Draper (US): A barrage of bullets tore into
Ronnie Lee Gardner`s chest where a target had been pinned over
his heart. Two minutes later, the twice-convicted killer was
pronounced dead as blood pooled in his dark blue prison
It was the first time in 14 years that an American inmate
was executed by firing squad -- a method Gardner choose over
lethal injection. But death penalty opponents around the world
reacted with horror all the same, renewing an international
debate about capital punishment in the US.
Gardner was the third man to die by firing squad since
the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Unlike Gary Gilmore, who famously said "Let`s do it"
before he was shot on Jan. 17, 1977, Gardner offered few
words. Asked if he had anything to say before a black hood was
fastened over his head, he said simply, "I do not, no."
The five executioners were police officers who
volunteered for the task. They stood about 7.6 meters away,
behind a wall cut with a gunport.
One of their .30-calibre Winchester rifles was loaded
with a blank so no one would know who fired the fatal shots.
Gardner was in a straight-backed metal chair, with sandbags
stacked around it to keep the bullets from ricocheting around
the cinderblock room at the Utah State Prison.
Nine journalists were permitted to observe the execution.
When the prison warden pulled back the beige curtain
covering the witness room, Gardner was strapped into the
chair, his head secured by a strap across his forehead.
Harness-like straps also constrained his chest. His arms
were at his sides, handcuffed and strapped to the chair.
Affixed to his chest was a white cloth square about 7.6
centimetres wide bearing a black target.
Seconds before the bullets hit him, Gardner`s left thumb
twitched against his forefinger. When his chest was pierced,
he clenched his fist. His arm pulled up slowly as if he were
lifting something and then released. The motion repeated.