As predicted, coverage is increasing on the impeding June 2010 firing squad execution of Utah’s condemned man, Ronnie Lee Gardner.  The idea that a man will die by bullets instead of injected poison is shocking many – and there’s already chatter about a firing squad being unconstitutionally cruel.

Appeal Points to the Elephant in the Room: Insufficient Funding for Proper Death Row Defense 

Ronnie Lee Gardner’s appeal is of great interest to death penalty defense lawyers all across this country.  Why? 

Because Gardner’s appellate attorneys are arguing error exists because Gardner was not provided adequate money by the State of Utah so he could get the necessary experts and investigators he needed to prove up mitigating factors during the punishment phase of his trial.

In other words, if Utah had provided sufficient defense funding to allow Gardner’s defense counsel to hire psychologists, private investigators, etc. to establish circumtances that countered against the imposition of the death penalty, then Gardner wouldn’t be in a position to choose death by firing squad now. 

Motion for Stay of June 18, 2010 Firing Squad Execution Awaits Ruling

Gardner’s counsel has filed a motion to stay the Order of District Judge Robin Reese, who ordered that 49 year old Ronnie Lee Gardner will be executed by firing squad on June 18, 2010.  This request is in tandem with the emergency appeal filed with the Utah Supreme Court on the indigent defense bases. 

Will the Firing Squad Coverage Bring Attention to the Indigent Defense Funding Crisis?

The lack of adequate funding for indigent defense – especially in capital punishment cases – is a growing crisis in Florida and across the country.  Since it deals with budget concerns and financial analysis, the topic doesn’t get the kind of coverage that other issues do — but maybe Gardner’s case will change things. 

Maybe the firing squad aspect of his story will allow the indigent defense funding issue to dovetail itself into the next few weeks of coverage (assumed to be escalating as June 18th nears).  Let’s watch and see….