When convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was asked in which way he wanted to receive capital punishment for a murder he committed 25 years ago, you’ll never guess what he chose.
He didn’t go the conventional route. He didn’t choose lethal injection, not even death by electrocution, hanging or (God forbid) bludgeoning.
“I would like the firing squad, please,” said Gardner, 49, to Utah state court Judge Robin Reese. And the state is getting ready to grant this dying man his last wish.
Gardner, if his attorney’s stay of execution and appeal is not granted, will face a five-man firing squad on June 18, 2010. The squad would consist of five volunteer officers, each equipped with a matching rifle.
But Gardner, who killed an attorney 25 years ago during a failed escape attempt, may yet have his life extended. Defense attorney Andrew Parnes plans to seek a stay of execution and appeal the case to the Utah Supreme Court. Gardner has already been sentenced to death four times, however Parnes believes his death is now closer than ever before.
“I don’t think it was a shock or a surprise, and he’s coming to grips with that,” Parnes said. He did not explain Gardner’s choice of the firing squad, AP reports.
Utah and Oklahoma are the only two states in which death by a firing squad is still legal, though in Oklahoma, it can only be used if death by lethal injection is deemed unconstitutional. As of 2004, Utah inmates can no longer choose their method of execution; they must face lethal injection. However, those sentenced to death before then can choose between the two. Gardner was sentenced to death in 1985.
An Espy and Smylka study estimates 142 people have been killed by firing squad in the United States and its English-speaking predecessor territories since 1608, not including deaths related to the Civil War. In Utah, the last person to be killed by firing squad was John Albert Taylor, who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. According to the New York Times, Taylor chose the firing squad to prove Utah was committing murder, not conducting a civil service, by killing him.
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