Does Wyoming Have The Death Penalty?
Wyoming has the fewest people in any state in the U.S., but that does not mean it has no criminal laws. The penalties for serious crimes like murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, arson, and robbery are the same in Cowboy State like other states. To protect yourself or to be punished, you must become familiar with the laws.
You may be thinking about what states have the death penalty. Hence, this article covers the death penalty, the legal process of the death penalty, and the capital crime that leads to the death penalty in Wyoming.
So, without further ado, let’s dig in.
The death penalty is legal in Wyoming in the United States. Wyoming never put anyone to death, but it enacted the law so that people who killed police officers, murdered more than one person, or were repeat offenders would be sentenced to death.
In Wyoming, only one person has been sentenced to death since the death penalty was returned in the US in 1976, and that person was Mark Hopkinson, who was executed for the murder of four people in 1992.
People sentenced to death in Wyoming can choose their execution method. The three most common methods of execution in Wyoming are lethal injection, electric chair, and hanging. Most of the people sentenced to death in Wyoming choose lethal injection as their method of execution. But in some cases, Wyoming’s death penalty hanging method is used.
In 2012, Wyoming had just three new death sentences, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In March 2022, there is no death sentence complaint. Wyoming has no death-sentenced complainants as of March 2022.
Dale Eaton was the last person to be sentenced to death. In March 2022, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturned his death sentence and gave him a new life sentence in prison without parole.
Wyoming does not have a specific room for putting people to death. Still, the state stated that if lethal injections are used in the future, the parole board meeting room at the Wyoming State Penitentiary will be used. Mark Hopkinson’s death in 1992 occurred in a holding cell in the North Facility of the Penitentiary, which was shut down later.
When the prosecution wants the death penalty, the jury decides the punishment, and they must all agree. Suppose the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty. In that case, the defendant will be given a life sentence regardless of whether or not any jury members were in favor of life in prison (there is no retrial).
The Governor of Wyoming is the only person who can change a death sentence. Since 1977, not a single commutation request has been approved. Death Row inmates have a choice that they can either choose to die in the state prison or decide to die by lethal injection.
The Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins is where men on death row are kept. The Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk is where women on death row are kept. Only one person was on death row as of February 2015, and the death penalty is being challenged in court. The waiting process for death row inmates to die can take anywhere from a couple of months to over 20 years.
Lethal injection is the way people are put to death. Gas inhalation is available in case lethal injection is found to be illegal. On death row, the condemned person is allowed three daily visits, each lasting a half hour to an hour. In the remaining weeks, the prisoner can meet with family members and friends, who can only stay for 15 minutes.
Wyoming is the only state that doesn’t let news reporters watch an execution. Only people permitted by the person being executed are allowed to be there. Ultimately, the state goes to unusual lengths to keep information about his or her final moments private.
For instance, There were no witnesses because Mark Hopkinson did not allow anyone to attend his execution in 1992.
If any of the following serious offenses impose, first-degree murder is punishable by the death penalty:
- Someone in jail or detention centers did the murder, was on parole or probation for a crime, escaped from jail or prison, or was out on bail while his confession was being appealed.
- The defendant knowingly put multiple lives in danger.
- The murder happened while the defendant was involved in helping to commit, fleeing after committing or trying to commit, aircraft piracy, or the illegal throwing, placing, or releasing of a destructive device or bomb.
- The defendant’s record has a history of violent crimes such as first-degree murder and attempted murder convictions.
- The person did the murder to avoid or stop a legal arrest or help the person escape police custody.
- The defender did the murder to get money through a reward, insurance benefits, or something similar.
- The defendant knew the victim was defenseless because of a significant mental or physical disability. However, the defendant did not take this into account.
- The murder was incredibly horrible or cruel, causing the unnecessary victim pain.
- To kill a judge, magistrate, former magistrate, prosecutor, defense attorney, police officer, juror, or witness because of their official duties or status.
- The defendant is a serious and ongoing threat that will pose a significant and lasting risk of harm to others in the future, or he or she is likely to keep doing violent crimes.
- If the defendant knew that the victim was either under the age of 17 or over the age of 65, then they were responsible for his death.
On March 4, 2021, a Senate Committee approved the bill with a 4-1 vote, but two weeks later, on March 25, 2021, the full Senate rejected the bill by a narrower margin of 19 votes to 11. Eaton was the final prisoner on Wyoming’s death row when the state last executed him in 1992.
Wyoming is one state that allows the death penalty for the most severe crimes. The execution method used in Wyoming is lethal injection. Wyoming lawmakers are now considering the Wyoming death penalty firing squad as a backup execution method due to issues with the supply of lethal injection drugs.
The last execution in Wyoming since 1965 occurred on January 22, 1992. At 12:57 in the morning, Mark Hopkinson was put to death at the Wyoming State Penitentiary by lethal injection. Since the US started using the death penalty again in 1976, he was the 159th person to be put to death in the country.
Since Wyoming became a state in 1890, it has put people to death 18 times. Thirteen people were hanged, and four were put to death in gas chambers. Electric chairs have never been used in Wyoming.
Lastly, Wyoming is the only state in the United States that has legalized the death penalty. Dale Eaton was the last person to be sentenced to death and was given a new life sentence. Wyoming had just three new death sentences in 2012, and as of March 2022, there are no death complaints.
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