This House supports the death penalty

Capital punishment is the sentence of death, or practice of execution, handed down as punishment for a criminal offence. It can only be used by a state, after a proper legal trial. The United Nations in 2008 adopted a resolution (62/149) calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, however fifty-eight countries, including the United States and China, still exercise the death penalty. As such, the topic remains highly controversial. Abolitionist groups and international organizations argue that it is cruel and inhumane, while proponents claim that it is an effective and necessary deterrent for the most heinous of crimes.

Title 
It helps the victims' families achieve closure.
Point 

The death penalty can also help provide closure for the victim's family and friends, who will no longer have to fear the return of this criminal into society. They will not have to worry about parole or the chance of escape, and will thus be able to achieve a greater degree of closure.
Mary Heidcamp, a Chicago woman whose mother's killer faced the death penalty before the State Governor commuted the sentences to life in prison, stated 'we were looking forward to the death penalty. I'm just so disappointed in the system'1. Other victims' families deemed the decision a 'mockery', that 'justice is not done'1.
Goldbery, Michelle. "The Closure Myth". Salon. January 21, 2003.Accessed June 30,2011

Counterpoint 

Many victims' families oppose the death penalty1. While some might take comfort in knowing the guilty party has been executed, others might prefer to know that the person is suffering in jail, or might not feel comfortable knowing that the state killed another human being on behalf of the victim.
Furthermore, Stanford University psychiatrist David Spiegel believes 'witnessing executions not only fails to provide closure but often causes symptoms of acute stress. Witness trauma is not far removed from experience it'2.
Even if it was the case that capital punishment helped the victims' families, sentencing is simply not about what the victims' families want. Punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed, and not the alleged preferences of victims' families.
Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. Accessed June 9, 2011. 
Rahka, Naseem. "Capital Punishment: Muhammad and the 'Closure' Myth." November 1, 2009. Accessed June 29, 2011.

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Title 
The death penalty deters crime.
Point 

The state has a responsibility to protect the lives of innocent citizens, and enacting the death penalty may save lives by reducing the rate of violent crime.
The reasoning here is simple- fear of execution can play a powerful motivating role in convincing potential murderers not to carry out their acts. While the prospect of life in prison may be frightening, surely death is a more daunting prospect. Thus, the risk of execution can change the cost-benefit calculus in the mind of murderers-to be so that the act is no longer worthwhile for them1.
Numerous studies support the deterrent effect of the death penalty. A 1985 study by Stephen K. Layson at the University of North Carolina showed that a single execution deters 18 murders. Another influential study, which looked at over 3,054 counties over two decades, further found support for the claim that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise2.
On top of this, there are ways to make the death penalty an even more effective deterrent than it is today. For instance, reducing the wait time on death row prior to execution can dramatically increase its deterrent effect in the United States1.
In short, the death penalty can- and does- save the lives of innocent people.
Muhlhausen, David. "The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives," August 28,2007. Accessed June 5, 2011. 
Liptak, Adam. "Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate." The New York Times. November 18, 2007. Accessed June 9, 2011

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Counterpoint 

There are many reasons to doubt the deterrent effect of the death penalty. For one thing, many criminals may actually find the prospect of the death penalty less daunting (and thus, less effective as a deterrent) than spending the rest of their lives suffering in jail. Death by execution is generally fairly quick, while a lifetime in prison can be seen as a much more intensive punishment.
Moreover, even if criminals preferred life in prison to the death penalty, it's not clear that a harsher punishment would effectively deter murders. Heinous crimes often occur in the heat of the moment, with little consideration for their legal repercussions1.
Further, for a deterrent to be effective, it would have to be immediate and certain. This is not the case with the death penalty cases, which often involve prolonged appeals and sometimes end in acquittals2.
Finally, the empirical evidence regarding the deterrence effect of the death penalty is at best mixed. Many of the studies that purport to show the deterrence effect are flawed, because the impact of capital punishment cannot be disentangled from other factors such as broader social trends, economic factors and demographic changes in a region2.
Other studies have even suggested a correlation between the death penalty and higher crime rates. States such as Texas and Oklahoma, which have very high execution rates, also have higher crime rates than most states that do not have the death penalty2.
Amnesty International. "Abolish the Death Penalty." Accessed June 5, 2011. 
2 "Saving Lives and Money." The Economist. March 12, 2009. Accessed June 5, 2011.

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Title 
Execution prevents the accused from committing further crimes.
Point 

POINT

The death penalty is the only way to ensure that criminals do not escape back into society or commit further crimes while in prison.
While in prison, it is not uncommon for those receiving life in jail sentences to commit homicide, suicide, or other crimes while in jail, since there is no worse punishment they can receive1. Putting dangerous murderers in prison endangers other prisoners and the guards who must watch them.
The other advantage of execution is that it prevents the possibly of an escape from prison. Even the highest security detention facilities can have escapees2. Thus, the only way to be absolutely certain that a convicted murder can no longer hurt others is to execute them.
1 Murdock, Deroy. "A Sure Way to Prevent Prison Escapes." March 30, 2001. Accessed June 9, 2011
2 Davis, Laura. "Crime and Punishment: the view from a convicted criminal." The Independent. May 19, 2011. Accessed June 9, 2001.

Counterpoint 

Escapes from prison, though sensationalized by the media, are relatively rare occurrences1. In 1998, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 6,530 people escaped or were AWOL from state prisons. Given a total prison population of 1,100,224 state prisoners, that figure represents just over half a percent of the total prison population.
On top of this, it is not impossible for people to commit further crimes while on death row. Those sentenced to death may be even more eager to escape prior to their execution than those awaiting life in prison, so it is not true that execution necessarily prevents further crimes.
Suellentrop, Chris. "How Often Do Prisoners Escape?" Slate. February 1, 2001.

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Title 
The death penalty should apply as punishment for first-degree murder; an eye for an eye.
Point 

The worst crimes deserve the most severe sanctions; first-degree murder involves the intentional slaughter of another human being. There are crimes that are more visceral, but there are none that are more deadly. Such a heinous crime can only be punished, in a just and fair manner, with the death penalty.
As Time put it, 'there is a zero-sum symmetry to capital punishment that is simple and satisfying enough to feel like human instinct: the worst possible crime deserves no less than the worst possible
punishment'1.Human life is sacred; there must be a deterrent mechanism in place that ensures that those violating that fundamental precept are punished. Capital punishment symbolizes the value and importance placed upon the maintenance of the sanctity of human life. Any lesser sentence would fail in this duty.
Time Magazine. "The Death Penalty: An Eye for an Eye". Time. January 24, 1983. Accessed June 30, 2011.

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Counterpoint 

There is no fairness or consistency in an eye-for-an-eye attitude towards justice. Justice should remain above the petty retributive justice that marks street or community warfare, whereby the murder of one family member justifies a revenge attack against the murderers' family.
Furthermore, it is inconsistent with other areas of the law. As New York University Law Professor Anthony Amsterdam notes, 'we don't burn arsonists' houses'1. Capital punishment 'attempts to vindicate one murder by committing a second murder. And the second murder is more reprehensible because it is officially sanctioned and done with great ceremony in the name of us all'1.
The Christian logic of an eye for an eye is undermined not merely by the Pope himself, who advocated 'clemency, or pardon, for those condemned to death', but scripture itself, which preaches mercy just as vigorously as it does retribution1.
Time Magazine. "The Death Penalty: An Eye for an Eye". Time. January 24, 1983. Accessed June 30, 2011.

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Title 
Execution helps alleviate the overcrowding of prisons.
Point 

POINT

The death penalty can help ease the problem of overcrowded prisons in many countries, where keeping people for life in prison contributes to expensive and at times unconstitutional overcrowding1.
In 2011, California prison overcrowding was so problematic that a district court panel ordered authorities to release or transfer more than 33,000 inmates. This decision was held up by the U.S. Supreme Court, which argued that the conditions in the overcrowded prisons are so overwhelming that they constitute cruel and unusual punishment2. Similarly, in the United Kingdom two thirds of prisons in England and Wales have been deemed overcrowded3.
As such, the death penalty may be preferable to life in prison since it helps alleviate a pressing problem in the criminal justice system. It is better to execute those who deserve it than to be forced to release dangerous offenders into society because prisons are overcrowded by people serving life sentences.
1Sanchez, Mary. "California prisons: Cruel and unusual." The Miami Herald. May 30, 2011. Accessed June 9, 2011. 
Martinez, Michael. "California officials: We'll fix prison crowding, won't free 33,000." CNN. May 24,2011. Accessed June 9, 2011.
3"Two-thirds of prisons overcrowded." The Guardian. August 25, 2009. Accessed June 8, 2011

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Counterpoint 

Executions are rare enough that they do not have a significant impact on prison populations, which are largely composed of people who would not be eligible for the death penalty. Even if large numbers of people could be executed instead of serving prisons, resources would not be saved due to the expenses associated with death penalty cases1.
Instead of execution, there are better, more humane solutions for alleviating overcrowded prisons. One could increase community service requirements, build more prisons, or target broader crime reduction programs2.
Principally, whether or not a convict deserves to live or die should not be contingent on factors as arbitrary as the availability of prison spots in a given region. Justice is about the proportionality of punishment to crime, not of prisoners to prisons, so it is not fair to use crowded prisons as a justification for the death penalty.
1 "Saving Lives and Money." The Economist. March 12, 2009. Accessed June 5, 2011.
Death Penalty Information Center. Accessed June 8, 2011.

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Title 
State-sanctioned killing is wrong.
Point 

The state has no right to take away the life of its citizens. By executing convicts, the government is effectively condoning murder, and devaluing human life in the process. Such acts violate the right to life as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights1 and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment2.
On top of this, the state forces executioners to actively participate in the taking of a life, which can be unduly traumatizing and leave permanent psychological scars. Thus, a humane state cannot be one that exercises the death penalty.
Amnesty International. "Abolish the Death Penalty." Accessed June 5, 2011. 
European Union Delegation to the USA. "EU Policy Against the Death penalty." October 10, 2010. Accessed June 5, 2011.

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Counterpoint 

A just state regularly abrogates people's rights when they intrude upon the rights of others. By sentencing people to prison, for instance, the state takes away rights to movement, association, and property rights from convicted criminals. The right to life should be no different. When you commit certain heinous crimes, you forgo your right to life. This does not devalue life, but rather affirms the value of the innocent life taken by the criminal. Certain crimes are so heinous that the only proportionate sentence is execution.
As for the executioners themselves, there are methods of execution that involve multiple executioners which might reduce the associated psychological burdens. At any rate, no one is forced to become an executioner, and people who choose to take on that role do so with full awareness of the risks involved.

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Title 
The death penalty is a financial burden on the state.
Point 

Capital punishment imposes a very high cost on taxpayers, which far outweighs the costs of alternative punishments such as life in prison1.
A single capital litigation can cost over $1 million as a result of the intensive jury selection, trials, and long appeals process that are required by capital cases2. The cost of death row presents an additional financial burden associated with the death penalty.
Savings from abolishing the death penalty in Kansas, for example, are estimated at $500,000 for every case in which the death penalty is not sought1.
In California, death row costs taxpayers $114 million a year beyond the cost of imprisoning convicts for life2.
This money could instead be better spent on measures that are of much greater benefit to the criminal justice system- greater policing, education, and other crime-preventing measures that are far more cost-effective.
1Liptak, Adam. "Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate." The New York Times. November 18, 2007. Accessed June 9, 2011 
2"High Cost of Death Row." The New York Times. September 27, 2009.

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Counterpoint 

Justice is priceless. Even if the death penalty is more expensive than other punishments, that is not sufficient reason to ban it. Fair and proportionate punishments should be independent of financial considerations.
Further, there are ways to make the death penalty less expensive than it is today. Shortening the appeals process or changing the method of execution could reduce its costs1.
1 "Saving Lives and Money." The Economist. March 12, 2009. Accessed June 5, 2011.

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Title 
Wrongful convictions are irreversible.
Point 

There are an alarming number of wrongful convictions associated with the death penalty1. So far, more than 130 people who had been sentenced to death have been exonerated2. In many cases, unlike those who have been sentenced to life in prison, it is impossible to compensate executed prisoners should they later be proven innocent.
The state should not gamble with people's lives. The chance of wrongful execution alone should be enough to prove the death penalty is not justifiable.
European Union Delegation to the USA. "EU Policy Against the Death penalty." October 10, 2010. Accessed June 5, 2011. 
2 "Saving Lives and Money." The Economist. March 12, 2009. Accessed June 5, 2011.

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Counterpoint 

Wrongful convictions are particularly rare in cases where the death penalty is sentenced. The lengthy and thorough procedures associated with death penalty cases offer sufficient protection against wrongful convictions. If there is any reasonable doubt that a person is guilty, they will not receive the sentence.
Finally, even in cases where there is a wrongful conviction, there is generally a lengthy appeals process for them to make their case. For example, in 1993, Alex Hernandez was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 10-year old girl in Chicago; he was released a number of years later due to his lawyers proving both a paucity of evidence and the confession of her actual killer1. As a result, very few innocent people receive the death penalty, and the legality of capital punishment does not increase wrongful or prejudicial convictions2.
Turow, Scot. "To kill or not to kill," The New Yorker, January 6, 2003. Accessed June 3, 2011, 
Murdock, Deroy. "A Sure Way to Prevent Prison Escapes." March 30, 2001. Accessed June 9, 2011

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Title 
The death penalty can produce irreversible miscarriages of justice.
Point 

Juries are imperfect1, and increasing the stakes of the verdict can pervert justice in a couple of ways.
First, implementation of the death penalty is often impacted by jury members' social, gender-based or racial biases2, disproportionately impacting certain victimized groups in society and adding a certain arbitrariness to the justice system. A 2005 study found that the death penalty was three to four times more common amongst those who killed whites than those who killed African Americans or Latinos, while those who kill women are three and a half times more likely to be executed than those who kill men2.
Regional differences in attitudes towards the death penalty can also introduce elements of randomness into sentencing. For instance, in Illinois, a person is five times more likely to get a death sentence for first-degree murder in a rural area than in Cook County2.
Finally, the fear of wrongful execution can also pervert justice by biasing juries towards returning an innocent verdict when they would otherwise be deemed guilty3. When they are told that the consequence of a guilty verdict is death, they are likely to find some kind of reasonable doubt to avoid being responsible for the death of that criminal. This means that more criminals who would've otherwise been convicted do not get charged. In this sense the death penalty can pervert the goals of justice and prolong the difficult process for victims' families.
1 "Saving Lives and Money." The Economist. March 12, 2009. Accessed June 5, 2011.
2Turow, Scot. "To kill or not to kill," The New Yorker, January 6, 2003. Accessed June 3, 2011, 
Death Penalty Information Center. Accessed June 8, 2011.

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Counterpoint 

The fact that juries are prone to several biases is not a flaw inherent or unique to capital punishment.
If there are racial or prejudicial issues in sentencing, these are likely to present themselves just as often in cases where the punishment is life in prison. It is equally problematic for people to die or spend decades in jails for crimes they did not commit. These errors suggest that the judicial process may need some reform, not that the death penalty should be abolished. Implementation errors that result in discrimination can and should be corrected.
Moreover, there is little evidence that these biases are even present in most death penalty cases1. A study funded by the National Institute of Justice in the US found that differences in sentencing for white and non-white victims disappeared when the heinousness of the crimes were factored into the study1. Thus, factors relating to the crime, not the race, of the accused accounted for some of the purported racial disparities that were found.
Finally, jurors must be "death- qualified" in such cases, meaning that they are comfortable sentencing someone to death should the fact indicate their guilt2. Thus, it is unlikely that many jurors will abstain from a guilty verdict because they are uncomfortable with the death penalty.
Muhlhausen, David. "The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives," August 28,2007. Accessed June 5, 2011. 
Haney, Craig. "Juries and the Death Penalty." Crime and Delinquency. Vol 26 no 4. October 1980.

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Bibliography 

Amnesty International. "Abolish the Death Penalty." Accessed June 5, 2011.

Bedau, Hugo Adam Fletcher. "The Case Against the Death Penalty". Tufts University and the ACLU.1992

Bronson, Peter. "Death Penalty Guards What Is Valued Most," The New York Times. March 7, 2001. Accessed June 4, 2011

Davis, Laura. "Crime and Punishment: the view from a convicted criminal." The Independent. May 19, 2011. Accessed June 9, 2001.

Death Penalty Information Center. Accessed June 8, 2011.

European Union Delegation to the USA. "EU Policy Against the Death penalty." October 10, 2010. Accessed June 5, 2011.

Goldbery, Michelle. "The Closure Myth". Salon. January 21, 2003.Accessed June 30,2011

Haney, Craig. "Juries and the Death Penalty." Crime and Delinquency. Vol 26 no 4. October 1980.

"High Cost of Death Row." The New York Times. September 27, 2009.

Jacoby, Jeff. "The unjust logic of sparing murderers" Boston Globe. August 1998. Accessed June 5,2011.

Jones, Elliot. "Capital Punishment." August 22, 2009. Accessed June 8, 2011.

Kane, Gregory. The Baltimore Sun. February 5, 2003. Accessed June 8, 2011.

Liptak, Adam. "Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate." The New York Times. November 18, 2007. Accessed June 9, 2011

Martinez, Michael. "California officials: We'll fix prison crowding, won't free 33,000." CNN. May 24,2011. Accessed June 9, 2011.

Muhlhausen, David. "The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives," August 28,2007. Accessed June 5, 2011.

Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. Accessed June 9, 2011.

Murdock, Deroy. "A Sure Way to Prevent Prison Escapes." March 30, 2001. Accessed June 9, 2011

Rahka, Naseem. "Capital Punishment: Muhammad and the 'Closure' Myth." November 1, 2009. Accessed June 29, 2011.

"Saving Lives and Money." The Economist. March 12, 2009. Accessed June 5, 2011.

Sanchez, Mary. "California prisons: Cruel and unusual." The Miami Herald. May 30, 2011. Accessed June 9, 2011.

Suellentrop, Chris. "How Often Do Prisoners Escape?" Slate. February 1, 2001.

Time Magazine. "The Death Penalty: An Eye for an Eye". Time. January 24, 1983. Accessed June 30, 2011.

Turow, Scot. "To kill or not to kill," The New Yorker, January 6, 2003. Accessed June 3, 2011,

"Two-thirds of prisons overcrowded." The Guardian. August 25, 2009. Accessed June 8, 2011

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