Four years after the firing squad execution of his brother, Randy Gardner still struggles with the image of death row inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner, as he laid lifeless in a morgue.
Gardner was the last man to be executed by a firing squad in Utah in 2011, but just this week lawmakers voted to reinstate the practice as a form of execution in the state.
While the bereaved brother made it very clear he did not approve of what Ronnie did, killing a bartender and a lawyer, he said he felt death by firing squad was brutal.
As he said to reporters, “When you take somebody and you tie them to a chair, put a hood over their head, and you shoot them from 25 feet with four rifles pointed at their heart, that’s pretty barbaric.”
Nevertheless, the new bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Ray, sees firing squad executions as a good thing.
“Your body is paralyzed. You feel everything. Your body slowly shuts down over a period of minutes based on the drug cocktail that’s given to you. Whereas a firing squad, you reach the death obviously in three to five seconds.”
The daughter of one of Gardner’s victims, Tami Stewart, said to reporters at the time of the execution, “Gardner has hurt so many people. He has never shown any compassion for any of his victims, so why does he deserve compassion? The agony and toll he placed on my father deserves justice and that it be given.”
Many states are now looking to change the law due to much controversy over botched lethal injection executions last year.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, said, “States are wondering which way to go, and one way is to send up a warning flag that if you don’t allow us freedom in this lethal-injection area, we’ll do something else.”
Nevertheless. Utah remains the only state to use a firing squad in the past 40 years, ever since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.