Convicted Killer To Get Firing Squad
What century is it again? And what country are we in? Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, who was convicted in the killing of an attorney during an escape 25 years ago, will be executed by a five-person firing squad. Gardner was given the option of that or lethal injection, but told Judge Robin Reese, “I would like the firing squad, please.”
Of the 35 states with the death penalty on the books, Utah is the only one to use the firing squad as a method of execution since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
Two men have died in a hail of bullets since that decision: Gary Gilmore, on Jan. 17, 1977 — after famously uttering the last words, “Let’s do it” — and John Albert Taylor on Jan. 26, 1996.
Oklahoma is the only other state that considers a firing squad an acceptable option, but by law would only use it if lethal injection was deemed unconstitutional. The state has never used the method.
Only convicts sentenced before 2004 can choose this method, and Utah only eliminated firing squads because it garnered them bad press, not because it happens to be inhumane. Defense attorneys claim that to execute Gardner after so many years is cruel and unusual punishment.
Gardner was convicted of the fatal shooting death of Utah attorney Michael J. Burdell during an escape attempt and shootout at the old Metropolitan Hall of Justice in downtown Salt Lake City on April 2, 1985.
Although he was handcuffed and surrounded by prison guards, a female acquaintance slipped Gardner a loaded, long-barreled .22-caliber handgun in the basement of the building just before the shooting. He shot Burdell in the head, wounded a court bailiff and was himself shot in the right shoulder before being captured on the courthouse lawn as he tried to flee.Click here for reuse options!
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