will very likely have a stale sense of compassion. When pondering what to buy and not to buy at the grocery store, a basic cost/benefit analysis is taking place in your brain so that in the end, your choice is wholly decided by your natural preferences and character. If the cost is a little high, you'll only buy it if you have enough money or are someone who is a naturally uncautious buyer. Many other factors may way in. Furthermore, we can easily accept the fact that we are born with a personality consisting of a blend of thousands of different small character traits. As our character determines what we do, we can extrapolate our actions are based upon what properties we are born with; things outside of our will. Our personality then shapes according to social and environmental factors throughout our life, which are of course, also irrelevant to our will.

I would posit that this is most likely even more the case for murderers and rapists. The thought of these crimes are so forwardly repellent to us that we have to wander why these people would commit such horrid acts. It is simple. They obviously are lacking in a moral conscience or intuition in comparison to ours and their development of personality was influenced in such a way as to cause them to be as such. In Erickson's 8 stages of psychosicial development (picture below) the external development of our actions can be demonstrated.

"Because an infant is utterly dependent, the development of trust is based on the dependability and quality of the child's caregivers. If a child successfully develops trust, he or she will feel safe and secure in the world. Caregivers who are inconsistent, emotionally unavailable, or rejecting contribute to feelings of mistrust in the children they care for. Failure to develop trust will result in fear and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable."

This argument obviously does not entail we simply take no action to murderers. It simply pushes segregation and rehabilitation ahead of punishment as the main goals.

C.2 The risk of killing innocents

Everyone should agree on the fact that every risk of note existing in our form of punishment ought to be diminished if possible. What about the utmost risk? The risk of the state killing innocent inhabitants of its own jurisdiction? Every time we send someone to their execution there is the possibility that we are sending an innocent man to his death. Despite what some people may argue, it is not a rare scenario.

Well over eighty people in the past quarter century have been condemned but then released before execution. [1]

This source shows detailed accounts of eleven innocents being executed and one researcher says he has found at least 74 cases in which wrongful executions have most likely taken place.

And of course it is completely inevitable that there have been many times in which innocents have been executed but never proved innocent after their death. Thus the numbers are undoubtedly higher than we know of. There's not much use to prove the innocence of a dead person so the truth isn't as readily searched for. With life imprisonment however, there is still every reason to try to prove the sentenced man innocent so life imprisonment is a better system in satisfying and seeking justice.

C.3 Goal efficiency

Let's consider the goals of our judicial system.

Punishment: From my first contention I obviously think this goal should be less relevant but it is nevertheless, so I must mention it. Both capital punishment and life imprisonment can satisfy this goal. In fact, a life in prison could be made worse than death so there's no use saying death penalty is the only option for very serious crimes.

Segregation: Prison segregates criminals from society so both methods accomplish this.

Deterrence: It is useless to say capital punishment accomplishes the deterrent affect better than life in prison. 88% of the experts (criminologists) agree that the DP has no deterrent affect and 87% say abolishing it wouldn't have a significant effect on the murder rate. Plus if we say the death penalty acts as a deterrence because of the strength of the punishment, I could simply state life imprisonment can certainly be made even worse than death so the argument that the death penalty acts as a more firm punishment is invalid.

Rehabilitation: Here's where the main argument comes into play. Life imprisonment satisfies all the judicial goals, but the death penalty is necessarily lacking in rehabilitation. It is impossible to rehabilitate criminals if we kill them, obviously. The best system is one in which accomplishes all the goals of the system it is part of. The death penalty only serves three of these goals while life imprisonment meets four. Thus we should use life imprisonment as it is more goal efficient than the death penalty.

Back to con.
Debate Round No. 1



Hey, if I have room I will rebut my opponent’s case. If not, I will rebut it next round.

1. The DP saves lives

Whether it’s through recidivism or deterrence, the DP surely deters crime. Depending on how you define “study”, my results below will differ. However, the numbers always show most studies agree that the DP saves lives.

Since 1996, 17 studies have been published which claim to have found a deterrent effect. Some of the studies even conclude it can reduce child murder 20%! However, there is some scientific dissent to the claim. 5 studies either find that the death penalty finds no difference in crime or that it has a slight increase in crime. Two studies are inconclusive in the issue, however one of them says the evidence for deterrence exists, but is weak. In other words, 18 studies find “some” deterrent, 17 find a strong deterrent (and consider the evidence strong), and 5 dissent [1]. This basic tally shows most data, using modern studies, actually support the deterrence theory. Further, when using only national data, one of the studies which find “no deterrence” is only looking at a local area. So depending what we look for, the number fluctuates. Just to sum it up: most studies prove my point.

I will list a few highlights from a few of these studies, and will become more in depth with the ones I did not highlight:

1. From all of the studies which are commonly cited, between 3-18 murders are deterred

2. A 2006 study concluded 150 lives where lost (in other words, murder increased) following an Illinois moratorium

3. A study from the university of Colorado argues 5 lives are saved per execution

Sources: [2][3]

I will start with analyzing a 1999 study from Isaac Ehrlich and Liu which was the oldest study after 1996 I could find in the internet (via jstor). Ehrlich uses a corrected version of his statistical analysis which many viewed unfit in his original study in the seventies; he argued it corrects the problems cited by anti capital punishment academics. The study shows that deterrence theory is not “doubtful” and has significant evidence behind the assertion. His study, however, he conceded does not “prove” deterrence, more work is needed, however he also argues he offers significant evidence for that conclusion. He concludes that, on balance, stricter punishments (like the DP) on balance decrease crime [4].

Economists Nancy Mocan and Kaj Gittings get similar results to the 1999 paper above. Their paper noted per each execution 5 lives on average where saved, and usually passing a moratorium into law via court or legislatures increases the overall crime rate. They made another analysis to counter the criticisms they received—primarily through academics via the media—and their second analysis also got similar results [5].

The final study I will look at in depth is the 2004 study by Shepard (he has done a lot of work in the field). His study is the most commonly heard statistic in the issue. He has three main findings. 1) On average, each execution saves 3 lives, 2) the study shows it benefits African Americans the most, saving 1.5 African America lives, one person of white decent, and .5 of other people. (If you understand statistics the decimals showing up make sense), and 3) shortening time on death row decreases murder. Reducing time on death row by 2.75 years saves one additional life [6].

The second point is recidivism. It is often one on LWOP is paroled, let out on a technicality, given clemency, etc. When looking specifically at young paroles, 6% of them are arrested again for murder within six years of release. Further, a one-year estimate shows if every murder were executed (that year), 821 lives would have been saved. A modified analysis shows 1,000 lives could have been saved that year. It is essentially inarguable that the DP has prevented, and if used more often would prevent more, murders from recidivism [7]. Using data from the BJS, since 1971 the amount of murders from recidivism is near 28,000 [8].

The bottom line is the DP saves lives, it’s hard to argue with.

2. Justice is needed

Some crimes really do require the death penalty. For example, seven men barged into a Floridian family home. The home had many adopted children in side—all with special needs, three biological—and one of them was threatened. One of the boys with autism who has trouble speaking witnessed the killing. The also told him that “he is going to die”. The parents, the victims, where both shot multiple times [9]. Even if you usually oppose the death penalty, there has to be a case where you draw the line.

Now, many counter this saying LWOP is worse. It depends on the perspective. Based on the fact most criminals (99.9%) fight for LWOP if they have a choice, this shows the criminals prefer life, not death [7]. It makes sense, if you try to think like a criminal. On a life sentence, you have the ability to still commit crimes and possibly be pardoned by a governor. As criminals are interested in self-preservation, it is apparent that an option for life is not going to provide a harsh enough penalty for the criminal. A death penalty sentence is a harsher punishment that gives a sense of justice to the community.


“The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down.”[7]

The retribution/Justice effect (Greg v. Georgia): “[C]apital punishment is an expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct.”

The DP saves lives and is the proper retribution needed for society. To conclude:

“Americans support capital punishment for two good reasons. … [C]apital punishment produces a strong deterrent effect that saves lives.”[2]

And that is all, I don’t have enough room to rebut now.




[4] Isaac Ehrlich and Zhiqiang Liu. “Sensitivity Analyses of the Deterrence Hypothesis: Let's Keep the Econ in Econometrics”, Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 42, No. S1, (April 1999), 455-488.

[5] Naci Mocan and Kaj Gittings, “Getting Off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment,” Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 46, No. 2 (2003), 453-478.

[6] Joanna M. Shepherd, “Murders of Passion, Execution Delays, and the Deterrence of Capital Punishment,” Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 33 (June 2004), 283-321.






I thank con for presenting an interesting and challenging case.

"1. The DP saves lives"

The first thing we should note is I've already refuted this, in my last round. I proved that the death penalty ends innocent lives so even if we were to agree with my opponent that the death penalty saves lives in certain ways, the point would still be canceled and diminished from the fact that its use also ends innocent lives in other ways. If the voters end up agreeing with both points, that's fine with me since I believe my other arguments sufficiently prove my burden and the two would cancel eachother out.

Con basically argues that 17 studies on deterrence have occurred and of the studies 10 said yes, 5 said no and 2 were inconclusive. Now this assumes that there have only been 17 studies since 1996. His argument could only work if that were the case since its purpose is to show a majority support. I have to contend the numbers though. Just the number seems too small itself. My research confirmed as much. It only includes a limited selection of studies. For example, cons source does not include the study by "the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies based on a review of more than three decades of research concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed. " [1] Another study released in 2005 by Robert Weisberg was not included in my opponents source.[2] That brings the tally to 10-7 in favor of deterrence. But I need not go on. I have completely refuted and invalidated cons point. There is no need to take it into further consideration since it claimed most studies support deterrence but only included a limited amount of studies to make the ratio.

I do have an issue with my opponents sourcing. Given the fact that he posts a few books as sources, I have no real way to access them. This largely prevents me from being able to properly analyze them. I hope the viewers keep that in mind.

I already dealt a little with deterrence last round. An astounding percentage of criminologists (88%) don't even believe in the deterrent affect of capital punishment.[3] The claim is extremely controversial and if we examine my opponents sources, not much is conclusive.

Notice my opponent quotes the Ehrlich & Liu study as concluding strict crimes cause deterrence. That is very important for it is saying that non death penalty punishments can still act as a deterrence. It only says strict punishments act as a prevention. Strict punishments could be found with life imprisonment. We don't have to turn to the death penalty. The study proves nothing in support of my opponents case.

In the end I just have to ask, if we need a firm punishment to provide deterrence, why the death penalty? Surely life and prison could be made just as firm or firm enough. Solitary confinement, spending the rest of your life with rapists and murderers; whatever method, we could certainly provide an extreme punishment elsewhere than the death penalty. I do not support such hard punishments as my contention one completely refutes it, but hypothetically if we did want one, capital punishment isn't at all necessary.

The deterrence argument reasons along the lines that strict punishments prevents crime but capital punishment isn't the only strict punishment.

Criminologists like William Bowers maintain that the death penalty does the opposite of deterring in that society is "brutalized" by the use of capital punishment thus increasing the likelihood of murder. In fact, the US has a higher murder rate than all the countries of Europe and Canada which do not use the death penalty. [4]

Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox states "It is my own experience that those executed in Texas were not deterred by the existence of the death penalty law. I think in most cases you'll find that the murder was committed under severe drug and alcohol abuse." [4]

Austin Fletcher, professor of philosophy also states, "Most capital crimes are committed in the heat of the moment. Most capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended. In such cases, violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the consequences to themselves as well as to others[.....] If, however, severe punishment can deter crime, then long-term imprisonment is severe enough to deter any rational person from committing a violent crime."[4]

The above three quotes all refute the major reasoning taking place in the studies my opponent sites. For example, David Muhlhausen's reasoning only works if murderers are always rational enough to way the costs and benefits of the crimes, view the costs to be too high and wouldn't view them high if the death penalty were not in place. Most of the studies are to quick to connect cause and affect. The Frakes & Harding article itself even asserts that the analysis is limited and there might not be a link.

I have no idea why con states parole is a common occurrence. Most prisons in the United States employ life without parole and the average is increasing upwards.[4] So not only is the point small, it is being diminished by the increased rate of life without parole. And come on, my opponent sites stats from 1984. Yes preventing those criminals from leaving prison would have saved lots of lives. But that was almost thirty years ago! Can my opponent say it's the same now? He cannot and has not. His (8) source is ridiculous and clearly bias. It amazingly claims there are no known innocents executed since the 1930's. What blatantly inaccurate assertions. (I already demonstrated innocents being executed last round so viewers can refer to there). What's even more funny is the source it uses to make that claim is from the same site. Also con says evidence posits near 28,000 people have been murdered from recidivism when the source only says it might be. It even puts "might" in all caps suggesting the claim is largely speculative.

"2. Justice is needed"

My rebuttal comes in three points.

My main refutation of this can be found in my opening case. If my C.1 is correct, this contention is completely demolished. I've already shown that those who commit horrible acts like the one con mentions are acting because of genetic, causal, environmental and cultural influences which are all external and irrelevant to his will. This huge factor largely alleviates responsibility and overall promotes a more forgiving attitude even towards the most heinous acts. Rehabilitation and segregation are much more important than punishment due to this fact. And if you can't rehabilitate him then so what? Just keep him in prison. He doesn't deserve death.

The second point has already been mentioned. Life in prison can be just as bad or worse that the DP. Criminals fight for LWP because of the natural instinct to repel death. That doesn't mean they'll hate life in prison. Even if they didn't hate it as much, we could make them. If my opponent advocates strict punishment why not just advocate stricter punishments incorporated into prison?

Lastly, my opponent never really sets any sort of criteria for what does satisfy justice. He argues horrible crimes deserve fitting punishment. But what is fitting? Why death? Why not torture? Why not torture and then death? Why not a life of prison serving the state along side other rapists and murderers?

My opponent advocates capital punishment in contention that it satisfies the need for justice but I contend abolishing it only promotes a more civilized and forgiving society.





Debate Round No. 2


Deterministic effect

Just like my opponent, I wont make a “big” deal out of determinism vs. free will; I will just give a quick rebuttal. It cannot be true for mainly one reason. Our ability to reason, assuming determinism is true, one can't rationally affirm it to be true since you were determined to think that way. We cannot prove determinism.

His second point is a fact, however I don’t see how it proves his point. It merely proves some people are predisposed to crime, in other words the option not to commit the crime still exists. For example, those molested as children are more likely to be abusive when they are older. Many of them know its wrong, however they where trained to think that way. Does this mean they should be allowed to go free? This point only applies to those who are psychopaths, and that’s because they literally can’t control themselves. These people always have the option to abstain from this action and, therefore, should be held accountable.


My opponent actually makes a good case for my side. First, if you notice the amount of those executed the majority of them occur before 2000, DNA testing is extremely accurate and likely was put into use around that time. And, anyway, pros case of released before execution helps me, too. This means the system weeds many of those out who are really innocent (or are worthy of a lesser sentence) and I think this is a success of the system, not a failure.

Pro actually does make a strong case when he notes 74 have been executed innocently (they where not released). Now, I am not going to say that the DP has never executed an innocent in the modern era (post-Furman). However, the instance it occurs is extremely rare. My opponent’s source was published the same time as mine and relies on a few false assumptions. After review of the published studies, we see large dissent to these numbers. As of 1997, only 11 people are truly innocent [1]. As we see from my opponent’s source, only a few people are named. The reason? In much of the lists of those executed, they fail to distinguish legal and actual guilt. Legal guilt can be overturned by technicalities or not beyond reasonable doubt (even if there is a large bulk of evidence). This does not mean they are actually innocent, as actual guilt does not require legal guilt. Many of those executed may have been actually guilty. So I decided to google the source in my opponent’s source. And I could only find an updated version but there was some old data, which I presume was on the old paper. Most of it cited many studies from the 80’s (in the time of Pro's source, the debate was over the 80’s studies). And when looking at their studies, they fully misinterpret the data! The studies own authors note, “We agree with our critics that we have not proved these executed defendants to be innocent; we never claimed that we had.”[1] They didn’t even find one innocent! They merely went off of legal/actual guilt mix-ups and clemency!A few have been executed, according to source one its eleven, but that means the death penalty has ver a 99% accuracy rate—99.86%—and this is astonishing! Also, what if I said LWOP cases increases the amount of those that die on death row? Dudley Sharp notes, “…1973-2012) about 5,000 inmates per year die while in custody, or about 200,000 total, during that time. We cannot bring back any of those that may have been innocent, either.”[2]

We incarnate most murderers, and assuming the 99% number rolls over we see a larger number of innocents lost in a LWOP system.


Punishment: LWOP may actually be worse (debatable), however we should look at this from a criminal’s perspective. When a defendant is given the choice, 99.9% of them fight for life [1]. So, in their perspective, the best way to give justice is through the DP.

Segregation: Studies have found 821 lives would be saved each year if the DP was used against all murderers, in other words many of them escape and re-commit the crimes (or they are pardoned, parole for some reason is given, etc) [1]. Further, there are many cases of LWOP turning into life and parole eligibility being given every two years [3].

Deterrence: as stated, criminals view the DP worse. It makes sense, too, as criminals are about self-preservation and LWOP preserves them in a sense. Further, merely arguing an 88% number is a fallacy. Argument from consensus. Most people believe in X and, therefore, X is true [4]. Further, that study is extremely cherry picked. I don’t know where the 88% number came from, as question twelve (do you think the DP deters some) 100% agreed. 61% said they supported the studies on the issue. 57% said the death penalty was not significant in deterrence. But the question is quite vague, who defines significant? The number was brought by question 7, where 91% said they did not think the DP was more of a deterrent then LWOP [5]. They may have averaged the number, I don’t know I have not seen the actual study or questions (your source=abstract), however my critique lists [some of] them and I think I have the stronger case.


1. Saves lives

Their objections are similar to those done by D & W which have all been refuted by their authors [6]. Further, the study never debunks my conclusions; they merely state that it is “not informative”. They also concluded no conclusions can be made. Further, they even admit the evidence exists for deterrence, however they think it is “weak”. So this doesn’t refute my analysis. 88% number refuted above.

None of my sources where books, I think some of them are online and the others can be checked via JSTOR. If phantom wishes to see them, he can ask any college student for the data.

Pro, I agree LWOP can be a deterrent. I really do, however I proved most criminals fight for life not death meaning based on empirical data the DP is likely a stronger deterrent [1]. This refutes the majority of this above. And remember, my opponent is contradicting himself. He thinks people should be let free due to Eriksons theory, yet supports solitary confinement?

I will sum this up. Comparing countries is impossible to do! Europe and Canada have had lower crime rates then us always—and these factors are unrelated to the DP—the reason the US has the DP is in response to higher crime, meaning my opponent falls into the statistical equivalent to a fallacy of endogenity. My opponent cites many people saying Texas has no deterrence! To the contrary, studies have found Texas to have specifically high deterrence to those states that use it less. These studies conclude consistent DP deters, and more DP is needed for it to deter (so, more DP not less is needed) [8]. And if my opponent thinks LWOP is worse, when why would he think it deters and does not brutalize? My opponent contradicts himself.

2. Justice

Your C1 is false; one merely being predisposed to crime does not mean he should be acquitted. And I have shown the DP to be harsher then the DP in many aspects, mainly because criminals prefer life [1]. These people have ended another ones life and, therefore, have conceded their right to life. To give them a just punishment, we should give them something fairly harsh, something that fits the crime. There is always a case where it is hard to argue the DP is not just (for example Hitler) [9].

I would like my opponent to note his response does not mean we should abolish the death penalty. He says lets rehabilitate. All right, but can we rehabilitate men like Ted Bundy? Hitler? Stalin? In other words, my opponent’s rebuttal does not mean we should abolish the death penalty; rather use it less often (for only extreme cases). I really think all of my opponent’s case is more of an argument for reform—not abolition.

--> Deterence research is strogner on my side, andlogic behind deterence (99.9%) proves the DP deters.

And because I have some characters now, here is this (not an argunment, its irrelevant, just bored):


Deterministic effect

Con ignores the majority of what I said...

I've seen cons refutation used before but unfortunately it fails completely. The jumps in logic that it makes are erroneous. Basically it's says, if determinism were true we would have been determined to reason that it were true. Therefore it can't be true. Our mind is perfectly capable of operating according to the best functions. Con assumes that rationalizing with free-will is superior to rationalizing without it but establishes no argument. Having free-will is in no significant or relevant way logically superior to not having it since either way you're going to make blunders and we still have the illusion of free-will and act on that illusion. Furthermore, I never argued for complete determinism so cons point is irrelevant anyway.

That's as far as con goes in addressing the philosophical side of my argument. The psychological evidence I offered con agrees as fact but thinks it's insignificant. I don't see how this can be the case however. The evidence, along with the philosophical reasoning I gave, prove that men are not wholly responsible for their crimes. I agree I never proved choice didn't exist. I don't know why con brings that up. The point is, factors irrelevant to their will are so prevalent that they cannot possibly deserve death. All I'm doing is proving they are much less responsible then what would require the death penalty. Not that they are completely free of responsibility.

Furthermore con strawmans me. I never advocated that criminals just be let free. That would be absurd. I very clearly stated that we should focus our efforts towards rehabilitation and segregation. How could that imply letting criminals go?


DNA testing started the late 1800's. ( Cons rebuttal rested on the claim that it probably started around 2000 so it's safe to saw the viewers can ignore that. The accuracy of DNA testing is not a valid refutation since innocents have been being executed since it's been in use.

Showing all the prisoners released before execution does help my case. Just because they were found to be innocent in times does not erase it. It shows the flaws in the judicial process of determining a man innocent or guilty. Those men were lucky to escape with their lives. They should have been determined innocent at the initial process. Not after being sentenced to death! That clearly shows the uncertainty of the judicial system.

My opponent points fingers are my 1997 sources but ignores the 2009 one.

I can't


Remember the main purpose of this was to show life imprisonment accomplished the extra goal of rehabilitation. Con doesn't respond to that so he concedes that it is a significant enough goal.

It's funny that con accuses me of appeal to consensus when that was his very first argument in regards to studies saying the DP had a deterent effect!

Cons case

Saves lives

Con drops his argument that more studies affirm the deterrent affect.

The DP does deter but the thing is, so does life imprisonment. Cons studies themselves concluded harsh punishments deter. That doesn't even necessitate the death penalty.

I never once stated criminals should be set free due to my contention 1. Con is misrepresenting my argument.

My opponent admits that the DP is harsh and I have to agree with him. That is why it's unjust. By far the biggest reasons that affect are choice are external to our will. We live in a causal world. No-one deserves the death penalty because moral responsibility is incredibly diminished by the deterministic affect.

It does not matter that certain people can't be rehabilitated. I mentioned it last round. So what we can't rehabilitated them? It doesn't mean the deserve the death penalty.
Debate Round No. 3


Deterministic effect

My opponent claims I have dropped much what he has said, I beg to differ. My opponent argued two points, both I attacked.

1. Determinism is true

2. Eriksson’s theory proves men aren’t responsible

For number one, my opponent claims people can still function at high capacities. However I fail to see relevancy. If they are determined to think that way, doesn’t this mean they are set at a certain capacity? Further, this implies free will can work with determinism existing. If that was possible, then he could prove his point. However, these two philosophies cannot coincide. It makes little sense. My opponent has argued men are not responsible for their actions (if this is the case, he contradicts himself as I pointed out lest round. If they were not responsible, LWOP would also be unjust). Peter Van Inwagon wrote a paper, which I find very compelling. His argument goes as follows:

T0 is some time before J’s birth. P0 to symbolize the proposition that expresses the state of the world at T0, P to symbolize the proposition that expresses the state of the world at T, and L to denote the conjunction into a single proposition of all laws of physics.

To quote his paper:

“(1) If' determinism is true, then the conjunction of PD and L entails P.

(2) If J had raised his hand at T, then P would be false.

(3) If (2) is true, then if J could have raised his hand at T, J could have rendered P false."

(4) If J could have rendered P false, and if the conjunction of P0 and L entails P, then J could have rendered the conjunction of P0 and L false.

(5) If J could have rendered the conjunction and L false, then J could have rendered L false.

(6) J could not have rendered L false.

(7) If determinism is true, J could not have raised his hand at T.”[1]

My opponent actually drops the logic behind my rebuttal to Erikson. His theory merely argues some would be predisposed to crime, not that they had no choice but to commit the crime. Merely being predisposed to crime does not mean you are innocent. As stated, this is like saying someone who was raped as a child should rape children when they are older because statistically (and based on psychology) they are predisposed to commit these acts. This is a weak argument, and I feel the majority of the readers would agree. Assuming determinism is false (as it is incompatible with free-will) then you actually do have an option not to commit these acts. If you have control over your thoughts, then you ought to be found guilty. And even those “in the heat of the moment” have other options. So, lets make this clear: being predisposed to crime does not mean you are not responsible for your actions.


Yes, DNA testing has been around for a while, however DNA testing has improved over the years. Now, six methods are in use for DNA testing. For example, the first DNA machines needed blood to be used and the blood sample needed to be the size of a quarter. So at first, it would be unusable in courts as we would need to affirm the blood was the defendants (not the victims), the defendant would need to have bled a lot, etc. In other words, it was not until recently it could have been used [2]. Further, my assertion was almost correct. In the late 1990’s irrefutable DNA evidence became common exonerating many innocent people from jail and death row. These advancements greatly reduce the likelihood people are executed in the modern era [3].

My opponent fails to defend his source. I showed it is filled with error and fails to distinguish from legal and actual guilt. Half of his evidence is refuted. His second source is the one saying people are released before execution. My opponent claims this means the judicial system is flawed. However, I don’t see how this rebuttal works. As stated, these claims are always too extreme. In reality, only thirty have been released based on actual innocence. This means the death penalty has a 99.8% accuracy rate, and the rate is higher as this statistic reaches back to 1971. With the enhanced technology, the accuracy for the DP is nearly 100% [4]. And, as I will describe below, the amount of lives saved is to high I think it outweighs my opponent’s argument even if all of his innocent points are true.


Rehabilitation? You have been supporting solitary confinement and LWOP, this means they may rehabilitate but they still reside in prison, so they serve no good to the world. So the point is contradictory to your statements. You have also not proven these men can be rehabilitated, they are determined to think that way aren’t they?

Here you claim I also go appeal to consensus. I am not saying X says Y is true, therefore Y is true. I am saying the majority of the evidence says Y is true; therefore it is likely Y is true. I have never said it is a fact the death penalty is the strongest deterrence; note my wording is all evidence points to it. And, regardless, I present more evidence then a fallacy. That is really all the evidence you gave… And you dropped my rebuttal! I even showed your argument proves my point as question 12 (does the DP deter) all criminologists said yes! So, even if we assume it’s a valid point (its good evidence, jut not a proof) then we actually see the point is in my favor [7].

Deterrence and recidivism

My opponent’s rebuttal to recidivism is merely the age of the study I cited. A newer report finds 13,000 murders a year are done by those on parole. Using the 6% recidivism rate (affirmed in 2006 by Sorensen) of those murders, 780 of those people killed via recidivism where previously in jail for murder [5]. Further, execution also stops other crimes that I think I already noted (never made an exact number). If it stops murders it obviously stops other violent crime. Sorensen has found, ONLY in Texas, execution would have stopped 711 acts of violent crime from murderers [6]. Even if we assume LWOP is as great of a deterrent as the DP (its not) we still see the DP saves more lives via recidivism prevention.* (readers, go to sources and read the *)

What did I drop? You merely added one study to the list on your side, I don’t see how that is relevant. I actually had full-fledged rebuttals to it.

My opponent has provided no proof that LWOP deters equally. He merely repeats the number. I have provided solid evidence, convicts prefer LWOP, based on polls 99.9% fight for life, not death [5]. Now, these people in the poll are the few that are not deterred. However, this means those with a criminal mindset are more likely to be deterred by death. So sure, LWOP deters, that’s a fact. However this solid data shows it is unlikely it deters more then death, and likely less so. And my opponent’s rebuttal only refutes a 1996 study by Ehlrich, and that study I cited even specified the DP as the strongest deterrent. So hammering a dead point is useless. All of my studies say harsher punishments deter, and based on the 99.9% data (and their conclusions/results) show the DP is the harshest and, therefore, the most deterrent. Also, my opponent drops my brutalization argument. A study in 2004 (I think I already cited it) found the overall deterrent effect, when a state executes often, saves lives. In other words, the more you use the DP the higher deterrent effect and less brutalization effect. The answer is more, not less [8].


My opponents final remarks seem like concluding statements and not part of deterrence, so I shall let them be. Now, lets assume determinism is true. Doesn’t that mean saving lives is beneficial? Now, summary:

Most of my opponent’s case (like deterrence) actually proves we need more DP (see brutalization). And for innocents, that means mend it, don’t end it. He also dropped my point that more innocents die on LWOP then on the DP, meaning abolition would not help.

And for determinism, I showed it cannot logically coincide with free will.

And I have 100 characters somehow... wow.




As posted in the comments, last round I accidentally posted my case when I was only about half way finished. Since I went first I originally was going to not post anything this round but to be able to make up for my mistake, con has graciously allowed me to post around 4,000 characters this round.

Because of that, I will also only be responding to the rest of cons round 3 (not 4). The only thing I will mention about cons last response though is that it's rather unfair for him to assert I've dropped his points when he knows I accidentally pressed submit when I wasn't near done.

Deterministic effect/justice

I was able to get this response done last round. Most at least but due to character space I'll leave it. (Viewers see ^^^).


I coupled the arguments since they're both about saving lives and some of my responses apply to both.

My opponents reasoning isn't entirely accurate. We can establish that punishment deters. That is true. But that doesn't mean there is a continual upward trend of harsher punishment equaling better at deterring. Prison deters. LWP is a harsh punishment. Quite a harsh punishment. I agree that the DP is firmer than LWP in its current form. However, all we've established is that harsh punishment deters. That doesn't mean the harsher punishment are superior to another harsh punishment in deterring. We're not arguing whether the death penalty deters, just whether it deters more than LWP. The LWP deterrs just as well as the DP.

And again we notice con is only advocating harsher punishments than LWP. The death penalty isn't the only possible punishment that fits. We could impliment different systems of punishment that are just as harsh as the DP. Why doesn't con argue for that? By cons reasoning, and all the studies he posted, a harsher form of life imprisonment would be satisfactory in deterring.

Furthermore, If we only use the death penalty in cases of certainty, (the reasoning con used to refute my "innocents" contention) then it can't possibly act as a deterrent. Detrrence only works if the criminal believes that's the punishment that awaits him if he's caught. Well if we only use the death penalty in times of certainty, we would hardly be using it at all, thus renderring cons main contention flawed. If the death penalty isn't used often, it can't deterr and no criminal that plans his crime is going to believe that if he's caught, the jury will have certainty that he's guilty. And if he doesn't plan his crime than he's not taking into account the after affects so deterrence fails there too.

When we see that well over 80 people have been exonerated before being executed, we know that innocent people have many times been sentenced to the death penalty. They just were lucky enough to be exonerated before execution. People have also been exonerated after execution such as the 2004 case my source mentions. Most times executed innocents are not exonerated simply because there's little reason to further investegate the case of a dead person.


I already showed how blatantly inaccurate cons claims on recidivism were. The source he used was from 1984 so it has little relevence and completely undermines his argument and the source claims no innocents have been executed since the 30's when it'a fact some have been exonerated after execution! In round 2 I showed that most states imploy life without parole and the average is increasing upwards.

First off, it is again funny that con is accusing me of ad-populum when he already made a large point about how most studies support the deterrent affect(which was never substantiated). The problem here is that con is not drawing the line between deterrent and the best deterrent. I also have no idea where con's getting his claims from. I searched the study trying to find them but couldn't. Bottom line is criminologists affirm the statement that the DP doesn't deterr and abolishing it would not have a significant affect. For cons concerns on what constitutes "significant", I say whatever it means in their professional opinion.

Debate Round No. 4
42 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by BryanMullinsNOCHRISTMAS2 1 year ago
ok, very interesting
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
P.S., criminals try not to get caught
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
If they are not mentioned in the debate it cannot be used.
Posted by daniel.droege5 6 years ago
Reasons not mentioned: Usually it is only the poor people who can't afford a good lawyer to get a plea for LWOP who get the death penalty.
To condemn someone to death is to say that it is okay to murder somebody. (Ironically what you are punishing them for.)

Also, if criminals prefer life to death, they are more likely to turn themselves in after a crime instead of go out shooting with nothing to lose, harming more people.

Vote for pro
Posted by phantom 6 years ago
Posted by 1Historygenius 6 years ago
I mean I had posted the vote saying I was going to read it at first, then I read the debate and then I finished, but I accidentally left that in, now its gone.
Posted by 1Historygenius 6 years ago
Oh, sorry, I was posted that vote so you know I was going to vote, then when I finished reading it, I made the votes.
Posted by phantom 6 years ago
Even if you didn't read whole thing. (???)

Okay Ima stop posting now.
Posted by phantom 6 years ago
But thanks for the vote anyway.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 1Historygenius 6 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:51 
Reasons for voting decision: Very, very close. Con had good arguments for refuting deterrence (which Con then used to his advantage) and Pro dropped an argument. Good arguments for Con, but the point of conduct for Pro for his strong debating. Con had generally better sources and Pro had less sources.