Utah Killer's Request Granted: Face Firing Squad

By Jason Beahm on April 27, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A convicted killer, sentenced to death in Utah will be shot, by his own request. Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49 was convicted of capital murder in the 1985 killing of attorney Michael J. Burdell during an escape attempt at a courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City.

On Friday, Gardner stood before a Utah Judge and expressed his desire to be shot. "I would like the firing squad, please." 

In 1985, while at a Utah courthouse, a female acquaintance provided Gardner with a loaded .22-caliber handgun. Despite being handcuffed, he shot two people, killing Burdell and injuring a court bailiff. Gardner was shot and eventually captured as he attempted to escape. 

The case brings the debate of capital punishment to the forefront for an odd reason. Utah and Oklahoma are the only states that allow the option of death by firing squad. However, Oklahoma has never executed anyone by firing squad and only offers the option if lethal injection is deemed unconstitutional. 

As Jennifer Dobner of the Associated Press reports:

Utah's death row inmates were for decades allowed to choose how they wanted to die. State lawmakers removed that choice in 2004 and made lethal injection the default method, though inmates sentenced before then still have a choice.

The repeal of the firing squad wasn't tied to any discomfort with the method itself. Rather, state lawmakers disliked the heaps of negative media attention that firing squads focused on the state, said Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful.

The execution is set for June 18, 2010. Gardner's attorney, Andrew Parnes, is planning to appeal, although the success of such an appeal is highly unlikely. 3rd District Judge Robin Reese already declared that Gardner's appeals have been exhausted.

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