On March 1, 2021, state Senator Brian Boner (R-Douglas) introduced a bill, Senate File 150, to abolish the death penalty in Wyoming. Sen. Boner defended the bill largely on fiscal grounds, emphasizing that the death penalty costs taxpayers over $750,000 annually. The death penalty has been in effect in Wyoming since 1977, but the state has only held one execution since that time. For many years a man by the name of Dale Eaton was the only prisoner left on the state’s death row, but his sentence was overturned by an appeals court in 2019, and it is unclear whether he will be resentenced. Sen. Boner remarked, “The only thing that is real about the death penalty in this state is the cost.”
Wyoming legislators have been especially focused on passing cost-saving legislation since the state’s significant budget shortfalls have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The Legislative Service Office reported that a death penalty repeal would decrease expenditures for the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) by $868,375 in the fiscal year 2022. The bill’s fiscal note explained:
By eliminating the death penalty, the SPD would not be required to staff and fund capital cases, nor would it have to pay for continued work on re-sentencing [...] The need to staff and fund capital cases with responsibilities that are complex, numerous and heightened and greater than lesser punishments, vary from year to year.