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. Down with Liberals

    Why did we wait 20 years to put this puke down?

    June 14, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mansell

    Riddle me this: do you want to pay for this creep to live another day or to possibly escape again and go on a killing spree in your hometown. Besides the government already has the power to kill us. Other states have the death penalty and carry it out daily.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice

      Riddle the rest of us this: Do you really think this guy (if not executed, but sentenced to life with no parole) would ever 'go on a killing spree in your hometown' ?? You must spend a lot of time at home in the dark with the doors locked, terrified that the 'bad people' are coming for you. There are professionals to help you deal with this kind of paranoid behavior.

      June 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. spare me

    OMG I find it hard to believe that there are people that don't believe in the death penalty. We are not judging him, he judged himself when he decided to kill. We are not committing murder when he is executed – we are carrying out the law. Nobody made him kill those people. He states that he is a changed man – don't they all when there time is near. Don't they all become born again something or other? Justice will not bring the murdered back however, the punishment was determined and now he shall finally get the punishment that is due him.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moses Brown

      EVERYONE should be required to read this post. Says it all. Very good post and all these goofballs that feel that the death penalty is harsh and wrong, needs to take off their rose colored glasses, strip from their hippy flowered dress, and suck it up! The current system isn't working!

      June 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      You're right, Moses Brown–the current system isn't working. And its the same system that's permitted the death penalty for the last 4 decades or so. So I'm not sure what your point is.

      June 15, 2010 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |


    All humans are selfish and predatory. Humans have not yet learned how to live in peace with one another. To execute this man is no different than those which he has executed. Look at history, the human race is a killing breed. The time has not yet come to where the human race has overcome the Thorstein Veblen phase.
    June 14, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    Yeah, you are CRAZY: I'm sad that you have lived a life that has led you to the determination that 'all humans are selfish and predatory'. It would seem self-evident from that statement that you have not experienced love and nurturing. For this, I empathize.

    The animal world has a Natural Order. Where I live when organisms die we don't call the County, the Buzzards do their business.

    If/when you relegate yourself to the Animal World... don't cry when the Buzzards come.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice

      Not sure what country you live in – where when people die you just wait for the buzzards... Meanwhile back in the 21st century, (not whatever stone-age, 3rd-world, fantasy-land YOU live in) people try tp take care of each other, and lock up the ones who cant get that straight.

      June 14, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bosston Bob

    Ask the families of the two men he killed in cold blood whether his death is warrented
    or not. Better yet. give them the option to serve on the firing squad and see how many
    volunteer. Justice is meted out to those who break the law. He'll never kill anyone else-

    June 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • blxbrg

      In the American legal system, the families of victims are not the ones who choose or carry out the penalties for a reason. Doing so fails to provide real justice - that which is balanced and reasonable based on the crimes committed.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC in Utah

      Two of the families say he should not be executed.

      June 14, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Voice

    To all you who say that Utah is 'showing what the consequences of murder are' – please stop and think. The death penalty is NOT a deterrent. It has never been. Furthermore – this guy hasnt escaped ANYWHERE in the last 15 years, do you really think this execution is going to solve anything? Let's call it what it is: Revenge. Ironically, the people he killed cant even have their revenge, it's too late for them. So their families will get the chance to watch some guy get shot 15 years after the fact. Do you really think that will make them feel better aboutt he whole deal? It doesnt bring anyone back. Let this fool rot in prison the rest of his life, fine. But dont tell me that bringing a bunch of teenagers to watch him get shot is going to teach them ANYTHING useful or uplifting – that's just sick.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • derek

      i dont agree w u at all. Sorry i dont care if he tried this 20 years ago and still hasnt escaped... he killed two people, yes revenge is the answer here. Id rather see a hanging, maybe a hanging will frighten kids into doing stupid things that lead into bigger things! A hanging or maybe bring back the guitine?

      June 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amoeba17

      So if a volcano hasn't erupted in 15 years that means it won't erupt again?

      June 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • MA

      This is a contibutor to the problem, people are no longer taught that there are consequences to your actions. If you murder someone, you get executed if found guilty. If you max out your credit cards, YOU have to pay for it. If you buy a house that you can't afford – you lose it when you can no longer pay the mortgage. If you come into this country ILLEGALLY – you get deported, not free everything.
      I am so sick of the damn 'get out of jail free card' getting handed out to everyone that falls down. I am teaching my children that there are choices to be made every day. Be careful of what you choose and think of the consequences before acting. It is a lesson that is rarely taught these days and it is unfortunate.

      June 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Daniel

    The one thing I find scary is the way the sentence will be carried out.

    Firing squad? Really? That's kind of an ass backwards way to carrying out a death sentence isn't it? It seems as humane as the gas chamber or electric chair were.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC in Utah

      Firing squad has since been abolished in Utah, but, it was a option at the time he was convicted, so he had to be given the choice.

      June 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. kahlan

    Personally, I don't think we should provide anything for criminals in jail except the jail cell and guards. If criminals want to eat then their families or friends have to provide for them. If they can't or won't then the person can rot. Why should the community provide for murderers, rapists, thieves?

    June 14, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • derek

      agreed! u know it costs approx 40-50K a year to house one inmate? Death row is about 80-90K

      June 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chuch d

    can I shoot him?

    June 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail

      church d, then they would charge u with murder (aggravated) on top of that

      June 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    I'm not in favor of the death penalty generally. But if he killed a lawyer in an escape attempt, it would seem that there were a lot of witness' to this act. If there is absolutely no doubt, NONE, that this guy killed, why all the appeals and such?

    I personally think that there is an affect on anyone that kills, even executioners. Therefore I think there needs to be a different way that we handle executions, and it should only be done when there is 0 chance of a mistake (which is almost never).

    June 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • KPL

      There is only one real bullet, the rest are blanks. Everyone fires at the same time. No one knows who shoot the round that kills. Been this way forever.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. derek

    put the execution on pay per view!!!!!!!!!

    June 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Yul B. Sorry

    maybe he could get married .... now THATS punishment!

    June 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Deb

    He's a changed man huh?? Facing a firing squad tends to cause that reaction I am sure. The two people he killed are pretty CHANGED as well. Aim, Point, SHOOT.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DowChuck

    The critieria for the death penalty is somewhat straightforward to me. If a person has been convicted of murder, and it can be proved beyond reasonably doubt that if set free this convicted person would murder again, then the death penalty is totally justifyable...it is being perform as an act of self-defense to protect someone from being murdered by this person.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • derek

      here here

      June 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • blxbrg

      But how exactly is it possible to predict with 100 percent certainty that a person will commit a given act?

      June 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • davel

      100% ???

      How about we let them go if there is only a 50% chance they'll kill again, and they can live with you ...

      June 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tdr

    The best way he can teach teens not to do what he did is for teens to see what the resulting punishment will be if they do what he did.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
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