Ronnie Lee Gardner, sentenced to death in the State of Utah, was given the choice of being killed by lethal injection or shot by a five man team of executioners. "I would like the firing squad, please," Gardner told state court Judge Robin Reese after hearing his avenues for appeal appear to be exhausted. Reese agreed Friday to Gardner's request.
His execution will take place just after midnight on June 18 in a chamber built in 1998, according to corrections officials. Prosecutors, law enforcement and news media will witness his death.
"The inmate can actually request that a certain number of people be there. From his family, for example," Steve Gehrke, a spokesman for the department, told Fox 13 in Utah. "We give certain rights to his attorney, and to his religious representatives to make sure that they can be there through the process for him."
Five corrections officers selected by the department to be executioners will be positioned behind a brick wall with a portal cut out.
"Five guns, four of them are loaded, one has blanks," Gehrke told Fox 13. "And the call is made. When the whole process is ready, there is a hood placed over the condemned's head."
A patch with a target will be pinned to Gardner's chest, and he will be given the chance to say his last words, as well as request a last meal prepared at the prison.
Gardner, 49, was sentenced to death for killing an attorney 25 years ago during a failed escape attempt and shootout.
Defense attorney Andrew Parnes said he plans to quickly seek a stay of execution and appeal Reese's ruling to the Utah Supreme Court. This is the fourth time a judge has signed a warrant for Gardner's execution. Parnes said it seems his client's death may be "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 without explaining Gardner's choice of firing squad.
About 20 anti-death penalty protesters demonstrated in the courthouse rotunda before the hearing.
"The firing squad is archaic, it's violent, and it simply expands on the violence that we already experience from guns as a society," said Bishop John C. Wester, of Utah's Catholic Diocese.
I (as you might predict), feel that the firing squad brings a certain finality to the situation and will put an appropriate end to Gardner. Utah's decision to keep the firing squad as an option appeals to me because it sends the convicted out in the same way as they sent an innocent person they murdered out.