Gary Gilmore was the first person in the United States to be executed since SCOTUS issued its decision in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 96 S. Ct. 2909, 49 L. Ed. 2d 859 (1976), which reinstated the death penalty in the United States. It had been almost a decade since anyone had been executed in this country, and the world watched as Gilmore insisted upon death by firing squad in lieu of hanging.
During the current controversy surrounding execution methods in the United States, particularly the issues involved in lethal injection and its drug protocols, some may find it interesting to consider the Gilmore case, where the State of Utah had authorized capital punishment either by hanging or firing squad. Lethal injection was not an option. The convicted man, under Utah law, had the choice between execution methods.
Norman Mailer wrote his acclaimed non-fiction novel, The Executioner’s Song, based upon the case of Gary Mark Gilmore. Mailer won the Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.
From a perspective of execution methods, the later third of this true crime novel focuses upon Gilmore’s fight to avoid continued appeals and move forward to execution. This is a fact-based read: Mailer bases his work on case documents and extensive interviews with Gary Gilmore, among others.
Gilmore wanted to die, and fought hard to be executed. He wanted to die by firing squad.
Mailer’s book is over 1000 pages but it’s a phenomenal read. For those who may want a shorter read on the subject – or to watch something instead of reading this opus, there is an excellent article written by Lily Rothman and published by Time Magazine on March 12, 2015, entitled “The Strange Story of the Man Who Chose Execution By Firing Squad,” as well as the Biography Channel’s documentary entitled “ Gary Gilmore: Facing the Firing Squad,” available on YouTube.