SALT LAKE CITY - Utah is set to execute a convicted killer by firing squad in June after a judge agreed Friday to the inmate's request for the method, renewing a debate over what critics see as an antiquated, Old West-style of justice.
Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, was given the choice of being killed by lethal injection or shot by a five-man team of executioners firing from a set of matched rifles, a rarely used relic that harkens back to Utah's territorial history.
"I would like the firing squad, please," Gardner told State court Judge Robin Reese on Friday morning, after Reese told him his avenues for appeal appear to be exhausted.
Gardner was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing an attorney during a shootout in an April 1985 escape attempt.
Of the 35 states with the death penalty on the books, Utah is the only one to use the firing squad as a method of execution since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
Two men have died in a hail of bullets since that decision: Gary Gilmore, on Jan. 17, 1977 - after famously uttering the last words, "Let's do it" - and John Albert Taylor on Jan. 26, 1996.
Oklahoma is the only other state that considers a firing squad an acceptable option. The state has never used the method.
The judge set the execution for June 18.