Killer in Utah Opts to Die by Firing Squad

Deborah W. Denno in Faded Tribune, April 23, 2010

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A prison inmate in Utah will face a firing squad in June, mark the state’s first execution in more than 10 years and the first by firearms since 1996.

A state judge today (April 23) signed the death warrant for 49-year-old Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was convicted of murdering an attorney during an escape attempt from a Salt Lake City courthouse in 1985.

When asked whether he wanted lethal injection or firing squad, a shackled Garner told the judge, “I would like the firing squad, please,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Utah is the only state to offer such a choice.

After spending more than half his life behind bars, Gardner will be shot June 18 at the Utah State Prison in Draper, barring successful appeals to the Utah Supreme Court or the state pardon board.

As for whether firing squads are more humane than lethal injection? Deborah Denno at Fordham University, who specializes in legal issues regarding methods of execution, says: “Utah is to be commended for allowing the firing squad even though there have been very few such executions in this country. While the firing squad has not been systematically evaluated and the method has always carried with it the baggage of its brutal image and roots, evidence suggests that it may well be the most humane of all execution methods, including lethal injection, which is now used almost exclusively. Ironically, then, lethal injection, which has the veneer of medical acceptability, has far greater risks of cruelty to a condemned person than the firing squad, which has the aura of the wild west.”