Up to a few minutes ago I had never heard of Ronnie Lee Gardner, but I noticed a lot of news items on Google news that his execution had just taken place. Gardner was convicted of the killing of a lawyer (ironically - this lawyer was against the death penalty) in a court house shoot-out. Not much doubt about his guilt, and there were no pleas for mercy on the grounds of wrongful conviction.
I suppose what makes me write about this (and ignore the many other executions that take place in the world) are three things:
- The suddenness of getting this news on Google without even searching for it - it was even on Twitter (see this article in The Vancouver Sun)
- Realizing that as I write this the guy has been dead less than an hour
- The fact that he had been on Death Row for 25 years before being executed
In the past I have been a supporter of the death penalty - I am not proud of this now. Western Europe has long since abandoned the death penalty and it has not been used in Ireland since 20th April 1954 (Michael Manning hanged for murder). The is no appetite for it here now.
Point 3 above is the hardest one to understand - in Ireland, a life sentence for murder can mean serving as little as 15 years in jail (sometimes even less). Few serve as long as 25 years. In Utah, you get a life sentence and then they execute you. While this message is very clear and easy for even the dumbest criminal to understand, it clearly has made little impact on the crime and murder rate in Salt Lake City (where the execution above took place) which is rated as "safer than 2% of the cities in the US" by NeighborhoodScout.