The United States Supreme Court on Thursday denied a series of appeals filed at the last minute by a man sentenced to die by firing squad in Utah.
Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, chose the firing squad as his preferred method to die after being convicted of capital murder in 1985. At the time, Gardner was making an appearance at Metropolitan Hall of Justice in Salt Lake City, Utah to face trial for a prior murder and attempted to escape from the courthouse. In the process, he shot and killed an attorney named Michael Burdell and was sentenced to the death penalty. Also shot in the escape attempt was bailiff Nick Kirk, who lived for ten years before dying from his injury.
Gardner will be the third person to die by firing squad, all three in Utah, since 1976. The last firing squad death occurred there in 1996.
Gardner’s death is scheduled (video here) for 12:01 Friday morning.
Utah no longer allows for death row inmates to choose death by firing squad, except in certain circumstances–for instance, if lethal injection is deemed unconstitutional, or if firing squad was chosen as the method of death prior to May 3, 2004. Oklahoma is the only other state that allows death by firing squad, and only if lethal injection and the gas chamber have both been deemed unconstitutional.
The High Justices gave no explanation for their rejection of Gardner’s last minute appeals, issuing simple, one and two paragraph denials. (1,2,3)
Last week, Gardner made an appearance before the Utah Board of Pardons and Paroles to plea for a commutation, asserting that he was a changed man and wanted to devote the remainder of his life to helping abused children. The Board denied his plea, noting an absence of any claim of being innocent of committing the murders. On the same day, the Utah Supreme Court also denied an appeal by Gardner in which his lawyers argued mitigating circumstances, including youth drug use and sexual and physical abuse, and the possibility of brain damage, should prohibit him from being put to death.
Gardner was allowed a last meal on Tuesday of his choice. Marci Stone with cakechow.com reporting in Salt Lake City, Utah reported Gardner had steak, lobster, apple pie, vanilla ice cream, and 7-up.
Tonight, his mood is reported as somber as he reads in his cell, meets with his pastor, and awaits his death.
Watch a video here at ABC News.
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