Utah Man Sentenced to Death by Firing Squad

Posted on Apr 26, 2010 in National Issues

The state of Utah is scheduled to execute Ronnie Lee Gardner, a convicted murderer, by firing squad. Currently, 35 other states consider the death penalty as a means of justice. However, Utah is currently the only state that considers the firing squad a primary means of execution. Oklahoma also considers the method acceptable but would only consider its use if lethal injection was deemed unconstitutional.

Mr. Gardener, 49, was allowed to chose between lethal injection and the firing squad and opted for the latter. The practice of giving inmates a choice of their means of execution was common in Utah until 2004 when state lawmakers made lethal injection the default method. However, the state chose not to make the law retroactive to previous convictions in order to avoid unnecessary appeals from death row inmates. This change in practice largely stems from the state’s embarrassment over its use in the 1996 execution of John Albert Taylor when over 150 media outlets covered his execution. The event was portrayed as an Old-West style of justice that seemed antiquated and “allowed for killers to go out in a blaze of glory that embarrasses the state.”

Gardener’s defense attorney, Andrew Parnes, hopes to appeal to the Supreme Court on grounds that his client was denied state funds to pay for experts that could have given mitigating evidence that might have changed the decision of the jurors on their sentencing.

Gardener will be the third man since Utah reinstated the death penalty in 1976 to be executed by firing squad with the only others coming in 1977 and 1996. However, it is believed that three other men waiting on Utah’s death row have requested the firing squad.

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