UTAH STATE PRISON — Ronnie Lee Gardner moved two steps closer to execution after rulings Monday came back supporting previous judgments against him.
The Board of Pardons and Parole denied Gardner's request for commutation, and the Utah Supreme Court affirmed Gardner's convictions in district court.
The condemned killer's execution is scheduled to take place early Friday.
"Gardner makes no claim of innocence and admits that he is guilty of each of the crimes of which he has been convicted," the five-member Board of Pardons and Parole wrote in its unanimous decision. "Based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, including Gardner's criminal history, life history and the totality of information … the board determines that the jury's verdict imposing a death sentence … was not inappropriate."
Gardner, whose chains rattled last week as he asked the board to spare his life, was not present to hear the decision Monday. His attorney, Andrew Parnes, spoke briefly to reporters after the announcement so he could deliver the news to Gardner.
"We're disappointed in the outcome, but we just forge ahead with what we've got in the legal courts," Parnes said.
Late Monday night the Utah Supreme Court denied Gardner's latest appeal, concluding that the district court did not err and that Gardner's most recent petition for post-conviction relief could have been raised more than a decade ago, barring it from appeal.
Gardner was sentenced to death in 1985 for shooting and killing attorney Michael Burdell during an escape attempt at the Metropolitan Hall of Justice. Gardner, who was in the courthouse for killing Melvyn John Otterstrom during a 1984 robbery, also shot and injured bailiff Nick Kirk. Kirk died 10 years later.
"I feel really sorry for him; I do feel sorry. But he made that choice," Tami Stewart, Kirk's daughter, said outside the prison as inmates hollered from their cells. "He made that choice those days to kill those people. I try not to feel sorry for him, but I do."
Assistant attorney general Thomas Brunker called the Board of Pardons and Parole's decision "a completely just result." Brunker said he would not be surprised to see Gardner's attorneys file further appeals as the execution nears.
The Board of Pardons' decision cannot be reviewed for correctness, but Brunker said attorneys could challenge the commutation hearing's process.
Last week, before the Board of Pardons, Gardner called himself a changed man, said he didn't deserve to die and thought he could spend the rest of his life helping troubled children.
VelDean Kirk, Kirk's widow, said on Monday that "(Gardner has) had 25 years to sit there then all of a sudden he decides he's a good person."
The quarter-century of appeals has been challenging for the families of Gardner's victims.
"It just brought it all back. I can't sleep at night. When I do go to sleep, I have nightmares," VelDean Kirk said.
Sandy Police Lt. Craig Watson, Otterstrom's cousin, said it would be a relief for the family when Gardner is executed early Friday.
"When he's gone, he's gone."
Contributing: Lana Groves
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