Gardner’s Choice: “to go out like a real man”

Ronnie Lee Gardner, a 49-year-old originally committed to the Utah State Prison in 1980 for a third degree offense of simple robbery, is now awaiting his execution. Gardner sits on death row for the murder of a defense lawyer, Michael Burdell. While on trial for a separate charge of homicide, Gardner was being escorted to court in the basement of the Metropolitan Hall of Justice when an accomplice handed him a gun. Gardner turned and pointed the gun at prison guards who returned fire at Gardner, shooting him in the shoulder. Thereafter the guards retreated to the parking lot, calling for assistance. Wounded, Gardner walked into a small room next to the elevators and confronted attorney Burdell. Gardner cocked his gun and shot Burdell twice. The shots were at point blank range. One of the bullets entered Burdell’s skull through the eye causing fatal injury. Gardner then managed to get to the front lawn of the courthouse where he collapsed from his shoulder wound and was arrested. Burdell had no affiliation with Gardner or the criminal cases against him. On October 28, 1987 Gardner was visited in prison by two women and one child. The visitor’s names or whether or not these visitors had any family relation to Gardner is unknown. At the time of the visit, another inmate by the name of Robert Preece was also in the...

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