DRAPER, Utah - A Utah inmate facing a firing squad execution has been moved to an observation cell adjacent to the death chamber, the place where he will spend his final hours. Prison officials are monitoring the activities of 49-year-old Ronnie Lee Gardner and all units at the prison are under lockdown until the execution is carried out at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.
"There will be people constantly monitoring his activities," said Steve Gehrke, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections. "At some point closer to the actual execution time, he will be moved to the execution chamber itself."
FOX 13 News has learned Gov. Gary Herbert has denied a second request from Gardner's attorneys to temporarily halt the execution. The 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Denver has also denied Gardner's request to halt the execution. And finally the petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.has also been denied, sealing Gardners fate to face the firing squad.
Gehrke was informed during a press conference at about 9 p.m. Thursday night that "there are no pending issue in front of the courts right now."
Gehrke said the mood among other inmates at the prison is now somber. He also said correctional staff at the prison has been in contact with Gardner.
"He's reading a book called Devine Justice, it's a sort of spy thriller novel; he's watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy," said Gehrke.
"Yes there are certain correctional staff here that have spoken with Gardner and have been in contact with him," Gehrke said. "Last night when they moved him, they characterized his mood as reflective."
Officials said Gardner had his last meal Wednesday, which consisted of a lobster tail, steak, apple pie, ice cream and a 7-Up and is now going through a self imposed 48-hour fast leading up to his execution.
Holes in this wall are where the executioners will position their rifles.
Gardner had his last meeting with family members at the prison Wednesday night. The prison has invited witnesses from the government, the families of the victims, Gardner's family and the media to attend the execution.
Gardner has chosen to die by firing squad for killing attorney Michael Burdell during a 1985 courthouse escape attempt. He was in court for the murder of Melvyn Otterstrom during a robbery. On his way out of the courthouse, Gardner also shot and wounded deputy Nick Kirk, who died years later. Kirk's widow believes the gunshot wounds eventually killed her husband.
Throughout the legal proceedings leading up to the execution, the families of Gardner's victims have been divided on the issue of the death penalty. Burdell's fiancée, Donna Nu, said she opposes executing him; the Otterstrom and Kirk families want Gardner put to death.
The debate over the method of execution has sparked international interest. News media from across the globe are expected to arrive at the Utah State Prison to cover the execution. Utah officially did away with the firing squad as a method of execution in 2004, but several inmates are "grandfathered in."
The execution is also drawing protests. The group Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty held a prayer vigil at St. Mark's Cathedral at 5:30 p.m., then a rally was held at the state capitol at 9 p.m.