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The West's death penalty abolitionists

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Rockies Today

December 9 · Issue #48 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

The West's death penalty abolitionists
A push to repeal the death penalty gains ground across the West A push to repeal the death penalty gains ground across the West
Although the biggest gains for abolitionists this year have come out of California (where the governor declared a moratorium) and New Hampshire (which overrode a governor’s veto to abolish the death penalty), we’ve watched repeal efforts take root away from the coasts, in western states that many would assume to be unlikely contenders for abolition. Repealing the death penalty has become a recurring theme in places like Utah, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska, and, of course, Wyoming — where the efforts of Olsen and an ideologically diverse group of colleagues and supporters got as near to passage as has ever happened in this deep-red state.
We wanted to talk to people on the ground and on all sides of the issue: policymakers, activists, and individuals who have been directly impacted by capital punishment. So we hit the road, traveling to four states — Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, and Nebraska — each of which in recent years has seen increased and often intense advocacy and debate around capital punishment. We wanted to know not only what is behind the momentum for change, but also what has stopped it — and what people think it will take to finally eliminate the death penalty, particularly as elected officials in many western states are gearing up for legislative sessions that begin in January 2020.
Wyoming was the last stop on our trip. After the press conference, Christopher Xanthos of Cheyenne’s Christian Orthodox church played with his young son and pitched snowballs across the state Supreme Court’s blanketed lawn. Xanthos was jazzed — excited to get the word out and help push a repeal bill across the finish line. Like the rest of the crowd, he felt confident that bipartisan strength and enthusiasm would lead to repeal. The mythos of Wyoming’s independent, suffer-no-fools cowboy culture is real, he added. The state can serve as a pioneering model, especially for red states. “It’s an exciting time in Wyoming,” he said. “If we can effect this change in Wyoming, the repercussions of that will be great.”
This story’s part of an investigative series by The Intercept:
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More wildlife news:
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Montana wildlife managers have found 91 cases of chronic wasting disease in 2019
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More energy news:
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Court approves plan for Cloud Peak Energy to exit bankruptcy
Colstrip Power Plant secures 6-year coal mine contract
Montana State University economist examines oil booms' impacts on rural poverty
We found out that Colorado’s methane measurements are off. Here are 5 reasons why that matters
Opinion: Alberta ignores the ticking time-bomb of orphaned oil and gas wells at its own peril
Move over, coal: Gas now emits more CO2 in U.S.
More stories we're reading today
Native American women look at suffrage anniversary differently
Farmers’ despair pushes states to act
Utah’s hate crime numbers don’t tell the whole story. Here’s what we know.
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NEPA transformed federal land management—and has fallen short
The West’s urban trees are dying of old age
‘Hail Mary pass’ in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest sets up carbon clash
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812