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    Killer Ronnie Lee Gardner executed by firing squad


    by ODN

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    A Utah firing squad shot to death a convicted killer early on Friday in the third US execution by that means since 1976.

    Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, was pronounced dead at 12:20 am Mountain Time (0620 GMT) after being shot in the chest by a five-man firing squad at the Utah State Prison in Draper, a suburb of Salt Lake City.

    Gardner was condemned to die for the murder of an attorney during a bloody 1985 escape attempt and chose the firing squad as his means of execution before it was banned by the state and replaced by lethal injection.

    His last hope for a reprieve was dashed when the US Supreme Court denied his 11th-hour appeal.

    As the execution neared, Gardner was strapped to a black metal chair and hooded and a target was placed over his chest.

    Five executioners fired .30 caliber rifles, although one of the firearms carried a blank, allowing members of the firing squad to retain some doubt over whether or not they fired a fatal round into Gardner's chest.

    Gardner ate his last meal of steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7UP soda on Thursday, having chosen to fast for the remaining time until his execution.

    On Thursday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who does not have the power to commute a death sentence or pardon a condemned prisoner, denied Gardner's request for a temporary stay of execution.