Debate: Death penalty

Discussion in 'Formal debates' started by James R, Jan 2, 2010.

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  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    This is a debate covering arguments for and against the death penalty. Debaters are James R (for the negative case) and Syzygys (for the affirmative).

    Links to related threads:

    [thread=98662]Discussion thread[/thread]
    [thread=98589]Proposal thread[/thread]

    Usually the affirmative case is put first, but in this instance it was agreed that James R would post links to 2 sites containing arguments against the death penalty to start the debate, and Syzygys would then refute those arguments in his first post. There will then be 3 follow-up posts by each debater.
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    As agreed, I provide the following two links to sites containing arguments against the death penalty. I thank Syzygys for suggesting this debate topic.

    The first link summarises the arguments I will rely on in this debate. Syzygys has said he will refute all of these arguments.

    Helpfully, the linked page gives the arguments in summary form. Clicking on each one gives more details, which of course Syzygys will attempt to refute as appropriate.

    I reproduce here the main points:

    • The death penalty inevitably results in the execution of some innocent people. These errors can never be rectified, and are unacceptable.
    • It costs far more to execute a person than to keep him or her in prison for life.
    • Many family members who have lost love ones to murder feel that the death penalty will not heal their wounds nor will it end their pain; the extended process prior to executions can prolong the agony experienced by the family.
    • The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America - more than 137 nations worldwide - have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice.
    • In practice, the death penalty is not applied on an even playing field. The greatest factor determining whether a person will get the death penalty (for an equivalent crime) is the quality of legal representation that person is able to access.
    • Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime any more than long prison sentences.
    • Politics, quality of legal counsel and the jurisdiction where a crime is committed are more often the determining factors in a death penalty case than the facts of the crime itself. Thus, the death penalty is arbitrarily or unfairly applied.
    • Almost all religious groups in the United States regard executions as immoral, as do atheist organisations.
    • The race of the victim and the race of the defendant in capital cases are major factors in determining who is sentenced to die in the USA.
    • The alternative of life in prison is cheaper to tax-payers and keeps violent offenders off the streets for good.

    My second link is to Amnesty International, which makes similar points (that Syzygys will no doubt address separately where necessary). Amnesty also adds the argument that the death penalty is often used as a tool of political oppression and suppression by governments against their own people.

    Syzygys: over to you for your refutation of all the points raised on these two pages.
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  5. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    I would like to separate the pro and contra arguments and also keep the posts shorter, so if you don't mind, I will post the affirmative arguments, so you have time to work on those while I work on the refutal of the contra arguments.

    Before I start I would like to note a few things:

    1. Most contra arguments are not really arguments against ALL Death Penalties (DP from now on), just a particular category of it. Thus it implies 2 things:

    a/ The DP shouldn't be thrown out like the baby with the water, just because it has problems in same particular types,cases. We should work on perfecting the process, instead of abandoning it.
    b/ Since we are debating DP as universally right or wrong, being wrong in a sub-category doesn't make it wrong universally as a whole.

    2. Anti-DP people automatically assume most of the time that DP should only be used in homicides cases. I will argue that its usage should be more frequent, for more type of crimes, like treason, serial rape, causing several bodily harm to more people, severe economic crimes when it is caused to more people, sexual crimes against children when more children are involved.

    3. I will also use a few arguments about what currently not in use, but should be and would make the DP more valuable, like organ donation. We are talking about theory, what society should do, so I think ideas can be included.

    4. Personally I can change my view on the topic, (thus I am not rabid, orthodox pro-DP) as long as logical arguments and facts are presented. I don't think it will happen though...

    5. I will also be using some very interesting arguments, what you might have never heard of. Well, treat it like it is an argument and don't dismiss it out of hand.

    6. Some of these arguments deserve their on debates, but for simplicity and saving time, I like to be short and concise.

    OK, after these notes, here are the pro-DP arguments:

    1. Justice. Payback. Retribution. Negative reward. Punishment.

    Just like one can expect reward for good deeds or payment for employment, bad deeds should be rightfully rewarded too. Once the bad deed is very severe, the only rightful punishment can be the DP. The eye for an eye is a principle that has been with humans since we have written records. Personally I think punishment also should add a little extra, after all justice isn't just about reinburstment but also about punishment.
    So when the crime is let's say multiple homicide, the only equal punishment is DP.

    2. Society's safety.

    No dead man killed again. Ever. Either in prison or ordering from inside. No dead man ever escaped either. Thus DP is the ONLY way to keep society safe from the criminal. Prisoners do escape ocasionally and they can and do order killing others from inside the prison.

    3. Saves lifes.

    Addition to #2 point, when the criminal is a cult leader, terrorist or member of an organization (criminal or political), there is a possibility of hostage taking for freeing the criminal. Once the criminal is dead, this danger doesn't exist anymore.

    4. Deterrent in some cases.

    The deterrence is a complex issue, I will just go ahead and say that it is deterrent usually in white collar crimes or specially when the criminal has a clear choice to commit or not the crime and economically he'she isn't forced to do the crime.

    5. Simplicity.

    It is justice served quickly and rather simply. Instead of decades, the justice is done in a much shorter period of time. (we are talking how it should be, not how it is done in the US) Also, there is no argument about what type of prisonment or how long, there is only 1 type of DP.

    6. Aging prison population.

    If DP is not aviable, the criminals can live up to very old age. A criminal spending 3-4 decades in the prison system is most likely not able to readjust to a normal society. Caring for aging criminals puts extra burden to the society. There is a view that there should be a limit on prison terms, thus give hope for the criminal that he can still come back to society, but if the crime is too severe so the punishment would exceed that term, DP is a more human solution.

    7. Resources saved, cheaper than life in prison.

    We are not talking about just money, but food housing,etc. It should be noted that the prison is cheaper than DP only applies to the US (and maybe a few other countries) This is an economic argument and I don't think justice should have a price, but in reality it does. So if economy does apply to the DP than well, it is cheaper than keeping a criminal in prison for decades.

    8. Less cruel than life in prison.

    This argument could have its own deabte, but most people should agree that living incarcerated for decades is more torture than a quick and specially painless DP.

    9. Organ donation after the execution would help society.

    Since body organs are something that we still can not make, but the criminal does have, obligatory organ donation should be part of the DP. This is one very easy and appreciated way for the criminal to payback society. Also families of the victims would get a much better closure when they know that the death of their loved one helped multiple people. This also applies to the criminal's family.

    10. More type of crimes should have DP, thus the deterrence would be more obvious.

    As mentioned earlier, not just homicides, but other severe crimes should be punished with DP. Treason, serial rapes, severe bodyharm, severe economic pain,etc. For Ponzi scheme runners DP would definiately a deterrent.

    11. Religious argument

    Contrary to popular belief, most religions are NOT against killing other humans. Religious types should think the criminal goes either to heaven or hell (the deserved place) so why should the criminal waste time on Earth?
    If we execution was incorrect, a place immediatelly in heaven is way better than a few decades in prison. If the execution was correct, he'she gets to hell faster and can get more punishment than living in a prison.

    (I don't subscribe to this argument, but included it anyway, because DP is a religious issue for lots of people)

    12. Negotiating power for prosecutors.

    Personally I don't like to negotiate with criminals, but it is needed sometimes and it is a fact, that prosecutors in the US can use DP as an ace card when negotiating about information. Example: The Green river killer was spared of DP for information about his victims, thus providing closure for the victims' familes.

    13. Closure.

    For some of the families (both criminals' and victims') the ultimate closure of the case only comes when the criminal is executed.

    14. Killing is a very human activity.

    Contrary to popular beliefs, killing is probably the most common, most universal and generally the most accepted activity. Humans kill pretty much anything and everything. Laws are usually against a certain type of killing (against its own tribe, nation,etc.) So if killing is perfectly human (see history) why shouldn't society use it?

    15. Most people are for the DP.

    When statistics are quoted, specially about the EU, they usually mention the countries and not the people in %. It should be noted that the latest members of the EU were blackmailed on this issue and had to abandon the DP in return for membership approval, although most people in those countries were for the DP.

    16. Equality, victim's right.

    Anti-DP people like to talk about human rights and the right of the criminal. Well, if we talk about rights, equality (in society) should be one, and victims should have rights. Unfortunately they usually don't they have the right to remain dead. So if victims didn't have certain rights, I don't see why the same right should apply to criminals.

    17. Population control.

    I will include this as a subset. In certain societies where the resources are rare, DP can be an effective way to get the population in balance.

    I guess these will do. As noted earlier I don't necesserily agree with all of them (economy and religion), but nevertheless I included them because these issues are important for some people.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2010
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  7. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Responding a little late, sorry. I will number the arguments for easy reference. I will just deal now with the listed ones and look up more later, if necessery.
    As a quick note, I will refer to an argument as specific, when it only applies to a specific kind of case/situation and not an universal one. The problems with specific anti-DP arguments is that one could oppose DP in that specific case, but completely fine with DP when the specific caracteristic doesn't apply. So generally speaking a specific argument is NOT against the DP as an universal occurance.

    1.The death penalty inevitably results in the execution of some innocent people.

    A specific argument. According to this approach the anti-DP person shouldn't have a problem with executing the criminal as long as we are 100% sure of his/her guilt. Before James will bring up the "we can never be sure" false argument, yes we can. Not always, but quite often. Nobody wants to execute somebody who might not be guilty, but when the guilt is established 1000%, this argument goes out of the window.

    The main problem with this argument is the throwing out the baby with the water approach. Instead of trying to make the system better, it simply abandones it. You know that occasionally bridges collapse and they kill innocent people? As an answer we try to build better bridges instead of abandoning the whole bridgebuilding idea.

    2.It costs far more to execute a person than to keep him or her in prison for life.

    This only applies to the USA thus specific argument. In most countries this is simply not true. Also, historically it wasn't true in the USA for centuries. Problems with the argument:

    1. Can we put a price on justice? I say we can not. Or we could put a price on education too among other things. Most kids don't really need high school education after all. Or we could start to give out much less severe punishments in general because keeping criminals in prison costs money too.
    2. We could work on getting the appeal process cheaper (outsourcing to Chinese lawyers anyone?) and faster instead of throwing away DP.
    3. So let's try to save money somewhere else, instead of on justice and let's make the process more effective, cheaper and faster and this argument is out of the window. In the USA, the rest/most of the world is just fine in this regard.

    3.Many family members who have lost love ones to murder feel that the death penalty will not heal their wounds nor will it end their pain; the extended process prior to executions can prolong the agony experienced by the family.

    This argument has 3 major logical problems:

    1. The world "many" in the sentence is refering to an undetermined number of people. It could be as low as 1%, it is simply not quantified. I could say as a counterargument that MANY family members will feel disclosure after the DP and in this case many could mean as much as 80%, again, we don't know. So let's just leave unquantifiable statistics out of the debate.

    2. Why worry about the family members specially? Shouldn't it be more important what the society as a whole feels about the matter, after all they are paying for the process either way.

    3. The argument mentions "extended process", well, I already argued for faster and quicker appeal process so there should be no extended process.The families' pain should be kept to minimal. Also as a counterargument, I could say that the criminal living for decades causes the familes more extended pain.

    4.The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America - more than 137 nations worldwide - have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice.

    This logical fallacy is called appeal to authority, when the mentioned countries are not authorities on the question. Several of the new EU members were blackmailed on this question and were admitted only with the condition of abandoning the DP even though their population was in the favour of it. Hungary for example.

    1. Every country has the right to form their OWN SOVEREIGN opinion and law on this question. Just because a bigger and/or more powerful country is anti-DP that shouldn't force a smaller/ less important country to do the same.

    2. All over the world, most people (meaning more than 50%) ARE for the DP. It happens that it is politically fashionable to be anti-DP, thus the ruling groups tend to be anti-DP, but overall, most people are for it when the question is correctly phrased.

    Not to mention those Western Countries are figthing an illegal war against Iraq (killing thousands of innocent people in the process), so excuse me if I don't look upon them as the shinning bastion of moral and ethics.

    5.In practice, the death penalty is not applied on an even playing field.The greatest factor determining whether a person will get the death penalty (for an equivalent crime) is the quality of legal representation that person is able to access.

    Again, specific argument. So is the DP OK, if the criminal got an even playing field? Let's work on making the field even for everybody, instead of abandoning the DP.

    I assume this refers to the US, but also, des this mean that we send bunch of innocents into prisons for decades? Then we should abandone the whole prison system and not jail anybody, because innocents can be jailed too.

    6.Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime any more than long prison sentences.

    Deterrence is a complicated issue. As a first, any statistics pretty much is invalid from the US, because the DP is not applied in numbers, meaning that people on death row are NOT executed! Thus the deterrent effect is impossible to measure. I will have more on deterrence later, I just note that deterrence is really not the major argument for the DP.

    7.Politics, quality of legal counsel and the jurisdiction where a crime is committed are more often the determining factors in a death penalty case than the facts of the crime itself. Thus, the death penalty is arbitrarily or unfairly applied.

    Specific again. In some cases for sure. Again, let's try to make the system better, instead of abandoning it. Beside the bridge example, thousands of people die in surgeries. But we still keep doing surgeries, instead of abandoning them.

    8. Almost all religious groups in the United States regard executions as immoral, as do atheist organisations.

    I already mentioned the illogical base of the religious argument in my previous post. Beside that this argument is an appeal to authority, thus false. But let's work on the illogicality of the religious approach because it is kind of funny:

    1. Except buddhism (which is more of a philosophy than a religion) all major religions are just FINE with DP or killing, contrary to popular belief. In their sacred books there are plenty of stories of killing in just, even their gods killing as a punishment. So there should be no objection on religious ground.

    2. The other illogical approach of the religious person is this:
    a/ If the person is guilty (according to their god(s)) he should get faster to the well deserved destination (most likely hell) instead of spending decades in prison. So no reason for objection.
    b/ If the person is innocent (according to their god(s)) and he was executed wrongly, he should get to the well deserved destination (most likely heaven) faster than decades in prison. So again, no objection should exist.

    9.The race of the victim and the race of the defendant in capital cases are major factors in determining who is sentenced to die in the USA.

    Specific. So in countries where most citizens belong to the same race, DP should be just fine.
    Also, the make the system better counter argument applies.

    10.Keeps violent offenders off the streets for good.

    I changed this a bit because itwas the same as #2.

    Only dead man CAN NOT kill again. Period. Prisoners CAN escape (Dahmer escaped TWICE), CAN kill in prison, CAN order to kill from prison and CAN cause hostage taking for release. Period. Thus society is safer with a dead criminal.

    I will include a few more anti DP arguments from other websites:

    11. DP is inhuman.

    Beside that this statement needs a definition of what human is, I will argue that:

    1. DP is less inhuman than keeping a sensitive,feeling individual to be locked up for decades under horrible circumstances.

    2. Also killing is a very human activity. Humans have been doing it all the time and it is against human nature (well, ask the criminals) to try to make them do otherwise.

    12. Keeping the criminal in prison for decades is a BIGGER punishment, then quickly executing him.

    SPECIAL NOTE: This argument is the ONLY logical and factual argument against the universal DP, I also call this the Sadist Argument, because well, it is sadist. But if the point of justice is punishment, I assume most people would agree, that 4-5 decades in prison is harder and more torture than a quick execution.

    Luckily, I have counterarguments for it!

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    1. Unfortunatelly, this argument contradicts argument #11, on the basis of inhumanity. So if DP is inhuman, we can agree that prison for life is even more inhuman, thus criminals shouldn't get prison for life.
    2. Moreover, if the goal of justice is punishment, we can still torture the criminal (for a limited time) AND execute him after that. So there is no reason to throw away DP just because we want to cause more punishment and pain first.

    13. Everybody has the right to live, it is in the Universal Big Fat Book of Human Rights or something.

    1. First, there is no such a thing as universal human rights. Just because a group of people wrote such a thing that doesn't mean that that Law or Ethic book means anything. This code of ethic is against Syz's Nobody should write laws for Humankind logical argument, whoever writes a law should have jurisdiction AND power AND executive ability before one writes a lawbook. Similar to the Emancipation Proclamation which freed exactly ZERO slaves.

    2. Second, if such a Big Fat lawbook were logical, it should include equality for everybody. But in all homicide cases the victim is already DEAD, thus he/she doesn't have a right to live. The criminal wasn't informed that he is acting against the mentioned Big Fat lawbook. Without joking, the criminal has more rights than the victims, thus there is no equality. In plain English, the Big Fat lawbook contradict itself, thus it shouldn't exists.

    3. Appeal to authority. Again, since noone can or should write a lawbook (except god maybe) for all humanity, nobody is authority on such matters.

    14. The criminal's family is put through extra pain when DP is applied

    1. Since when do we care about the criminal's family?
    2. Specific, so criminals without family are OK to execute.
    3. If criminals care about their families, well, they shouldn't be criminals.
    4. A criminal's family is/can be in more pain when he/she is in prison for decades.

    Well, if I missed a few arguments, one can PM me or post it in the discussion thread. As a summary, most arguments apply to specific cases, thus they are NOT arguments against the universal Death Penalty. For the only logical argument the Sadist one, I offered 2 counterarguments.

    So in my opinion, anti-DP people can oppose DP in certain type of cases, but they should oppose it when none of the specific caracteristics apply. Thus I haven't find a good and logical argument against the universal DP.

    James, your turn...
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2010
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Syzygys said that he would explicitly refute the claims in the websites I posted. Instead, his posts so far have discussed generalities. Another major problem with Syzygys's arguments so far is that they discuss some kind of imaginary, ideal form of the death penalty, and do not look at the death penalty as it is actually applied in practice. If it would be so easy to reform the death penalty to make it fairer and more workable, why hasn't that been done? The simple answer is that the death penalty doesn't work.

    I also note that Syzygys has made many claims, but has provided no references at all for those claims. We therefore have no way of easily checking to see whether his claims are true or false.

    The aims of criminal sentencing include:

    1. Retribution

    This is simple "just desserts", the idea that criminals deserve to be punished for their actions. It is also "an eye for an eye". Problems with retributive punishment is that factors other than the particular crime tend to intervene when criminals are sentenced. These lead to criminals receiving different sentences for the same crime. In the case of the death penalty, factors such as the financial means of the criminal, the criminal's race, and the criminal's political views can result in the death penalty being applied where it otherwise may not have been.

    2. Denunciation

    The punishment sends a message that society will not tolerate the particular criminal activity. It is not clear, however, that the correct message cannot be sent with any punishment other than the death penalty. Long prison terms for serious crimes serve equally well to denounce those crimes and to show that justice is being done.

    3. Incapacitation

    The criminal is prevented from committing more crimes, and the public is therefore protected.

    The death penalty amounts to permanent incapacitation of the criminal. However, it seems obvious that life imprisonment for serious crimes serves equally well.

    4. Deterrence

    There are two kinds of deterrence - individual and general. Individual deterrence shows the particular criminal being punished that the consequences of his actions are undesirable. General deterrence is the message sent to other potential criminals that committing the crime will not be worthwhile.

    There is no evidence that the death penalty is any more effective as a general deterrent for serious crimes (e.g. murder) than is a life sentence. Moreover, there is some evidence that criminals are more concerned with the chance that they will be caught than they are about the punishment they may receive if caught. And many crimes are committed on impulse, without thinking through the likely consequences.

    5. Rehabilitation

    The aim here is to reform the offender so that he or she can rejoin civil society. Obviously, the death penalty offers no chance for that.

    6. Reparation

    The aim here is to compensate victims of crime. Usually this is by requiring the offender to pay money to the victim or otherwise make restitution. The death penalty does nothing for reparation. (BTW, don't confuse reparation with revenge, which falls under the "retribution" heading.)


    What arguments has Syzygys raised in favour of the death penalty (as opposed to his responses to arguments put against it)? Let's take a look. Also, bear in mind that Syzygys has advocated the death penalty for (at least) the following crimes:

    treason, serial rape, causing severe bodily harm to many people, severe economic crimes (such as financial fraud) that affect many people, sexual crimes against many children.

    1. For some crimes, no punishment is sufficient except the death penalty.

    Syzygys argues "an eye for an eye". He also argues that for all of the above-listed crimes only the death penalty is sufficient punishment. I would like Syzygys to tell me which of the aims of sentencing he has in mind when he claims that no other punishment would be sufficient.

    2. Society is safer with the death penalty.

    Society is safe from criminals who are imprisoned for life, or even rehabilitated. Escapes from modern prisons, especially high security ones that would house criminals to whom the death penalty could apply, are extremely rare, and most escapees are quickly recaptured. The proportion of criminals who can order further crimes from inside the prison is minimal, and in those cases where they do have that ability, those criminals are usually part of a network of criminals. Killing the one in prison will do nothing to shut down the network.

    3. The death penalty can be a deterrent.

    All the evidence is against this - see previously provided links.

    4. The death penalty is simple to apply.

    In practice, the death penalty is extremely costly to apply. Experience shows that criminals typically stay on death row for years, having multiple appeals at further cost to the public purse. When the costs are added up, it costs more to put somebody to death than to keep him in prison for life. This all assumes a fair judicial system, of course. I am assuming that Syzygys is not arguing for the entire legal system to be overhauled to remove the checks and balances it currently contains for the protection of the rights of the accused or convicted.

    5. The cost to society of keeping people in prison for long periods justifies the death penalty.

    See point 4.

    6. The death penalty is less cruel than a life sentence.

    Syzygys has supplied no evidence other than anecdote for this claim.

    7. Criminals who are killed would make a good source of handy donor organs.

    It is considered unethical to take a person's organs without their consent, even after they are dead. This applies to all people, and Syzygys has given us no reason why it should not apply equally to convicted criminals.

    But Syzygys goes a step further here - he is advocating actually killing people for their organs. If Syzygys's proposal was put in place, presumably judges would have to weigh up the value and demand for organs when sentencing criminals. That would have nothing at all to do with their crime. It treats persons as commodities, which is immoral, to say the least.

    8. Religions approve of killing, and criminals will go to hell faster if killed early.

    Even if this is accurate (and again we have no sources), antiquated religious notions have no place in a modern secular state.

    9. Criminals will be more likely to plea bargain if threatened with the death penalty.

    There is no evidence that this criminals will be any more likely to give the police information or whatever in exchange for avoiding the death penalty than they are in exchange for avoiding a long prison term. If Syzygys has any actual evidence on this point, he should post it.

    10. Families want the death penalty to get "closure".

    Again, no evidence has been provided for this claim, and my links show that the reverse tends to be true - families do not feel that the long, drawn-out process of applying the death penalty helps them.

    11. Killing people is human, so we ought to have the death penalty.

    This is a silly argument. Since rape is not uncommon in human society, maybe we ought to use rape as a form of punishment for criminals too. Or so goes Syzygys's argument. Is that correct, Syzygys?

    12. Most people are in favour of the death penalty.

    Here's what some of the Gallup polls show for Americans:

    About two-thirds of Americans say they support the death penalty for murderers. Support is not uniform across different groups, though. 74% of conservatives support the death penalty, compared to only 54% of liberals. One of the most interesting statistics is the one for race. 71% of white Americans support the death penalty, but only 44% of black Americans. Given that black Americans are far more likely to receive the death penalty than whites, this is not surprising.

    This is just the United States, though.

    Looking at other countries, we find:

    • Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights sets out the minimum standards for those countries that retain the death penalty. The minimum standards are:
      * death should only be imposed for the 'most serious crimes'
      * there must be a process of appeal and clemency
      * pregnant women may not be executed.
      * juveniles (under 18 years old) may not be executed.​
    • The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights commits signatory nations to the abolition of the death penalty. This Protocol entered into force in international law on 11 July 1991.
    • On 18 December 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty (A/RES/62/149). The resolution was passed with 104 votes for, 54 against and 29 abstentions.
    • The Second Optional Protocol has been ratified by 66 countries, and signed by another 35.
    • The link above gives a list of countries that retain the death penalty. Here we see that the United States is in good company with countries such as Afganistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Rwanda, Palestinian authority, Somalia, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

    There is no evidence that most people support the death penalty. It is fair to say, however, that the governments of nations with the most people currently have not abolished it. The extent to which those governments speak for their people is left for readers to judge from the above list.

    13. Killing criminals is a good method of general population control.

    This argument fails for the same reasons as #7.
  9. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    I thought I did. You summarized the website's main arguments and I went with it. I don't see a problem. I also added other frequent arguments. If I missed any important ones, fire away.

    I told you this is about universal DP, thus general approach. I don't see the point being specific, unless an example comes up.

    Again, what's the problem? I never said the system was perfect, but I argue that instead of throwing it out, let's make it better. Also, we are (at least I am) talking about general application, not specific cases. Let's say we argue about the electric car in 1995. Just because back then it wasn't ideal that doesn't mean 10-20 years later it can not be. (or at least better than the combustion engine)

    Who said it hasn't been? Your approach is too America -centric. I bet DP issues in Japan has fair less problems, than here. Half of your arguments don't apply to Japan. And just because let's say it hasn't been done, it doesn't mean it can not be.

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    This is a meaningless sentence, thus no response.

    I just would like to note, that I don't necesserily agree with all these aims. These are generic goals that might or might not be achivable.

    This is not an argument, so please try to restrain in the future making meaningless statements.

    That idea happens to be one of the oldest and most common not to mention also very popular.

    You are trying to imply that anything is wrong with that. I say there is nothing. This is a debate about morals and responses to certain moral mistakes. Morals are subjective, so please restrain yourself making personal moral judgements as universal.

    Almost all punishment are retributive. And by the way I say it should be 1.2 eye for an eye. After all 1 for 1 would be just payback and we need at least 20% for retribution.

    Those applied all the time in lots of justice systems without DP. That doesn't mean you throw away the punishment itself, but try to make it more even and fair.

    ...and I don't see any problems with that. Again, personal ethical differences.

    Evidence? Since you like to ask for evidences, might I too? And since you say, it is not clear, that indicates you don't have one.

    Says you. Evidence would be welcomed. On the other hand a well executed hanging usually is a clearer message.

    Except you CAN NOT guarantee that a criminal behind bars:

    1. Don't kill again.
    2. Don't order to get someone outside killed.
    3. Others don't kill for him (hostage situation)

    (plenty of examples for all 3)

    Thus just for these reasons, there is simply no valid argument against the "dead man kill no more" argument.

    Then why the military/police use "shot to kill" orders in emergency situation, when deterrence is very important? Getting the message accross? I am talking here laws against looting in natural catastrophies.
    "Looters will be shot dead." is usually a better deterrent than "Looters get a long and boring prison sentence, cabel TV provided."

    You are again arguing against points I never made. Sure, DP is not a deterrent all the time. Specially not in crimes of passions or economic needs. Even looters will risk being shot dead when they are looting for food and water. But in certain areas (white collar crimes, or premediated serial occurances) it can be. The problem is that it is almost impossible to measure.

    YOUR view maybe that criminals should be rehabilitated. Generally I don't have a problem with it, except in certain areas the crime passes the treshold of being able to rehabilitate or it is not desirable. Then the DP is the solution. See Green River killer.
    What message does it send if we rehabilitate a serial murderer? That anyone can get away with it, they just have to find Jesus and say they are sorry?

    Except for those whose crime is so serious, that we can not give them a second chance. What if your rehabilitated criminal does another very serious crime? Then YOU personally say you are sorry? Sometimes society just can not take the chance.

    This is an argument on my side. DP is for unrehabitable people.

    This doesn't apply to homicide. But see the organ donation idea, the most lively, most exquisite and most valuable reparation any criminal can do. Now there are just so many organs you can donate as a live person.

    Alright, you want specifics? Here it is one:

    Your son got kidnapped, for 2 weeks repeatedly sexually molested and tortured and after that he was left in a cold and dark cave without food and water. The criminal was captured in time (your son was still alive) but he decided not to disclose the location of your son, thus he died a long and painful death of starvation and thirst, alone in a dark cold cave. Not in a few minutes but in DAYS.

    Now we could put the perpetrator behind bars for the next 4 decades OR after executing him we could donate his organs to 10 members of society who actually deserves to be called as such.

    Wouldn't you rather think of your son's death as an event that eventually saved 10 people's life as REPARATION, instead of think of the criminal watching TV and being taken care of for the rest of his life and your son's life was good for nothing but to statisfy a pervert's needs?

    Be honest.....No hurry...

    Reparation for one as we saw it from the example above. (payback to society, because the victim is dead)
    Denounciation (sending the message).
    Retribution. (eye for an eye plus 20%)
    Incapacitation. (it is hard to commit another crime when one is dead)
    Rehabilitation (if I can use the religious argument, criminal can be rehabilitated in the afterlife)
    Deterrence (specially in the military in wartimes let's say for desertion)

    The oldest person executed in California was a gangboss who ordered outsidered to be killed. That's why he was executed. End of story. I only need to prove/show one counterexample. So society wasn't safe with him behind bars.

    Says you. What are you going to say to the family of his next victim if he happens to kill again? You are sorry?

    How are the prison situations in Albania or Malaysia? Are you sure about that high security? We are arguing universally, not DP in the Western societies, after all.

    You really want me to quote examples? Also, can you guarantee that they can be recaptured quickly enough? You can not.

    1. Minimal doesn't equal zero. You could have agreed to DP for those few criminals.

    2. I could use the exact same argument for executing innocents. You wouldn't like even small numbers, I bet.

    I didn't say cheap, I said SIMPLE. We can argue about the type of execution, but once is dead, he is dead. Simple. With lifelong impprisonment there are all kind of complications what makes the sentence way more comlicated (what type of prison, what kind of rights,what kind of punishments, when getting old is it still worthy to keep him incarcerated, etc.etc.)

    A quick execution is just SIMPLER than 4 decades of prison, we can agree on that.

    Not everywhere. Just because the US system is screwed up, that doesn't mean it is like everywhere.
    But I will note that where the cost of the DP is less than the lifelong imprisonment, you are FOR the DP.

    Because it is selfevident? But you could supply evidence to the contrary, if you want to rebute it.
    By the way this point is a question of personal POV. Pain and torture-wise it is obvious. A quick and specially painless execution is less cruel than lifelong suffering behind bars.

    To use illegal drugs, being naked in public,etc. Unethical is what society DECIDES to be not ethical. If society realizes and decides that there is no point in wasting lots of healthy organs when thousand are waiting for it, then it can be a law. Dead man need no organ anymore.Since the criminal belongs to the state, why shouldn't his organs???

    Nope, I didn't do such a thing. I didn't say let's kill a criminal for his organs. I said, since the executed criminal doesn't need his organs anymore, we might as well use them.

    BIG difference. There is a danger of abusing the system, but again, I am arguing how it should be done.

    Your website brought up the religious argument, so I just ran with it. It does make sense though, if you believe the premise.

    This is not the argument you wanted to make. You should have said this: (logically)

    Instead of DP as negotiating power, the justice system could use other punishments (like solitary confinement, torture,etc.) as threat. Unfortunately, they would be inhuman, cruel...

    When the criminal gets the maximum sentence automaticly (life without parole), there is simply nothing what he can be threatened to try to negotiate. In these cases the prosecutors' hands are tied. But when there is the ace, the DP, most criminals go for the deal.

    1. I didn't say all, I think I said most families.
    2. There is no hard data worldwide on it, if so quote it.

    Again, was that data from the US? So I guess the Alban families are different because they execute the criminals in 3 months. (just made it up but you got the point)

    But saying that it is silly is NOT an argument itself. The point here I was making is that it is perfectly natural for humans to kill, contrary to missconceptions.

    Actually a good idea, I am sure lots of rape victim could agree with it. Since we are at it, I could argue that criminals should be executed the same WAY as they commited their crimes. You know, that eye for an eye thingy, and being equal and even....

    You are not supposed to help me. By the way if they heard my arguments I am sure even more would agree and not just for murder.

    Here, let's say we actually can put a monetary value on an average human life. For simplicity, let's say 1 million dollar. Now let's say the crime isn't murder, but bodily harm to several people. We can also put value on bodily harm. So if the premeditatedly caused bodily harm multiplied by the number of victims is bigger than this million (or whatever value we put ) then the only equal and just punishment would be the DP. So if the eyesight of a person let's say is worth 100K, and you after poisoning the foodsupply caused 10 people to get blind, well, then you die.

    I thought I already executed (pardon my pun) this Big Book of Laws in my previous post. No man shall pass laws for all mankind. And that is a law. (pardon the oxymoron)

    Now for the sake of logic, I could point out that DP could be favoured by only 45% or whatever, I still could make a logical and factual case for it. The bottomline is:

    1. Societies should be able to decide for themselves their stand on DP without external pressure.
    2. Why there is no DP in societies where most people (51+%) favours it???
    3. Societies are different thus their laws should be too.

    I would state the opposite, I might do a search on it noting that hard data doesn't exist for all people on it.

    One more thing: If the % of the people opposing the DP is a valid argument against DP, then the opposite also should be true, the % of people wanting DP is a valid argument FOR the DP. Thus in countries (such as USA) where MOST people want the DP, DP should be practiced.

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    Forgot what #7 was, but since people understand examples better, let's have one:

    There is a small tribe on an island in the Pacific. The food supply is very limited, and every member of the society has to work hard just to survive. Now, since they don't have the manpower, if criminals get in their bamboo jail and do nothing (they don't have manpower for guarding them either), but they still eat the limited foodsupply, that basicly means either criminals can not be punished by incarceration or the tribe is going to be extinct soon. But with DP the criminals can be removed from the users of the foodsupply and punished at the same time...

    There you have it...

    P.S.: I hate these long posts, hard to edit and follow.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2010
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    At this point in the debate, Syzygys has still not posted a single link to evidence for support of any of his arguments. He appears to be working in a vacuum of his own imaginings rather than dealing with the facts surrounding the death penalty.

    Also, despite claiming that he would refute all of the arguments on the two websites I linked to in my first post, it appears he hasn't even looked at those sites. He has only actually addressed my one-line summaries of the arguments put on one of the sites, and that he has done badly.

    I will start with a few comments on Syzygys's previous post, then highlight some facts for him.

    One of the generally-accepted principles of punishment since the reforms that started in the 18th century has been that all punishment must be proportional to the crime. Locking somebody up for 20 year for stealing a can of Coke would be an example of a disproportionate punishment. The United States, for one, has laws against "cruel and unusual" punishments. Syzygys's idea of punishing criminals for MORE than what their crime indicates is barbaric and frankly stupid.

    Syzygys advocates the death penalty for treason, serial rape, causing severe bodily harm to many people, severe economic crimes (such as financial fraud) that affect many people, and sexual crimes against many children. But is killing a person a truly proportionate response to financial fraud (for example)? And even the idea of the state killing a murderer sends the opposite message than is desired. If the state wants to say "killing is wrong", it can hardly make that point by killing prisoners itself.

    The answer to this question is that in extreme situations such as out-of-control rioting, there may well be immediate danger to the lives of people caused by the criminal activity. If there is no other way of eliminating that danger than to shoot the criminals, then "shoot to kill" orders may be justfiable. However, personally I can think of very few situations where such orders would be justifiable. Rioters can be subdued with tear gas, water cannons and other non-lethal use of force.

    The whole idea of state killing without trial is also against the principles of every civilised justice system. I'm not sure whether Syzygys is seriously suggesting that the death penalty be applied without trial.

    If we can rehabilitiate a serial murderer, surely that's great for society. The past criminal can rejoin society as a useful member. Note that he didn't "get away with it". He presumably had a long prison sentence, during which time he was educated about the impacts of his crimes and he came to change his views so that he was no longer a danger to society.

    It is interesting that Syzygys gives this example. Presumably, it provokes in him a strong sense of revenge. He wants to see the criminal suffer, and he can't think of a better way to ensure that suffering than the death penalty.

    I say that in such a case I'd rather see the criminal locked up for the 80 years Syzygys suggests, to contemplate his crime, to hopefully come to understand its implications and to feel remorse. The organ donation argument, as previously pointed out, is spurious. In Syzygys's case, it is merely a thin veil for his primary motivation: revenge.

    I would point out, in addition, that asking the indirect victim of such a crime to determine the punishment is not appropriate. Victims are inevitably biased and emotionally vulnerable. The whole point of having a criminal justice system in the first place is to avoid vigilante revenge "justice" - to apply justice fairly and in a disinterested manner.

    I would like to point out that this sudden desire of Syzygys's to give criminals a "less cruel" punishment is at odds with his previous statement that they should be punished 120% for their crimes. Perhaps you should work out what you're actually arguing, Syzygys, so you don't argue against yourself.

    Syzygys decided not to respond to my question about whether judges should take the need for organs into account when deciding whether to sentence somebody to death.

    I also note that if Syzygys is saying that criminals ought not to be killed specifically for their organs, and his enforced organ donation idea is to be applied, it could equally be applied to criminals who are given life sentences. The same number of organs would result as would come from criminals immediately executed. In short, the death penalty is not needed to set up an enforced organ donation system, even if such a thing were ethical (which it is not).

    I would just like to highlight that Syzygys does not regard the death penalty as "inhuman, cruel".

    No evidence has been provided for this claim.

    But let's look at the other side of the coin. Suppose we have a mandatory death penalty for murder, for example. i.e. you kill another person, then Syzygys's "eye for an eye" principle says you must die. Now, under such a system, anybody considering whether to kill one person or twenty would reason: "The penalty for one murder is death, so if I kill 20 people it won't be any worse. I might as well kill 20 people."

    Societies do decide for themselves, even if there are external factors. The majority of nations around the world, in fact, through their representatives have decided not to have the death penalty.

    People who are uneducated about the death penalty will often express support for it. However, those who have some connection to it or have been educated about its realities rarely do.

    The fact that Syzygys has to resort to bizarre and unreal examples to try to make his argument, I think speaks eloquently of his lack of any real arguments in favour of the death penalty.


    In the second half of this post, I wish to highlight some more facts that Syzygys has overlooked.

    On the matter of innocence:

    Since 1973, 139 people have been exonerated in the US after receiving a death sentence. On average, they spent 9.8 years on death row before being freed. The most common causes of wrongful convictions were eyewitness error, government misconduct, junk science, snitch testimony and false confessions.

    On deterrence:

    A July 2009 study titled "DO EXECUTIONS LOWER HOMICIDE RATES?: THE VIEWS OF LEADING CRIMINOLOGISTS" by Michael L. Radelet and Traci L. LaCock, demonstrates an overwhelming consensus among criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question strongly supports the conclusion that the death penalty does not add deterrent effects to those already achieved by long imprisonment.

    US states without the death penalty have much lower murder rates. The South accounts for 80% of US executions and has the highest regional murder rate.

    According to statistics from the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report, regions of the country that use the death penalty the least also have the lowest rates of murder of police officers.

    On cost:

    A Report of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (2008) found:

    "The additional cost of confining an inmate to death row, as compared to the maximum security prisons where those sentenced to life without possibility of parole ordinarily serve their sentences, is $90,000 per year per inmate. With California's current death row population of 670, that accounts for $63.3 million annually.

    Using conservative rough projections, the Commission estimates the annual costs of the present (death penalty) system to be $137 million per year.

    The cost of the present system with reforms recommended by the Commission to ensure a fair process would be $232.7 million per year.

    The cost of a system in which the number of death-eligible crimes was significantly narrowed would be $130 million per year.

    The cost of a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration instead of the death penalty would be $11.5 million per year."​

    On international opinion:

    More than half the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The numbers are as follows:

    Abolitionist for all crimes: 92

    Abolitionist for ordinary crimes: 11

    Abolitionist in practice: 34

    Total abolitionist in law or practice: 137

    Retentionist: 60

    On victims' views:

    Numerous families and loved ones of murder victims support alternatives to the death penalty for many reasons, including:

    • The death penalty process is a traumatizing experience for families, often requiring them to relive the pain and suffering of the death of their loved one for many years. Life without parole provides certain punishment without the endless reopening of wounds.
    • Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on the death penalty each year. If we replace the death penalty with life without parole, millions of dollars could be spent on violence-prevention efforts, solving unsolved cases, and increasing victim services.
    • The death penalty places the focus on the legal consequences, not the human consequences. Attention is directed on the crime and the accused, instead of where it belongs — on the family and loved ones of the victim and on the community. Life without parole punishes the criminal without putting him or her in the headlines.


    That will do for this post. In my next post I will further elaborate on Amnesty International's arguments against the death penalty, many of which Syzygys has also failed to address.
  11. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Because it wasn't needed? Or the argument was selfevident like "prison in life is more cruel than DP."

    Because we both are arguing how it should be, not how it is. I am saying DP should be used more often for more crimes, you are saying it shouldn't be used at all. So neither of us is happy with the current system.

    So nobody should have a problem getting the DP for murder. This is an argument FOR my case, thanks.

    Hey, don't call the US justice system stupid! It is generally accepted punishment that when an individual gets wronged by a corporation, they get first a sentence for righting the wrong (for the damage caused) then they give one for PUNITIVE punishment, so the corporation would actually learn something and feel the pain.

    But let's have a true story: My friend was scammed by a roofer, he collected 5K dollars and didn't do the job. For her it took more than a year just to get the money back, but no extra punishment was given. So was justice done? Hell no. For a year she was out of her money, it took her considerable amount of time and emotional suffering to deal with the case and the guy didn't get shit. Wouldn't you agree that the roofer should have paid MORE or get a sentence or other kind of punishment? What did he learn? That it is OK to defraud people, because the max. he can get if caught is to give the money back.

    Bottomline, making the criminals pay sligthly more for the crime is perfectly logical and still in line with the appropriate punishment.

    Sure, why not? Madoff stole the retirement capital of hundreds (not just a few) people away. He is 71 years old and will die in prison anyway. What do we gain by caring for an elderly prisoner anyway, who caused very serious emotional suffering for masses? Not to mention he made lots of them having to go back to work, when they lost their base of retirement.

    I would underline that in financial cases DP is/would be excellent deterrent.

    Says you. I say the opposite. There is a difference between killing and killing.Killing each other for financial gain, revenge, against the law, bad, executing a criminal for breaking the law>>>following the law.

    Nope. It is used as a DETERRENT, because the police/military has no manpower to deal with mass criminal activity, thus they have to use the strongest action to make their point and deter....

    hey, whatever happened to universal human rights???

    this is a typical of your missrepresenting what I said or meant. That was an example for deterrence, not advocating killing without trial.

    Who says that rehabilitation is desired, achiavable, safe or practical? In most DP cases it is neither.

    In a dreamsequence yes. Otherwise who takes the blame of the criminal comitts another similar crime?

    he sure did if he got out before his sentence was up or his sentence got shortened because someone thought he/she got changed.
    The major mistake what you do here is that you SUPPOSE rehabilitation is desired, possible or safe. One simply just can not be sure, so I society should err on safety's side.

    No, what was interesting, you didn't answer the question. So again: what provides better closure for the victim's family, DP with organ donation thus helping others OR life in prison?

    I thought my position was clear that I think life in prison is way MORE suffering than DP, so no, I actually want him to suffer LESS.

    ...and pain. DP is rather painless depending on the type of execution and very limited in time.

    It is a perfectly good idea and you were unable to provide anything to the contrary. Saying that it is spurious isn't an argument just an opinion.

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    1. Actually, I would rather see for the society getting something positive out of the whole deal.
    2. There is nothing wrong with revenge, it is just your assumption.

    Wasn't suggested, missrepresentation as usual.

    It is not. After all a criminal can only die ONCE even if he is a serial murderer.
    One more thing about the 120%. Kids. One kid steals a toy from the other. What does the teacher do? Well, first he make the toy to be returned than the little thief probably has to apologize (here is your extra 20%) or gets some extra punishment. And everyone think it is perfectly alright...

    Actually I did when I noted that missusing the system is a possibility.Again, the answer is no, they shouldn't.

    Eh? Dead man needs no organ. Living ones do. How do you get a heart donation from a lifer? If you wait until he dies of old age in prison that is way too late. This is an incredibly false and illogical argument.

    And you should decide if you are for organ donation or against.

    A problem with that? First, it depends on the definition of inhuman. Second putting a criminal to death after he was made to sleep is exactly the same way as euthanasia is administered or how your dog is put down. Very pieceful and painless. Very HUMAN and absolutely not cruel.

    Also if the criminal can be inhuman and cruel and we want appropriate punishments, what is wrong with cruel punishments? I have no problem with it just like the "life in prison" advocates... (sadist argument)
    Hell, for extra, based on your "proportional punishment" argument (which I actually agree with) I can even throw in that criminals should be executed the same way as they comitted the crime. After all, we want them to have the same treatment, equality, being even and such...A serial arsonist burns a dozen people do death and he gets a nice prisoncell, food, entertainmet and healthcare for decades? Where is the proportionality in that?

    That was a logical and true statement, what kind of evidence do you need? But I actually provided the example of Green River killer, who was made to give up information by the threat of DP. Without it he could have stayed quiet forever about the victims.

    Again, missrepresentation, I never said anything about MANDATORY DP for murder. We are discussing if DP should be in the books, for what crimes would be the next question.

    1. You are assuming that criminals think logically why comitting crimes.
    2. This scenario already exists.
    3. There are certain situations that are just bad and nobody can do anything about it.

    For last the best:

    4. If no DP exists the criminal can say " it doesn't matter I kill 1 person or 20, because the most I can get is life in prison."

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    So this argument also works against the anti-DP side.

    But not always voluntarily as I showed. They are forced to take the anti-DP position for political reasons not because their citizens want it.

    People who haven't read my arguments are often against DP.

    Can it happen? Sure. Just because you don't have a counter argument against it, well, not my fault. Also note that we work in this debate quite often with hypotheticals.

    The rest is rather irrelevant and repetative because we already dealt with executing innocents, but as a summary:

    1. This is not an anti-DP argument but an anti-punishment argument. Why would you imprison anybody if accidentally innocents can be imprisoned?
    2. Nobody wants to execute innocents, thus we should work on the system that it never happens.
    3. So if the criminal is 1000% guilty, execution is OK?

    Deterrence itself worthy of a debate, so just to summarize:

    1. Any data from the US is pretty much invalid since the DP is basicly not used. 90% of the criminals on death row are NOT executed, thus the deterrent effect can not be measured.
    2. Deterrence is very hard to measure because other factors (such as economy) effects the crime rate.
    3. I argue that deterrence would work in crimes that are currently not DP eligible. (like financial crimes) Only way to see is to use it and test it.

    Again, already dealt with it.

    1. This mostly applies for the US, so for the rest of the world where the DP 's cost is way less, DP is perfectly OK.
    2. Why do we put a price on justice? (you never answered that)

    This is a fact, but not really an argument itself. We are arguing how is SHOULD BE, not how it is.

    I already objected to this logical fallacy, unspecified numbers. What is numerous? 10%? 50%? 80%? There is simply no aviable data on the question.

    1. So was the crime for the victim.
    2. So is having daddy in prison for life.
    3. So when did we start caring about the criminals' families?

    Please don't. They are as bad as your last 4-5 arguments. You repeteadly missrepresent my position, "forget" to rebute my arguments, keep repeating yourself and just making one logical fallacy after the other. Not to mention keep asking for evidence when you yourself don't show much either, but I don't have a problem with it when the example is hypothetical.

    One more note on the accepted guidelines for punishments posted earlier and I didn't address as a whole. It has several logical problems:

    1. I think it said generally accepted guidelines, but that doesn't mean a debater (or a society) has to agree with those. (and I don't, with all of them) Generally I don't have a problem with them, but see the points below.
    2. Generally means that most of the time. But it doesn't mean that all guidelines all of the time has to apply to every and each case. For example rehabilitation would be nice for everyone (in a dreamlike unreal world), but it simply can not be done in real life. Not to mention that we don't necesserily agree what rehabilitation is.
    3. These are guidelines but not laws. So they are principles nice to be followed when possible but not a bonding law, that should be followed no matter what.
    4. More can and could be added when/if society decides to do so and who is to say we can not add more in favour of the DP?
    5. It is the logical fallacy of applying to authority, when these guidelines as pointed out in #3 are not bonding and they are not a universal.(not accepted everywhere)

    So as a summary, they are pretty similar to the Universal Human Rights argument, it might sound good on paper but not necesserily applicable in real life.And definiately not all of them all the times.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2010
  12. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Alright, since James keeps asking I will go through the Amnesty website and deal with their so called arguments. They are mostly statements treating opinions as universal and generally accepted truth/laws, lots of emotional expressions and they argue mostly for specific cases, although our debate is about DP generally and universally. Also most of their arguments apply to punishment itself, not just DP. So following their logic we should do away with punishment and the justice system.

    Anyhow let's roll....I will cut out issues already dealt with previously, so just dealing with new ones:

    This is a statement which is either true or not, but not necesserily an argument against DP. First it assumes without evidence that it is wrong to do such a thing, second it also assumes that there is such a thing as human rights. With the Universal Human Rights (UHR) I already dealt with. In short, I don't agree that there is such a thing and even if there was, I don't agree that it is wrong to deny it for those who don't deserve it. End of story.

    Again, a statement (either true or false) but not an argument. Using big words as cold-blooded is simply emotional, but not necesserily logical. Also it assumes that cold-blooded (I guess meaning well planned) is wrong, and if the meaning is well planned, I have no problem with it. Also, since we are arguing about if it is right or wrong to kill in the name of justice, the very same sentence can not be used as an argument assuming that it is wrong (because that is what the debate for).

    It is simply a false statement.

    Cruelty: First we need a definition for it. You say cruel I say not. Without definitions any semantical argument is worthless.Putting someone to sleep isn't cruel, I assume anyone can agree with that. Second it assumes that executing someone in a harsh way is wrong. Automaticly it is not. Society decides just like it does with morals. If it is part of the punishment, so be it.

    Inhuman: Same semantic problem, what is human? If they mean killing is unnatural, that is simply not true. Killing is one of the most common and natural human activity. If they mean painful, that depends on the type of execution, again, not automaticly wrong.

    Degrading: Clearly wrong. Being in a 6 by 6 cell for 23 hours, that is degrading.

    This above "argument" is a good example of using big words but with not much or unclear meaning. Aagain my basic counter argument is that life in prison is MORE cruel, inhuman and degrading, thus this whole issue is not a antiDP argument.

    Another subjective statement (more of a guideline) which is either true or not, depending on the person's POV. Who says that? I say there can. So we are even.

    This is pure bullshit and simply a false statement. And even if it were true, that doesn't mean it is automaticly wrong. If society (who makes moral codes and choices) decide that torture and physical or mental punishment is part of the justice system, than so be it and it is right to use it.

    Seriously James, I can not take this anymore too much longer because the lack of logic and lies are causing me emotional and mental suffering and it is clearly WRONG according to this website.

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    So I would like to add to that sentence: ...for the victim's family.

    There is basicly no physical pain when someone is shot in the head or beheaded or put to sleep kindly. And even if there was, what's wrong with it if it is part of the punishment? But I already said that.

    There is physiological damage in long prison sentences but apparently the idiot who wrote this didn't think it through, so this either doesn't matter or we should just stop prison sentences alltogether.

    Pure bullshit. The most widely held policy is the eye for an eye or with other words the punishment should fit the crime. So when the crime was murder....

    Quite to the contrary, a quick and well deserved execution can give a much needed closure for them....

    Why do we care so much about them? I never heard a good answer for that.

    I have it on good authority that in China it is not. This is an economic argument and I haven't heard a good answer for why should we put a price on justice?

    [quotw]It is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it.[/quote]

    Humans are violent by nature. Most humans didn't die piecefully during the course of history. So why are we trying to change the nature and basic instinct of humans? Wouldn't that be unnatural?

    Reality TV shows are affront to human dignity, not DP.

    So is imprisonment. Same old crap I dealt with.

    This one is called overgeneralization. So let's say just because the Nigerian government abused the DP for political reasons, it should be banned in Japan too, although they have been using it very carefully and for absolutely no political reasons.

    I have to go now, I might continue if there is a request but again, that website is pretty bad and nothing new that is an actual argument and either logical or factual is in the rest...
  13. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    SUMMARY and CLOSING Arguments

    I guess it is time to put an end to this debate because we already reached the repetative phase, a week passed since James posted and seriously I don't see any new argument coming or any good rebuttal. I personal said pretty much everything I could without researching the pro-side. If there are some good pro arguments left out, so be it, even without them my case should be convincing enough.


    Instead of repeating the arguments, I will just give an evaluation of James' performance. It was agreed that we would approach the problem of DP as a universal, general topic, meaning that not limited to one country or specific area/time but as a whole. I would say 95% of James' arguments were specific objections, when a particular characteristic is present and logically approaching the problem, whenever that characteristic (let's say DP used for political oppression) is not present, the anti-DP debater shouldn't have a problem with the DP.
    Nevertheless James never acknowledged this.

    Another logical mistake was that pretty much most of his arguments are not anti-DP arguments, but anti-punishment. Just change the words, instead of "DP" use "long prison sentence" and one could use the exact same arguments against any kind of (but particulary long term) imprisonment. So an anti-DP advocate quickly becomes an anti-punishment advocate. But they are not. So if they are not anti-punishment, they shouldn't be anti-DP either.

    The lack of addressing several of my questions (like why would economy be a consideration in justice?) are obvious signs of debating inferiority. Well, in most cases there was simply no good answer, thus showing the strength of my position.

    He kept asking for evidence, but at the same time didn't show evidence to the contrary (like what is more cruel, DP or life in jail?)

    Several times he either used the logical fallacy of applying to authority or using unspecified numbers (many, some, several) assuming that those numbers represent the majority. It might, but again, no evidence was given.

    Also I would like to point out that we both argued how it should be, not how it is.Thus quoting % and numbers on the current state was rather irrelevant. Neither of us is statisfied with the current system.

    I would like to show a very bad logical approach of the anti-DP side. The cost/economic argument. Beside that this mostly applies to the USA, if I agree that this is a valid argument against the DP, then James should agree that in most of the world where it is cheaper to execute one vs. keeping him in jail is a valid argument for the pro side.
    Thus this argument works both ways.

    The cruelty argument is actually an argument FOR the DP and not against it, as long as everyone can agree that a painless and quick death is less cruel than incarceration for life.

    I think I provided plenty of good, solid and factual argument for the pro side and I successfully refuted any and all of the anti side arguments.

    The only logical, factual and universal anti-DP argument is the so called Sadist argument, namely that the criminal deserves MORE punishment with a life in prison than a quick and easy death. The counterargument to this is, that if suffering is the goal of the punishment, let's torture the criminal for a limited time THEN execute him. Thus there is no reason for lifelong suffering.

    As I said in the beginning, I can and would change my mind on the subject if there was sufficient arguments/fact to make me, but not surprizingly, James hasn't provided any of like that.

    So as an endnote, I have to stay in favor of the DP, because of the plenty of reasons I provided and the lack of counter arguments. And as a result of this, I have to say that I KOd James and the anti-DP side.

    I rest my case....
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2010
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    In this, the first of two final posts for the debate, I will look at Amnesty International's arguments against the death penalty. In my final post I will respond to Syzygys's closing arguments and sum up.

    Here I elaborate on arguments not canvassed earlier (or in less detail). Unattributed quotes are from Anmesty International's page linked in my first post.

    1. The death penalty is akin to a kind of torture.

    Depriving a human being of his life is the most extreme physical punishment it is possible to inflict on somebody. The mental anguish that results from the anticipation of being executed is also a cruel punishment. And criminals can often stay on death row for years while appeals drag on.

    2. The death penalty is discriminatory in practice.

    It is used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities. It is imposed and carried out arbitrarily.

    "In addition experience demonstrates that whenever the death penalty is used some people will be killed while others who have committed similar or even worse crimes may be spared. The prisoners executed are not necessarily only those who committed the worst crimes, but also those who were too poor to hire skilled lawyers to defend them or those who faced harsher prosecutors or judges."

    3. Inconsistencies and errors are rife in jurisdictions with capital punishment.

    "The state’s attempts to select the 'worst of the worst' crimes and offenders out of the thousands of murders committed each year inevitably leads to inconsistencies and errors, inescapable flaws which are exacerbated by discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate legal representation. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated."

    4. The death penalty denies the possibility of rehabilitation and reconciliation.

    It is a simplistic response to complex human problems.

    5. It prolongs the suffering of the murder victim’s family, and extends that suffering to the loved ones of the condemned prisoner.

    Not only do relatives of the crime victim(s) suffer, but so do relatives of the offender.

    6. It is an affront to human dignity.

    The death penalty sends a message that human beings cannot come up with any better solution to problems than the application of brute force arbitrarily applied.

    7. The death penalty is often used by governments to suppress dissenting voices.

    "The death penalty has been and continues to be used as a tool of political repression, as a means to silence forever political opponents or to eliminate politically 'troublesome' individuals. In most such cases the victims are sentenced to death after unfair trials.

    It is the irrevocable nature of the death penalty that makes it so tempting as a tool of repression. Thousands have been put to death under one government only to be recognized as innocent victims when a new government comes to power. As long as the death penalty is accepted as a legitimate form of punishment, the possibility of political misuse will remain. Only abolition can ensure that such political abuse of the death penalty will never occur."

    The importance of this point cannot be overstated. It is a slippery slope from the execution of (presumed guilty) offenders to the execution of innocent people for political reasons. I highlight here Syzygys's advocacy of the death penalty for "treason", in particular. "Treason" is a political crime, whose parameters are defined by the government in power. In advocating the death penalty for treason, Syzygys is handing the government a licence to persecute political opponents by killing them. Echos of Stalinist Russia, anybody?

    But surely there are times when the state has no choice but to take someone's life?

    8. State execution of imprisoned criminals in not equivalent to the state defence of innocent citizens.

    This was a point I made previously.

    "Self-defence may be used to justify in some cases the taking of life by state officials, for example when a country is at war (international or civil) or when law enforcement officials must act immediately to save their own lives or those of others. Even in such situations the use of lethal force is surrounded by internationally accepted legal safeguards to inhibit abuse. This use of force is aimed at countering the immediate damage resulting from force used by others.

    However the death penalty is not an act of self-defence against an immediate threat to life. It is the premeditated killing of a prisoner who could therefore be dealt with equally well by less harsh means."

    9. The death penalty is no deterrent.

    Another repeat of an argument made previously.

    "The most recent survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 1996 and 2002, concluded: '...research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole still gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis'."

    Also, abolishing the death sentence does not seem to result in an increase in serious crimes (ones that previously had the death penalty applied). For example, in Canada the homicide rate per 100,000 population fell from a peak of 3.09 in 1975, the year before the abolition of the death penalty for murder, to 2.41 in 1980, and since then it has declined further. In 2003, 27 years after abolition, the homicide rate was 1.73 per 100,000 population, 44 per cent lower than in 1975 and the lowest rate in three decades.

    The key to deterrence is to increase the likelihood of detection, arrest and conviction for serious crimes, because those are the things that criminals actually fear. They do not consider what punishment they may receive if caught; they are much more likely to consider the risks of their crime being detected and their being arrested.

    10. The death penalty is not the only way to prevent criminals from committing more crime.

    "The death penalty as a method of preventing prisoners from re-offending is a blunt tool. By its very nature, the death penalty can only be carried out against a prisoner who is already imprisoned and therefore removed from society. Since that prisoner can no longer commit acts of violence against society, the death penalty is not needed as a method of protection."

    This is notwithstanding Syzygys's silly argument that criminals may escape from prison (very very rare) or order killings from inside prison (also very very rare). Both of these arguments were dealt with in a previous post.

    In addition, the death penalty negates any possibility of rehabilitation of offenders.

    11. It is wrong to condemn killing by killing.

    "An execution cannot be used to condemn killing. Such an act by the state is the mirror image of the criminal's willingness to use physical violence against a victim.


    Central to human rights is that they are inalienable -- they are accorded equally to every individual regardless of their status, ethnicity, religion or origin. They may not be taken away from anyone regardless of the crimes a person has committed. Human rights apply to the worst of us as well as to the best of us, which is why they are there to protect all of us. They save us from ourselves."

    12. The death penalty increases the risk of terrorism.

    "Officials responsible for fighting terrorism and political crimes have repeatedly pointed out that executions are as likely to increase such acts as they are to stop them. Executions can create martyrs whose memory becomes a rallying point for their organizations. For men and women prepared to sacrifice their lives for their beliefs -- for example suicide bombers -- the prospect of execution is unlikely to deter and may even act as an incentive."

    13. The death penalty is not less cruel than life imprisonment.

    Note: this is a direct rebuttal to one of Syzygys's arguments.

    "As long as a prisoner remains alive he or she can hope for rehabilitation or for exoneration in the case of a prisoner who is subsequently found to be innocent. Execution removes the possibility of compensation for judicial error or rehabilitation of the offender."

    14. The death penalty is not supported by major religions in their modern forms.

    "Major world religions emphasize mercy, compassion and forgiveness in their teachings."

    15. The death penalty is wrong even in the face of majority public opinion.

    Another of Syzygys's arguments: how can states abolish the death penalty when the majority of public opinion is in favour of it?

    "The reasons for a seemingly strong public support for the death penalty can be complex and lacking in factual foundation. If the public were fully informed of the reality of the death penalty and how it is applied, many people might be more willing to accept abolition.

    Opinion polls which often seem to indicate overwhelming support for the death penalty tend to simplify the complexities of public opinion and the extent to which it is based on an accurate understanding of the crime situation in the country, its causes and the means available for combating it.

    Public support for the death penalty is most often based on the erroneous belief that it is an effective measure against crime. What the public overwhelmingly want is truly effective measures to reduce criminality. If politicians advocate the death penalty as an anti crime measure, the public will request it in the belief that it will address the problem. It is the responsibility of governments to address criminality effectively and without resorting to abusing human rights via the death penalty.

    An informed public opinion is shaped by education and moral leadership. Governments should lead public opinion in matters of human rights and criminal policy. The decision to abolish the death penalty has to be taken by the government and legislators. The decision can be taken even though the majority of the public favour the death penalty which indeed has historically almost always been the case. Yet when the death penalty is abolished there is usually no great public outcry and it almost always remains abolished.

    A government would not be justified in torturing a notorious prisoner or persecuting an unpopular ethnic minority simply because the majority of the public demanded it. Slavery was once legal and widely accepted. Its abolition came about through years of efforts by those who opposed it on moral grounds."
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Response to Syzygys's closing arguments

    Syzygys's entire argument in this debate has been based on his own authority and opinion. I note again that he has provided no sources to back up any of his claims. He relies on personal thoughts and anecdotes and unrealistic hypotheticals to make his point, rather than looking at the issue as it plays out in the real world.

    This is Syzygys's argument that punishments should MORE than fit the crime - they should be harsher than the original crime. This debate is not the place to discuss the rights and wrongs of punitive damages. Suffice it to say that many have criticised the idea of punitive damages, especially huge payouts made on the say-so of juries that are unqualified to quantify actual damage. These issues are ones for civil cases, however, and do not transfer directly to criminal cases. My original point on the proportionality principle in punishment of offenders stands unchallenged in any serious way.

    All the evidence points to the ineffectiveness of the death penalty for any crime. There is no reason to suspect that things would be any different for financial fraud. And that is quite apart from the proportionality principle mentioned above.

    See point #8 in the post immediately preceding this one.

    Rehabilitation is one of the accepted aims of criminal punishment in most modern jurisdictions. See my first post in the debate for further details.

    All the evidence indicates that life imprisonment provides better closure.

    I provided exactly that in post #7 of this debate.

    I agree with you that retribution is a legitimate aim of punishment. That in no way justifies the use of the death penalty.


    1. I have explicitly said that criminals do NOT think logically when committing murders (in particular). That is why the death penalty is no deterrent.
    2. It exists only where the death penalty is applied.
    3. I have no idea what this means.
    4. But that's wrong. The penalty for killing one person is not usually life imprisonment (barring other aggravating circumstances). It may be 20 years, or 25 years. Therefore, it IS worth considering whether to kill 1 person or 2 or 4 or 20. If there's a death penalty at murder number 1, that incentive is not there. (This is not a strong argument, however. See point 1.)

    Because such errors, where they occur, can be corrected. That is not true in the case of the death penalty, and innocent people have been executed as a result.

    Abolishing the death penalty would guarantee such a system. Problem solved!

    No, for reasons given in previous posts. Besides, we can rarely be 100% sure a criminal is guilty.

    52 executions last year (2009) says this is wrong.

    One way to measure it is to see what happens when a country abolishes the death penalty. Does the murder rate (for example) go up? The available data all suggests that it does not. Draw your own conclusions.

    Syzygys has supplied no evidence that the cost of administering the death penalty is lower elsewhere.

    Crime is a drain on the resources of society, and so is dealing with criminals. It makes good economic sense (apart from all the other factors I've mentioned) to make sure that the administration of justice is as cost-effective as possible, since a cost-effective justice system leaves more resources available for achieving other public goods.

    A criminal's family is not (generally) responsible for his crimes. They are entitled to the same consideration that we give to all other families.

    Syzygys is out in a fantasy land of his own on this one. The international community unequivocally supports the concept of human rights, as evidenced by numerous treaties and declarations, some of which I referred to in previous posts.

    Syzygys's say-so does not amount to any form of argument, so we are hardly "even" on this issue. Rational moral principles, international law, and the laws of most nations all support the contention that torture and cruel treatment of prisoners is unacceptable.

    If a society decides not to abide by standards of human rights that are almost universally accepted by all civilised peoples then that society is morally bankrupt.

    Syzygys has provided nothing to support this contention.

    Two more scattergun, unsupported statements.


    Addressing Syzygys's summary:

    In my previous posts, I have carefully distinguished long prison terms from capital punishment and have shown why the former are far preferable while the latter is untenable. Quite different considerations apply in each case as I have pointed out. Most of my arguments are specifically against the death penalty and do not apply to imprisonment.

    Syzygys appears to have little concept of what torture entails, or its effects on the victim. Moreover, inflicting "suffering" on prisoners is not one of the accepted aims of punishment in the modern world. Syzygys is living in the dark ages. Even if you're a religious Christian, the concept of "an eye for an eye" is Old Testament; Jesus preached "love thy neighbour" instead.

    Syzygys would like all nations to return to the bad old days of arbitrary and extreme punishments, perhaps carried out in public for the enjoyment of the mob (who knows?). Steal a loaf of bread - lose your hand. Commit adultery - be stoned at the gates of the city. Disobey your king, you must die, and preferably be tortured cruelly first. This is a gruesome and unsavoury blood-lust, not the point of view of a reasonable human being living in the 21st century in a 1st-world nation.

    Syzygys has crowed loudly about how he has trounced me in this debate. I will take the slightly more humble path of letting my readers decide who "won". More importantly, I hope that I have opened some eyes to the many reasons why people ought not to support the unthinking barbarism of the death penalty.

    I thank Syzygys for suggesting this debate and participating in it.
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