Utah Inmate to Choose Death by Firing Squad or Lethal Injection

Utah Inmate to Choose Method of Execution

ByABC News
April 6, 2010, 6:05 PM

— -- Utah death row inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner is slated to have his execution date set on Monday, but he will first decide if he prefers to die by lethal injection or firing squad.

To help his decision, the Utah Department of Corrections has agreed to release information on the protocols of each execution method to Gardner's lawyer, Andrew Parnes. Parnes will then be permitted to verbally convey the information to his client.

"The paperwork has been turned over," Parnes told the ABC News Law & Justice Unit. Utah state statute permits that if a death sentence was issued before 2004, inmates have a choice of execution method.

Thomas Brunker, assistant Utah assistant attorney general, said that whichever method Gardner chooses, the corrections department will comply.

"Lethal injection was the default method of execution," Brunker said. "Gardner selected firing squad in 1985 when sentenced to death, but at a later date changed his mind."

Burnker said that because executions are so rare in Utah, the state has been particularly diligent to make sure no procedure falls through the cracks with death row inmates facing death.

"His lawyer will get a redacted version of the prison protocols on both methods of execution," Brunker added. "What they require for experience and qualifications to do both method."

Gardner was sentenced to death over two decades ago for killing attorney Michael Burdell while attempting to escape a Salt Lake County courthouse. At the time, Gardner was in court for the murder of a Utah man, Melvyn Otterstrom, at a Salt Lake City bar.