A measure aimed at repealing Wyoming’s death penalty may stand a better chance of winning approval in the Legislature’s 2020 session than it has in the past, according to a supporter.
Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, said as people have become more aware of the problems associated with the death penalty, they have been more prone to discuss it with their legislators.
“The community is much more aware of what’s going on and they’re much more involved,” he said. “So I think with that involvement and more personal conversations with our senators to make them understand particularly the fiscal consequences of not repealing the death penalty, I think we have a better shot of getting it all the way through this time.”
Olsen proposed a measure during the Legislature’s general session earlier this year that would have abolished the death penalty and replaced it with a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The bill was approved in the House on a vote of 36-21, but was defeated in the Senate, where it received only 12 “yes” votes from the state’s 30 senators.
The 2020 session is a budget session, which means all bills not related to the budget need to win a two-third majority vote to even be considered by the Legislature.
Olsen’s main argument in opposition to the death penalty has been the expense involved in the prosecution and unavoidable appeals that accompany a death penalty case.
In addition, he said, the Legislature needs to consider what may happen if an innocent person is condemned to death.
“If we got it wrong and executed the individual, there is no way to undo that,” he said.
Opponents of Olsen’s bill argued during this year’s session that the death penalty provides justice for the victims of murder. Prosecutors argued that its elimination would take away a valuable plea bargaining tool.
Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said he believes the death penalty may actually be more humane than life in prison.
“Caging someone up like an animal for some years of their lives just doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “Our whole world is based on contributing to society in some fashion. And locking somebody up forever just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”