Wyoming Rep. Jared Olsen (R-Laramie County) said Thursday that conservatives should be concerned about the death penalty for several reasons, including a desire for limited government as well as fiscal and moral concerns.
Olsen made the comments at the formal launch of the Wyoming Chapter of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty at the Laramie County Library on Thursday morning.
Olsen said conservatives ”have a hard time trusting the government to fill potholes or deliver the mail,” so they should be more concerned about its ability to decide whether people should live or die. He went on to say that it costs Wyoming $2.5 million every year to maintain the ability to execute people for crimes, even though the death penalty is seldom used in the state.
Wyoming has not put anyone to death since Mark Hopkinson was executed in 1992.
Olsen said Wyoming continues to face budget challenges in part because ”coal is going away. It just is,” and revenues are likely to remain tight. Olsen, who sponsored a bill in the 2019 legislative session to abolish the death penalty, says he and others will be putting forward a similar bill in the upcoming 2020 session.
Since the 2020 Wyoming Legislative session will be a budget session, it will take a two-thirds majority vote to introduce a non-budget bill for consideration. In the Wyoming House that means it will take 40 votes to introduce a death penalty repeal bill. Olsen says he believes supporters have 39 votes lined up so far.
At Thursday’s event, Kylie Taylor, Wyoming coordinator for the group, said 165 death-row inmates in the United States since 1973 have been exonerated before they could be executed, raising the specter that innocent people inevitably will be executed. Taylor also said it’s morally inconsistent for people to oppose abortion but support the death penalty, even though many conservatives hold those positions.