On this date, June 18, 2010, Ronnie Lee Gardner was the third Death Row Inmate to die from the firing squad in Utah. He was also the seventh person to be executed in the State of Utah since 1976.
Ronnie Lee Gardner (January 16, 1961 – June 18, 2010) was an American criminal who received the death penalty for murder in 1985, and was executed by firing squad by the state of Utah in 2010. Gardner's case spent nearly 25 years in the court system, prompting the Utah House of Representatives to introduce legislation to limit the number of appeals in capital cases.
In October 1984, Gardner killed Melvyn John Otterstrom during a robbery in Salt Lake City. While being transported in April 1985 to a court hearing for the homicide, he fatally shot attorney Michael Burdell in an unsuccessful escape attempt. Convicted of two counts of murder, Gardner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the first count and received the death penalty for the second. The state adopted more stringent security measures as a result of the incident at the courthouse. While held at Utah State Prison, Gardner was charged with another capital crime for stabbing an inmate in 1994. However, that charge was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court because the victim survived.
In a series of appeals, defense attorneys presented mitigating evidence of the troubled upbringing of Gardner, who had spent nearly his entire adult life in incarceration. His request for commutation of his death sentence was denied in 2010 after the families of his victims testified against him. Gardner's legal team took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to intervene.
The execution of Gardner at Utah State Prison became the focus of media attention in June 2010, because it was the first to be carried out by firing squad in the United States in 14 years. Gardner stated that he sought this method of execution because of his Mormon background. On the day before his execution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement clarifying its position on the issue of blood atonement of individuals. The case also attracted debate over capital punishment and whether Gardner had been destined for a life of violence since his difficult childhood.
Please go to two of these Unit 1012 Blog Posts to hear from the victims’ families and also a rebuttal to the abolitionists.