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The death penaltys cruel and unusual punishment

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/17/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,414 times Debate No: 105920
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
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In this debate I will be arguing that the death penalty classifies as cruel and unusual punishment. I also will argue that it bypasses rehabilitation as a whole. It should be outlawed. If the ICJ doesn't use it on war criminals how could it be argued that it should be used on people who have killed two people. Do not start if you will not finish, and please respond in a reasonable amount of time. Thanks and good luck


I accept, and I will defend the position that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual.

Defining Terms

Cruel and unusual punishment:

A sentence which degrades the person convicted, is obviously inhumane, or is too severe for the crime, can be regarded as cruel or unusual. If you do not agree with this definition, then we should work out a new definition in the comments; however, I think that this is a pretty good start.

What about the death penalty?

So what it comes down to is whether or not the death penalty qualifies as degrading, inhumane, or overly severe.


When a person sentenced is executed, it is done swiftly. Modern capital punishment does not showcase the convict to the public as it has in the past i.e. crucifixion, burning at the stake, or hangings. In fact it is carried out swiftly, and solemnly. Since they are not mocked or humiliated, I think it is safe to say that it does not degrade the individual.


Modern executions are swift, and are intended to bring as little pain to the convict as possible, and as a result, it is humane.

-Too severe:

This only leaves the question of whether or not the punishment is to severe for the crime; But, the question of this debate would more closely resemble: Is the death penalty too severe for any crime? I believe the answer to be no. Simply put, if a person deprives another person of their basic human rights, then capital punishment is the only punishment that fits the crime. Anything else, and the crime is worse than the punishment. Now don't get me wrong. I am not currently arguing that depriving a criminal of their natural rights is justified; A'll I am doing is showing that it is not too severe for the crimes which warrant it.

In the end, the death penalty is not degrading, inhumane, or too severe for the crimes; consequently, it is not a cruel or unusual punishment.

Debate Round No. 1


I will now counter your arguments.. The death penalty is degrading because the mere fact that the United States government believes it is okay to play God. They make someone wait through a lengthy trial, and wait on average fifteen years from sentencing to execution. 1.

Inhumane- In your point you say that modern executions are swift, and so they cannot be considered inhumane. Yet, the penalty of death isn't just a penalty for the time you die, it is a penalty starting right when you are sentenced. The psychological torture that these people are human rights violations. Exonerated Death Row inmates have said that they have seen inmates smear feces on the walls, and have delusions because they are constantly counting down the days until they die. 2 Also, stays of executions are granted so often that the last week of life is considered to be pure hell. Not knowing whether or not you are at deaths door could break the meanest mans psychological state.

Too- Severe the United States has the fifth most executions in the world 3.... The only countries above the United States is China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. All of these countries are known human rights abusers and yet we are in the same category as them on this issue. We are the only one of only four first world countries in the world to practice this insane form of punishment, and they next leading country of those is Japan with 2 last year.4 And we are one one of the only western countries to keep this practice going.

To end.. Do we rape the rapists? Do we burn the arsonists? Do we steal from the thieves? Then how come we are murdering the murderers?



Main Objection:

You are focused on the reality of the system, when we need to focus on the intentions and principles of the punishment itself if we are going to label it as cruel. (NOTE: I believe we can agree that the current principles of the death penalty in todays world is that of a swift execution. This may not be what happens in reality, but it is at least a fair description of what the intentions of capital punishment are. If we cannot agree on this, then need to stop and clarify definitions before we can procede.)

Counter Rebuttal:


Your claim: Degrading because the United States thinks it is ok to play God, and capital punishment has a lengthy process.

Simply put, the goal of capital punishment is justice; if you think that it is the same as playing God, then it is nothing more than your opionion. The lengthy process just demonstrates how seriously the government treats capital punishment. It suggests an attempt at the certainty of the criminal, and whether or not they do deserve capital punishment. This is just evidence that the U.S. does not take capital punishment lightly. On the other hand, this process does force the criminal to wait potentially years while people decide his fate; consequently, this can be very emotionally stressing for the individual, but it is not degrading or humiliating. As a result, although the process can be long and painful for the convicted, it is an attempt at certainty, not an attempt at degradation. As a side note, we have to clarify that in order for a punishment to be cruel or unusual, it's principles have to be so.


Your claim: Psychological torture from waiting and inmates results in violation of human rights. Stays of exection occur.

The fundamental problem here is that these are not the intentions of capital punishment. They may be extremely unfortunate results, but this is a problem with the current system. In order for the punishment itself to be cruel or unusual, it would have to intend for this kind of thing to happen; and quite frankly, we cannot expect all of the other inmates to behave or act compassionately. I would agree that if capital punishment declared that those who are convicted shall be sentenced to years of psychological torment that it would be cruel; my example was of crucifiction or hangins where the criminals are shocased for all the world to see. But the death penalty currently seeks to execute the criminals swiftly and with as little pain as possible; those, are the intentions and the principles, and anything that does not reflect them can be attributed to a flaws in the system.


Your claim: United states has the 5th most executions in the world, and all the leading countries are generally viewed as abusers of natural rights. The U.S. is one of few countries which practice it.

The flaw here is that this simply does not relate to the subject of whether or not the punishment is to great for the crime. On the other hand, the first bit mentioned here is simply a false analogy. Just because some countries have a history with abusing natural rights, does not mean that all of their principles do so. Furthermore, the punishment is intended to execute them, which would in theory deprive them of their natural rights; however, it is done in a justified manner, after that person has violated the natural rights of their victim. The issue you need to address here is whether or not this punishment is too severe for this type of crime. This is the question I raised in my first post, and it is the one you have to answer. I do not need to know how many countries are doing.


I believe that my arguments have withstood your scrutany, and that you have failed to demonstrate that the death penalty is degrading, inhumane, and too severe for the crime. You first claimed that since the process was lengthy, that it degrades the individual due to the emotional stress he endures. In response, I revealed that the lengthy process is the result of a quest for certainty, and that the negative effects of such a process on the convict is merely an unfortunate result of the process, and is not one of the intentions of the punishment as a whole. In addition, your main argument that it was inhumane was grounded in the fact that fellow inmates often harrass the one sentenced, and that there are often postponements. However, I demonstrated that both of these negative effects are once again not intended results of the death penalty, and are simply unfortunate results of the reality of the current system. Finally, you do not have an argument that it is too severe, but rather, you only reveal that countries which employ the death penalty are in the minority, and that the other countries have a history with human right violation. I point out that these facts alone do not make a case against the death penalty, nor the argument about severity.

In the end, I believe that the main focus when trying to decide if a punishment is cruel or unusual should be the principles and intentions of the punishment. I believe we can agree that the current goal of the death penalty in the U.S (the United States' capital punishment seems to have become the focus of this debate) is a swift and painless execution. If we cannot agree on this, we should stop here and clarify definitions, but as it stands right not, it is not cruel nor unusual.


To respond to your last phrase: Do we rape rapists? etc...

Capital punishment is not simply an "eye for an eye" policy. Capital punishment is the justified taking of a criminals life, who has violated the natural rights of his/her victims. This is the ultimate crime, and the ultimate abuse to a persons natural rights. This comment relates closely to the queston of severity, and whether or not someone who commits the ultimate crime, should pay the ultimate price. Can you arrive at justice even when the crime is worse that the punishment?

Debate Round No. 2


Hello, I would like to address a few of your points.

While your wording is precise, and fancy it isn"t addressing the issues I present, at all. For example you saying your rebuttal "In order for the punishment itself to be cruel or unusual, it would have to intend for this kind of thing to happen; and quite frankly, we cannot expect all of the other inmates to behave or act compassionately" It doesn"t matter if the state wants psychological torment to happen or not, it happens in almost all cases. This makes it inhumane. For example, the US hung people when putting them to death, they then found this to be inhumane even though the state was not trying to be inhumane. So, your argument has no foundation. That is exactly like killing someone while driving drunk. The drunk driver has no intent to kill anyone yet when he does that doesn"t mean he gets off. On that basis your argument is flawed from the foundation. Just because the government may or may not intend to doesn"t mean that they can"t be held accountable for their actions.. It"s simple law 101

Next, your counter to my arguments based on my findings of statistics on the death penalty.

"The flaw here is that this simply does not relate to the subject of whether or not the punishment is to great for the crime. On the other hand, the first bit mentioned here is simply a false analogy. Just because some countries have a history with abusing natural rights, does not mean that all of their principles do so"

Sir, you seem very smart, and so in the most respectful way I"m truly puzzled because this statement really makes me judge your knowledge on this subject"

China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan are known human rights abusers".1,2
So I don"t feel at all secure in our government being a list with those countries do you, and if you do I would say the average reasonable American would not.

Finally according a study found that 4.1 percent of death row inmates were innocent. That means that one in twenty five were killed for no reason.3 So I ask you, if that was a loved one and they were put to death and new evidence came out that they were innocent would you still take this stance? If one of twenty five of those inmates were falsely accused and murdered by our government I don"t think it"s even a discussion if this is cruel or unusual.

4 This is the official stance of the EU on the death penalty "The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity. It constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment, does not have any proven deterrent effect and allows judicial errors to become irreversible and fatal." All of this is one hundred percent true, and if my opponent has anyway the death penalty, which starts at sentencing, is humane then please share it. I have not even gone into the botched death penalty proceedings. If we are the last first world country to practice this of all the countries, I am going to side with the other countries.

And also, on your last paragraph.. I agree capital punishment is not an eye for an eye. It is the prolonged psychological torture and forced isolation that ultimately after years of false hope leads to the death of a civilian by the government that has the duty to protect them. In this case I could argue, that it is worse than some of the crimes committed by the inmates.





Please answer my arguments directly as I did yours, and good luck.


I do understand that this is a sensitive issue, as we are dealing with human lives; but, I think we should avoid letting the emotional nature cloud our judgment.


For the purpose of the debate, I think it would be best if I outline my arguments in order to clarify my premises and conclusions. My main argument that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual rests on the definition of such a punishment which I outlined in my first post. If you recall, it states that a punishment is cruel and unusual if it is degrading, inhumane, or severe. (Since you did not dispute this definition, I believe it is safe to say that we are agreed on it). So my overarching argument at it's most basic form is as follows:

Premise 1: A punishment is cruel and unusual if it is degrading, inhumane, or too severe for the crime committed.
Premise 2: The death penalty is not degrading, inhumane, or too severe for the crime.

Conclusion: The death penalty is not cruel or unusual.

Now, if any of these premises is false, then my main argument will collapse, whereas if both are true, then my conclusion is true.. As I stated above, it appears that we are agreed on the definition of a cruel or unusual punishment; thus, my job is to prove that my second premise is true. Therefore, I focused my attention on 3 "minor" arguments for why the death penalty is not degrading, inhumane, or too severe. Now it is important to note that I am referring to the principles of the death penalty as a whole, which are a swift and painless death. These are the fundamental goals, and I believe that we are agreed on them. The arguments I presented are more inductive, and follow as:

Argument 1:

Premise 1: The execution is not ment to humiliate the individual, nor showcase his death.
Conclusion: It is reasonable to think that it's goal is not to degrade the criminal.

Argument 2:

Premise 1: The goal is to execute the criminal swiftly
Premise 2: The goal is to inflict minimal pain.
Conclusion: It is justified to think that it is humane.

Argument 3:

Premise 1: Capital punishment is the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime.
Conclusion: It is rational to think that the punishment fits the crime and is not too severe.

These are the arguments I presented in my first post, which attempt to prove the second "major" premise of my overarching argument.

Your response:

I believe it is safe to summarize your rebuttal as follows:

Counter 1:

Premise 1: The United states is playing God.
Premise 2: It forces the criminal to endure a lengthy trial.
Conclusion: It is reasonable to think that it is degrading.

Counter 2:

Premise 1: The criminals endure psychological torture from inmates and waiting as soon as they are sentenced.
Premise 2: Stays of execution break their mental state.
Conclusion: It is justified to think it is inhumane.

Counter 3:

Premise 1: The U.S. is in the top 5 of countries with the most executions
Premise 2: The countries above it have a history of abusing human rights
Premise 3: The U.S. is one of the only Western countries which employ it
Conclusion: It is rational to think that it is too severe.

Now before we evaluate whether these arguments are sound, it is important to note that all of the counter arguments you provided are valid except for the third. The conclusion does not logically follow from the premises; as a result, we know that it is not sound right off the bat, and can reject it as a counter for my third argument.

Therefore, the only counter-rebuttals I was required to make were ones against your first two counters, not your third. My counter-rebuttals could be put succinctly like so:

Counter-Rebuttal 1:

Premise 1: The goal of capital punishment is justice, and not to "play God"
Premise 2: The lengthiness of the trial is not intended to torment the criminal, but rather to be certain of guilt and decision.
Conclusion: The conclusion of the counter argument is not justified.

Counter-Rebuttal 2:

Premise 1: Psychological torment is not an intention of the capital punishment
Premise 2: The inmates' lack of empathy cannot be controlled
Premise 3: Stays of execution are not intended to mess with or torment the criminal
Conclusion: The conclusion of the counter argument is not justified.

Counter-Rebuttal 3:

Premise 1: The conclusion does not follow from the premises
Conclusion 1: The counter argument is not sound.

In my counter-rebuttal I also pointed out that there is a fundamental flaw in your reasoning. Essentially, you are not focusing on cruel aspects of the principle of capital punishment, but rather the negative effects of specific parts of the current reality of it. This may point to the system as being cruel, but will not support a claim that the principle of the death penalty is cruel. In other words, my main contention is that you have to prove that the core principles and goals of the death penalty are cruel and unusual, not the results of the current process.


Your main allegation

Your third point brings about your first big contention with my overall claim, which is, that it has no foundation. You refer to my example of hangings to demonstrate that the state did not mean for this to be inhumane, yet it was found to be inhumane. Afterwards, you equate the example to the scenario of a drunk driver, who accidentally kills an innocent person. You then claim this to be evidence of a flawed foundation.

Broken down:

Premise 1: The state does not intend to be inhumane, but it is anyway
Premise 2: The drunk driver does not intend to kill, yet does
Conclusion: Neither should get off the hook.

However, this analogy fails. First, we have to recognize that the drunk driver is already committing a crime before his accident. As a result, we can conclude that it is not identical to the first premise. The state is punishing the criminal to bring about justice, while the drunk driver is breaking the law, and consequently causes an accident. As a result, the drunk is not off the hook, and the state is the one that sets the hook. Therefore, the conclusion will not logically follow from the premises.

But does my argument have a sound foundation? Remember, my main argument is:

Premise 1: A punishment is cruel and unusual if it is degrading, inhumane, or too severe for the crime committed.
Premise 2: The death penalty is not degrading, inhumane, or too severe for the crime.
Conclusion: The death penalty is not cruel or unusual.

But as I have just demonstrated, the reasons you gave for your contention turn out to be rooted in a bad analogy, and do not defeat any of my premises. Remember, if any of my premises is disproved, then my entire argument crumbles. At least your first attempt to do this has failed, and consequently my argument still stands.

Counter-Rebuttal to "Counter 3"

The issue with your response to my counter-rebuttal is that it is not addressing the fact of whether or not the the death penalty is too severe. Rather, you only further emphasize the human right violations of other countries. As a result the verdict from my "Counter-rebuttal 3" still stands.

Study proves 4.1% innocent:

As unfortunate as this is, it is only a flaw within the criminal justice system, and is a very emotional argument. I do not believe it does anything to undermine my "major" argument, nor my 3 "minor" arguments.

European Statement:

Although this statement may be relevant, you have to establish why it may be accurate, or "have it right". The fact that other countries see it this way does not justify that it is this way.


The impression I get from this counter-rebuttal is that you are trying to find new chinks in my arguments, without addressing the counter-rebuttals I made concerning your original counter-arguments. You do address my second minor argument, but it does not refute the verdict from my second counter-rebuttal, and is actually rooted in a bad analogy.

I do not mean to be harsh in my analysis of your arguments, as these are sensitive topics which can be emotionally heavy. But I do believe that I have raised some critical objections.

Debate Round No. 3


Justice Brennan wrote, "There are, then, four principles by which we may determine whether a particular punishment is 'cruel and unusual'."

The "essential predicate" is "that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity," especially torture.
"A severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion." (Furman v. Georgia temporarily suspended capital punishment for this reason.)
"A severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society."
"A severe punishment that is patently unnecessary."

So I thoroughly reject your definition of cruel and unusual. All definitions have to do with acceptance throughout society, except for yours. My arguments about these other countries which attack human rights that do this is to show that how could you comfortably be in the same category as them. Which we are according to amnesty International we should not... I don't think that is a hard think to understand... So that point is valid, and please address it instead of ignoring it.

Next, on Death Row inmates are in isolation 23 hours a day, they do not see other inmates. I don't know why you are talking about other inmates when they don't even get to see the light of day.

Also, a punishment starts at sentencing. Just like how a ten year sentence starts at sentencing. It's the same, and who cares if psychological torment isn't the intent, it happens!! You are ignoring that part of the argument, and I would like to point that out to everyone reading.. just because I don't mean to do something, doesn't mean I am allowed to do the same thing. Just because I hit a car even though I was following all of the laws, and it was on accident I still have to pay for damages.

Another definition of Cruel and Unusual punishment: There are generally tests that can serve as a guide to what cruel and unusual punishment is according to various legal textbooks in accordance with the law. These are:

overall acceptance in society: This is what I was talking about in Europe which has prevalence. And also how no first world country has this practice which you have not yet addressed
severity (the punishment fits the crime):, and
if the punishment is arbitrary.

The US is also violating Gates V Cook: In (2004 In Gates, the court found conditions of confinement to be unconstitutional because inmates were subject to filthy conditions, including pest infestation; improper sanitary conditions and plumbing; and inadequate mental health care.

I believe 23 hours confined would be inadequate health care... This would classify as cruel and unusual punishment.

Also, please back up your argument with sources , and thanks for the great debate.


Since I started the debate, it is only fair to let my opponent have the last word, so I will not rebut his final statement. I will leave it to the voters to decide whether or not his reasoning is sound; therefore, my previous argument will be my closing statement. I firmly believe that I have presented sound arguments for why the death penalty is not in fact cruel and unusual, and knocked down all of my opponents counter arguments. Therefore I leave it to the voters to decide if I have done an sufficient job of proving that the death penalty does not qualify as a cruel or unusual punishment.


Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by thebestdabatelord 3 years ago
i think that a death penalty is cruel and should not be legal

eg. if someone killed a person and in return a punishment is death then in my opinion thats wrong its just like "two wrongs dont make a right" and since the purpose of the punishment is to lower the chance of getting people killed then why kill again as a punishment when you can simply just lock the person up??
Posted by What50 3 years ago
Regarding Pros round 2 arguments does he have any proof to show that Death Sentence Prisoners suffer psychological trauma?
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