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. Mack Beemer

    I can think of no more hideous immorality than coldly, calculatedly, deliberately putting another person to death. The murders this man committed were committed when he was 19 – some 20 years ago! He says he's a changed man. Maybe he is... what one of us isn't changed by 20 years of sucking wind. I'll tell you this: I'd hate to be judged now on the basis of what I did 20 years ago. I assume that those who want the blood of this man – and yes, he is a human being – will comfort themselves in their smug self-righteousness declaring all manner of b.s. The fact is, whatever warrant there may be in taking his life ("because he took the life of others") itself is canceled by the fact that this human being is inviolable. If the lives he took were inviolable, then so is his. Or, if his is not then none of us is. Why is the U.S.A. the last of the so-called civilized nations to do away with capital punishment once and for all? Sadly, I think we must face the fact that ours is a violent nation, born in violence, nurtured in violence and lusting for more.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mack Beemer

      I meant '29' not '19'!

      June 14, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bill, Huntington Beach, CA

    Is the penalty for Murder so nebulous that it is like bargaining in Mexico for a piece of merchandise or is there a set price to be paid? Is that price enough to deter the act from happening? If not, then the cost/benefit analysis would say that it needs to be changed to cost enough to deter such acts.

    Jesus forgave those that atoned for their sins... not continually repeated them.... That is Admitting their sin, (Not claiming "I didn't do it..."... and then repented for their sins... and finally atoned for those sins, intending to never repeat them....

    Does that fit the mold that bestglenn is stating?

    Not to worry... for those that have that warm forgiving feeling... it will soon be the day for one and all.... and we can all go up front and explain our actions...

    For those that were not defending themselves or others from immediate threat of death and have committed the murder, we are just arranging a more immediate meeting so they can go explain it to God... and of course be received into his home of many rooms... so it's all good...

    Now if there was a question as to his guilt and there was only minimal evidence, then that is a completely different situation...

    But if it is clear cut, then unless bestglenn and others who propose the prison system, let it be from their taxes....

    June 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Esmeralda

    What's sick about all this are all the people supporting executions like we are some primitive, uncivilized country. Piling dead body after dead body whether we feel they deserve it or not is clearly the mentality of a real sick individual. YOU. The same anger that that prisoner felt when killing that attorney is the exact same anger you feel towards the prisoner. You guys are the real apes here.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mack Beemer

      Like I said above... "born in violence, nurtured in violence, and lusting for more." Yep, that's us.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lloyd Blanchard

    I think the death penalty should be used as a last resort. This individual falls into that category. My cousin was murdered by someone who still files appeal after appeal in federal prison and has been sentenced to death. The convicted murderer duct-taped his mouth and nose and left him to die after my cousin was trying to help a widow close her cottage in New Hampshire. This sort of unbelievably horrible crime should be punished by death.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mack Beemer

      Lloyd, your use of 'should' seems misplaced to me. Admittedly, the murder of your cousin was indeed horrible. But for that act to warrant the use of 'should' we require the supposition that your cousin's life was inviolable. But if his life was inviolable, by what tortured logic must we conclude that another human being's life is not, that we may deliberately and with malice aforethought galore (see the malice expressed in the posts here!) violate that life? Either all human life is inviolable, or none is, IMO. Either way, another bit of violence with malice aforethought will not rid this world of violence. The very idea is a very sick joke.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. crookedarm

    Now that's funny!!

    June 14, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • crookedarm

      Not sure how this posting order works, but I was replying to the person that said "make him get married, that's punishment enough." That was what was funny.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Drew

    If the death penalty is such a fine instrument of learning, as many here have posted, why do crimes that earn the death penalty continue?

    Here in Wisconsin, we don't have the death penalty, and our violent crime rate is about half that of Indiana's, a state with a similar population that does have the death penalty. So why is it a non-death penalty state has less violent crime if the death penalty is such an excellent teaching tool? And facts please, not meaningless opinions that cannot be argued.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amoeba17

      Better parenting? Better mental care facilities? Better law enforcement preventing more violent crimes? There could be a zillion different reasons. I see your point, but it needs more data to support a state vs. state sample.

      June 14, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      The power of cheese?

      June 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      The point, Ameba17, is that there's no evidence to support the idea that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. For every study that suggests it's a deterrent, you can find two that say its not...

      June 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amoeba17

      The point is Anonymous, if it changes the mind of one person, that is one less murder.

      June 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tim

    The best way to deter children is to have them watch the execution ? Are you nuts? No matter how set on revenge you are (which you mask as a cost savings) letting children become part of the final solution is insane. I can tell who would have been the Nazi guards in these posts. What a bunch of psychopaths. Just let Utah deal with this guy and move on (there's no gray zone concerning his gulit). But to celebrtae it ? And to claim you'd like to be the guy pulling the trigger ? Wow– join the service boys and girls– they can use your butts in Afghanistan. And stay away from the gun closet.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Captain Notfantastic

    Fella did some pretty bad things. Killing in cold blood is not excused. My argument is this one....
    How do we focus on this waste of space, & let child killers who mutilate and do unmentionable things to kids set up shop in mental facilities on our dime? Do you know what you are teaching about our system? You are teaching that if you kill you die (maybe), but if you brutally kill kids you get a mental hospital. Does that sound right to you??? I think not, the court system better get their act together and get their priorities in-line.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tim43

    I support the death penalty. We as individuals, communities and as a nation have the absolute right to defend ourselves. But imposing the penalty 25 years after the crime strikes me as no longer justice or even revenge. There must be a way to impose the death penalty very soon after conviction, not decades later. Perhaps convictions beyond any doubt not just reasonable doubt should be the standard. If we cannot convict someone beyond any doubt, the sentence them then to life without parole.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mack Beemer

      Tim, you are correct. It is neither justice nor revenge. Call it what it is: brutal, calculated murder.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kevin

    Bring back Judge Roy Bean.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bill, Huntington Beach, CA

    Let the violence stop.... but let it stop with the ones who started the blood letting...

    What is the price of an innocent life and what is to be paid for taking it?... What price can there be to disuade such acts?

    Has Ronnie repented at his actions? Does that cause others to not wish to repeat his actions because they heard him say he's sorry?

    Are there set prices for crimes or is it like shopping in Mexico and the price is different depending on the designer defense or the amount paid for a defense...?

    I know there are cases of questionable guilt... but is this such a case or is this cut and dry... that Ronnie Lee Gardner wantonly took the life of another person?

    Maybe the problem is that when it is so cut and dry that there are endless appeals...

    If we all knew that to kill another person without cause of defending yourself or another from immediate mortal harm would result in your life ending within a week of such an act... then I believe that the effectiveness of the price being paid with the murderer's life would be more of a deterrent to repeating such a crime....

    However we could give Ronnie some feely-touchy classes and he'd certainly see the error of his ways and once out of prison he'd begin working a productive job to pay 1/2 his wages to the family whose life they took from them....

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

      I wonder if many of you would feel this so called compassion if he had killed your mother, father or child...I would guess not, so stop the whining, let this POS die soon

      June 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DrewBoston

    To the people that have mentioned China's "swift justice" – if we were to speed up execution process (which I don't believe humane to begin with), then we'd risk executing innocent people...

    That's a major problem with the death penalty – when you routinely execute people for crimes, you risk killing an innocent person wrongly convicted. It's been proven to happen before, and it will undoubtedly happen again. Isn't executing an innocent person just as bad? Oh right...but "god" will send them to heaven, or some crap like that. Killing anyone is cold and barbaric, regardless of the reason we choose to do so

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

      What China has is swift injustice.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Seth

    If anyone here can point out where the death penalty has detered a single murder I'd be happy to listen. The sad fact of the matter is that nobody who, in the moment, commits this heinous crime thinks, "oh, gosh, I shouldn't kill this mofo because I might end up dining on a state funded bullet," and after this execution knuckleheads will still murder each other.

    The only justice that's served through the death penalty is our own satisfaction.

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

      See my story below.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Paul Ronco

    Well, at the very least I suppose this is a natural progression for America. Next thing you know we'll be stoning people... I hear its cheaper than firing live ammunition.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. macguysea

    Cruel and unusual punishment. Nothing less.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
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