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Inmate Says He'd Rather Die Than Deal With Arthritis

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A man on Utah's death row for killing an attorney at a courthouse said he wants to be executed to avoid the pain of chronic arthritis.

Ronnie Lee Gardner, 46, claims he's not getting proper care at Utah State Prison. He said a prison doctor asked why he didn't drop his appeal to end his suffering.

"You should always follow your doctor's orders, except in legal matters," U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell told Gardner.

Campbell advised him not to drop his appeal while other issues are pending.

"I'm in so much pain," Gardner told the judge by phone. "I sleep two hours in a 24-hour period. ... They're pushing me so far that I can't think positively anymore. I'm normally a positive person."

The medical director at the Utah Department of Corrections said he can't believe that any doctor would have encouraged Gardner to drop his appeals in favor of execution.

"Our staff are caring individuals," Dr. Richard Garden said Tuesday. "The care that he has been provided with has been excellent care. We've included outside consultation, repeated testing and other imaging."

Gardner was sentenced to death for killing attorney Michael Burdell during an attempted escape from the Salt Lake County courthouse in 1985. He was captured on the lawn.

Gardner's appeal centers on jury instructions given at his trial. The Attorney General's Office has argued that it's too late to raise that claim.

------ Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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