SALT LAKE CITY – SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Supreme Court said Thursday it will hear an expedited appeal from a condemned inmate scheduled to be executed by a firing squad.
Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1985 for the fatal courthouse shooting of attorney Michael Burdell that same year.
The appeal will be heard on June 3 — 15 days before Gardner's execution date of June 18.
Attorneys for Gardner sought the appeal after 3rd District Judge Robin Reese signed an "Order of Execution and Judgment of Death."
Gardner's attorneys will argue that he was denied state funds to pay for experts and investigators who could have provided mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of his trial. They believe the evidence could have influenced the jury's decision to impose the death penalty.
Under Utah law, if one juror objects to a death sentence then the convicted person is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Gardner's attorney Andrew Parnes said he felt Gardner deserved to have his appeal heard by the state's high court.
In an e-mail, Assistant Utah Attorney General Thomas Brunker said the state was "pleased to see this matter will be handled expeditiously, and we will do everything possible to move the process along."
Also Thursday, Brunker filed a 3rd District Court motion outlining the state's opposition to any stay of Gardner's execution.
In the court papers, Brunker said state law only allows Gardner to appeal his death sentence, not the order that carries out the punishment.
It was unclear if Reese will hear oral arguments on the stay or simply issue a ruling.
In previous appeals, Gardner's conviction and sentence have been affirmed by the Utah Supreme Court three times. The federal district and appeals courts also upheld the decisions.
State attorneys sought a death warrant for Gardner in March after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case.