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Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, has everything on the line right at this moment. Utah’s Gov. Gary Herbet has declined his temporary stay of execution and short of the U.S. Supreme Court granting Gardner’s last-minute appeal, he will face execution by firing squad in a few hours.

Gardner has sat on death row since 1985 for the shooting death of attorney Michael Burdell.  So far, all of his attempts to commute his execution to a life sentence have been declined.

Soon, five anonymous marksmen, shielded by a barrier, will stand 25 feet away from Gardner. They will use identical rifles to fire upon Gardner who will be bound to a chair, wearing a target on his chest and a blindfold over his blue eyes.

Here’s the thing: While many claim this execution is inhumane and archaic, this past April, Gardner himself asked for a firing squad execution. Perhaps he did it to garner negative attention to Utah’s death sentence; or, he simply preferred to die in a hail of bullets.

Either way, an argument remains: Is one form of execution, such as death by lethal injection, more or less humane than death by firing squad? Does it matter? 

If executed on Friday, Gardner will be the third man to die by riffle fire in 33 years.  

June 17, 2010