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article imageUtah man chooses execution by firing squad

By Michael Bearak     Apr 23, 2010 in Crime
A Judge in the state of Utah will settle a motion request that appears to throw the state back to the days of the Wild West.
The state of Utah is facing the possibly of executing a man by firing squad. While it seems a throwback to the days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, the state has law on the books that allows a convict to decide whether he wants to be killed by lethal injection or a five-man firing squad. The law clearly details that the five-man team of executioners would be firing from a set of matched rifles. In the case of Ronnie Lee Gardner, convicted of killing a man during a failed escape 25 years ago, firing squad is what he has chosen.
Friday Judge Robin Reese of the 3rd District will consider signing the warrant of execution for Gardner. Utah is the only state that has allowed death by firing squad as a form of execution since 1976, when the United States Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment.
Since that time two men have been executed using firing squads, Gary Gilmore in 1977 whose last words were, “Let’s do it,” and then in 1996, John Albert Taylor.
Besides Utah, Oklahoma will permit the use of a firing squad if lethal injection was deemed unconstitutional. Oklahoma has never used the method for an execution.
In 2004 state lawmakers in Utah decided that they would remove the choice making lethal injection the default method. Still, it was decided at the same time that anyone who was sentenced before 2004 would still have a choice in how they wanted to be executed.
The law was changed in 2004 because of the negative attention that the execution of Taylor caused in 1996. Still, Gardner is in a group of four men out of 10 on Utah’s death row who have said they wanted to die by firing squad.
Gardner’s defense attorneys are planning to argue that executing their client after 25 years on death row would be cruel and unusual punishment. They in-turn have asked that his sentence be converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
More about Firing squads, Utah, Capital punishment, Ronald lee gardner
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