Instigator / Pro

On balance, the death penalty, as applied in the US, is immoral.


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

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Contender / Con

Resolved: On balance, the death penalty in the US does more harm than good.

Death penalty: death as a punishment given by a court of law for very serious crimes; capital punishment

Immoral: not conforming to accepted standards of morality.

The burden of proof is shared. PRO must prove that the death penalty in the US is immoral. CON must prove that the death penalty in the US is moral.


-No Kritiks

-No personal attacks

-Focus only on the death penalty in the United States


R1: PRO waives

R1: CON constructives

R2: PRO constructives

R2: CON rebuts and extends

R3: PRO rebuts and extends

R3: CON fluid attack/defense

R4: PRO fluid attack/defense

R4: CON conclusion

R5: PRO conclusion

R5: CON waives

Round 1
Waive. I wish my opponent the best of luck!
Thank you, AustinL0926.
Note: this document was written in Google Docs. For more accurate formatting, here is a link to the document.


  1. BoP: (provided by PRO) 

  1. The burden of proof is shared. PRO must prove that the death penalty in the U.S. is immoral. CON must prove that the death penalty in the U.S. is moral.

  1. Definitions: (provided by PRO)

  1. Death penalty: death as a punishment given by a court of law for very serious crimes; capital punishment
  2. Immoral: not conforming to accepted standards of morality.

  1. Equivocal thesis: 

  1. “...the death penalty, as applied in the U.S., is immoral. PRO provides immoral as the following– “not conforming to accepted standards of morality.” CON takes “accepted standards” as those in the majority. 
  2. Derived from moralitas (manner, character, proper behaviour) is “the differentiation of intention, decisions, and actions between those that are distinguished as proper (right) and those that are improper (wrong)” [1] -- thus, CON assumes that immorality is the violation of moral laws, standards of which are accepted by the majority to date.
  3. CON offers the following reframe: 

  1. Resolved: On balance, the death penalty, as applied in the U.S. creates immoral conditions, in which moral laws are violated– as by the standards of the majority is induced.

  1. PRO is free to add on. 

  1. Clarification of details surrounding thesis: CON thus asks PRO to define the situations for which the capital punishment is to be implemented, to further extend the broadness in which both sides can take in the argument.


  1. A1.1

  1. The Criminal Justice System is designed to deliver “justice for all.” This statement is simple– the CJS gives each to his own. It would be unjust to sentence an innocent man to capital punishment– and unjust the same to let a guilty man live on.
  2. Thus, it is but the primary purpose of the Criminal Justice System is to deliver justice to those who have committed crimes. When a crime is committed, it is the obligation of society to actuate a just punishment.
  3. Let us take a hypothetical situation. Say some individual A steals $100 from another individual B. Individual A possesses the right to keep his money, yet through theft, he has infringed upon that very right of individual B. Thus, individual A forfeits this right and must return exactly $100 to individual B. The scale is equal. 
  4. As is the rest of the CJS– in theory. While exceptions exist, they are oft brought up in a false manner. Let’s look at an example:

  1. Say some individual A burns down the house of another individual B. Individual A again possesses the right to keep his possessions and would, under other circumstances, not be held accountable for the losses of individual B. But lo and behold, the arsonist is indeed individual A. 
  2. How should justice be delivered? Surely the most logical approach is to allow individual B to break into individual A’s home and commit the same crime! 
  3. Although common, this misinterpretation is incorrect:

  1. The outcome of this situation is not balanced on either side– that is, unless individuals A and B and the same someones, with identical lives, social status, criminal records, etc.
  2. The asset in this scenario (individual B’s house) has a price tag that is predetermined. It is worth a certain value determined through the effect of the crime itself, not the action. 

  1. Punishment should be equivalent to crime in terms of physical and moral values alike.

  1. This results in a closed loop of logic: in order to achieve morality, justice must be given. If there exists such a situation in which some method implemented consistently does not result in justice being given, then it is the wrong method for that such scenario and is not moral for such purposes.

  1. A.1.2

  1. Now, the question arises: is there some existing situation where the morally correct method is implemented, yet justice is not given? Let us look at an example. 

  1. The movie The Green Mile follows the events leading up to the execution of an innocent man, John Coffey, who was falsely accused of the rape and murder of two young white girls. 
  2. Elements of fiction exist are prominent in its tale, but The Green Mile is a proportionally realistic example of the Criminal Justice failing to deliver justice. 
  3. But it is just here where the predominating problem emerges: was it the implementation of the punishment that caused this failure, or the systematic failure of false accusation?
  4. In this scenario, the former is not what caused the (fictional, but still realistic) CJS to fail in its purpose. Had John Coffey been the actual murderer and rapist of the two girls, then the court would have rightfully sentenced him to suitable punishment.

  1. A quick question for PRO: in terms of personal morale, how should the court have sentenced John Coffey, if he is the hypothetical murderer?

  1. Thus the wrongs fall on the latter– the wrongs being the violation of moral law. It is the false accusations that sentenced an innocent man to his death. 
  2. We may chase the blame to systematic racism present in court, bias of judges and jury, etc.-- but no matter which way the issue is twisted, the causes of these wrongs are out of the range of this debate. What is important is whether or not the correct choice of method is implemented in each scenario.

  1. But, can capital punishment be recognized as a “correct choice of method”?

  1. The BoP states that capital punishment “creates instances in which its usage is immoral and violates moral laws”. In The Green Mile, the innocence of John Coffey is revealed prior to his execution– meaning that the prison guards could have– and did– protest against Coffey’s sentence. 
  2. Several characters in The Green Mile understood that John Coffey was an innocent man, falsely accused and sentenced to execution– meaning that the evil in this scenario has nothing to do with the morality of the death penalty and everything to do with external factors.
  3. Now, the U.S. Constitution explicitly sanctions capital punishment: "No State shall...deprive any person of life, liberty...without due process of law." [5] Thus, capital punishment is justified with the sole restraint of the required authority for that some person(s).
  4. Further– Congress, as well as any state legislature, may prescribe capital punishment for capital offenses. To impose a death sentence, the jury must be “guided by the particular circumstances of the criminal, and the court must have conducted an individualized sentencing process.” [6]
  5. Thus, the death penalty is moral and violates no moral laws so long as the person(s) sentenced are so with due process of law; further, it is constitutionally recognized as a just, balanced sentence.


  1. A2.1

  1. Capital punishment is a constitutionally recognized criminal punishment– execution is the highest level of punishment, reserved for capital crimes, atrocious to a point where the only proportional retribution is the death penalty.

  1. Proportional: proper, fair, or equal share; in relation [to another] with respect to magnitude, quantity, or degree.
  2. Retribution: the dispensing or receiving of reward of punishment, especially in the hereafter.
  3. Thus, proportional retribution must involve the dispensing of proper, fair punishment in relation to another, with respect to magnitude or degree.
  1. Further, the Supreme Court states that a proportion of punishment to its crime involves three factors:

  1. The seriousness of the crime and the penalty 
  2. How crimes are generally punished in the jurisdiction
  3. How other jurisdictions punish this crime

  1. A sentence is deemed immoral by the Supreme Court if and only if it does not satisfy these requirements. For example, if the sentence for arson in some cities is Punishment A, but the sentence for the same crime in a different city being Punishment C– this punishment being unusually moderate or severe– would make Punishment C immoral. etc.--  Thus, to be immoral, capital punishment must:

  1. Not consider the dispensing of proper, fair punishment in relation to another, with respect to magnitude or degree.
  2. Not consider the seriousness of the crime and the penalty.
  3. Not consider how crimes are generally punished in the jurisdiction.
  4. Not consider how other jurisdictions punish this crime.

  1. Let us continue on these standards in the following arguments.

  1. A2.2

  1. The U.S. Constitution condemns “cruel and unusual punishment” [3], for all forms of criminal punishment.
  2. Further, a court must decide whether a punishment is “cruel or unusual” according to evolving standards of decency in the community.
  3. But are these standards grounded? 

  1. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, or Mahatma Gandhi, was an Indian revolutionary and political ethicist most famous for his use of nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule.
  2. Commonly known as the “Father of the Nation” in India, Gandhi is an international symbol of nonviolence and went down in history as one of the most inspirational figures to live.
  3. Yet Gandhi was also a racist who followed the ideas of his culture and time, stating that white people ought to be the “predominating race”, and described black individuals as “troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”
  4. This did not prevent Gandhi from becoming one of the most revered and greatest figures in history. The standards of society are ever-changing, and while Gandhi’s views of race and sex might be seen as abusive and intolerable, it is undeniable that he made a great contribution to not only his world, but the world as a whole.

  1. The standards of decency are a tool to judge the situations in which a punishment is carried out, but cannot be employed to deny a guilty man his sentence nor– in this case– a great man his fame. The morality of some punishment depends on the situations in which it is used and the way it is implemented.
  2. However, PRO defines immoral as “not conforming to accepted standards of morality.” CON agrees with this statement but will elaborate on its purpose in the following arguments. 

  1. A2.3

  1. PRO states that capital punishment is immoral– not conforming to accepted standards of morality. As to prior mention, the constantly evolving standards of decency oft have little effect on the morality of the action. Let us take another example.

  1. Imagine that Adolf Hitler has been captured and stands trial for his crimes. Now, consider: what kind of punishment is suitable for his crimes? What kind of criminal punishment would give justice, not only to his victims, but also to society? 
  2. Although CON agrees with the importance of accepted standards when considering the morality of a situation, one is sorry to express that these “standards” do little to change the trajectory of the cut-short lives of Hitler’s victims.
  3. I am sure that, to Hitler’s supporters, Adolf was a positively lovely individual. But I am also sure that for his crimes, Hitler deserved no less than execution.

  1. Reasons that CON agrees with the execution of Hitler include but are not limited to: nonexistent probability of escape, nonexistent probability of parole, or any other controversy, etc.

  1. But the main purpose of the execution of Adolf Hitler would be that capital punishment would be truly the only proportional retribution for his crimes.
  2. If PRO does happen to oppose the hypothetical execution of Adolf Hitler, CON would be honored to hear the reasoning behind it.

  1. But wait– surely Hitler is a stand-alone, extreme case! While CON agrees with “extreme” (and hopes that few cases as extreme will appear in the future), CON disagrees with “stand-alone”. Let us look at some more examples:

  1. Albert Fish: serial child molester, murderer, and cannibal claiming that he “had victims in every state” and boasted his number of victims as about 100.
  2. Veronica and Ivan Gonzales: torturers and murderers of four-year-old Genny Rojas, who was suspended alive upon a hook, strangled, beaten, handcuffed, and eventually died after being forced into a scalding bathtub.
  3. John Wayne Gacy Jr.: rapist and murderer of 33 boys and young men, disposing of his victims in his home’s crawl space, across his property, and in a nearby river.
  4. Vincent Li: murderer of Tim McLean– who died of over 60 stab wounds– along with cannibal, as Li proceeded to disassemble and eat McLean’s corpse on a public bus.

  1. The list goes on. 340000 recorded cases of homicide and non-negligent manslaughter remain unsolved from 1965 to 2021 [4], and unrecorded cases may remain that way. The attackers behind these crimes may never be brought to justice. Examples of injustice will never be “stand-alone”. Why show sympathy for those that can be brought to justice? 
  2. Perhaps someday murder will be as unspeakable as slavery. Perhaps someday man will achieve the epitome of society, with no need for capital punishment. But until we reach that day, let us provide the proportional punishment for those who commit heinous crimes– and let the standards of morality be a supporter of justice.


  1. A3.1

  1. It is largely thought that capital punishment deters further crime, as well as reducing chances of escape and re-offense– after all, facing certain death for a criminal offense seems to be something even a hardened murderer would try to avoid.
  2. Think about it this way: let us imagine a deranged murderer M, who is on a killing spree. Say that M lives in a community in which the sentence for murder is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

  1. Oh, goody! Not only will his survival be ensured regardless of his crimes, but there will also be a constant stream of therapists attempting to teach him his wrongs so that he may understand why he shouldn’t do it again. Considering his status as a murderer, as well as his impaired morals and compromised mental state, the notion of becoming a “normal citizen” really doesn’t matter much to M.
  2. Further, M now has little fear of the law. Prison escapes are a common thing in the U.S.-- take Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman for example. A notorious drug mobster and among the world’s most powerful drug traffickers, Guzman escaped from not one but two maximum-security prisons, the latter of which being Mexico’s Altiplano. Following both escapes were numerous charges of assassinations, acts of torture, bribery, etc. There is a more-than-likely possibility that, in the indefinite time that M is imprisoned, he may escape and re-offend.
  3. Assuming that M does not manage to escape his prison, there exist still many other possibilities for him to commit more crimes– including murder. For example, while serving a life term in the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, Joseph L. Druce murdered a fellow inmate, former priest John Geoghan. Rape and gang beatings are common in most prisons in the U.S.
  4. Ironically, M’s hypothetical future in prison may very well serve him better than his community.

  1. Now, let us consider the outcomes of professional deranged murderer M’s hypothetical future under different circumstances. Say that M lives in a community in which the criminal punishment for murder is the death penalty.

  1. At the time of the arrest, M has probably already realized that he is going to die. 
  2. M is executed after due process of law.

  1. CON acknowledges that few cases of trial are as simple, and also acknowledges that although potentially complicated, will result in a nonexistent chance of escape and re-offense for all individuals charged with capital crimes. No living murderer– or any similar kind of capital offender– is ever inexorably incapacitated unless through his execution. 

  1. A3.2

  1. Let’s think about this differently. Capital punishment is reserved for only the most heinous crimes– that is, the ones that spark moral outrage in every rational individual. So, let us take a mass shooter as an example of these sorry excuses of human beings.
  2. If the death penalty is in place, the mass shooter is executed after a fair trial. There exists no possibility of further crime. Justice is delivered; proportional retribution is imposed. 

  1. PRO, what alternatives would you propose to this mass shooter?

  1. A common recourse to the death penalty is the life sentence without parole, so CON will use it as another possible option for the mass shooter.

  1. Now, let us review the standards for proportional retribution: 

  1. Considers the dispensing of proper, fair punishment in relation to another, with respect to magnitude or degree.

  1. Right off the bat, a life sentence without parole violates several of these requirements. For example, LSw/oP dispenses punishment that is neither proper nor fair, as, ironically, although the mass shooter may be sentenced to multiple life terms, he will die only once. The families of the victims will be forced to carry on with their lives for an indefinite time, knowing that the individual behind the death of their loved one(s). 
  2. The mass murderer knows his crimes. Through murder, one has forfeited his right to life. Through murder, the mass shooter has sentenced himself to death.

  1. Thus, the execution of the mass shooter in question is not immoral– in truth, the converse is proper.


  1. A4.1

  1. A common misconception is a misinterpretation of capital punishment as a twisted kind of revenge for the victim and/or their family. 
  2. The purpose of the CJS is not to resolve personal vendettas, nor act as a glorified, lawful “I told you so!” Justice is inherently reciprocal– it is served before being praised.  The concept of capital punishment being revenge is directly tied to the common “the correct sentence for arsonists is the destruction of their own home!” fallacy. 
  3. Emotional impulse is never a contractual basis for a criminal sentence. Injustice will always be higher in priority compared to personal reasoning.

  1. CONC.

  1. Over the course of the last several contentions, CON has proved that capital punishment is sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution; is a recognized form of sentence that delivers justice; is moral and violates no moral laws so long that the authority that sentences some person(s) is justified.
  2. CON goes on to evince that the morality of some penalty depends on the situations in which it is used and the way it is implemented, after which it is held to accepted standards of decency. These standards are not a barrier, but a supporter of proportional retribution for injustice.
  3. Further, CON demonstrates the immorality of false alternatives to capital punishment, especially in situations in which the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment. In closing, CON also addressed the fallacy of capital punishment being a twisted form of revenge.

Thank you. 

[1] ^ Morality, Wikipedia
[2] ^ Aristotle, Ethics (1976)
[3] ^ 8th AMD 
[4] ^ Homicide Stats
[5] ^ 14th AMD
[6] ^ Cornell Law School

Round 2
It is tempt­ing to pre­tend that minori­ties on death row share a fate in no way con­nect­ed to our own, that our treat­ment of them sounds no echoes beyond the cham­bers in which they die. Such an illu­sion is ulti­mate­ly cor­ro­sive, for the rever­ber­a­tions of injus­tice are not so eas­i­ly confined.” 
-William Brennan, Supreme Court justice 

I. Preamble 

1. Framework 

In order to win, I must prove that the US death penalty violates accepted standards of morality. Because the burden of proof is shared, my opponent must conversely prove that the US death penalty upholds accepted standards of morality. 

As such, this debate mainly comes down to two questions – does the death penalty violate moral standards, and are those moral standards accepted? 

In this response, I will list several standards of morality, show how the death penalty violates them, and uphold my case.  

2. Structure 

My opening speech will be entirely dedicated to building a constructive case, per the mutually agreed-upon debate structure. Rebuttals will come in later rounds.

As the societal harms of the death penalty must be linked to the moral harms of the death penalty, a syllogistic structure will be used in order to support contentions. 

3. Scope 

This debate only covers the death penalty as applied in the US. As such, comparisons to other countries, or theoretical applications of the death penalty, are irrelevant. 

In addition, the death penalty is a process, and refers to more than just the execution itself. Therefore, the sentencing of the death penalty, the conditions in death row, the actual execution, and so on, are all relevant to this debate. 

4. Standards of Morality 

Since we’re operating on a loose framework of morality, I’m not going to get into any deep philosophical details. Instead, I’m going to use widely accepted principles of morality (adapted from Texas A&M’s Philosophy Course), in order to define “accepted standards of morality.” [1] These four principles are:
  • The principle of nonmaleficence: We should avoid causing needless harm to others by our actions. 
  • The principle of beneficence: We should promote the welfare of others by our actions. 
  • The principle of autonomy: We should allow rational people to be self-determining, except possibly where if, by doing so, we act to prevent harm to others. 
  • The principle of justice (aka the principle of equality): We should treat similar cases in similar ways, according to equally distributed benefits and burdens. 
5. Burdens Analysis 

Although the burden of proof is shared, it is crucial to note that the immorality of something ought to take precedent over morality. In other words, we ought to consider the worst aspects of a system in order to evaluate its morality, rather than its average. 

In order to explain this, we could use the analogy of a criminal named Joe. He may be an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, for almost all his life. However, the one time where he robs a bank is enough to put him in prison. Most people would consider Joe an immoral person, even if his average action is moral. 

Similarly, morality is something that is expected, so a single case of immorality ought to disprove the morality of something. For the sake of going overkill, I will provide six examples of immorality of the death penalty.

II. Constructives 

In order to standardize my case, I will generally be using a four-part structure for each contention: 
  • A moral system must have quality [x] to be moral. 
  • If a system does not have quality [x], then it is immoral. 
  • The death penalty does not have quality [x]. 
  • The death penalty is immoral. 
The first part will cite one of the principles of morality, and apply it to the justice system. 

The second part will use the principle of logical contrapositive – if the premise and conclusion of a statement are both negated, then the resulting statement has the same truth value as the original. 

The third part will cite evidence in order to show how the death penalty fails to have a quality required for morality.

The fourth part is simply a conclusion, for the sake of formality and wrapping things up. 

P0.0: A sentencing system must be fair and impartial in order to be moral. 

Fairness and partiality uphold the principles of nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice. By having a fair and just sentencing system, we ensure that no one is unjustly sentenced, and that burdens are equally distributed. 

P0.1: Therefore, an unfair and unjust sentencing system is immoral. 

If 0.0 is true, then this is also true, by contrapositive. 

P0.2: The death penalty is an unfair and unjust sentencing system. 

Nationwide statistics have shown clear evidence of unjust disparities in sentencing. A defendant’s sentence, especially for one as severe as the death penalty, shouldn’t be affected by their skin color, the victim’s skin color, or their socioeconomic status. So why is this the case? 

According to a study published in the Harvard Law Review, in Georgia, people who are accused of killing white victims are 17 times more likely to be convicted than people accused of killing Black people. [2]  

Furthermore, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), in 96% of states studied, there was evidence of racial bias in death penalty sentencing. [3]  

Although my opponent might claim that this is the fault of the justice system in general, not the death penalty itself, this is no excuse.
First of all, the death penalty is part and parcel of the justice system, so any immoralities in the justice system must reflect on it as well.  

Second of all, the sentencing process of the death penalty is distinct from other trials – if the death penalty was abolished, standardized punishments would eliminate sentencing disparities. 

Finally, if it was truly the entire justice system’s fault, then it would be expected that there would similar discrimination across the entire justice system. However, this is not the case. According to the DPIC, 2% of US counties have been responsible for over 50% of executions since 1976. [4] 

C0.3: The death penalty is immoral. 

Follows through modus ponens

P1.0: A punishment must not violate human rights in order to be moral. 

Upholding human rights clearly follows the moral principle of nonmaleficence, as well as the general moral standard that human rights are something that should be followed. 

P1.1: Therefore, if a punishment violates human rights, then it is immoral. 

If 1.0 is true, then this is also true, by contrapositive. 

P1.2: The death penalty violates human rights. 

The death penalty is a clear violation of human rights, as established by international organizations.  

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commision for Human Rights, has said that the long and torturous wait between sentencing and execution constitutes “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” [5] 

In addition, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a long period of waiting before execution violates the European Convention on Human Rights. This case was in relation to the US’s death penalty, as it applied to an extradition case. [6] 

Not only does this inhumane waiting period violate human rights, several humanitarian groups have also noted that the death penalty, by its very nature, violates the right to life – one of the most fundamental human rights there is. [7][8] 

C1.3: The death penalty is immoral. 

Follows through modus ponens

P2.0: A punishment must account for the chance of innocence in order to be moral. 

Accounting for the chance of innocence follows the principle of nonmaleficence (not harming innocent people), as well as overall equality and justice. Furthermore, the general idea of assuming (and accounting for) the possibility of innocence upholds the principle of autonomy. 

P2.1: Therefore, if a punishment does not account for the chance of innocence, then it is immoral. 

If 2.0 is true, then this is also true, by contrapositive. 

P2.2: In order to account for the chance of innocence, a punishment must be reversible. 

This ought to be obvious – virtually every other punishment in existence, from imprisonment to fines, is reversible in some way or another. If it is not reversible, then it doesn’t account for innocence. 

P2.3: The death penalty is not reversible. 

Death is quite obviously not reversible – a fact that weighs heavily on the death penalty. Over 190 people have been exonerated since 1973, showing the fundamental unreliability of the death penalty. Of course, these are only the exonerations of the living – it’s a sad reality that investigators, and those fighting for justice, cannot afford to waste resources on clearing the name of the dead. [15] 

According to a rigorous statistical study published in the National Academy of Sciences, 4.1% of inmates on death row are innocent. Is a 1 in 25 chance of executing a person completely innocent of the crime for which they were accused an acceptable risk? I’ll let you decide. [16] 

C2.4: The death penalty is immoral. 

Follows through modus ponens

P3.0: A punishment must be implemented in a humane manner in order to be moral. 

Upholds the principle of nonmaleficience. It should also be a clear truism as well – I would hardly think that an inhumane punishment could even be moral. This is a corollary to contention 1.0 - that is, following human rights is a moral imperative. 

P3.1: Therefore, if a punishment is implemented in an inhumane manner, then it is immoral. 

If 3.0 is true, then this is also true, by contrapositive. 

P3.2: The death penalty is implemented in an inhumane manner. 

To start this off, extend contention 1.2 - the death penalty has been shown to violate human rights, both in principle, as well as in the long waiting period. However, what about the execution itself? 

Lethal injection is supposedly the most “humane” way to carry out an execution. However, it also carries the highest risk of botching an execution. Out of 1054 executions carried about by lethal injection, 75 were improperly implemented in a way that caused “unnecessary agony for the prisoner or that reflect gross incompetence of the executioner.” [9] A 7.1% chance of “unnecessary agony” is clearly the sign of an inhumane system. 

Furthermore, lethal injection, if improperly carried out, can lead to the equivalent of a state-sanctioned torture and killing. In several cases, inadequate amounts of general anesthetics were administered, leading to “excruciating pain.” [10] 

Finally, the implementation of any method of execution, whether intended to be humane or not, is functionally immoral, because it benefits an immoral system.
According to Amnesty International, “The search for a 'humane' way of killing people should be seen for what it is – a search to make executions more palatable to those carrying out the killing, to the governments that wish to appear humane, and to the public in whose name the killing is supposedly carried out.” [11] 

C3.3: The death penalty is immoral. 

Follows through modus ponens

P4.0: A public policy must put money to good use in order to be moral. 

This indirectly upholds the principle of beneficence, as well as nonmaleficence. Furthermore, it also upholds the principle of justice. 

It’s clear that if taxpayer money is being wasted, then this is causing harm, albeit indirectly. To see why this is the case, let’s use the example of police calls. If someone is constantly calling the police and wasting their time for made-up reasons (e.g. complaining about their neighbor), then it follows that these are police resources getting diverted away from actual emergencies – possibly causing general harm, injury, or even death. 

Similarly, wasting taxpayer money causes harm, and is immoral – the chain of cause and effect is simply a little less obvious. 

P4.1: Therefore, if a public policy does not put money to good use, then it is immoral. 

If 4.0 is true, then this is also true, by contrapositive. 

P4.2: The death penalty does not put money to good use. 

Hundreds of studies have been conducted across all 50 states aiming to assess the fiscal efficiency of the death penalty. Of these, almost every single one has proved that the death penalty is inefficient, costly, and wasteful. [13] 

For example, according to a study conducted by the Palm Beach Post, each execution in Florida costs taxpayers a stunning $24 million, because of increased trial costs, as well as the extra appeals offered in capital cases. Similar studies conducted across the nation unanimously support the same conclusion: the death penalty is fiscally wasteful and an irresponsible policy. [14] 

With the hundreds of millions of dollars saved, we could make genuine and meaningful changes to our criminal justice system, instead of wasting them on an immoral and irresponsible policy. 

C4.3: The death penalty is immoral. 

Follows through modus ponens
P5.0: A punishment must do more good than harm to society in order to be moral. 

Upholds the principle of beneficence. 

P5.1: Therefore, if a punishment does more harm than good to society, then it is immoral. 

If 5.0 is true, then this is also true, by contrapositive. 

P5.2: The death penalty does more harm than good to society. 

The harms of the death penalty are clear. It violates human rights norms in several ways, wastes money, undermines faith in the justice system through executions of innocent people, and is implemented in an unfair and discriminatory manner. 

In contrast, it’s hard to see the benefits. One of the most commonly cited justifications for the death penalty is the supposed deterrent effect it has on crime. However, several studies have shown this is not the case. 

Most murders are committed with little thought for the consequences – an obvious fact, since anyone thinking of them wouldn’t commit a murder. As such, no amount of extreme punishment is likely to have a deterrent effect.  

According to the New York Times, “during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48 percent to 101 percent higher than in states without the death penalty.” [12] 

With this framework of harm vs good in mind, it’s clear to see which side the scale tips to. 

C5.3: The death penalty is immoral. 

Follows through modus ponens

III. Conclusion 

In my opening speech, I have:
  • Established a framework, structure, scope, and morality standard for the overall debate 
  • Set a syllogistic structure in order to demonstrate the immorality of the death penalty 
  • Shown how the death penalty is unjust and unfair 
  • Shown how the death penalty violates human rights 
  • Shown how the death penalty does not account for innocence 
  • Shown how the death penalty is implemented in an inhumane manner 
  • Shown how the death penalty wastes governmental funds 
  • Shown how the death penalty does more harm than good 
  • Overall, demonstrated six ways the death penalty is immoral, any one of which is enough to prove my case 
Rebuttals, per the debate structure, will come next round. I look forward to my opponent’s response! 

IV. Sources 

11: ibid 

Round 3
My opponent has DM'd me saying that they were unable to post their round due to school commitments - something I completely understand, being a student myself. As such, I will waive this round. I also request that judges leave conduct tied, barring further forfeits of course.
Round 4
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Round 5