CHEYENNE (WNE) — State lawmakers ran through one last round of emotional reflections on the death penalty Friday, Feb. 1, before pushing a bill to repeal it through the House of Representatives.
House Bill 145 — the first of its kind to last so long in the Wyoming Legislature — is now on to the Senate, after the first chamber passed it by a healthy margin of 36-21. In 2018 a similar bill lost by a roughly reverse “no” vote, and the year before another died in committee.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Laramie, has become perhaps the most morally charged legislation of the session.
“It will, for generations to come, be a testament of where we stand and what we want our laws to say,” Olsen said.
Many arguments for and against the bill grew out of the legislators’ spiritual beliefs or their connections to incidents of violence.
Some pleaded with their colleagues to “remember the victims.” Rep. Roy Edwards, R-Campbell, argued the death penalty should remain as a means of retribution for them and their families.
But others countered that “eye-for-eye” justice, satisfying as it may initially seem, does little to assuage the suffering of those who have lost loved ones.
Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Uinta, grew up with Mark Hopkinson, who in 1992 was the last man to be executed in Wyoming. He knew Hopkinson’s family and the families of his four victims.
He recalled thinking the execution — which he supported at the time — would bring relief to him and his community.
“I felt just the opposite,” he said. “It was a dark, sad day, and it didn’t do anything to help relieve the pain of those family members who had had loved ones killed.”