Instigator / Con

The death penalty should be abolished.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics

After 11 votes and with 11 points ahead, the winner is...

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Three days
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One month
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Contender / Pro

To whoever joins this debate, best of luck. If the Pro wants to try and either message me questions or comment questions for me, I will do my best to answer them, but I'm not making a guarantee due to my schedule. Lastly, before we start the debate, to structure the debate, I use a system like this
1. Main point.
A. Impacts to show what happens if we don't solve the main point.
B. Another impact if present.
I. Roman numerals to show sub impacts if applicable.
This little bit is a copy and paste, so all these points might not be in every debate I'm in.

Pro can frame the debate however they want in their first speech, but I will push back against it if I need to. Only rule I would say is no new args in the last round, but anything else is fair game.

Round 1
Since I'm Con, I'll give the first speech to Pro so that they may affirm the resolution.
Thank you, ancap, for instigating this debate. I will now provide my opening speech. 



  1. Should: used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.
  2. Abolish: formally put an end to (a system, practice, or institution).
  3. Death penalty: the punishment of execution, administered to someone legally convicted of a capital crime.

I propose commuting all death row inmates to life without parole. 

C1) The DP is immoral

Sub-point A: The death penalty is too powerful

The government ought not to have the power to kill its citizens. The death penalty ultimately violates the proportionality principle of justice, namely that the punishment ought to fit the crime. As the ACLU notes [1]:

When the government metes out vengeance disguised as justice, it becomes complicit with killers in devaluing human life and human dignity. In civilized society, we reject the principle of literally doing to criminals what they do to their victims: The penalty for rape cannot be rape, or for arson, the burning down of the arsonist's house. We should not, therefore, punish the murderer with death.
Sub-point B: The DP makes irreversibly mistakes

Since the death penalty was reinstated, more than 150 people were exonerated. To put this number in context, for every 10 people executed, 1 person was set free [2]. Another study shows that 4% of defendants sentenced to die are innocent [3]. Quite a few of these convictions were quite recent. For example, Rodricus Crawford was convicted in 2013 for murder and given the death penalty. He was exonerated just a few years later [4]. Derral Wayne Hodgkins was convicted in 2011 and exonerated in 2015 [5]. It is impossible to know how many innocent men were executed since the '70s. 

Sub-point C: The DP causes the innocent to plead guilty.

Picture this: you're on trial for murder and the prosecution has flimsy evidence. In order to secure a conviction, they offer you a plea deal where if you don't plead guilty, they will seek the death penalty. Do you accept this bargain? According to the innocent project, at least 31 people plead guilty to serious crimes like rape and murder to avoid long sentences and to avoid trial. These innocent people served a combined total of 150 years in prison [6]. In the case of Robby Ray Dixon, they pled guilty to a 1979 Mississippi rape and murder they didn’t commit. After the two men were threatened with the death penalty, they testified against a third innocent defendant (ibid). 

C2) The DP is a failed policy

Sub-point A: the DP fails to deter 

There is a clear scientific consensus that the death penalty fails to deter. Indeed, the threat of execution is unlikely to deter someone who is angry and about to kill. In fact, states without the death penalty have lower rates of murder than states with the death penalty [7]. In fact, Justice Marshall in Furman v. Georgia, 1972 wrote: "In light of the massive amount of evidence before us, I see no alternative but to conclude that capital punishment cannot be justified on the basis of its deterrent effect." [8]

Sub-point B: Cost

The death penalty is significantly more expensive than life without parole. As an example, Amnesty International finds [10]:

  • A 2003 legislative audit in Kansas found that the estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70% more than the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. Death penalty case costs were counted through to execution (median cost $1.26 million). Non-death penalty case costs were counted through to the end of incarceration (median cost $740,000).
I'll conclude this section with what blamonkey wrote in my debate with him [11]:

The amount of waste that could be solved by switching to a life-without parole sentence, which is what I would favor, eliminates the inordinate amount of wasted funds that are not benefitting the people. Remember, we only promote the general welfare by using our funds to pose tangible benefits to the people. If alternatives are available that safeguard the public, we should pursue those instead. Moreover, by keeping people in jail instead of killing them, we have more time to commute their sentence if they are innocent.  

In light of the massive evidence before us, the death penalty is wholly immoral and fails as legal policy. I see no option but to abolish the death penalty. 


Round 2
I will answer my opponent's points and then create some of my own.

Opponent's points
1. I will focus most of my arguments on the sub points.
A. Saying that the death penalty is too strong is flawed for multiple reasons.
I. The claim that murderers don't deserve the death penalty really doesn't take into account the heinous acts that are commited. George Emil Banks shot three girlfriends, four of his children, and another child in his home. Afterwards, he then went to a former girlfriend's house, shot her, his other son, his girlfriend's mother, and his girlfriend's nephew. (1) Seven children were shot by this man. The argument that it goes too far to kill him really doesn't do justice to the crime he committed. Another example is Richard Scott Baumhammers who went on a killing spree of non-white citizens. He shot an elderly Jewish family friend, Indian immigrant at a grocery store, Chinese restaurant manager, Vietnamese-American cook, and African American working out. (2) To say his racist and hate-fueled killing spree isn't deserving of death because it's immoral, justifies that killing seven children or five racial minorities is deserving of three meals a day, free medical care, and a life that could be debatably described as being easier than the impoverished who haven't committed atrocities. We aren't devaluing their life because a life like theirs doesn't deserve value.
II. The example of rape and arson are individually wrong.
a. The rape doesn't apply for two reasons. Firstly, one of the reasons that the government raping someone is different than the government executing someone is the reasoning behind it. Raping someone is purely vindictive and leads to no goodness in the world, but an execution is the end of an evil being. Someone who is the epitome of evil is removed because it shouldn't be kept. Secondly, raping someone requires the state finding a state rapist, which is inherently a hard task to find. To find someone who is willing to rape rapists 9-5 isn't practical, while executions are. 
b. Arson is different because if we burned down an arsonists house, we are destroying property that can be impounded by the state and sold for profit. They don't do it because it isn't profitable.
III. The state doesn't have this power unchecked. Something a lot of anti death penalty advocates really don't mention is that it wasn't a state judge or faceless government that chose death for someone, but 12 jurors. These are people, like me and my opponent and every judge reading this that were selected for jury duty and then heard a court proceeding that they felt was enough to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt. After this, they hear every factor from his life to determine his punishment, and still chose that he shouldn't be allowed to live because of the severity of his actions. This wasn't a judge (unless the defendant chose that for himself), but 12 people who are citizens like him.
B. There's two issues to this point.
I. The argument of irreversible mistakes isn't solved by Pro. If we look at his proposal in a vacuum "I propose commuting all death row inmates to life without parole.", then we see that he doesn't stop new death row inmates from being created. I would argue that it doesn't matter how bad the mistakes are since Pro doesn't do anything to stop it from going forward. Also, don't let Pro shift their advocacy now. They chose their own advocacy since they didn't choose to simply support the resolution, so they should be forced to defend it for the entirety of the round. If they try to shift moving forward, I will address this in more detail.
II. Cross apply the entire point that 12 jurors stand by the point made. This is 12 people who are in agreement that, not only is the convicted guilty, but that they also deserve the death penalty, unless the defendant wants the judge to decide. On top of this already long process, a death row inmate then gets multiple appeals. (2) Three at least, with some states offering more. What this means is that, while the state may make some mistakes, multiple attempts are given to give the defendant the best opportunity they have at innocence. To claim that the occasional mistake means that the entire process is bad simply ignores how much effort is put into defending it.
C. There's two issues to this point. 
I. Pro doesn't solve. Once again, they just take current death row inmates and take them off, but doesn't stop new ones from being created, so they don't stop plea bargains going forward.
II. This issue is with plea deals and not with death penalty. They specifically say that they plead guilty to rape as well as murder, which means that part of the issues brought up has nothing to do with the death penalty. Unless they say that every innocent person who pleaded guilty was doing it because of the death penalty, they don't change anything.

2. Once again, all of the argumentation will happen in the sub points.
A. To say there is a clear consensus against the theory of death penalty deterrence is ignorant at best and a lie at worst. The statistics is much more muddled than that. See, the statistics my opponent cites are just basic murder rate versus murder rate, but studies that take into account other factors, such as economic situations, see a very different result. A study from Emory University say that every execution stops 18 murders. (3) Statistics that treat every state the exact same without taking economic and other factors into account don't solve for anything.
B. There's two issues with cost.
I. Since my opponent doesn't stop future death penalty cases, he can't solve cost. All he does is shift the current death row inmates, and while this might be a short lived surplus of funds, he doesn't solve the root cause, which is death penalty itself.
II. Cost should be a secondary issue. If I win the argument that the death penalty is more moral, cost shouldn't matter, and if my opponent wins that the death penalty is immoral, then cost shouldn't matter. To put a price tag on justice or life, if it be the criminal or victim, simply demeans the entire conversation. Put morality, lowering murder, and administering justice as the most important factors in the debate, and completely disregard any price comparisons as inherently immoral itself.

My points

1. I will first start with a counter-proposal. I propose putting 24 jurors on every death penalty case, abolishing plea bargains, guaranteeing a minimum of 7 appeals to a convicted death row inmate, and retrying all current death row inmates under these new rules.
A. This solves my opponents arguments about irreversible mistakes and innocent plea deals better than my opponent solves it. This then focuses the discussion to two points if you buy the argument that cost should be a secondary issue, the morality of the death penalty and the deterrent effect. Realize that I've turned both of those issues already and solve two other of my opponent's points better than he does with my counter proposal. 

I solve plea bargains and the issue of irreversible mistakes better than my opponent, I've proven that the death penalty is the more moral option and does have a deterrent effect, and have shown why cost should be the last issue we care about in this debate. With all of this, vote Con!

Round 3
Extend across all my points since he forfeited the round.
Round 4
Extend across all my points since he forfeited the round.
Round 5
Extend all points since he forfeited the round. This is final speech, so vote Con!