A bill to repeal Wyoming's death penalty has been filed for the 2020 session of the Wyoming Legislature.

House Bill 166 is being sponsored by Laramie County Republican Rep. Jared Olsen, with numerous co-sponsors from both parties. The bill would repeal the death penalty, leaving people convicted of capital crimes liable for a sentence of either life in prison or life without parole.

Supporters of abolishing the death penalty say leaving executions on the table as a penalty in Wyoming cost the state about $2.5 million a year, even though the sentence is rarely used.

Wyoming has only executed one person since 1965. Mark Hopkinson was put to death in 1992 for ordering the murder of Evanston attorney Vincent Vehar and others from prison in California. Some death penalty opponents also say it is wrong for the state to kill people under any circumstances.

But supporters of the death penalty say it gives prosecutors a useful tool in prosecuting criminals, in part because the threat of facing the death penalty will often induce defendants to agree to plead guilty to lesser charges. Some supporters also argue that the death penalty is the only appropriate sentence for some, especially heinous crimes.

Because 2020 is a budget session, it will require a 2/3 majority vote to introduce non-budget items.

Olsen said in early January that at that time he thought supporters were close to having enough voted in the House to meet that threshold and that he was optimistic about getting the bill introduced.

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