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. alrightythen

    2 to the back of the head as done in Russia. In a tiled room with a drain. Cheap and efficient and saves 4 bullets for 2 more killers.

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

      Given the past century of human rights abuses in Russia, is that really a place we should admire for their legal system?

      June 14, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. A Guy

    All you death penalty defenders, have a look at the list of countries who have the death penalty and compare with the list who have abolished it and ask yourself "what's wrong with this picture?"

    Here's the list:

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

      well if you like the other countries rules so much, then get the f out of the USA. You want to live here, you follow our rules. You dont want to be executed (by a court of course) then dont do the crime.

      June 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Not enough countries are killing. It should be permitted in all countries.

      June 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • A Guy

      "well if you like the other countries rules so much, then get the f out of the USA. You want to live here, you follow our rules. You dont want to be executed (by a court of course) then dont do the crime."

      Um, ok, should I do that BEFORE or AFTER my next tour in Iraq?

      June 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      D@mm! Owned!

      June 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amoeba17

      Well after checking out your list, it looks like too many countries bow to political correctness. Some of the other countries on your "list" have some of the worst prison conditions that you're not likely to survive anyway so why bother executing these people. They can still look politically correct and still kill their prisoners. By the way, being politically correct is a bunch of garbage.

      June 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eric

    Die you Bast@rd!

    June 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill, Huntington Beach, CA

    Ronnie Lee Gardner will be a man with a dream to help keep teens from making the mistakes he did... Because they will see that there is a set price for murder and that it is carried out... It is a very good lesson for the teens to keep them from making the same mistakes he did...

    If he is truly interested in preventing them from repeating his mistakes, he should create a video tape admitting all that he's done and especially admit and recount the events that have led up to this moment. Then the final conclusion of the video would be his execution.... The video can be replayed for those that think that it won't happen to them.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sean

    Amazing comments. The typically backward ones, with the usual rednecks of all walks of life and income supporting the death penalty and exhibiting the usual cowboy behavior, especially because they are all anonymous. And the fantastic writing, spelling and manners.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • derek

      Why should this guy live? Do you know it costs about 40k-50k a year to house one inmate? This will save taxpayers some money

      June 14, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC in Utah

      A nice, anonymous reply, Sean. Same, typical nit-picking whining about spelling and comments without substance from Sean.

      June 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kari

      First off, I am from the south! Not everyone down here are rednecks! Second, we were taught the Golden Rule! He killed people for no reason! My cousin was killed because the man wanted MONEY so HE DECIDED TO TAKE A LIFE!!! LET THE ASS DIE! HE KNEW THAT HE WOULD GET CAUGHT! I AGREE WITH THE EARLIER POST TO MAKE A VIDEO. My son is 16 months old and he will be raised the same way I was. If you F up then you will have to pay!!!

      June 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |

    I've always agreed with the "concept" of capital punishment for outright murder (pre-meditated). The problem comes when I see the amount of mistakes made in sentencing. People ignore all the murder convictions overturned & not just because of new DNA evidence but revelations that law enforcement hid evidence or ignored same. If you search you even find the cases where someone admits to a murder that someone else is convicted of. If the only cases were rare ones like this when the convicted doesn't deny that they did it because of too much absolute proof (& witnesses in broad daylight), then no problem!

    June 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Will

    Quote: "We've given capital punishment a shot to demonstrate if it has an impact on others by reducing murder rates. It clearly does not."

    Really?? When a convicted murderer can sit around for 20 years or so on death row (the average is 13 years with some well over 30 years), the memory of the actual crime which lead to the sentence is often times forgotten. In essence, the "cause and effect" is rendered virtually useless in terms of utilzing the death penalty as an example to those who might commit an atrocity deserving of the sentence. While I can't say that I'm for sentencing and then executing someone shortly thereafter (e.g. China), 20+ years on death row is absurd.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Patrick in Texas

    Some people just can not play nice with others. In order to protect the group, the one must be dealt with. The law is quite clear what happens in some states if you murder innocent people. I only wish trash like this could die more than once – for each person who he killed.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick in Texas

      Now if only there was a hell this POS could go to do when he died. /sigh

      June 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bill, Huntington Beach, CA

    For those that don't think the Death Penalty is much of a deterrance to murder... Well, smacking your dog on the nose 12 years after it left some runny dog-logs on the carpet does not do much to deter the act... but a good smack just after it happens seems to connect the act with the punishment and the dog waits to go outside to lay down the dog-logs.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bestglenn

    Wow I guess that all of these Christians forgot that Jesus was a convicted criminal and his execution was perfectly "legal" This guy is convicted of killing a lawyer. What did the lawyer do to him?? Hmmm??
    Can anyone in Texas say "Rob Willingham" and still go to church on Sunday?
    And my community pays for murderers and thieves every day. They are called retired "public service employees"
    ie; socialists

    June 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC in Utah

      Were you born ignorant, or did you work at it?

      June 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WTH?!

    Ditto to those dismayed by the joy of bloodshed. Too bad for those all for this event that it isn't televised. Look, this guy made some very selfish and poor choices, and he should pay a price. Just backing up, though, I believe I read he escaped after someone gave him a gun...how did that happen?! I think UT should blame themselves for that mishap. I'd imagine most of you chomping at the bit for this guy to be returned to the manufacturer led a rather peachy childhood, and know right from wrong...hey you're doing well enough to own a computer and post/read here so I'd bet that's a safe assumption. Put yourself in the situation where you're fearful to come home, beaten, ridiculed, abused. Think you'd have the same perspective on life, then? Probably not. Follow that up with not being able to fit in to society because of this poor, abusive upbringing so you have no friends or even worse, more bullies. Now add one more nugget of poo on this crappy life and you're mentally unstable (not sure if he is or not, but it's bad enough already w/out instability). Of course in this society nobody wants to discuss their problems, folks will just find a solution for you to fit in, right? What's the solution most of you have? An eye for an eye, of course...that's what the man written bible says (not really what Jesus intended, though I'm sure...I don't recall any stories of him seeking revenge, but I digress)! So, now you're all fired up and want to spread that pain, and it sits there like a resting volcano. Then one day, SNAP! It takes time (i.e. rehabilitation) to learn from your mistakes, and he surely didn't learn by 1985 when he escaped. It does seem coincidental he's now wanting to talk about his childhood, and wants to make things right. How about this...what's more productive: 1.) shoot a criminal and fulfill the law or 2.) let the criminal attempt to rehabilitate others and have him be an inspirational source for those on the same track he was on years ago and kill him if that doesn't work? Talk about tax payers dollars being wasted (btw, I pay over $25k/year for membership to club USA...that's taxes to those not getting my attempt at humor), how about those in jail b/c of non-violent offenses? How about the billions of dollars and real life firing squad/IED related deaths brought on by the Iraq war (all for the war against those who truly contributed to 9/11). How about prior to putting yourselves in the judge's chair, you truly admit you can't imagine the life chain of events which leads criminals to their path? If you still need help getting it, then notice the correlation between low poverty levels, and how many violent criminals they have. This mentality I see expressed by most of the bloodthirsty here should realize their hypocrisy...oh wait...you probably lost focus by now and stopped reading after the third sentence.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. i 4 N i

    I definitely agree that due process in this country is way to slow and he's had 20 or so years to think about his crime, of course he's a changed man. But that still doesn't take away from the fact that he took the lives of two people. Once the guilt has been without a doubt been proven, then the punishishment of death should be carried out swiftly.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lilarose in Bandon, OR

    I realize most people love revenge (Old Testament) but it is not what Jesus taught (I am not a Christian). And capital punishment is not a deterrent as some people believe. What it says to me is that our society cannot deal with people before they commit crimes–most are committed with young people who continue on for decades (in and out of prison). What bothers me the most is the loyality of the Mormons in Utah to their religion. I have read the Ten Commandments and there are no amendments, revisions, or exceptions to the commandment "Thou Shall Not Kill."

    June 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. martin

    The problem here is not that he isn't a "changed man". The problem is that the system has taken so long to carry out his sentence that there is a good likelihood that he actually IS. The guy is 49, and has been on death row for crimes from 25 years ago. Heck, that's HALF OF HIS LIFE. I'm not a big fan of the death penalty–I'm not stricly opposed to it either-it's right for some cases. But in any case, if it's going to be applied, IT HAS TO BE DONE MORE SWIFTLY THAN THIS. Some sort of hotheaded, probably drugged up very young man committed that crime. Someone as close to that same person as possible should have been executed 20 years ago. Not some 50 year old 25 years removed. I'm not saying he should be spared. But there is no deterrent for an angry young potential murdere in seeing a a 50 year old who looks nothing like him that he does't relate to executed. They blew that with the 25 year wait.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim

    Why do people live better off in prison than the Men and Women of the military over in Iraq/Afghanistan?

    June 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      They don't.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
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