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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Battle Death Penalty - Judges' Comments

The Closing Arguments are up, the debate is done, Battle Death Penalty is ovah!

On the panel for this battle, are:

On the Left, Pineapple Girl of Politics at Pineapple Girl.

On the Right is CDT Michael of The Common Virtue.

And from the Center is Ralph Stefan, a regular here at Iron Blog.

Let's see what the Judges have to say.

Opening Arguments

PG:
A post that stands on its own, and challenges the reader to look at new ideas (to name one, the response of victims' families who did not feel the vindication for which they'd hoped). I especially appreciated the opinions of law enforcement. This was a solid, well-organized and fluid OA, and I can't think of a way the Challenger could have done better in defining his case, structuring his argument, and making it digestible. I found the tone to be a skosh more melodramatic than necessary in the opening graphs, however, re Kelsey Patterson -- any reader knows this is a death penalty debate, so there's far less oomph in an opening sentence of "Kelsey Patterson is dead" than I think Big Dan might have hoped.

Statements from the Iron Blogger such as "The death penalty certainly has stopped proven murderers from repeating their crimes" and "I would be remiss not to mention the recent spate of death penalty moratoriums" are just begging for links, yet went without any sourcing. There was also a presumption that the reader knows enough about the 5 common methods of execution to agree with the Iron Blogger that lethal injection is the most humane of the 5 -- at the least, a link to info about the other methods would have been appropriate. Overall, I feel confident that this post will be the one blight in an otherwise convincing and well-written argument from the Iron Blogger. Her prima facie case is not strong right now, but there is much blogging yet to be done.
RS:
The Challenger’s did a nice job of structuring his opening argument. His breakdown of criminal punishment and its justifications was an excellent method of taking on the subject. This led nicely into his final assertion that the death penalty is unfair. I found the article on lethal injection to be highly informative. The quotes at the end were a nice touch and I felt his references to Klingons and Tom Cruise helped the readability of the piece. His links were fairly solid and somewhat educational. On the down side, I did not appreciate his opening. It was basically an appeal to emotion. The problem was further compounded when one followed the link regarding Kelsey Patterson. I think his attempt to make Patterson a poster boy for executed people who are mentally diminished was a huge mistake given the man had previously shot two other co-workers prior to his murder rampage. His link, which purported that police chiefs did not view the death penalty as an effective deterrent wasn’t quite as advertised. When you follow the link (manually I might add), you find the words “Expand Death Penalty” in the chart. His “Bush Kills” link was goofy and unnecessary.

IBR took the bull by the horns and literally structured her post on the Chairman’s questions. There was no mincing of words. She did an excellent job in answering these questions and provided ample support in terms of links. Her inclusion of Donna Payant in the discussion was a surprise and raises some interesting questions. At one point, IBR seemed to contradict herself. After touting the lengthy appeals process in terms of safeguarding the death penalty process, she then talks about how the death penalty needs to be swift and just. These two concepts seem to be at odds. I found her link to a google search to be inappropriate for backing up her assertion that many people are murdered in prison. The Wikiopedia link on James Boyd was uninspired.
CM:
Overall, a strong opening statement that could certainly stand on its own without carrying-on to the various arguments and closing. The Challenger makes the point that life in prison is better. He should have elaborated on this idea, and perhaps searched for an example of life in prison reforming a person.

A pretty good job. I especially like the fact that the Iron Blogger provided a real example of a killer who escaped the death penalty, only to kill again. Of course, the argument could be made that this was an isolated incident, and perhaps the Iron Blogger should have addressed this. Using the question and answer format interrupted the flow, but helped with information and logic, which turns it into neither a positive or a negative. A good start, and enough to stand on its own.

1st Rebuttals

PG:
He does a good job pointing out the flaws in IB's arguments (i.e. the safeguards, relative humanity of lethal injection versus other methods), and in bringing in interesting material that reinforces his OA without warming it over (the Apostle Paul/Bonhoeffer, et al. point, for example), and with the GA Supreme Court opinion renders one IB point dead in the water. Again, Big Dan uses a great mix of colorful analogy, respect, and cultural reference to keep this post engaging. He turns some lovely phrases here, namely "a killer remains and it is us." Can I use that? I'll quote you. =)

I was impressed with the Iron Blogger's strategy of logical fallacy. The appeal to authority of the Klingon redirect and the false analogy of the "V8" point are two excellent examples. It was a good read, especially in the fisking/reinterpreting of the Challenger's "compulsion for revenge" paragraph. I found syntax a little wanting and some of the drama to be gratuitous (rectal sutures? If we were talking about the Louima case and were speaking of fact, I wouldn't have paid attention, but it seemed the goal was strictly to put a gorier new spin on an old talking point, and not even a terribly relevant spin at that).
RS:
The Challenger did a fair job rebutting IBR’s main points. He further strengthened some of his previous points and it will be interesting to see if IBR can take some of them on. He introduced some new points and I don’t know if all them make sense. Once again, he did a nice job with his links. This post had structure problems. He didn’t seem to take on IBR’s points in any particular order. There seemed to be some jumping around between rebuttal points and new points. Some of his new points are vague and I am not clear with where he is going with them. The “eye for an eye” and “dark urges” points concern me. Bringing up the Holocaust again was a mistake repeated (if he brings it up again, it’ll be three strikes and you’re out). Citing trial lawyers on the fairness issue was probably not a good idea.

IBR did the rope a dope again. The Challenger should have known this was coming. Much like her first debate, she provided an adequate opening argument but takes it to another level in her first rebuttal. Unfortunately, I felt the Challenger invited this with his uninspired first rebuttal. IBR did an excellent job taking on the Challenger’s points and structured it well. It was a highly entertaining read and she did a good job with her links. IBR could have delivered the knock out punch if it weren’t for a weak conclusion. Her points at the end were somewhat weak and muddled. In addition, I feel her reliance on Court TV for her links is weakness.
CM:
The Challenger does a good job of directly challenging some of the Iron Blogger's points, although he could have challenged more, or done so in a more systematic manner. The challenger did a good job of taking some of the Iron Blogger's points and turing them around, such as the safeguards. There are many good points in here, although a bit more could have been done.

This was a very good rebuttal. Simply a class A act. The Iron Blogger did a superb job of going through the Challenger's arguments and turing them around. The style was sarcastic, but in a good way. This should put the Challenger on the defensive. It is true that perhaps some of the sarcasm amounted to some points that were not very important, but that still does not diminish the whole post. I especially liked the use of the Klingon quotes, and using them to disprove the Challenger's Klingon quotes. Good job.


2nd Rebuttals

PG:
Especially nice return on the Nebraska/lethal injection point and on the "eye for an eye"/Biblical position. The Challenger did a good job of quelling the major criticisms of 1R, and turned several of the Iron Blogger's positions around. Ending the 2R by questioning the Iron Blogger's statements on retribution, which are a major theme of her side, doesn't leave her too much choice but to try to backpedal on
that, which is a sharp technique. I thought the reference to "Thief's comments" was poor form (I'm assuming that someone commented on the prevalence of DPIC links?); I feel confident that the Iron Blogger doesn't need to read the comments to poach ideas and strategy. I personally don't read any comments for a Battle while I am judging, (with the exception of the first 5 or 6 that were posted on the day the Battle was announced, before I found out I was on base for this one) and was still able to discern that DPIC was the go-to source in the Challenger's OA.

I found the Iron Blogger's TownHall/Cal Thomas link and subsequent point harmful to her own case. She even went so far as to emphasize in bold a statement from a scholar that the "mistaken executions rate is zero" -- although the Challenger had already beat her to that punch by using a similarly credentialed scholar alongside a more objective source link when he anticipated that argument in 1R, pointing out that the reason for the lack of posthumous exonerations (i.e. "mistaken executions") is that investigations end when the person in question dies. However, this is the Rosemary we know and love. "Big girl potty"! HAHAHA! (And, this isn't just solidarity for another chick in the sausage-fest world of political blogging either: she calls the Challenger out on the same courtesy gaffe I did.) But, it's not just validation of my judging skills at work here either -- overall the IB's 2R was pleasantly tangy and fun to read.
RS:
The Challenger did a fair job rebutting some of IBR’s main points. At long last, he introduced Barry Sheck. He would have been better served if he had introduced this line of attack earlier in the debate with more focus. He did a good job catching IBR’s Nebraska mistake and that earned him a point. The Albert Camus quote was a nice touch. His links were solid. The Challenger spent too much time on the “eye for an eye” point Furthermore; he turned it into a religious discussion. I don’t have a problem with religious points in a political debate but I value logic and reason most. While I view discussions of faith as interesting, one should be careful when turning a debate in this direction. Once again, he compounds his mistakes. He dusted off the “eye for an eye” chestnut and continues to try and push the discussion in that direction. He brought up the Holocaust again and tossed in a bonus reference to Hiroshima. Shudder. Most alarming, he seems tantalizing close to refuting IBR on a couple of major points but he can’t seem to seal the deal.

IBR did an excellent job of taking on the Challenger’s main points. She laid out a strong rebuttal as evidenced by her points regarding the DNA Technology Act. Furthermore, her Biblical quotes seemed to turn the Challenger’s “eye for an eye” argument on its ear. Overall, it was another fine effort from IBR. There are a few weaknesses in her post that can be exploited. Other than that, this was a really sound post and I can’t fault her on much of anything.
CM:
This was a pretty good rebuttal, but the Challenger wanders a bit too much. He did a very good job of using Nebraska as an example, but concentrates a bit too much on things that may not matte too much. The Challenger definitly could have expanded on the religious ideas against the Death Penalty, but merely mentions them. Comparing today's death penalty and Pontius Pilate is not a good idea; the two are totally different. It seems to me that this battle is about the death penalty in America, not in Roman times. I also do not think it is correct to talk about "archaic concepts from a religious book." The reason I say this is that statement does not do much to persuade one about the origin of the death penalty, nor do I think it is necessary to try to beat down the Bible in arguing against the death penalty.

The Irong Blogger did a nice job with this one. Her rebuttals seem much more focused than the Challenger's. Good point by point rebuttals here of some of the Challenger's points and rebuttals. Be careful though that your sarcasm does not become distracting. Without listing them all, I feel like the Irong Blogger does a good job of atleast hurting, and often destroying the Challenger's arguments.

Closing Arguments

PG:
This post succeeds on many levels -- in any other venue, the reasonable doubt strategy alone would be enough to win the debate even if the rest of the posts had been terminally flawed (though they weren't), and the Challenger excels at highlighting the holes in the Iron Blogger's rebuttals. I was disappointed that the Challenger didn't give even lip service to reminding the audience of his original argument, that the death penalty doesn't satisfy any of the four theories of correction to justify its brutality. Still, he does a good job wrapping things up, and there's no doubt that the Closing Argument stands on its own.

Iron Blogger opened her closing with a flawed premise: "My rebuttals showed that while there is a chance an innocent person might get a death sentence; the chance of an innocent person actually being executed is nil." I never saw the Iron Blogger prove without a doubt that an innocent person can never be (or has never been) executed in
America. Even in the blogosphere, readers' memories are longer than to gloss over that. Then, she returns moments later to say, "no, there is a chance, but it's justified", which is a head-scratcher premise-wise. The false analogy of the equating of the informed risks that free citizens undertake when they travel to the risk of killing an innocent with the death penalty was strategically weak as well. I did like the Heinlein quote, which provides some nice food for thought philosophically (and could likely have more effective earlier in the debate).
RS:
The Challenger did a good job with his closing argument. He summarized both his and IBR’s main points and did a fine job to solidify his case. It was both content filled and spirited. Overall, his best post since his opening. While the structure was straightforward and tailored to summarize, there was nothing imaginative in the structure. At least one of claims of silence from IBR was unfounded as IBR addressed the cost issue. There were questions about others in my mind as well.

This was an uninspired post. IBR was able to present her major points and that was about it. Her introduction of the automobile issue was puzzling. She seemed like she just wanted to get out of Dodge. This was a poor effort.
CM:
This is a very convincing argument from the Challenger. Talking about reasonable doubt and even the possibility of injustice, and proven injustices, helps very much. The Challenger brings back his arguments, and the Iron Blogger's responses; also a very good idea. Simply put, with this closing the Challenger convincingly argues for his points while casting doubt on the Iron Blogger's. Good job.

I hate to say this, but this seems to be the Iron Blogger's weakest post. That does not mean it is without good points. However, I honestly do not think the Iron Blogger's analogies are convincing. It is also important to note that the Iron Blogger admitted new material in this closing section, which is not supposed to happen. No points were taken off, but no bonus points were given. Also, the Iron Blogger needs to specifically tie her previous three posts together to come to a conclusion here. On a positive note, bringing in the 5th Amendment is a good idea. However, it should have been done from the very start.
The Judges have spoken, and now we await the Verdict!

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