As Wyoming faces a looming financial crisis due to a sharp downturn in oil markets and the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mark Gordon is right to consider a moratorium on the death penalty.
But the moratorium should not be temporary, according to the ACLU of Wyoming. Legislators should repeal the death penalty during the 2021 session.
“The death penalty is an expensive, ineffective and unjust government program,” said Sabrina King, ACLU of Wyoming campaign consultant. “The money saved by repealing the death penalty in Wyoming and not trying capital cases would help solve the state’s budget shortfall this year and in years to come.”
At a minimum, every biennium Wyoming must budget $1.5 million on the death penalty – even without anyone on death row.
What do those dollars go toward? There’s very little to show for it – except for the millions of Wyoming taxpayer dollars wasted on both a state and a local level on an unequally applied, ineffective death penalty that serves no common definition of justice.
But more than that, capital punishment is an intolerable denial of civil liberties and is inconsistent with the fundamental values of a democratic system. It is an unfair practice that does not enhance public safety or promote justice in Wyoming.
In the 2019 Wyoming legislative session, a bill to repeal the death penalty drew far more support from state lawmakers than ever before. The bill had 13 co-sponsors in the House and five in the Senate, and had the support of leadership in both chambers. Ultimately, the bill passed in the House but failed with an 18-12 vote in the Senate.
This year, the Wyoming House of Representatives narrowly missed meeting the 2/3 super majority of votes required to consider legislation that would repeal the death penalty during the legislature’s budget session.
In addition to the ACLU of Wyoming, organizations like the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, the League of Women Voters of Wyoming, Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church of Cheyenne and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty also support the repeal of the death penalty.
About the ACLU of Wyoming
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of Wyoming is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and South Dakota. The team in Wyoming is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities. The ACLU of Wyoming carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of Wyoming.