Gov. Gordon considers moratorium on death penalty

JACKSON, Wyo. — If Wyoming ever does away with the death penalty it may not be emotions that carry the vote. It will more likely be a matter of dollars and sense.

Facing a $1.5 billion revenue deficit, Governor Mark Gordon told members of the Joint Appropriations Committee Monday morning that he was looking at a variety of places to make cuts and save money including doing away with the death penalty, at least for now.

“I am looking very seriously at a moratorium on the death penalty,” Gordon said. “Whatever I can do to forestall that as an option—it costs us around a million dollars every time that is brought up. These are just luxuries, luxuries that we will no longer be able to afford.”

The statement was made in response to a question posed by a committee member and it did not escape the radar of groups closely watching capital punishment in Wyoming.

Sabrina King, ACLU of Wyoming campaign consultant, said, “The death penalty is an expensive, ineffective and unjust government program. 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.”

ACLU of Wyoming added, “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. Legislators should repeal the death penalty during the 2021 session.”

State conservatives were also buoyed by the news.

“We are encouraged by Governor Gordon’s thoughtful comments on the death penalty today. In considering a moratorium, he is showing he wants to prioritize economic recovery over a failed government program that has cost Wyoming millions of dollars without any real benefit,” said Kylie Taylor, of Wyoming Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “Movement away from the death penalty has become a Western value, with four western states instituting moratoria in the last decade. We know there is growing interest in the Legislature for ending the death penalty due to its high costs, the fact it does nothing to make us safer, and because of the risk of executing innocent people.”

As some states move to abolish capital punishment, Wyoming has so far not budged on its stance, though recent votes are becoming closer. Wyoming currently has no prisoners on death row.

Local state lawmakers Sen. Mike Gierau and Rep. Andy Schwartz both sit on the Joint Appropriations Committee.

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