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Wyoming’s Death Penalty – A Broken Systemsarahc2020-09-10T09:48:44-06:00
Risk of Executing an Innocent Person
- Since 1973, over 170 individuals in the US have been wrongfully sentenced to death and later exonerated.
- There have been no death row exonerations in Wyoming, but there still have been mistakes in cases involving serious crimes. For example, DNA evidence proved the innocence of Andrew Johnson after he had spent over 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
- DNA evidence is available in only 5-10% of criminal cases. Even when it is available, in some cases investigators have falsified evidence. A human system is never 100% accurate.
Costly and Ineffective Government Program
- The death penalty is consistently more expensive than life in prison without parole because of the additional preparation in capital cases, the separate sentencing phase, post-conviction appeals, and the added costs of death row.
- The Wyoming Legislature has allocated $750,000 for death penalty defense this fiscal year.
- Wyoming hasn’t carried out an execution since 1992 and currently has no one on death row after a federal judge overturned the death sentence of Dale Wayne Eaton in 2014. Since 2006, fourteen death penalty cases have been brought by Wyoming prosecutors. Five were brought to trial, but none of the five cases ended with a death sentence. Eight ended in plea deals before being brought to trial, and one ended with charges being dropped after spending $170,270 to defend the case.
A Failed Policy for Murder Victims’ Families
- Capital cases prolong the legal process and can inflict additional harm on victims’ families.
- A few capital cases demand disproportionate resources, which can divert resources away from counseling and support services addressing the real needs faced by victims’ families.
- Creighton Horton, who prosecuted some of the most notorious capital cases in Wyoming, now opposes the death penalty in part because “the delays and uncertainties of the death penalty appeals process are likely to take a terrible toll” on murder victims’ families.
Growing Concerns Over Wyoming’s Death Penalty
- In 2019, an effort to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole was led by Republicans and overwhelmingly passed the Wyoming State House, the bill fell only four votes shy in the Senate.
- Conservatives are leading efforts to repeal Wyoming’s death penalty. Representative Jared Olsen sponsored the repeal bill in 2019 and 2020, co-sponsored by 27 other Republican lawmakers. The Catholic Conference, Wyoming League of Women Voters, Wyoming ACLU, Responsible Business Initiative, and Wyoming Interfaith Network are among the many organizations supporting repeal.