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Debate: Should the death penalty still be legal?

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Debate: Should the death penalty still be legal?


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Side 1 argued by Vinay Pratapa

Side 2 argued by Rebecca Barkdoll

Round 1

Side 1: I believe capital punishment, or the death penalty, should be abolished. In the medieval times (or England until the 1960s) it used to be one of the most horrific punishments for most vicious, violent criminals, as well as for people who spat on kings or stole a loaf of bread. Public execution events like the guillotine, hanging, facing a firing squad and other even more horrific forms of torture and death are used to incite fear among people who act against the law. When a person relies on fear of law rather than their own morality, there is no way to guarantee what they do in the absence of vigilant eyes would be benign. That’s the same reason why corporal punishment is banned in 31 states in the US, not just because of humanitarian reasons, but enforcing students to learn through fear does not really work. Besides, wrongful convictions are no laughing matter. Due to advanced forensic technology, we see past criminals exonerated on account of new evidence coming into light all the time. A study from the National Academy of Sciences found that at least four percent of death row inmates are innocent. That translates to 110 innocent civilians killed this year, and thousands of families destroyed. Would we want the law to kill innocent people? Moreover, the death penalty is extremely expensive. In California alone, 13 executions cost the government $4 billion, translating to $308 million per execution. Therefore, considering the taxpayer’s money being burned, and the damage done to society, I believe it’s safe to say there is more harm in enforcing capital punishment than giving criminals a life sentence.

Side 2: Despite all of these good points, the issue isn’t as straightforward as it can sound. First, we have to define what form of the death penalty should and shouldn’t be allowed. Things like hanging and firing squads are horrible, brutal ways to die, and we as a society need to be compassionate enough to avoid using them. However, in the states that still use the death penalty, lethal injection is the most common. This is typically thought of as one of the most humane methods and will be the one I refer to when I mention the death penalty in this debate. We need to also consider that in the United States, executions can be overseen by physicians who do their best to make sure the criminal is as comfortable as possible when they die. Small things like this can make the difference between a death penalty that is cold and cruel and a death penalty that is as humane as possible. No true debate on this issue can get far if we don’t recognize that difference.

Round 2

Side 1:  It’s funny that when it comes to death, compassion and human rights are brought up but not when it comes to torturing suspected terrorists for information, but that’s for another debate. Prestigious law firms take up pro bono cases only when they either receive national attention so they could cash in on the fame or if the circumstances are pretty involved and not simply open and shut. However, unlike movies, court time costs money and therefore lawyers like to fast track it as much as possible. And as for death penalty deterring crimes, 87 percent of the top criminologists don’t think so. In a country where rape is punishable by death if someone commits a rape and a person witnesses it, they have no choice but to kill the witness since they are going to get executed, so the odds of their escape are much better with a murder. But in this case, if corrective behavior is applied, three lives would be saved and the criminal would have a chance for redemption. Besides, the root cause of crime should be rectified rather than killing people. Money, mental disorders, lack of education, hate crimes, gun control: these are all social issues that need to be taken care of by the government and people. Prevention is always better than cure and simply murdering criminals, humanely or otherwise, would not stop humanity from killing, assaulting and stealing from itself.

Side 2: As for whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent against criminal behavior, the point could be made that if that doesn’t deter criminals, nothing will. In fact, many people argue that if we make the punishment fit the crime, then our society will better understand the value of following those laws. One could also argue that they might better understand the morals behind the laws when they understand the parallels between their actions and the consequences. Plus, some argue that the death penalty keeps really violent people from committing even more harm while in prison or on parole. As for innocents that might accidentally be given the death penalty, technological and scientific advancements can help make sure criminals are charged with the proper crimes. Also, some of the prestigious law firms offer pro bono help for situations like this, meaning that an accused person has a better chance of avoiding the ultimate punishment, even if the evidence all points to them being guilty. Both of these factors make it possible for only the worst criminals to receive the sentence and make it much less likely that innocents face death at all.

*Note: This article ran 11/15/2018

 

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Debate: Should the death penalty still be legal?