Prisoner opts for firing squad

Prisoner opts for firing squad

Prisoner opts for firing squad

In a Utah courtroom on Friday, 25 years after he was sentenced to death for killing a man during an escape attempt, he declared his preference to the judge: “I would like the firing squad, please.”

With Gardner’s appeals apparently exhausted, Judge Robin W Reese of Third District Court in Salt Lake City signed a warrant of execution and scheduled it for June 18.
Gardner’s lawyer, Andrew Parnes, said he would make a new appeal to the State Supreme Court, which previously upheld the death sentence, arguing that his client did not receive proper help with experts and research before his sentencing and that execution after such a long wait would be cruel and unusual punishment.

For decades, Utah let prisoners choose whether to die by hanging or the firing squad, then more recently between lethal injection and a firing squad. In 2004, the Legislature ended the practice, making lethal injections standard. But to avoid legal complications, the state has allowed pre-existing prisoners who had selected the firing squad to remain with the option if they want.

Death by gunfire
Gardner picked the firing squad at the time of his initial death sentence in 1985. In two later court appearances he seemed to have had a change of heart, switching his choice to lethal injection. But in 1996 — the same year that the last prisoner in Utah, and the country, was executed with bullets — he said he had switched only out of concern for his children, who were then young, and that he had always preferred death by gunfire. “I like the firing squad,” he told The Deseret News at the time. “It’s so much easier... and there are no mistakes.”

By law, state law enforcement officers would be the ones to fire the shots, but officials have not publicly described how they would be selected. Earlier this month, as Gardner was considering his decision, officials allowed Parnes to brief him on the protocols for lethal injection and for the firing squad. Parnes said that the court had ordered him not to reveal the details.

Procedures for the last two such executions in Utah, which officials said would largely be followed with Gardner, had five unidentified officers using identical .30-30 hunting rifles from a distance of about 20 feet. One rifle — which one unknown to the shooters — was loaded with a blank. The condemned man was strapped into a seat while wearing a black jumpsuit and a hood, with a white cloth circle placed over his heart to provide a target.

Lethal injection has become the method of choice throughout the country, used in more than 1,000 executions since it was introduced in the early 1980s.
The New York Times