Legal Options Dwindling, Gardner Faces Firing Squad

Late Monday night, the Utah Supreme Court denied an appeal by Ronnie Lee Gardner, a condemned prisoner scheduled for execution by firing squad this Friday, June 18. The default method of execution in Utah is by lethal injection but prisoners are allowed a firing squad if they so choose.

In a 57-page ruling, the justices unanimously turned down Gardner’s challenge to his death sentence. Associate Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant wrote that Gardner’s claims could have been raised more than a decade ago, and that he has been treated fairly throughout the course of his quarter-century of appeals.

Capital Murder Conviction

Gardner was convicted in 1985 for capital murder stemming from the fatal courthouse shooting of attorney Michael Burdell as Gardner was attempting escape during a hearing where he faced another murder charge.

The Utah Supreme Court said it wasn’t persuaded by Gardner’s argument that state law controlling when post-conviction appeals can be filed should be set aside in his case. The justices wrote that Utah courts have “endeavored scrupulously” to protect Gardner’s rights. “We are firmly convinced that he has been treated justly and fairly,” wrote Durrant in the ruling.

Challenge to Order to Carry Out Sentence Rejected

Last week, the justices upheld a lower court’s ruling that Gardner couldn’t challenge the order to carry out his death sentence, though he could challenge the sentence itself. Gardner’s attorneys had asked the Supreme Court to reverse a state court’s order of execution and instead impose a lifetime prison sentence.

Gardner was dealt a second blow on Monday when the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole denied his bid for clemency. Gardner’s lawyers had argued Gardner suffered abuse as a child and, if allowed to live, would devote his remaining time to helping troubled kids.

He offered to turn over a 160-acre parcel of land in northern Utah to be turned into an organic farm and residential treatment center for victims of abuse. It’s unknown at this point whether Gardner and his attorneys will file any more appeals, including one to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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