UTAH: RONNIE LEE GARDNER EXECUTED BY FIRING SQUAD
June 17, 2010: Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad at Utah State Prison in Draper, about 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
Gardner, 49, white, was the first death row inmate to be executed since 1999, and the first by firing squad in the United States since 1996. He was strapped to a black metal chair surrounded by sandbags to stop ricochets. A target was then pinned over his heart, a hood placed over his head, and five volunteer marksmen armed with .30-caliber rifles opened fire from behind a wall. Only four of the weapons were loaded with live rounds and one contained a wax bullet, allowing the marksmen to retain some doubt over whether they fired the fatal shot.
Gardner was sentenced to death in 1985 after he was convicted of killing attorney Michael Burdell during a failed courthouse escape attempt on April 2, 1985.Gardner's case had renewed debate about use of the death penalty in the United States and divided family and friends of his victims. Loved ones of lawyer Michael Burdell, shot dead by Gardner in his botched escape attempt, have said they were against his execution because Burdell opposed the death penalty.
In a bizarre twist, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced on micro-blogging site Twitter he had given the final approval for the execution. "I just gave the go-ahead to Corrections Department to proceed with Gardner's execution," Shurtleff tweeted shortly before Gardner was shot. "May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims."
Gardner becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Utah and the 7th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1977. Gardner becomes the 29th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1217th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.