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States to try new ways of executing prisoners. Their latest idea? Opioids.

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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Wyoming to remain 1 of 5 states without hate crimes law; House votes down proposal to abolish death penalty

Wyoming will remain 1 of 5 states in the nation without a hate crimes law.

The state's House of Representatives handily voted down a bill Thursday that would have created extra penalties for violent crimes committed because of the victim's race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.

Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, sponsored the proposal that would have increased prison time for the bias-motivated offenses by 25 %.

He said there should be stronger punishments for these types of crimes because they are more "egregious" than typical violent felonies.

"They are, in essence, an assault against the entire community," he said.

The proposal needed a 2/3 majority vote for it to be introduced. But it was defeated with only 10 of the 60 members supporting it.

Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, was among those who opposed the measure.

He said the extra punishments are not needed. And he said proving that a crime has a bias component would be a difficult task for judges or juries.

"I would submit to you that a murder is a murder," he said. "And if you kill someone or maim them, the penalties are severe enough."

Death penalty abolishment fails

The proposal was one of several bills that the House rejected Thursday - the 2nd-to-last day for the introduction of new bills.

The House also voted down a proposal to abolish the death penalty in the state.

Bill sponsor Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, said this would save the state money on costly trials and appeals and prevent a scenario where an innocent person is executed.

"The vast majority of countries have abolished the death penalty," she said. "So whether it's for moral or religious reasons or financial reasons to the state or counties, let's eliminate the death penalty."

But Rep. Bill Pownall, R-Gillette, said the death penalty can be meaningful for the victims or their families.

"Don't forget the victims in all these cases," he said. "That is one thing I think we are lacking."

Source: Tribune Eagle, Feb. 11, 2016

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