Utah firing squad executes murderer

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Utah firing squad executes murderer

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Twice-convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner has been shot dead in Utah’s first firing squad execution for 14 years.

Gardner had been on death row for 25 years for gunning down lawyer Michael Burdell.

He failed to convince the state’s parole board earlier this week that his life should be spared.

Tom Patterson, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections said, the decision to go ahead with the execution was “an onerous responsibility.”

“Particularly in light of the fact that we are the Department of Corrections, and our job is to help correct people, so this is an unusual task but one that we’ve taken on and done professionally,” he told reporters.

Utah banned firing squad execution six years ago. But authorities allowed Gardner’s request to die by the bullet as he was sentenced before the law change.

The marksmen were all state police officers. Sandbags were stacked behind Gardner’s chair to stop the bullets from ricocheting around the execution chamber.

Gardner shot Burdell as he tried to escape from a Salt Lake City courthouse where he was on trial for the murder of a local bartender. He was later convicted of killing both men.

Opponents of the death penalty held a candlelit vigil outside the courthouse overnight in protest at an execution that the American Civil Liberties Union described as “barbaric.”