Utah Killer Facing Firing Squad Seeks Federal Stay

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A death row inmate set to be executed by firing squad Friday will seek a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, say they will ask justices to review the Utah Supreme Court's denial of Gardner's appeal. The Utah court said late Monday that it was too late for Gardner to challenge his death sentence.

Gardner's attorneys say his constitutional rights would be violated if he is executed before a state court hears mitigating evidence that could have swayed jurors toward a life sentence.

Gardner is being put to death for the fatal 1985 courthouse shooting of an attorney.

His lawyers are seeking a stay while they pursue a civil rights lawsuit against the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

If the execution proceeds, just after midnight on Friday, Gardner is due to be seated in the death chamber at Utah State Prison to face the five sharp shooters.

Utah is the only state to allow firing squads. Since 1976, when capital punishment was reinstated by the US Supreme Court, the state has sent two men to their deaths this way - Gary Gilmore in 1977 and John Albert Taylor in 1996.

A change in state law means that only those sentenced to death before 2004 have the right to choose how their execution is carried out. That could mean that be, therefore, that Gardner's execution will be the last by firing squad.

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