CASPER, Wyo — At the second Politics in the Park event at the Washington Park Bandshell on Monday evening, July 13, the audience asked candidates for the Wyoming State House of Representatives about their position on abolishing the death penalty.
A bill abolishing the practice of executions, co-sponsored by state house Speaker Steve Harshman, failed to pass the Wyoming Senate. Recently, some conservative groups have petitioned Governor Gordon to place a moratorium on executions in Wyoming.
The candidates were largely split on the issue:
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In favor of abolishing the death penalty:
Speaker Harshman said “It’s a thing you struggle with[…] when you see heinous stuff happen,” but “if you’re pro-life, you’re pro-life.” He added that “Financially it doesn’t make any sense. We’re spending millions every year to keep this program in place.”
Kevin O’Hearn said he believed in “natural conception and natural death” and didn’t think executions helped the victims’ families. He added of convicted killers that during their lives behind bars, “they might see the light and come to know God.”
Leah Juarez said she was for abolishment because of the “financial drain” on taxpayers for state-sponsored legal representation during protracted death penalty cases.
Against abolishing the death penalty:
House 58 Rep. Pat Sweeney said he was “vehemently opposed” to abolishing the death penalty. He said that he had housed Lisa Marie Kimmels’s parents during the trial of her killer. “It gives you a different perspective… This gentleman murdered, so my view is not swayed.”
Michael Pedry was also against abolishment: “Part of love is mercy, and part of love is justice.”
Flasvig was in favor of keeping the death penalty as well as speeding up the process. “We need to think of the victims in these situations,” he said. “‘An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.'”
David Carpenter said, “I believe it’s a deterrent” and that “it should be a tool available” to the justice system.” HD 38 Rep. Tom Walters agreed it was an essential tool for prosecutors, and added that, “It doesn’t really change the concrete of Wyoming. We’re not gonna hire a teacher because we have a death penalty in place or not. We’re not gonna pave a road.”