By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A man who once sat on death row for a crime he did not commit recently testified in support of Wyoming repealing its death penalty.
Ray Krone testified before the Senate Revenue Committee last week, telling the story of how he was wrongly accused in 1991 of killing a woman who was found dead in a Phoenix bar he frequented.
“I used to support the death penalty, since it wouldn’t affect me and my family, so what do I care about it?” Krone said in his testimony. “I found out how wrong I was when I was 35 years old and got sentenced to death in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Krone was convicted one year after his arrest due to dental impressions found on the victim’s body that supposedly matched his. Ten years later, Krone was exonerated when it was discovered the woman was actually killed by another man who was also known for being a violent sexual predator.
The Wyoming Legislature is considering Senate File 150 (sponsored by Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas), which would repeal the state’s death penalty. The Senate was to debate the bill on Wednesday, but its discussion was held back for a day because of weekend blizzard that halted activity in southeastern Wyoming for two days.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the last person executed in Wyoming was Mark Hopkinson in 1992.
During a Senate Revenue Committee meeting on March 4, Boner explained his reasoning behind the bill.
“It’s during time of fiscal constraint that it’s more important than ever we reassess state government and maybe some things that used to work in the past are no longer relevant,” the senator said.
He described the death penalty as a rusty old tool on the shelf that didn’t work and was expensive.
There is only one person on death row in Wyoming, Dale Eaton, convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a Montana teenager in 1988 and then throwing her body into the North Platte River. His death sentence was overturned by a federal judge in 2014 although prosecutors said they would continue to seek his execution.
Wyoming’s Legislature passed a bill in 2004 banning the death penalty for juveniles.
Krone’s testimony to the committee was part of partnership between his organization of death row exonerees, “Witness to Innocence,” and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming.
The ACLU of Wyoming has been a major proponent behind repealing the death penalty in the state, arguing it is costly and ineffective.
The ACLU believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law.
Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, who is a co-sponsor of the bill (along with 12 other legislators, both Democrat and Republican), shared a video of the March 4 meeting with an impassioned plea.
“Let’s end the death penalty once and for all. Let’s end it now!” he wrote on social media.