June 14th, 2010
11:46 AM ET

Utah denies clemency for man set to die by firing squad

Moving a Utah death row inmate one step closer to his scheduled execution by firing squad early Friday, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Monday refused to commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a board spokesman said.

Read the ruling (PDF)

The board held a two-day commutation hearing for Ronnie Lee Gardner at the Utah State Prison on Thursday and Friday. During that hearing, Gardner and defense attorney Andrew Parnes argued he is a changed man who regrets killing two men in two separate escape attempts in 1984 and 1985. But Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker pointed to Gardner's "long history of relentless violence."

Gardner, 49, is set to die just after midnight Friday for the death of attorney Michael Burdell during an escape attempt at a courthouse in Salt Lake City.

More than two decades after he killed two men in separate escape attempts,  Gardner swears he is a changed man with a dream to help keep teens from making the mistakes he did.

But, in arguments Friday before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker suggested he had a more selfish motive.

"This sounds to me like somebody who wants to save his life," Brunker said.

KSTU: Man will die by firing squad

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Filed under: Justice
soundoff (429 Responses)
  1. RH of WI

    Crime and punishment – kind of go together. If you do the crime, than you must pay the price. To bad it took 20 to follow through with his death sentence.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gary

    So you want to kill someone to teach people that killing is wrong? Just another reason why your violent, crime ridden, puritan country is heading down the drain.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Anon

    What most people don't realize is that it is just as if not more expensive (with all the appeals and court time) to execute someone as it is to pay for them to live the rest of their life in prison. That being said, kill the SOB. It may just prevent the death of another inmate, guard, or attorney that has to fraternize with this piece of solid waste.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |

    Everybody on Death Row has been sitting their too long.
    Death should be within 24hrs of the charge.
    another waste of my tax dollars

    June 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nick

    This should be legal in all 50 states. Tired of my tax dollars being spent on life in prison for these failures. All of life is a choice. This man chose to take lives, so we choose to take his. If he wanted to live longer, he should have though about that before he murdered people. Funny how people live longer, when they don't commit murder.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Anon

    U can't be serious? What about all the wrongful convictions. That would be more expensive that keeping them in prison with all the damages the state would have to pay to the relatives of wrongfully executed individuals.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Are you saying he was wrongfully convicted?

      June 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jack

    In my opinion, a more violent means of execution would be a greater deterrant to future crime. I think this guy should be thrown into a pit with a pack of starving wolves who will proceed to tear him apart and eat him alive.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amoeba17

      That would be too much grease for the wolves. They prefer leaner meat and eating this greaseball may raise their cholesterol and I wouldn't want to harm the wolves. I think medical experiments on him would be a good way to go. He can provide some good on his way out and suffer just like his victims did. We could get tougher and force him to watch a 0 – 0 tie in world Cup Soccer.

      June 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. j

    If they would only broadcast it live and let murderers know what we should be doing with them.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. puubare

    It is true that in some case over zealous prosecutors have sent innocent people to prison and to death row to get to a higher position and still do. While some still try it is getting harder and harder to do that. Thanks to the ACLU these criminal have more rights than victims do. A convict has a bed, 3 meals, color TV, books, and free education while on death row and it is at the taxpayers’ expense.
    Until criminals receive punishment in a timely manner crime will continue to get worse, the crime is growing by leaps and bounds right now, why? The country has become to PC it is a crime to correct your children when they break rules, thereby learning there are no ramifications so why take responsibility. The news media has glorified the criminal just to get high ratings and the sick minds like all the publicity they get for their crimes.
    We are definitely a sick society that have lost it’s way, it started under Carter and has progressively gotten worse with each President and the current one is the worst yet. We the people need to take back our government, the politicians that are career politicians do not look out for “the peoples” interest but their own and maybe the party’s interest.
    Elect all new representatives in the Nov election, doesn’t matter if he/she is Republican/Democrat/Independent new representation is needed so our government is back to “for the people, by the people”
    This guy is guilty, no question of that, it has been too long in coming to this end. It is more than 23 or 24 years overdue. Should have had all his appeals done by 1988, if he had been put to death then he would not have been able to kill again. But the ACLU wants to protect the guilty over the innocent.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. WS

    The only reason the US death penalty has failed to serve as a more effective crime deterrent is it is rarely actually carried out, and even then only after 20+ years of senseless appeals. This could be remedied very simply. In the many cases such as this one – in which there is absolutely NO doubt of guilt – the criminal should be executed painfully and publicly, and within 30 days of conviction. Clueless liberals would of course object, as they do to most anything based on reason, fact and common sense that happens to conflict with their faith-based world view.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hireacher

      I totally agree with you on this point. If there is absolutely no dispute or doubt that this crime was committed by this individual then the execution should take place shortly after. Like you said 30 days is a good timeline.Why should the tax payer be on the hook for this persons life for the next 20+ yrs. However if there was a conviction with no confession or solid proof and the person was still sentenced to death then we would have no alternative but to flip the bill for many years. There's always the chance that some new form of test will be invented that will exonorate that person. Just like when DNA testing was first introduced. Some people were freed from prison and some others were caught. You always want to be assured that the right person is behind bars but sometimes there's still some doubt.

      As far as someone wanting us to think they have redeemed themselves or found religion behind bars to friggen bad. Too little too late. The only reason they had that opportunity is because we were too stupid to flip the switch. We gave them the time they needed to try and convince a board of sad saps that they were all better

      June 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. katincal

    Wow – death by firing squad. Now if that doesn't send a strong message I don't know what will.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rupert

    The DP doesn't stop anyone from committing a crime. It's not a deterrent, it's the removal of that offender from society. The threat of the DP doesn't deter anyone from killing another. Many states have the DP and yet people are still killed. If you are willing to kill another peroson, you obviously don't assign much value to a human life, including your own.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • WS

      WRONG. The death penalty is a tremendous deterrent, if it is actually carried out promptly when it should be. And 99.9% of murderers value their own life far, far more than that of their victim(s). This piece of garbage could serve as Exhibit A.

      June 14, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. josie pyenta

    why is it they call for "mercy" for the killers....but show no mercy when their babies are burned with saline then torn apart with a vacuum....?

    June 14, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Greg

    Please shoot him now. Every second he is still alive he is wasting tax-payer dollars. At least his dead body might do some good by fertilizing the soil to help the non-worthless flora and fauna to survive.

    By the way, the main reason for the death penalty is deterrence; so that would-be future criminals think twice about committing murder. By taking so long to kill this mutant, you have failed. But go ahead and kill him anyways to help make this planet just a little better place to live for the rest of us. A couple years is more than enough time to take care of any appeal issues. Thanks.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gladiator

      The death penalty is a deterrent…

      For those that don’t think it is... when that future guy is “rehabilitated” for murder, then released from prison, shows up at your home and kills a family member, I’m sure you’ll agree that capital punishment is a very effective deterrent then. It’s clear that if we don’t execute a murder, they’ll have another opportunity to murder again.

      Over and over and over, the parole system let’s murders out and they kill AGAIN!

      From within prison, CONVICTED murders arrange murder against people that are inside and outside of prison. It’s very difficult for a murder that has been executed to arrange a murder or kill a second time.

      June 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff

    Utah is disgustingly barbaric.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      So Jeff, how many murders did you commit? When is your execution day? Only criminals will be against this well deserved justice.

      June 14, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
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