Why a Utah Killer Faces Death By Firing Squad

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AP

Just past midnight on Friday morning, Ronnie Lee Gardner will become the first man executed by firing squad in the U.S. in 14 years.

Gardner, convicted of the 1985 murder of lawyer Michael Burdell in Salt Lake City, opted for the firing squad over taking a lethal injection. The firing squad only remains legal (as a backup means of execution) in Oklahoma. Utah banned the method in 2004, but since Gardner was convicted before the change, he was allowed to opt for the firing squad.

According to the Guardian, Gardner will be led into a chamber and prison officials will strap him to a chair and place a small target over his heart. He’ll be given the opportunity to speak, and then five anonymous Utah officers will fire using .30 caliber rifles, a popular type of hunting rifle. (One rifle will be loaded with a blank.) According to ABC News, the firing squad practiced in advance to ensure synchronicity and accuracy.

Gardner has given no explanation for his decision, only telling a judge in April that his preference was for the firing squad. (His attorney told the Associated Press that Gardner believes the method to be “more humane”) Gardner’s appeal for clemency was rejected by the Utah Supreme Court, although the U.S. Supreme Court could still issue a last minute stay of execution.

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