Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Utah Execution by Firing Squad

Message from Kurt Hofmann:

I can't figure out why you haven't mentioned the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, by firing squad. Seems like a natural topic for you.

I see some argue that it's a better way to go than lethal injection.

Here's a video (not of the actual execution, of course).

There are worse ways to go, and the method was his choice.

There's no real reason for my not writing about this; it certainly is right up my alley. In that video they say the prisoner chose a firing squad because he had lived by the gun and wanted to die by the gun. That sounds like macho jail-house talk to me. I would guess the reason was to go out with a bang, to make the biggest sensation out of his execution he could.

The reason they have that method in Utah is related to the Mormon belief in Blood Atonement. Now, that's some pretty archaic eye-for-an-eye nonsense, wouldn't you say? In his wonderful book about Gary Gilmore, the famous author Norman Mailer went into great detail about how this philosophy plays a part in the thinking of the most hardened and non-religious criminals. It's fascinating stuff.

But my impression of Ronnie Lee was that he was nothing more than a poor aging murderer grasping for the last bit of drama and excitement left to him. I don't know if he realized it, but his story was big news in Europe and probably in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the thrust of those news stories is always, "what's wrong with the United States that they still do stuff like this?"

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. I wasn't trying to imply criticism when I said I couldn't figure out why you hadn't written about this yet--I wasn't accusing you of avoiding the subject for nefarious reasons of your own.

    I just figured anything about capital punishment and guns would be irresistible to you--and that's without me even having predicted that you'd be able to work a poke in religion's eye into the discussion.

  2. "what's wrong with the United States that they still do stuff like this?"

    I ask myself the same question about the rest of the world many times. I just accept the fact that we have a drastically different culture than the rest of the world.

  3. Kurt, I didn't take your message as a criticism at all. As you know the gun stories in the news are so many that I read dozens each day that don't make it on the blog, and my selection process is anything but scientific or consistent.

    I welcome suggestions any time.