Utah Firing Squad Executes Killer Ronnie Lee Gardner

Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in Utah on Friday, ending the life of one of the most notorious criminals in the United States and bringing closure to a case that has lasted 25 years.

Gardner, 49, was executed by five Utah police officers who volunteered for the job. Four bullets to the chest killed Gardner, who was declared dead at 12:17 local time. One of the five .30-caliber Winchester rifles used by the executioners was loaded with a blank cartridge so that the police officers would not know who fired the fatal shots.

Gardner’s execution was related to his conviction for the fatal shooting of lawyer Michael Burdell at the Salt Lake City court in 1985. Gardner was then facing a murder charge in the death of bartender Melvyn Otterstrom when he killed Burdell.

It was the first execution by firing squad in Utah in the last 14 years. Utah eliminated firing squad as an option for death row inmates in 2004, but Gardner was given the choice since he was convicted before the new policy took effect.

The execution was carried out after Gardner’s last-ditch effort to save his life was rejected by a federal judge on Tuesday. Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert were also declined. Gardner had asked the Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his sentence to life in prison so that he can spend the rest of his life as a counselor, but the board rejected his appeal last week.