Death penalty opponents protest Gardner execution

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Several groups spent Thursday night at the Utah State Capitol protesting the scheduled execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner. He is set to die by firing squad just after midnight.

Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty organized the public rally to speak out against what they call "state-sponsored killing."

It diminishes all of us when we use this form of violence when there are other alternatives to keep us safe.

–Dee Rowland, Government Liaison for the Catholic Diocese

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson leads the group.

"The whole process here was so incredibly unfair," Anderson said. "But this is, unfortunately, fairly typical in these cases, because most of the people executed in this country are the poor."

"Of course you've also got the fundamental moral considerations," Anderson continued. "Everything from the Ten Commandments -- they weren't the Ten Suggestions; they were the Ten Commandments. ‘Thou shalt not kill.'"

Earlier in the day, the same group hosted a vigil at the Cathedral of St. Mark. There, pastors, priests and ministers prayed for Gardner, for his victims and for those involved in the execution.

"We believe in the sacredness of all life, including the lives of those who are put to death by the state," said Rev. Canon Diana Johnson, of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark.

Death penalty opponents protest Gardner execution

Government Liaison for the Catholic Diocese Dee Rowland said, "It diminishes all of us when we use this form of violence when there are other alternatives to keep us safe."

All the individuals at the vigil believe that life in prison without parole is the better option with Gardner and all other cases where the death penalty is used. They say morally, execution is wrong.

"I believe in life, and I think capital punishment is barbaric," said Mary Lowe, who attended the vigil.

They also say it's more cost effective to keep someone in prison, rather than spending taxpayer money to fund 25 years of litigation.

Thursday night's protest began at 9 p.m. It will continue up until the moment Gardner takes his final breath.

Most of those in attendance understand their protests won't have an impact on Gardner's execution, but they hope to bring healthy debate to the subject.



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