Friday, June 18, 2010

One Blank Cartridge

The state of Utah executed Ronnie Lee Gardner last night. Five anonymous shooters with rifles, one of whom had a blank charge, the others with live rounds. Strapped him to a chair frame, hooded him, put a small white target over his heart. Blam.

It was his choice. Utah did away with the option -- dance with bullets or ride the needle -- but Gardner was sentenced to die before they did, and that was his pick. He and his lawyers fought it for years, but his time finally ran out.

He was a bad guy, a career-criminal. He attempted escape, then did escape from prison, severely battering a guard, and during the course of an armed robbery following his escape, he shot and killed a bartender. A girlfriend managed to get a gun to him during his trial and he killed an attorney during his escape, shot a baliff, who survived, and took hostages.

In prison after his murder conviction, he stabbed a fellow inmate, and at one point, broke the barrier between himself and his girlfriend in the visiting area, barricaded the door and had sex with his girlfriend while the other prisoners watched and cheered. There is some question as to whether or not she was a willing participant.

You have to look a bit to find this stuff -- most of the accounts gloss over what a bad man he truly was and focus on the execution.

This wasn't a guy who made a mistake and then repented and changed his ways. He was a lethal danger right until the end.

Live by the gun, die by the gun.


Dan Moran said...

I'm against the death penalty because I think innocent people get killed. Beyond that, though, I've got no problem at all with the guilty getting put down. The world's a better place today with Gardner out of it.

Dan Gambiera said...

Dan's right. There's good evidence that the death penalty is mostly leveled against the innocent.

Given that, the planet will continue to rotate perfectly well without him.

Stan said...

My thoughts are less, "sophisticated," I guess. I'm just wondering how a rifleman doesn't know that he's holding a blank cartridge. Are these people firing weapons which they, personally, have not checked and loaded?

Mr. G. I'm (only a little) curious regarding the basis of your hypothesis: "the death penalty is mostly leveled against the innocent." Are you basing this on a flaw in the US justice system; on a social sampling of the people sentenced in the US; or, a more general statement regarding execution as a military/political tool?

No rush, I was just wondering...

Dan Gambiera said...

I was basing it to a large degree on the results of The Innocence Project. It's been a couple years since I dug deeply into their reports or their statistical methods. But at that time it was pretty stark. A decided majority of those executed did not meet the legal standards of guilt.

It was so bad the outgoing Republican governor of Illinois at the time commuted all death sentences pronouncing disgust at a good two thirds of them.

The closer you look the uglier it gets. Entire cases are routinely based on nothing more than "Jailhouse confessions" related by a single witness who then receives early parole. The fact that in some of the eagerest death penalty states a little more than $100 is allocated for the entire defense is a travesty in any civilized country.

His Sinfulness said...


My understanding is that the weapons are loaded by one range master and then randomly assigned to the shooters by another. At that point, no one knows which gun carries a blank (in theory).