Utah Man Prepares to Die by Firing Squad

Convicted Utah killer Ronnie Lee Gardner, who asked to be executed by a firing squad, has made an unsuccessful attempt to have his sentence commuted and is scheduled to be shot at 12:01 am tomorrow.

Gardner was convicted in the 1985 killing of a Salt Lake City attorney, Michael Burdell, who he fatally shot while trying to escape from the city's Metropolitan Hall of Justice. Gardner was sentenced to death and had asked to be executed by a firing squad. Tomorrow will be the first time since 1996 (also in Utah) that a convict in the US has been killed by a firing squad. ABC gives a run down of how Gardner will be executed:

After the customary last meeting with visitors and a minister, Gardner will be manacled and escorted to the execution chamber. His head, arms, legs and torso will be strapped to a winged, black metal chair that was last used for [another prisoner's] execution. The chair sits on a raised platform that is like a small stage. A tray beneath the chair collects the blood that runs from the prisoner's body. Sandbags stacked behind the chair are meant to stop stray bullets.

Gary DeLand, the former head of Utah's prisons, and the man who drafted the state's execution manual, told ABC that tonight Gardner will be given a last meal of his choice before being shot by a five-man squad armed with .30 caliber rifles. The last man killed this way ordered "pizza with everything."

Looking back at his life, Gardner's fate was probably sealed a long time ago. The AP recounts part of his crazy childhood:

He first came to the attention of authorities at age 2 as he was found walking alone on a street clad only in a diaper. At age 6 he became addicted to sniffing gasoline and glue. Harder drugs - LSD and heroin - followed by age 10. By then Gardner was tagging along with his stepfather as a lookout on robberies, according to court documents.

As a kid, Gardner was several times sent to a state industrial school, as well as a foster home where he was sexually abused. He said last week, "I had a very explosive temper." Burdell's father, Joseph Burdell, Jr., spoke this week with the AP about Gardner and said, "Twenty-five years is a long time, he's not the same man." In his bid to halt his execution, Gardner told the parole board that he wants to start an organic farm with his brother to help troubled kids.

Utah Man Prepares to Die by Firing Squad