Condemned US killer to face execution by firing squad

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

A convicted killer in the western US state of Utah has chosen to die by firing squad in Utah's first execution in more than 10 years. Ronnie Lee Gardner indicated his preference at a state court in Salt Lake City on Friday, after being informed that an appeal against his death sentence had been rejected.

Gardner was convicted in 1985 of fatally shooting an attorney during a failed escape attempt at a courthouse in the same city. Under state law, the 49-year-old had a choice between death by lethal injection or a by five-person team of shooters. "I would like the firing squad please," he told the judge.

Utah is one of two states that permit execution by firing squad. The state outlawed the method in 2004, but prisoners convicted before then still have it as an option. The central U.S. state of Oklahoma also permits death by firing squad, but only if other methods are rejected in particular cases.

The execution method has been criticised by some. "The firing squad is archaic, it's violent, and it simply expands on the violence that we already experience from guns as a society," said John Charles Wester, Roman Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City.

Lethal injection is generally the preferred means of executing prisoners in the U.S., whose Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Since then, only two prisoners in the U.S. have been executed by firing squad, both of them in Utah.