Wyoming Senate Rejects Attempt To Abolish The Death Penalty

Feb 14, 2019

Citizens wait to testify on legislation to abolish the death penalty.
Credit Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

An effort to abolish the death penalty in Wyoming has failed. The Senate voted 18 to 12 to defeat a bill that would have changed Wyoming's maximum punishment to life without parole.

Senator Brian Boner said the death penalty in Wyoming costs the state millions of dollars, even though nobody has been executed since 1992. Boner said he understands why some want vengeance, but he says a state should not act that way.

"But that's not what the justice system is supposed to be about. Justice is supposed to be blind. It's supposed to be based on reason and emotion, what brings out the best result for society. Not emotion, not retribution, not revenge," said Boner.

Senator Michael Von Flatern of Gillette argued that sitting in prison for life is a greater punishment than being executed. But others pushed back and said it was an important tool for the state to have. Ranchester Senator Bo Biteman said getting rid of the death penalty is a bad idea.

"On one hand we are saying it's ok to sentence innocent children to death up to the day of birth for being an inconvenience. And yet all the while we are seeing a push across this country to spare the lives of convicted rapists, murderers and pedophiles. I find it backwards and I'd much rather we abort the murderers, rapists and pedophiles," said Biteman.

Department of Corrections Director Bob Lampert told a legislative committee this week that the state doesn't have access to drugs that would be used to provide a lethal injection. Senator Stephan Pappas said lawmakers will need to resolve that issue.