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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: firing squads

Man dies in hail of gov.-sanctioned gunfire

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah executed a condemned killer by firing squad shortly after midnight Thursday, reviving a style of justice that hasn’t been used for at least 14 years and that many criticize as archaic.

Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, was shot by a team of five anonymous marksmen with a matched set of .30-caliber rifles early Friday. Gardner, who had a white target pinned to his chest and was strapped to a chair, was pronounced dead at 12:20 a.m.

Gardner is the first person to be executed by a firing squad in the United States in 14 years.

Gardner was sentenced to death for a 1985 capital murder conviction stemming from the fatal courthouse shooting of attorney Michael Burdell during a failed escape attempt. He was at the Salt Lake City court facing a 1984 murder charge in the shooting death of a bartender.

A flurry of last-minute appeals and requests for stays were rejected Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Gov. Gary Herbert.

On Thursday, prison officials said Gardner spent time sleeping, reading the novel “Divine Justice,” watching the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy and meeting with his attorneys and a bishop from the Mormon church. Gehrke said officers described his mood as relaxed.

Although officials had said he planned to fast after having his last requested meal Tuesday, Gardner drank a Coke and a Mountain Dew on Thursday night. His Tuesday meal consisted of steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7UP.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

June 14: Clemency denied for killer facing firing squad

June 11: Man set to die by firing squad pleads for life

April 23: Utah killer will be executed by firing squad

Killer’s death by firing squad set for tonight

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is set to execute a condemned killer by firing squad shortly after midnight tonight, reviving a style of justice that hasn’t been used for at least 14 years and that many criticize as archaic.

Barring the success of any final appeals, Ronnie Lee Gardner will be strapped into a chair, have a target pinned over his heart and die in a hail of bullets from five anonymous marksmen armed with .30-caliber rifles and firing from behind a ported wall.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver denied Gardner’s petition for a stay Thursday, saying allegations of a conflict of interest by the Utah attorney general’s office were without merit.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also denied Gardner’s request for a temporary stay, saying Gardner has had “a full and fair opportunity” to have his case considered.

Gardner’s final appeals are still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

For the rest of the Associated Press story, including more photos, click the link below.

Past coverage:

June 14: Clemency denied for killer facing firing squad

June 11: Man set to die by firing squad pleads for life

April 23: Utah killer will be executed by firing squad

Clemency denied for killer facing firing squad

DRAPER, Utah (AP) — A state parole board today unanimously denied clemency to a condemned Utah man scheduled to be executed by firing squad.

Curt Garner, chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, said the board determined that the jury’s verdict imposing a death sentence was not inappropriate and that no sufficient reason exists to grant clemency or to commute convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner’s death sentence.

“Gardner makes no claim of innocence and admits that he is guilty of each of the crimes of which he has been convicted,” Garner said Monday.

Family members of several of Gardner’s victims sat holding hands as Garner read the board’s decision.

“I really thought they would change it over to life,” said a relieved Tami Stewart, whose father, George “Nick” Kirk, was shot and wounded by Gardner in 1985. “I don’t feel happy, but it needed to be done. That’s hard for me to say, because I feel sorry for him, but the jury made their decision.”

Read the rest of the AP story by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

June 11: Man set to die by firing squad pleads for life

April 23: Utah killer to be executed by firing squad

Man set to die by firing squad pleads for life

DRAPER, Utah (AP) — A Utah killer set to be executed by firing squad next week said Thursday he is remorseful and wants a state parole board to spare his life so he can help troubled kids avoid the kind of problems that landed him on death row.

Ronnie Lee Gardner, who chose a firing squad instead of lethal injection, told the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole he and his brother are trying to develop 160 acres in northern Utah for an organic farm and residential program for children. He said he’s earned about $1,300 selling prison artwork and crafts — handmade baby booties and handkerchiefs — to start the project. He even tried to enlist Oprah Winfrey in the cause two years ago.

Gardner, 49, said he had been working quietly on his idea for the “Back to Basics” program for about 10 years. He said he is a changed person and wants to help prevent kids from traveling down a path to violence and criminal activity.

“I think I’m the perfect example of what you shouldn’t do,” Gardner said, testifying for about two hours as part of his effort to persuade the board to reduce his sentence for murder to life in prison.

Read the reset of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

April 23: Utah killer to be executed by firing squad

Utah killer will be executed by firing squad

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is set to execute a convicted killer by firing squad after a judge agreed Friday to the inmate’s request for the method, renewing a debate over what critics see as an antiquated, Old West-style of justice. 

Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, (right, with his lawyer, Andrew Parnes) was given the choice of being killed by lethal injection or shot by a five-man team of executioners firing from a set of matched rifles, a rarely used relic that harkens back to Utah’s territorial history.

“I would like the firing squad, please,” Gardner told State court Judge Robin Reese Friday morning, after Reese told him his avenues for appeal appear to be exhausted.

Gardner, 49, was sentenced to death for killing an attorney 25 years ago during a failed escape attempt and shootout.

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. 

Read the rest of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

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