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. Guest418

    The bible and Ten Commandments teaches us "Thou Shall Not Kill" and that only God can judge another human being. Although what he did was clearly wrong, we and the Justice System do not have the right to also kill. An eye for an eye only makes us blind.

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

      Please do not quote the bible, as I have noticed through 43 years of life, religion distorts the issues AND most bona fide religious human beings are the biggest transgresors of "judging pople." Your bible also says "an eye for an eye," and "don't own others slaves." So basically it's unhelpful.

      The death penalty has always been a thorn, mainly, because what people say above: the fact that the imposing of the sentence is decades away from conviction. Our system is set up that way, and also, our Courts are backlogged with cases that shouldn't even matter, i.e. marijuana cases, etc. (I'm not a drug doer.)

      However for the people that want the death penalty to be a deterant, the only possible way is to either televise it or do it publically - I know it sounds horrible. But to be a derrant, a big deterrant, people have to see the death, the brutallity of it, and the image of a human dying right in your presence. That may deter a few, but lets face it, and as the person pointed out above, violence is our culture, until we learn better, murder will always be there.

      I think there should be a law that allows a maximum time, i.e 5 – 10 years to put someone to death, or else its life without parole, maybe that would speed up the process.

      June 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joe

    Personally, the math never made since to me. I really do not see how it is mathmatically possible for the cost of life without parole could be cheaper than execution. But that's why I'm not a math major in college. All I can say is, if it cost that much to execute someone, then the government needs to buy cheaper materials. One person stated earlier that capital punishment does not make an effective deterent. I pose this question to you: How many executed felons ever commited another crime? Life without parole is not an effective deterent either. Public executions can be though. Look up Vlad the Impaler. I don't think we should go as far as he did and make all crimes punishable with capital punishment, but at least the most horrid crimes such as murder. I doubt that if we executed deathrow inmates publically that people would want to commit murder.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ron c

    A Texas judge once said, "I cannot tell you how the Lord will judge you, but I CAN schedule an appointment". Simple.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      Simple? also mean, arrogant and cruel.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |

    You mean to tell me that the United States really puts people in front of a firing squad. But then in the same breathe say something about how the people over seas handle their business REALLY???? You know i dont have to answer to someone else acting as if they are GOD and i mean that in Ronnie Lee Gardner case as well as the people who want him dead. All i can say is I love my life and i dont want anyone making a decicison on when i should die But GOD. So all of you who think it is ok the kill one way or another i pray for your souls.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tonyS

    Making the world wait 2 decades to eliminate this animal from the planet is disgusting. Start shooting HIM up.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MIke

    I feel that our society is lessened when our government is compliant in the murder of people. This man has done terrible things. True. But it is not our call to say how valuable his life or anyone else's is. We are all here for a purpose, and we don't know what that purpose is. I would rather see him stay in prison for his natural life, affording him the opportunity to think about his crimes every day, and perhaps reflect upon them, and maybe even repent before his higher power.
    Maybe I am naive, but I don't believe in killing for any reason.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jessica


    June 14, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      Yeah, and it was that particular Christian that killed not one person but two. Too bad it took 20 years for justice to finally prevail.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • DrewBoston

      we're not a Christian nation, but I'm guess you're Christian so you think everyone is...

      let's all try and remove religion from politics people...

      June 14, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Esmeralda

      I'm an atheist and clearly don't support it. Neither do my fellow mates, also atheists and agnostic. These revenge ideas can only come from religious cult members.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ADM

    Hey, that's just like Shariah Law! You take someone's life. The Shariah takes your life. Simple. For those who cry foul, I ask where were you when these animals were taking the lives of innocent people. In Shariah you actually chop off their head in a public square. Now, that's what I call sending a message. Someone ought to think twice (after witnessing such a gruesome scene) before they take another's life.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • DrewBoston

      You're right...because Sharia law is what we're trying to emulate here...

      June 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Willie12345

    It seems that CNN has given a pardon to Carolina Rep. Bob Etheridge, who appears to have assaulted a student in Washington DC this week. He must have one of those famous, Get out of Jail cards the press gives out to it's favorites.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hughie


    June 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tom

    Sounds like a firing squad will do more to teach teenagers not to make the mistakes this clown made than anything this clown could do otherwise.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jamie

    The death penalty is not a deterrent. It does not provide closure for anyone. Nor is it necessary for justice or protection of society. It is the height of arrogance for fallible human beings to clamor for the death of another human being, however bad he is, referring to him as defective merchandise. It is mindful of the mob screaming Barabbas, which was screaming for the death of Jesus as an enemy of the state. To them he was just a bad man. Human beings seem not to have progressed much in the last several thousand years. Cruel vengeance is still our way-by guns, by hanging, by poison, by electrocution. In this our country grovels in injustice with the likes of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea. 147 countries have abolished the death penalty, but our country is not big enough, not good enough to manage without it.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricky

      You are wrong here, it "is" a deterent. I can promise you it will stop this guy from killing anybody else.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tommy

    Actually this event is twenty plus years overdue, where was the so called compassion for the family of his victims? This POS should have been executed years ago and it would have saved the state money in the process, I say shoot him today. I hate hearing all the bleeding hearts for his sake, what about the folks he killed, they wanted to live too – to hell with this clown

    June 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. E=MC2

    Never in one place, have i seen so many individuals willing to see the death of another man. It must be easy to condemn a stranger to death, from the comfort of your own home, but what if he was a loved one? would you "send him back to god"?

    For a buch of Christians, you aren't very Christ-like.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Esmeralda

      Totally agree.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. louis

    No one should take another persons life without just cause. No one answers for the senseless deaths of the innocent in countless wars. If the death of this man would bring back to life his victims, then I would say kill him. Death could very well be a relief for this man...

    June 14, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
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