Convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner, his former defense attorney and the man who saw Gardner shoot and kill a Salt Lake attorney all took the stand Tuesday to re-create the strategies and methods used in the 1986 murder trial.
Gardner's current defense attorneys contend the inmate, 29, received ineffective counsel during his trial and are asking that a new trial be held. His August execution date was stayed pending the hearing.The contention centers around hypnotically enhanced testimony that lawyers say the court wrongly admitted and Gardner's attorneys failed to object to during his trial on charges he killed the attorney in the Metropolitan Hall of Justice.
Robert Macri, who witnessed the killing, said a psychologist hypnotized him to help relieve the stress the shooting caused him. "I spent many, many thousands of hours analyzing those 45 seconds" when Gardner confronted Macri and attorney Michael Burdell in the court archives room, he said.
Gardner was appearing on an unrelated murder charge and obtained a handgun hidden in the building earlier by a girlfriend. Gardner shot Burdell during a failed escape attempt on April 2, 1985, and shot and injured a court bailiff.
Macri testified the hypnosis enabled him to remember he had used the door as a shield during the shooting. He also said he told defense and prosecution lawyers he had used hypnosis to recall that item.
But Gardner's former defense attorney, Andrew Valdez, said he did not know about the hypnotically enhanced testimony until nine or 10 months after the trial. "It would have been a big part of the defense," said Valdez.
He said he would have moved to strike the entire testimony, exclude any post-hypnotic recollection or at least tried to discredit the testimony had he known about it. But even after finding out about the hypnosis, Valdez said he took no action.
Gardner testified earlier Tuesday that he did not want to take the stand in his own defense during the '86 trial because he knew his extensive past criminal record could be divulged to the jury.
Valdez said he felt then that without Gardner's testimony, it would have been difficult to prove the defense's theory that he hadn't intended to kill Burdell but that the gun discharged accidentally amid all of the confusion.
Valdez said he also wanted Gardner and his family to testify during the sentencing phase, but Gardner refused. "He said, `I'm not going to ask anyone to spare my life.' "
He said he tried to trace Gardner's rage and explain to the jury how Gardner had been rejected most of his life, having been in numerous foster homes, reform schools and state hospitals.
"Because the state hadn't done an acceptable job (raising him) they wanted to execute him," Valdez said.