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03.08.2014
Ronnie Lee Gardner (Mug Shot)SALT LAKE CITY (AP) A condemned killer appears headed for a date with death in Utah that could see him sit before a firing squad - a development that would likely re-ignite protests over an antiquated, Old West-style of justice.
At a hearing Friday, 3rd District Judge Robin Reese will consider whether to sign a warrant of execution for Ronnie Lee Gardner, who killed a man during a failed prison escape 25 years ago. Under state law Gardner, 49, would be allowed to decide whether he would be killed by lethal injection or by being 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. 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. In 1996, more than 150 media outlets descended on Utah to cover Taylor's execution, painting the firing squad as an "Old West" style of justice that allows killers to go out in a blaze of glory that embarrasses the state. At least four of the 10 men on Utah's death row, including Gardner, have said they want to die by firing squad. Assistant Utah Attorney General Tom Brunker disagrees and said that because Gardner has exhausted all avenues of appeal, he should be put to death.
Lydia Kalish, Amnesty International's death penalty abolition coordinator for Utah, said her organization opposes the state's effort to see Gardner executed. Although he was handcuffed and surrounded by prison guards, a female acquaintance slipped Gardner a loaded, long-barreled .22-caliber handgun in the basement of the building just before the shooting. Regardless of the method, Gardner's victim, would oppose any effort by the state to avenge his name by putting another person to death, said Rom Temu, a close friend of Burdell.
U theater professor Jerry Gardner teaches kung fu at his Red Lotus School of Movement, in Salt Lake City.
Jerry Gardner teaches movement at the University of Utah but has an office so tiny he can hardly turn around in it.
Across town, at the Tibetan Buddhist Temple he founded with his wife, Jean LaSarre Gardner, Jerry Gardner is also known as Lama Thupten Dorje Gyaltsen.
Jerry Gardner leads a group in meditation at the Buddhist temple he founded in Salt Lake City.
Most of his students at the U, where Gardner is an associate professor of theater, are in the Actor Training Program. Good actors “learn to see the dishonesty of the body when there is a movement without a justification,” Gardner explains later.
Selma in the mid-1960s became famous for its civil rights marches, but when Gardner was a youngster there in the early 1950s, segregation was just a fact of life.


To get better at martial arts, Gardner started hanging out with dancers and mimes, studying how they moved their bodies.
Gardner has since studied butoh with the co-founder of the form, Kazuo Ohno, in Japan, and with Diego Pinon, who created Butoh Ritual Mexicano, a method that draws from Mexican traditional energetic practices and melds them with Japanese butoh. U professor Jerry Gardner leads students in wing chun kung fu at the Red Lotus School of Movement.
He ended up staying in Salt Lake City to run Goldstein’s mime school, then was hired by the Utah Arts Council to be an artist-in-residence, traveling to schools throughout the state to teach movement. Gardner also teaches t’ai chi and wing chun kung fu at Salt Lake’s Red Lotus School of Movement, which he founded with his wife. Gardner’s path in studying those concepts included receiving a doctorate in Buddhist studies, with an emphasis on ritual and meditation, from the Ngagyur Samten Chockhorling Institute in Himachal Pradesh, India. Back at the temple in Salt Lake City, Gardner tells his students as they sit cross-legged in front of him that their practice is not about effort. Ronnie Lee Gardner, the Utah inmate who faces the firing squad at midnight, hopes for an 11th hour reprieve.
Ronnie Lee Gardner, Utah death row inmate facing firing squad, denied federal stay to postpone his Friday execution while he pursues a civil rights lawsuit. Gardner, 49, was sentenced to death for a 1985 capital murder conviction stemming from the fatal courthouse shooting of attorney Michael Burdell during an escape attempt. Ronnie Lee Gardner, who is scheduled to be executed by firing squad in Utah just past midnight local time Friday, raises questions about the relative humaneness of methods of execution. Ronnie Lee Gardner raises his restrained hand as he is sworn in before speaking at his commutation hearing at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, on June 10.
A Utah inmate who in 1938 agreed to be shot to death while hooked up to an electrocardiogram showed complete heart death within one minute of the firing squad's shots.
However, a warrant for Gardner's execution from the 1990s lists his preference as lethal injection, so it's unclear which method he'll choose.
They say killing Gardner after 25 years on death row amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
But despite Utah's strong religious roots - it's the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - most here support the use of the death penalty. Army after World War II, but was soon adopted by another couple, Willie and (yes) Willie Gardner of Selma, Alabama.


Gardner has also studied with Tibetan rinpoches and with kung fu masters and qigong masters. Gardner also spent five years as movement director of Wisconsin’s famed American Players Theatre. This past summer, he traveled to Nepal, where he met up with some of his advanced meditation students from Utah and then went on to India, where he studied with one of his current teachers, Lama Dawa Rinpoche, at an intense nine-day, one-on-one retreat. Actor Training Program senior McGriff explains Gardner’s technique as leading the young actors to angry or joyous or dark places—essences that later on can be tapped into on stage in a controlled way, perhaps as Shakespeare’s Romeo.
Gardner gets up from the table along side his attorney Andrew Parnes at the end of his commutation hearing at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, Thursday, June 10, 2010. Friday in the Utah State Prison, spotlighting a long list of sensitive issues about the death penalty, ranging from cost to crime deterrence to the relative humaneness of specific methods, such as firing squad. But sit down and have a conversation with him (you’ll have to wedge a chair between the desk and the room divider), and you’ll soon learn that movement is only part of Gardner’s story. Gardner had already been beaten up a couple of times by then, so he was eager to learn some tricks.
In 1996, he was hired by the University of Utah to develop a movement curriculum specifically for actors.
Gardner was ordained a lama in 1997, by Khenchen Thupten Ozer and Khenpo Konchok Monlam Rinpoche, after years of rigorous study in Nepal and India. Gardner, convicted of two murders – one during a courthouse escape attempt in 1985 – had been selected to die by lethal injection. By then Gardner was tagging along with his stepfather as a lookout on robberies, according to court documents.At 11, Gardner was sent to live in a state mental hospital. About six months later, at 24, he shot Burdell in the face as the attorney hid behind a door in the chaotic courthouse."I had a very explosive temper," Gardner said last week.



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