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Live by the gun die by the gun


This chap seems like a very good example of just the sort of scumbag who clearly deserved his fate, heck he was even a supporter of capital punishment.

Ronnie Lee Gardner has been on death row for 24 years. Photograph: Francisco Kjolseth/AP

The firing squad was carried out in a specially designed execution chamber inside Utah State prison, a simple room measuring 20 feet by 24 feet. Gardner was taken into the chamber shortly after midnight, having spent his final hours sleeping, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films and reading the thriller Divine Justice.

Once the execution process got under way, he was strapped to a black chair with a metal tray placed beneath it to collect his blood, had a hood placed over his head, and a white circular target pinned to his chest to mark his heart – the precise location of which had been identified early in the night by aa prison doctor.

Then five local law-enforcement officers, chosen for their skills as marksmen and kept anonymous by law to minimise risk of reprisals, were ushered into the chamber and lined up behind a brick wall at the other end of the room about 25 feet away. They were handed .30-calibre rifles, the muzzles of which they inserted through a gap in the wall to point at the condemned man.

Four of the rifles were loaded with a single live bullet. The fifth contained an “ineffective” round – which unlike a blank gives the same recoil as a live round; that way none of the five executioners can know whether they delivered the fatal shot, thus lessening their psychological burden.

Gardner never disputed his guilt or sought to minimise the terrible acts he had committed. In 1980 he was convicted of robbery and sent to Utah State prison, the very same institution where 30 years later his life would end.

In 1984 he escaped, and on 9 October, high on cocaine, he shot and killed a barman, Melvyn Otterstrom, at Salt Lake City’s Cheers Tavern.

On trial for that murder, he made another break-out attempt on 2 April 1985, arranging for a gun to be slipped to him by a female accomplice as he was being brought to Salt Lake City’s central courthouse. In the melee, he shot a lawyer called Michael Burdell in the right eye. Burdell died in hospital 45 minutes later.

Burdell’s family has consistently opposed the execution of his murderer. His niece, Donna Taylor, speaking to the Guardian outside the prison, said her uncle had always been totally against the death penalty. “He just didn’t like the idea of killing anybody. He wouldn’t have wanted this.”

As to the method of his execution, well done properly it can be very quick and perhaps more than another method it allows the men with guns to imagine that they did not in fact fire a fatal shot.

One less scumbag drawing breath is a good result for the world.

Cheers Comrades




  1. Craigy says:

    “it allows the men with guns to imagine that they did not in fact fire a fatal shot.

    I find it interesting that they go to this trouble, shouldn’t they feel fine about shooting this man?

  2. Iain Hall says:

    I agree Craigy but it is a long standing tradition with firing squads that one has an “infective round” and what ever you think about the capital sanction one thing you can’t escape from is that in many ways it is always a bit of high drama where rituals have been drawn from such long standing traditions.
    And there is the fact that the marksmen are all volunteers. I seem to recall that the tradition goes back to the times when ordinary soldiers would be ordered to perform this duty though.

  3. Craigy says:

    It’s not a memory I would want to have for the rest of my life. Would you volunteer to be one of those men Iain?

  4. Iain Hall says:

    Yes but I’m a lousy shot 🙄

  5. Nigel says:

    How horribly barbaric.

  6. lynot says:

    They should have shot the fucker in the eye first, it would given him a better appreciation of what it was like to 1.Have experienced what the lawyer he shot felt.2.What they were terminating his life for.Too bad we still don’t have capital punishment here, I would make it retrospective, for some scum bags.Still looking at the ugly fucker they probably did him a favour.

  7. PKD says:

    Yes but I’m a lousy shot

    And how would you feel Iain (and Lynot) if a year after the execution it turns out the guy you executed was innocent after all?

  8. Iain Hall says:

    Impossible in this case PKD if you read the the background of there were heaps of eye witnesses to the killing of the lawyer when he tried to escape lawful custody.

  9. Iain Hall says:

    Why do you say that Nigel?

  10. Iain, I’ve always considered capital punishment as horribly barbaric and the sign of an unsophisticated society. State-sanctioned murder is still murder. Plus there is the whole issue that PKD raises above – there have been too many cases of potentially innocent people being put to death.

    A mature society values life, positions itself above ‘an eye for an eye’ (which is such a school-yard approach to life), and looks for hope and good in people, even people who may be hopeless and less good than we would like.

  11. lynot says:

    “State-sanctioned murder is still murder”

    The State is doing no such thing.They are carrying out punishment and acting on behalf of MOST families, and a good percentage of society not directly affected, who would happily do the same thing.It’ s called revenge.

    To deny we as humans no matter how people like to put a pink ribbon on it, are not vengeful creatures by inate nature, is an insult to the intelligence.

    Some people find the practice barbaric, and in some cases it probably is, but for mine the deterrent factor alone must be a consideration.When we as a country go to war, we don’t sit around and debate the collateral damage, if we are honest, we expect there will be innocent people caught up in the carnage, unfortunate but a reality.

    I wouldn’t mind if the scum bags that don’t or wont conform to the norms of society were punished properly, but they are clearly not.That a person can do less than ten years porridge for taking some poor bastards life in premeditated murder is a travesty.I don’t know the statistics but I have a feeling it is fairly high for murderers and rapists to offend again when they are let out of prison.Fuck em!

  12. PKD says:

    Impossible in this case PKD if you read the the background of there were heaps of eye witnesses to the killing of the lawyer when he tried to escape lawful custody.

    Yep, Nigel understood what I mean Iain – I wasn’t referring to this case specifically but the principle of executing someone who later turns out to be innocent. Given you and lynot both seem to be eager to pull the trigger I want to know if killing someone wrongly would make you think twice about it…somehow I suspect not.

  13. Iain Hall says:

    I will relay on pedantry on this occasion PKD there is no way that your original comment can be seen as a very general one. Because we have argued about this topic before I am well aware of your more general objections to the use of capital punishment. But in this case there was absolutely no doubt about the man’s guilt and as your objection seems to be predicated entirely upon the possibility of executing an innocent man by mistake this is a good case to test your metal. Because once you take away that uncertainty what do you have left?

    Of course I am concerned about the possibility of judicial error which is why I advocate a higher standard of proof in any capital case.

    I respect your view even though I disagree with it, there are a small number of individuals who are so far beyond being reformed or being redeemed in any way (think Ivan Milat or others of a similar level of evil) who deserve to be executed and frankly if there is no doubt of their guilt then they should be killed for the sake of society at large.

  14. PKD says:

    frankly if there is no doubt of their guilt

    Thats what being found guilty means Iain – there is no doubt at trial of the persons guilt.
    But there are plenty of people found guilty who later turn out to be innocent – people you would have executed as there is no such thing as being ‘extra’ guilty so you can guarantee you don’t make a mistake.

    You are wishing for a concept that doesn’t exist and can’t exist in an effort to satisfy your bloodlust for killing as many murderers as rapists as possible…

  15. Iain Hall says:

    No PKD in a criminal trial the standard of proof is “beyond reasonable doubt” and I am yet again saying that in a capital crime that an even higher standard of proof should be required.

    I have a lust for justice rather than blood BTW 🙂

  16. lynot says:

    “You are wishing for a concept that doesn’t exist and can’t exist in an effort to satisfy your bloodlust for killing as many murderers as rapists as possible…”

    Since when was wanting justice for victims of vile crimes a blood lust?

    It is not that many years ago we were executing scum bags, and apart from the more controversial cases (Ryan springs to mind)it hardly made the news.I am sick to death of being thrown into the same category as murderers, just because I want them taken out of society.Fine if we don’t execute them, but lets put them away for their natural.

    I don’t know what it is about the left of late, if I don’t want homosexuals adopting kids, and I wont give a long winded esoteric essay on why, I am automatically labeled a homophobic prick.If I don’t want my country flooded with immigrants, because in my opinion we have too many people in Australia period, and for no other reason than the country can’t support them, I am a racist.It is no bloody wonder John bloody Howard won the culture wars.

  17. PKD says:

    Fine if we don’t execute them, but lets put them away for their natural.

    And on that I couldn’t agree more. And you can have that justice for victims without the death penalty – as you yourself point out. So no need for a death penalty.

    Iain I did see your comment, I guess you’re just beyond redemption on this one…!

  18. Lynot, firstly it’s the revenge side of capital punishment that I object – punishment must be punishment, not revenge, because revenge is prehistoric stupidity and rarely gets a nation anywhere. Secondly, you talk about punishing people for going against the norms of society – for me, being gay is very normal indeed, as is the desire to marry my long-term partner. As many consider that ‘abnormal’, I should be punished, should I? The point is we have to be very very careful about deciding what’s normal and what’s not normal, and about making judgments on the severity of the punishment, particularly in the context of capital punishment.

  19. Iain Hall says:

    Like you Nigel I am troubled by invoking the idea of revenge to justify a capital sanction But I do believe that there are some crimes (especially when committed multiple times by one offender) that do deserve a capital sanction. That said my desire for justice would be just as well served if those who deserve the rope were to be confined for the term of their natural lives in conditions that are both spartan and humane. The trouble is that far too many bleeding hearts think that every evil scrote can be redeemed and reformed when the fact is that they can’t and society is far better off with their permanent exclusion.
    Finally I am eternally pleased that we do not have the same attitude to homosexuality that is evident in places like Iran and I would be going to the barricades with you were anyone to attempt to impose such a regime here.

  20. lynot says:

    Nigel, revenge has been around since the year dot.It is still quite trendy in Naples as it happens.Call it punishment if you like, hey what’s in a word?But I got to tell ya I don’t turn the other cheek, quite a simple concept really, just like me.The public is split depending on the events of any given time about 50/50 on capital punishment, so spare me I am right out of kilter with the “Norm”

    Please do not put words in my mouth!No where did I say gays should be sanctioned or punished because they are not the norm.If they want to get married fine I give a shit!You have taken what I said out of context.Like Iain I would man the barricades if they tried to go back to the dark days of “Poofter bashing”or any other scum baggery thank you. I just don’t want them to adopt kids, and this needs no further explanation, it is my right in a democracy to show my displeasure at what I think is wrong, as is yours to lobby governments to change laws, to what you think is right.

    If you are trying to convince me the public would consider gays adopting kids, you are pulling my pisser.It ain’t never gonna happen in this life.Yes we are all who share this little quirk of not wanting to let gays bring up kids probably ignorant, out of touch, etc etc frigging etc.Go lobby the U.N. you wont get me agreeing to it.

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