Ronnie Lee Gardner Exeucted by UT Firing Squad

Bump and Update: Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad just after midnight. He was dead at 12:20.

Bump and Update: The Supreme Court denied a stay Thursday Night. Justices Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens, would have granted the request for a stay. At 9:30 pm:

all communication from clergy, attorneys and others was cut off. Gardner continued watching movies at that point. He was 90 feet from the death chamber.

Barbarism is alive and well in the United States.

Barring a last minute reprieve, Ronnie Lee Gardner will be executed by a firing squad in Utah just after midnight. He has eaten his last meal and intends to fast until then. Here's how it will go down:


Ronnie Lee Gardner will be strapped into a chair, a hood will be placed over his head and a small white target will be pinned over his heart.

The order will come: "Ready, aim..." The 49-year-old convicted killer will be executed by a team of five anonymous marksmen firing with a matched set of .30-caliber rifles. He is to be the third person executed by firing squad in Utah - or anywhere else in the U.S. - since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Violence begets violence, as some have noted: [More...]

"The firing squad is archaic, it's violent, and it simply expands on the violence that we already experience from guns as a society," Bishop John C. Wester, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said during an April protest. The diocese is part of a new coalition pushing for alternatives to capital punishment in Utah.

Gardner's execution method is expected to raise opposition to the death penalty. According to John Holdridge, director of the Capital Punishment Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),

“The Gardner execution really brings to the spotlight what we are doing – exterminating a human life in a deliberate, premeditated fashion.”

The Tenth Circuit and Utah's Governor today denied stays. A final petition is pending before the Supreme Court.

As to Gardner's history:

Gardner first came to the attention of authorities at age 2 as he was found walking alone on a street clad only in a diaper. At age 6 he became addicted to sniffing gasoline and glue. Harder drugs — LSD and heroin — followed by age 10. By then, Gardner was tagging along with his stepfather as a lookout on robberies, according to court documents.

After spending 18 months in a state mental hospital and being sexually abused in a foster home, he killed Otterstrom at age 23. About six months later, at 24, he shot Burdell in the face as the attorney hid behind a door in the courthouse.

Gardner says he has changed. If granted a reprieve, he would like start a 160-acre organic farm and program for at-risk youth. He's unlikely to get the chance.

More reactions to his planned execution:

The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday decried Gardner's imminent execution as an example of what it called the United States' "barbaric, arbitrary and bankrupting practice of capital punishment."

At an interfaith vigil in Salt Lake City on Thursday evening, religious leaders called for an end to the death penalty.

"Murdering the murderer doesn't create justice or settle any score," said Rev. Tom Goldsmith of the First Unitarian Church.

Memo to commenters: Don't bother re-posting the facts of his crimes here, take them to another site that supports the death penalty. I have mentioned them above, they were 25 years ago and he has not denied committing them.

Update: Ronnie Gardner was to touch his daughter and brother through bars to say goodbye. His daughter said it was the first time in 27 years she had been able to touch him.

Vietnam this week banned execution by firing squad. Lethal injection will be used instead because it is considered more humane. Vietnam executes about 100 people a year, mostly for drug offenses. A report by a committee of the Assembly found:

"Injection of poison to people being executed causes less pain and their bodies stay intact. It costs less and reduces psychological pressure on executors," it said.
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  • Display: Sort:
    What a tragic story (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by magster on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 08:37:23 PM EST
    Child neglect and abuse -- the gift that keeps on giving.

    Hope firing squad is more painless than lethal injection, electrocution and gas chambers seem to be.

    I hve totally missed this story. (none / 0) (#1)
    by masslib on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 08:29:06 PM EST
    I can not believe this is legal.

    Yes (none / 0) (#3)
    by Madeline on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 08:56:03 PM EST
    Child neglect and abuse -- the gift that keeps on giving

    Reading The Idiot again reminded of quote within (none / 0) (#4)
    by Raskolnikov on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 08:59:38 PM EST
    "To kill for killing is an immeasurably greater punishment than the crime itself.  To be killed by legal sentence is immeasurably more terrible than to be killed by robbers."

    How do they find these (none / 0) (#5)
    by jondee on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 09:20:21 PM EST
    "marksmen", I'd like to know..

    Do all the Mormon Temples in the state have a drawing, in lieu of having to sort through all the applications?


    They have numerous volunteers (none / 0) (#20)
    by MKS on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 11:29:59 AM EST
    Mormons are in favor of the death penalty by large margins....

    On Volunteers (none / 0) (#27)
    by JDB on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 04:01:10 PM EST
    Last week Doug Berman highlighted a CNN story that contained an interview with a guy who was on a Utah firing squad.  It's chilling.

    Does he have any lingering effects from his role in the execution? "I've shot squirrels I've felt worse about," he says. He volunteered to participate, he said, and would do so again, given the opportunity. "There's just some people," he says, "we need to kick off the planet."

    Sounds Like (none / 0) (#28)
    by squeaky on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 04:04:24 PM EST
    Our nyrias.

    off the planet.. (none / 0) (#29)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 04:17:56 PM EST
    like nutbars with special underwear who think God is the GOP's biggest donor.

    Animals... (none / 0) (#45)
    by Watermark on Sat Jun 19, 2010 at 01:25:55 PM EST
    Yes, there's a karmic (none / 0) (#7)
    by Natal on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 09:46:00 PM EST
    consequence for the state as there is for individuals who kill.

    That's a beautiful quote... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 12:56:33 PM EST
    I might not have ever heard anything so spot on.

    Firing squad?! (none / 0) (#6)
    by nycstray on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 09:43:21 PM EST
    I'm with masslib, I can't believe this is legal.

    Really? (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by squeaky on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 10:53:22 PM EST
    Seems more humane than the death needle, or the electric chair, imo. Not that any of it is humane, but it is legal in the US.

    Yes, really. (none / 0) (#12)
    by nycstray on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 11:10:18 PM EST
    you looking for an argument? I think they are all inhumane. I have a prob with them doing this with animals also. Although I think it's illegal to shoot dogs and cats in a shelter as a way of euth-ing them. I seem to remember a prob with a shelter doing it a while back. Heart sticks and gas chambers (where they pile all the animals in and slowly kill them) are still legal in some states though . . . .

    No Argument Here (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 11:24:49 PM EST
    I think any death penalty is barbarian.

    Barbarian (none / 0) (#18)
    by Untold Story on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 09:45:50 AM EST

    Outrageous for a so-called civilized society!

    Didn't He Have a Choice (none / 0) (#44)
    by kaleidescope on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 06:37:05 PM EST
    My memory is that Utah outlawed execution by firing squad and that the method now is lethal injection.  But because this defendant was sentenced at a time when there could be execution by firing squad, the state did not believe it could change the method of execution in place ex post facto. So they gave him a choice.

    The death penalty is anathema, a dark stain on our country's reputation.  But speaking personally, if I were ever faced with the choice this defendant faced, I would choose the same way he did.

    Dying is one of the most significant things that will ever happen to any of us.  I would prefer to be conscious so that I can experience that.  No way do I want to be drugged out of my mind.


    In case you thought this was not sick enough (none / 0) (#8)
    by fuzzyone on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 10:02:46 PM EST
    The Utah Department of Corrections is issuing a commemorative coin to those who participate in the execution.  They used to do pins but no one wore them.  Go figure.  I just don't know what else to say about this.

    That all those involved ... (none / 0) (#19)
    by nyrias on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 09:46:32 AM EST
    are doing a difficult job and they are recognized by it?

    Oy (none / 0) (#34)
    by waldenpond on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:44:40 PM EST
    Not difficult for these people.  They get off on it.  Read the comment by one of the guys.... felt worse about shooting squirrels.

    It would make sense to lock up people that get off killing other people... oh, wait that won't work.....


    Absolutely disgusting (none / 0) (#46)
    by Watermark on Sat Jun 19, 2010 at 01:32:33 PM EST
    Ok, you don't like the death penalty! (none / 0) (#9)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 10:22:05 PM EST
    I have to take a more practical tack to use a sailing term.

    First I am against the death penalty for other reasons than those expressed above.  It just costs too much to remove a killer from this earth within the USA.  It would be a lot cheaper to just put them in a small concrete block cell somewhere, and lose the key.  Of course that would have the added benefit of the supposed killer being alive when and if a mistake was discovered.
    I think though that local prosecutors and politicians want to get the headlines that come from the prosecution of someone hated so much in the community.

    But calling the method of execution by firing squad barbaric only shows a lack of understanding of the process.

    Electrocution is the worse way to go.  Foolish people not understanding electricity like to think that a high voltage is the way to go in killing a human being.  Really 120 or even 240, or 480volts  would do it quicker and more humanely than a hundred thousand volts.  It has to do with stopping the heart.  The higher voltages just cause the person to be burned (yes) more inside and sometimes in the worst cases, it show outside as well.

    Injection and gas are the next worse, but if botched can be nearly as bad as electrocution.  
    If you wished to be humane it would be far better to use the silent killer CO (carbon monoxide).
    If you want a gas that doesn't have a disturbing nick name, just plain methane, nitrogen, helium, or any of the more or less inert gases.  The person just feels tired, goes to sleep, and doesn't wake up.

    Actually a firing squad would be my preference over the electric chair or gas or lethal injection.  The heart is stopped totally and immediately if the shooters, who are usually very close, are accurate.  Sure they might all miss, and the person just bleeds out, but that I have never heard of.  Heck let them shoot again if they miss.  One shooter supposedly has blanks, and if they are made right it is difficult to tell the difference and most the time the shooters don't care.

    One thing I would add to the firing squad method if it was for me.  I would ask for them to go straight for the head.  Then life is over in an instant.  (But that is just me.)

    And by the way, in rudimentary studies done on death by beheading with the axe, the sword, the guillotine,  they decided (by observation and there was a lot of it) that death was because the brain lost a supply of oxygen.  That is by suffocation.  The person (or animals) were very aware after the head was severed.

    And yes mental and physical shock (not electrical) plays a part in any of these events, but that is another story.

    In Utah, it's about Blood Atonement (none / 0) (#21)
    by MKS on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 11:33:51 AM EST
    Brigham Young said that some sins are so heinous that God will not forgive them, and that it would be better for the perpetrator in the hereafter if his blood was shed.

    The current LDS Church leadership was asked about the doctrine of Blood Atonement and said it was not Church Doctrine.  But it is still believed in Utah and by Mormons.....


    I forgot hanging. (none / 0) (#10)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 10:40:05 PM EST
    If the hangman is skilled, and calculates properly the weight of the person, the build of the person (strength of the neck, etc.), the height of the drop, and other factors, then the hanged person's neck is broken immediately severing the spinal cord and he will just hang at the end of the drop with no body movements, not counting sway.  Of course the brain will not have oxygen because the neck is constricted and the lungs will be stopped, and will suffocate.

    If however the hangman isn't skillful, or just makes a miscalculation, or maybe wishes to cause more obvious pain to the killer because of their own personal wishes or because of a bribe from someone like a loved one of the victim, or a lawman, he can adjust the rope, etc., so the neck isn't snapped, and the the crowd (mob?) will see the hung person kicking and jerking as they die.  The brain of the hanged will still die just like if the neck snapped.

    Now one might ask why not just set the rope and the height so that there is a very long drop?
    Well the problem there is that with a long enough drop, the head may separate from the body and go rolling away.  That may be too much for the audience.

    Because of those factors, in some venues with more consideration toward civility I guess, the body dropped out of sight down the trap and then there was no sign of what was going on except from the movement of the rope or ropes that were exposed to the audience.  

    Yahoo News (none / 0) (#16)
    by txpolitico67 on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 01:46:03 AM EST
    just posted that Gardner died "in a barrage of bullets."   I STG that my calendar is lying to me.  Is it 1810 or 2010?!

    Downward Spiral (none / 0) (#17)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:59:15 AM EST
    We continue to regress as a society in our efforts to prove just how tough we are on crime.

    Next step will be to sell the rights on pay per view to offset state budget deficits.

    I may be an old frustrated throw back from the 60's, but I'm so disappointed in the course we've taken in human rights. Here we are 40 years later and not only have we not made any further progress, we've actually stepped back.

    I know the right would have everyone believe the 60's were nothing but sex and drugs. They weren't. Peace, love, understanding and tolerance of your fellow man weren't just words in a song. They were hopes of a better world for all. We seem to have lost that vision.

    Tolerance of your fellow men ... (none / 0) (#22)
    by nyrias on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 12:55:26 PM EST
    to include murderers like Gardner would be a step backward.

    No one says we need to be tolerance of all kind of violence behavior. I don't think i need to seek understanding of people like Gardner. We only need to get rid of them.


    Redemption (none / 0) (#24)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 01:31:02 PM EST
    It has more to do with redemption. If we truly believe that humanity is beyond redemption, our society is in serious trouble.

    I've never had the certainty that life is black and white. Reading his bio, I do feel that society shares in the responsibility. We failed him. I would hope that we could learn from this rather than just disposing of him and allowing the cycle to go on.


    I disagree (none / 0) (#30)
    by nyjets on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 04:47:35 PM EST
    Utimately a person is responsible for his or her actions. This guy chose to commit his crime. He alone is responsible for his crimes.
    Furthermore, his crimes make redemption moot. I am not saying I favor the death penalty (for the most part, I am oppose to the death penalty). However, he should never be allowed out of prison based on his crimes (regardless if he 'finds redemption')

    You statements sound good .. (none / 0) (#35)
    by nyrias on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:44:56 PM EST
    but they are hollow and no shed of evidence supports them.

    "If we truly believe that humanity is beyond redemption, our society is in serious trouble." ... what does humanity has anything to do with this one killer? So what if he is beyond redemption.

    How would society in serious trouble if we kill him? We killed lots of people before. Are we "in trouble" after WW2 when a lot of people are killed? Not really. Are we in trouble now? Aside from oil spills, and jobs, i don't see much problems.

    You are a crime apologist. Oh, he killed people and you want to pin it on US??? Give me a break. We don't fail him. He failed us and we get rid of him. Pure and simple.


    You're the one with rose colored glasses (none / 0) (#43)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 06:13:14 PM EST
    A two yr old found abandoned in diapers. Then turned over to a foster home to be abused and we as a society did nothing wrong?

    I'm not an apologist. I'm a realist. You seem to be the one that wants to sweep it all under the rug and walk away.

    Our social problems aren't going to be solved by executions anymore than the war against terror is going to be won with bullets and blood. We aren't going to be able to kill our way out of all our problems.


    It's fairly well established (none / 0) (#25)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 02:14:00 PM EST
    that criminals who have gotten themselves and their lives back on track - and contrary to the Grand Inquisitors out in force in this country, there are plenty who have - are generally much better at establishing a meaningful rapport with younger people who are in jeopardy of "leading a life of crime" and drawing on their own life experience to give perspective and guidance from one who's been there and come out the other side.

    And for those who find it more comforting to cling to the "once a crook, always a crook prejudice, I would suggest consulting some of the numerous programs and the literature of the "Return to Alcatraz" variety, which often rely on the first hand accounts of some of society's former human refuse; "the worst of the worst", who eventually found themselves and became decent, contributing members of society.    


    It depends on the crime and criminal (none / 0) (#31)
    by nyjets on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 04:48:52 PM EST
    You are right, some criminals do turn there lives around. But a lot do not.
    And for some crimes, it is irrelevant like the guy in this post, they should not be allowed out of prison.

    Do you have statistics? (none / 0) (#36)
    by nyrias on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:47:10 PM EST
    A few anecdotal examples mean nothing.

    There is no point in risking them in society again unless they are guaranteed not to offend again. And since there are so many repeated offender, i would guess that is not a norm.

    Tell me, what is the repeated offending rate for a violent offender?


    So what are you (none / 0) (#39)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:56:04 PM EST
    suggesting, that since there are never any guarantees, EVERY violent offender should be locked up for life, just to be on the safe side?

    Yeah ... (none / 0) (#40)
    by nyrias on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:59:27 PM EST
    hence .. the three strike laws.

    Apparently i am not the only one stumbled upon such an idea.


    stumbling on one (none / 0) (#42)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 06:03:19 PM EST
    that's probably your best bet for having one..

    You dont think (none / 0) (#26)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 02:18:51 PM EST
    "understanding people like Gardner" has any bearing whatsoever in preventing future Gardners?

    Talk about medieval, unscientific thinking..

    And you want to accuse others of going backwards..

    You're not a Mormon or a member of the Taliban by any chance, are you?


    ask if he was a Nazi.

    Whats the difference? (none / 0) (#33)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:24:49 PM EST
    they all seem to take a special relish in dispatching people for righteousness sake..

    Or, to put it other, more understandable conservative terms, to teach "personal responsibility".


    well .. i am an independent ... (none / 0) (#38)
    by nyrias on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:52:26 PM EST
    who don't care about criminals.

    Oh, and an agnostic. How about that?

    It is less about personal responsibility than making a final stop of anything he may do in the future.


    Who dont care (none / 0) (#41)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 06:00:58 PM EST
    much about speaking the King's English either, apparently.

    You've never done anything illegal, ever? Or is it only other people who become criminals for life in your world?


    we already prevented gardener. (none / 0) (#37)
    by nyrias on Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 05:50:59 PM EST
    Don't u think death is a pretty final stopping force?

    I thought you are against profiling and preemptive actions?

    Based on YOUR logic, we have to wait until the future Gardner commits a crime before we can get him with the law.

    I suppose we can bone up on police procedures to make sure we get them all. But i don't think subtly is his thing and certainly there is no difficulty in identifying him and proving him to be the perpetrator.