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.
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.