The Standard reports:
DRAPER, Utah — Ronnie Lee Gardner’s head, covered by a black hood, remained upright. His body sat straight in the chair to which it was strapped.
As my eyes traveled down Gardner’s left arm, past his dark blue jumpsuit, I saw his pale white skin appear below his elbow. Half a faded blue tattoo, some kind of diamond shape, stuck out from the restraint around his wrist.
In that fraction of a second my eyes were in transit, I heard “boom boom.” The sounds were as close together as you could spew them from your mouth.
My eyes darted back to Gardner and to his chest. The target, perfect just a second earlier, had three holes. The largest hole was in the top half of the circle and toward Gardner’s left side. It may have been where two bullets entered Gardner.
Below that hole, still inside the circle, was a smaller hole. Outside the circle, in the bottom right of the target, was a third hole. Each hole had a black outline. Utah Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson would say later the target was fastened to the jumpsuit by Velcro and that may account for the black outline.
I watched Gardner’s torso. The men who shot John Alberty Taylor in a firing squad in 1996 said they saw Taylor’s body slump, and I assumed Gardner would, too. But I never saw such a movement.
Instead, a few seconds after the gunshots, I saw Gardner move his left arm. He pushed it forward about 2 inches against the restraints. In that same motion, he closed his hand and made a fist.
Then it happened in reverse. Gardner’s hand loosened, his arm bent at the elbow, straightened again and the fist returned. At the time, I interpreted this as Gardner suffering — clenching his fist in an effort to fight the pain.
As I write this, I don’t know whether that’s true. It could have just been reflexes or some other process the body begins after a major trauma. Scientists do not know much about what a person shot through the heart feels.
The next movement I saw from Gardner came from beneath his hood. I could see the bottom of his throat and it rippled as though Gardner moved his jaw.
I squinted my eyes, looking for blood. I saw none through the holes in Gardner’s chest. None spilled on the floor. The jumpsuit slightly darkened around his waist and it appeared that’s where blood was pooling. But I never saw a drop.
About two minutes passed after the gunshots. It was long enough that I wondered (and some of my colleagues later said they wondered, too) whether Gardner would require a second volley of bullets to die.
Through a side door walked a man in a button-down shirt, slacks and blue plastic gloves. He lifted Gardner’s hood only enough to check the pulse on the left side of Gardner’s neck. The man appeared to do the same on Gardner’s right.
Then the man lifted the hood high enough to shine his small flashlight in Gardner’s eyes. When he did this I could see Gardner’s face. His mouth was agape. His face was even whiter than it was before the hood covered him.
The man withdrew his flashlight and let the hood fall again. He shut off the flashlight and started to walk out of the room. Gardner was dead.
Gardner was executed for the murder of Michael J. Burdell, an attorney who was shot in the head during a prison escape attempt during time Gardner was spending for armed robbery.
Of course, since the State itself is a criminal institution, I have a problem with criminals shooting criminals.
Let us review some facts beyond the bloody and brutal details of Gardner’s chest cavity removal by lead projectiles.
The family of the attorney that was slain openly opposes Gardner’s execution and has repeated asked for it to be commuted. The attorney himself was a pacifist that openly opposed the death penalty and refused to even carry a gun when he was conscripted into the military for the Viet Nam war.
“Michael Burdell would not have wanted Ronnie Lee Gardner put to death,” Nu said in court documents. “There is absolutely no question about this in my mind.”
“In addition to Michael’s personal beliefs, the Summum faith opposes capital punishment,” Nu said in court documents. “People who take the vows of Summum must pledge never to take the life of another person. Michael Burdell freely took this pledge.”
–Donna Nu, fiancée of Michael Burdell
This obviously raises some questions… like just who the victim is here.
If the victim, through his family and friends in this case, says NO to execution, by what right (natural right) does the State claim the authority to kill the perpetrator of the crime?
In order for the State to have the right to do so, it must claim ownership of the victimization. The State must claim to be the victim. If it does not, then how could it possibly claim the right to carry out a killing in the pursuit of justice for this particular case?
Shouldn’t “justice” be decided by the victims family in a murder case?
Wouldn’t “justice” be upholding the wishes of the deceased?
Whose justice was served here? The victim or the State’s?
I am against the death penalty for a myriad of reasons:
1. It can not be undone if later exonerating evidence is discovered.
2. It tends to be applied with bias, both class based and race based.
3. It is typically far more expensive to the tax payers due to the excessive legal battles.
4. It is inhumane. Lethal injection may be clinical and sterile, but to the inmate waiting for years in a death row holding cell, knowing the time and method of ones death is a torture all its own.
5. It removes productive potential from the society. A victims family should be paid back by the murderer, they should not be stolen from as well. In our current situation, the murderer not only kills a family member, he gives them nothing back in terms of labor or resources and further steals from them through the tax system to fund his own defense, incarceration, and finally execution.
Where is the justice in that?
I think that if a family does feel the proper course of justice is to kill the murderer in a sanctioned homicide, that they should be the ones that have to pull the trigger, and that the only method of execution allowed is the same method by which the murderer did the murdering. AND the family should have to pay to carry it out if the defendant’s possessions were not enough to cover the cost of it all.
If the family was given the option of either having the murderer enslaved, by which he could actually pay for what he did through the sweat of his labor or having to physically kill the guy themselves, I’d bet the vast majority of the time the victims families would opt for enslavement.
Lifetime enslavement to the victim’s families for murder is justice. Enslavement to be served at the discretion of the family, where by commutation of sentence and parole is governed not by the State, but by the victim. Since the murderer effectively stole the property of the family by killing one of its members, he ought to become the property of the family.
I think justice could best be administered entirely by the real victim, regardless of the crime.
When a person steals or damages the property of another he should be compelled to repay those damages. People are “property” in the sense of self-ownership property rights. Since I own myself, I am my own property. I may do with myself as I please. You may not damage me, just as you may not damage my physical property. If you do, I have a right to extract damages from you.
From this perspective the State does not need to be involved at all.
Arrest and detention of the criminal is the job of private security investigators hired by the victim or his family. Adjudication of those property damages should take place in a neutral private arbitration court between the defendant and the plaintiff (or his family). Execution of the sentence should by carried out by private prison firms that will provide a return on the labor of the criminal directly to the victim’s families or victim himself.
The profit of inmate labor does not belong to the State, it rightfully belongs to the victims.
All cases no matter what the crime should be a “you lose, you pay” system. If the victim proves his case, the defendant pays all legal fees, court costs, and confinement costs through the sweat of his own labor and resources. If the “victim” (which is no longer a victim since his claims were proven to be false) loses, he is forced to pay for all costs of the defendant.
Such a system necessarily means all crimes must have a victim.
It also means crimes will not lightly be brought to court over frivolous matters.
In a free society, the only way to fund courts is through a you-lose you-pay system. Taxes are theft, therefore courts must be funded by the people who seek to use them.