Ronnie Lee Gardner is set to die in Utah by firing squad next Friday June 18th for the 1985 courthouse escape attempt where Gardner critically wounded an unarmed bailiff, Nick Kirk, and fatally shot attorney Michael Burdell in the right eye. Gardner had been on trial for the execution of a bartender, Melvyn Otterstrom, whom he robbed back in 1984 and then shot the defenseless man in the nostril as Otterstrom lay on the floor.
During the time of the penalty phase of Gardner’s trial, Utah had the option of death by firing squad, which has since been removed as an option only a year or two ago. Gardner chose this method of his execution back then and so the method is still being allowed in the commission of carrying out his sentence next Friday.
Now from all accounts, Ronnie Lee Gardner had a pretty hard upbringing and life in general. That being said, there are millions of folks that overcome and transcend horrible childhoods and become stronger and better people because of it. Indeed some of the most amazing people I have read about or know personally have achieved amazing things in their lives precisely because of the strength and courage they found by surviving such horrific beginnings in life.
I admit that I have a problem though. You see, being a convert to Catholicism a few years back, the death penalty is one of the areas that I still struggle with a lot. Our church teaches, and I do believe it to be true in my mind if not always in my heart, that it is not up to man to mete out this sort of justice via the death penalty. My problem is that this person is by nearly all accounts a piece of human scum and deserving of such a seemingly fitting punishment, and indeed a few years back I would have been one to have happily obliged in the carrying out of this justice accordingly.
The problem is that my church teaches that ALL life is created by God and that each and every one of us has that spark of life that was placed there by God, so it is up to God alone to determine the time and manner of any person’s death. As Christians, we are taught to defend life from conception until natural death. (Fighting in a just war or being a duly appointed officer using deadly force in protecting innocent life, or indeed anyone that has no other choice but to kill in the protection of innocent life, being the only exceptions.) Basically it comes down to the fact that man does not have the right to take a life that God created.
Now I would sleep much better at night and have a clearer conscience though if Ronnie Lee Gardner were given life in prison without parole and remanded to spend the remainder of his days in solitary confinement. THAT would indeed be a fitting sentence. Indeed those convicted of wanton murder should all be placed in an absolutely no-frills prison where they have minimal contact with anyone for the remainder of their days. Frankly, such a punishment would be worse than death, in my opinion, and that is what is richly deserved by such evil people.
In the meantime, I am expecting to see all of the usual suspects from the left gear up in support of sparing Gardner, particularly because of the method of execution that he chose, and yet these very same people are the ones that flip me off and yell expletives at me during pro-life rallies. It amazes me that there are those that think nothing of killing innocent unborn life and yet abhor the killing of the wicked and evil in the world. The disconnect and irony is lost on these poor misguided folks I suppose.
Anyway, I will not be one to attend the rallies to plead for Gardner’s commutation, and for that perhaps I am wrong and not living my faith as strongly as I should be. It is something which I have prayed about in the past years and still have not come to peace with completely. I will indeed pray for Gardner’s soul in knowing that God will judge him shortly, just as He will do for each and every one of us some day. The demise of Gardner though will seemingly come at the hands of duly-appointed officers of the law though.
When all is said and done, a vile and despicable human being will no longer be a ward of the Utah State prison system any longer after some twenty five years after the reading of his sentence, and while the whole thing is quite sad, I can confidently say that I will not shed a tear at Ronnie Lee Gardner’s passing. And for that, I wonder if I may one day be judged on this account too.