The Wyoming House of Representatives has voted to repeal the death penalty. House Bill 145 was approved by a 36-21 margin, with three members absent.

The measure now moves on to the Wyoming Senate.

In floor debate on the bill Friday, Rep. Bill Pownall [R-Campbell County], a former Campbell County Sheriff, argued the death penalty is a deterrent to crime and a tool for prosecutors. ''Wyoming today has a very low crime rate, which is good," Pownall said, adding "Ask yourself why."

Rep. Roy Edwards [R-Campbell County] said ''Everybody always forgets the victims" of crimes. ''They aren't around to be represented by anybody. They can't have an appeal to a higher court," Edwards added.

But Rep. Charles Pelkey [D-Albany County} said Wyoming already spends $1.5 million per biennium just so the Wyoming Public Defenders Office can be ready to defend death penalty case defendants. He said a recent federal court decision means the state will spend at least $2.5 million to $3 million on the defense of every death penalty case, adding that figure does not include the appeals process. ''That's not money we should be spending on something that is ultimately ineffective," he added.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jared Olson [R-Laramie County], said even if the bill becomes law, those who have committed terrible crimes will still receive justice in the form of a penalty of life in prison without parole. ''The public will be safe because they will be incarcerated" he added.

Wyoming has executed only two people since 1960 and none since 1992.

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