Utah Readies the Firing Squad for Ronnie Gardner

By Jason Beahm on June 11, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On June 18, convicted first-degree murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner will be strapped to a chair and shot four times. A fifth shooter will fire a blank. In this modern age, why would the state of Utah execute a person in such a manner?

Because Gardner asked for it. "I would like the firing squad, please," Gardner stated in April.

The case has brought forward profound opinions from many angles about the firing squad method, and capital punishment in general. Perhaps that is exactly what Ronnie Gardner wants.

"The firing squad is archaic, it's violent, and it simply expands on the violence that we already experience from guns as a society," said Bishop John C. Wester.
A former Utah executioner, who wished to remain anonymous, has quite a different take. "I've shot squirrels I've felt worse about," he says in an interview with CNN. "There's just some people we need to kick off the planet ... The death penalty is nothing more than sending a defective product back to the manufacturer. Let him fix it."

Gardner was convicted of murder 25 years ago for the 1985 fatal courthouse shooting of attorney Michael Burdell during a botched escape attempt. He was also convicted in the 1984 killing of Melvyn Otterstrom. 

In yet another twist, Michael Burdell, the attorney who Garder was convicted of killing in April 1985, would have likely opposed his killer's execution, his friends and family say. "Michael Burdell would not have wanted Ronnie Lee Gardner put to death," his fiancée Donna Nu said in court documents. "There is absolutely no question about this in my mind."

Nevertheless, barring a successful last minute appeal or pardon, Gardner will be shot and laid to rest in one week's time. 

Update: Gardner went before the Utah parole board Thursday to seek clemency, saying that he wants to live to help make life better for troubled children. A decision is expect Monday.

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