The Wyoming state Senate failed to pass a bill that would have eliminated the death penalty in the state, with one lawmaker citing a peculiar religious justification for maintaining the practice, the Casper Star Tribune reports.
Republican Senator Lynn Hutching made a biblical case for her refusal to support the bill, arguing that it was the death penalty which allowed Jesus Christ to redeem mankind through his crucifixion, a central tenet of Christian dogma.
"The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me," she said. "I'm grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn't for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope."
While the bill had the support of both lawmakers and civilian advocates alike, it was unable to pass the final hurdle in the Senate, ultimately losing out by a vote of 12 to 18. The measure had already passed the Wyoming House of Representatives by a healthy margin.
"The vote was different than I expected to see from talking with people beforehand," said the bill's Senate sponsor, Brian Boner, who is also a Republican. "There's a lot of different factors and, at the end of the day, everyone has to make their best determination based on the information they have."The bill's supporters had touted substantial cost savings and a more humane justice system overall, arguments that carried sufficient weight in the House, if not the Senate. The death penalty, on average, costs the state of Wyoming about $1 million a year. Additionally, testimony from law enforcement and others in the Wyoming justice system cited that in their experience, the death penalty was not a meaningful deterrent to crime.
Opponents of the bill argue that the death penalty helps provide closure to crime victims and can be an effective negotiating tool when attempting to compel confessions or other testimony from criminals. Another senator, Anthony Bouchard, felt that eliminating the death penalty could be part of a slippery slope of leniency and accommodation that, he feels, is occurring in other states, like California. Bouchard pointed out that inmates there have been allowed to pursue gender reassignment surgery.
"I think we're becoming a lot like other states, and we have something to defend," he said.
The year 1992 was the last that an inmate was executed in Wyoming. Death row inmates cost substantially more to accommodate and stay locked up for an average of 17 years.