- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A bill to allow the use of firing squads to execute condemned inmates advanced in the Wyoming Legislature on Monday, when the House Judiciary Committee recommended that the full chamber support the plan.

The measure already has passed the Senate, and supporters say a shortage of drugs used for lethal injections means Wyoming needs to adopt an alternative way to execute inmates.

Steve Lindly of the Wyoming Department of Corrections told the committee that the state doesn’t have any inmates on death row and last executed a prisoner in 1992.

But he said execution drugs had been coming to the U.S. from Europe, where most countries oppose capital punishment and have moved to block their sale.

Rep. Nathan Winters, a Thermopolis Republican, questioned whether firing squad would cause inmates more pain than other execution methods. He said that if the government is going to execute people, it has the obligation to do it with the least amount of pain possible.

Rep. Ken Esquibel, a Cheyenne Democrat, responded, “I think that’s a pretty easy question to answer. Ask anybody who’s ever been shot if it hurt.”

Opponents say the firing squad would be too cruel. Representatives from the Wyoming Association of Churches and the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Cheyenne urged lawmakers to reject the bill, saying they oppose the death penalty.

“I don’t know what to say to you other than we feel this is barbaric,” said Donna Adler, lobbyist for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne.

Adler said that if there’s a problem with procuring the required drugs for lethal injections, the Legislature should be considering a moratorium.

Rep. William Pownall, a Gillette Republican, said the state needs to have a practical means of carrying out inmate executions on the books.

“I do agree that we do have to have another form of execution,” Pownall said. While he said it’s a tough call, state law still calls for executing people for heinous crimes.

The committee rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, to specify that the state wouldn’t allow any method of execution.

“I move this amendment largely because we’re floundering,” Pelkey said. “We sit here discussing whether or not it’s humane to fire six bullets into another human being. At this point, we don’t have a humane solution to the problem.”

Pelkey, Winters, Esquibel and Rep. Mark Baker, a Rock Springs Republican, voted against the bill. Voting for it were Pownall; Rep. Marti Halverson, an Etna Republican; Rep. Sam Krone, a Cody Republican; Rep. Kendell Kroeker, an Evansville Republican; Rep. David Miller, a Riverton Republican.


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