Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s nod of approval was the final step before the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner could begin. Shurtleff sat by a phone to make sure that there were no last minute execution stays awarded or appeals recognized. He also apparently sat by a mobile phone which he used to tweet, “I just gave the go ahead to Corrections Direction to proceed with Gardner’s execution.” There has been widespread complaint about his decision to tweet this. However, he was merely trying to use today’s method of communication to share information with the public. Perhaps the disapproval of his decision to tweet about the event represents the public’s disapproval of the death penalty; some people couldn’t shake the feeling of being that close to the execution.
Posts Tagged ‘Ronnie Lee Gardner’
I arrived on the hill overlooking the Utah State Prison just in time to see a gorgeous Utah sunset. My view was disrupted by what seemed to be a tailgate, complete with a cooler, smiling faces, and white balloons. Instead, it was a gathering of relatives and friends of Ronnie Lee Gardner to commemorate and support his life during his final minutes. Just past the gathering, sitting on the edge of the hill and gazing at the prison was Gardner’s half-sister Bonnie Knight. She hadn’t seen her brother for 25years, but woke up at dawn to make the drive from Grand Junction, Colorado to support Ronnie Lee.
“They let us get comfortable with him being here . . . and we didn’t think this day would come,” responded Bonnie to the extensive 25+ year legal process Ronnie Lee endured. Although Bonnie hasn’t seen her brother for many years, she corresponded though written letters, and spoke fondly of their time as young adults.
Besides commenting on the brutal legal-works and cruelty of keeping a man on death row for more then 25 years, Bonnie also discussed the good Ronnie Lee has done over the latter half of his time spent in prison. She highlighted the plans to continue work on the organic farm Ronnie Lee planned after his execution. With the speed of today’s technology, Bonnie often first discovered news about her half-brother online. She usually found rude and hateful comments following Ronnie Lee stories. Bonnie took to posting replies to some of the comments, but one news organization, The Salt Lake Tribune, barred her from online comments and discussion. Both sides of the story were apparently not shared on such on this site.
In her own life Bonnie has created hope from Ronnie Lee’s condition, and taken to helping individuals recently released from prison. Her organization Freedom House Ministries in Grand Junction, CO uses Christian ideals to help bridge the gap between incarceration and freedom, allowing the released to form a new and law abiding life, minimizing reoffender rates. Bonnie has kept in a positive mind-state about the execution saying, God will forgive him, “I’m praying on it”.
After seeing the measly, yet noble Utah death penalty protest in the foyer of the Scott Matheson Courthouse in April, tonight’s gathering was extensive and influential. Although the protest was led by the Utahn’s for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, it seemngly would not have occurred without the strong support of students and young adults knowledgeable about protesting. The group’s leader Ralph Dellapiana helped pass out candle’s to commemorate the light inside people; by ending the death penalty in Utah one could save that light inside someone instead of smashing it. However, the beautiful the sight of those candles flickering together and the inspiring speeches and musical selections asking for peace and humanity, will not be enough to end the death penalty in Utah. The group needs more support, and more visibility for their name. It seemed as though the gathering was not important enough to be noticed, as Utah Governor Herbert did not appear to be on location at the time, nor was he even considering a stay of execution.
One thing witnesses at tonight’s execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner might keep in their mind for a long time: Gardner’s growling stomach. Ronnie Lee has chosen to fast for the 48hours leading up to his execution, occurring shortly after midnight tonight. He wisely chose a large meal on Tuesday night of steak, lobster, apple pie a la mode, and some bubbling 7-up to ready himself for this task. Although the fasting may not interfere with his execution it may have played some part if Gardner has chosen to die by lethal injection, a method that takes many precautions to assure the effectiveness and “humaneness” of the lethal drugs.
Utah Convicted Murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner Shows a Sudden and Convenient Change of Heart Days Before his Execution
Days before Utah Convicted Murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner’s impending execution he claims to have reformed while in jail. Today, Gardner will continue his hearing before the Utah parole board in which he aims to have his sentence commuted to life in prison. The board will not be examining the legal process Gardner endured, or determining the morality of the death penalty. Instead the board will be looking at other circumstances including: what Gardner has done since incarcerated, his possibly traumatic childhood, former mental stability, and his plans to start a troubled youth farm. It seems quite interesting that Gardner’s life problems have all been resolved as his execution grows nearer. If Gardner’s mental illness was so severe it caused him to commit vicious murders, then how has it disappeared so easily? A psychosis developed to the point of multiple murders seems a little more serious then something that just goes away, never to return. Although Gardner stated during the hearing yesterday, ” This may sound a little odd, but I think I could walk out of here today and never get in trouble again”, he has not been shown to be a trusting and moral individual that we could believe, so yes it does sound odd (KSL). The board also commented that Gardner continued to be a problem while incarcerated, starting a riot, stabbing another prisoner, and trying to escape repeatedly. There seems to be little to nothing this man and his lawyers can do at this point. Perhaps if his legal team had made different defense choices during his trials he would not be at this point. Commutation failed.
On Friday April 23 Judge Robin Reese signed the death warrant setting the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad for June 18. Gardner’s lawyers have requested a delay of execution pending the newest appeal but there is little evidence to support that this will be granted. I was personally in the courtroom when Gardner audibly held back tears as he stated his preference for the firing squad. This was the most compelling part of the defense as the other information conveyed was worn-out and futile. The defense lawyers at one point had friends and family members of victim, Michael Burdell, proclaim his personal feelings against the death penalty to show that it would not be reparation for the injustice committed. The lawyers were unable to further this point as they failed to effectively answer Judge Reese’s repeated inquiries to whether or not the execution would serve as reparation to society. This case has gathered national news media attention, typically aligned against Utah and its ruling. Although the media may know little about Utah and may present a few falsities, they do provide a lot more support against the death penalty them Utahns themselves. Before the April 23rd hearing a small group of people gathered in the foyer at the Scott Matheson Courthouse to protest the legality and morality of the death penalty. The gathering was poorly attended as the media nearly outnumbered the attendants. Onlookers and courthouse personnel were very unaware of the purpose and unable to hear the speakers. The morality and justice provided by the death penalty is something to be decided by the State of Utah and/or the U.S. Government. However without effective protest and a much larger alignment against its use, the death penalty will continue to be implemented
The hearing to set the execution date for Ronnie Lee Gardner was continued by Judge Robin Reese. It is now scheduled for April 23rd. The protest against the death penalty along with the public launch of the Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will also be moved to April 23rd. The protest will still take place outside the Scott Matheson Courthouse but will be in the morning around 9am.
On April 12, 2010 the State of Utah will determine the method and date of the execution for Ronnie Lee Gardner. In 1985 Gardner was sentenced to death for the murder of attorney Michael Burdell and the serious wounding of Bailiff George Kirk while attempting to escape from the old Salt Lake County Courthouse. On that day Gardner was in court for a hearing concerning the charges of robbery and murder. Attempts to appeal the ruling have been denied but there may be future attempts at a higher level.
A coalition of groups against the use of the death penalty will be protesting outside the Scott Matheson Courthouse where the hearing will be taking place. The protest is being organized by the UTADP, Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and will also be attended by religious groups and leaders, public interest groups and other organizations. A meeting of protestors will take place at 2pm in front of the Scott Matheson Courthouse. Other members of the public are welcome to attend and join the protest against the use of the death penalty.