Death Penalty

Family Says Lawyer Would Have Opposed His Killer’s Execution by Firing Squad

A 36-year-old lawyer shot to death at a Utah courthouse in 1985 would have opposed the execution of the man convicted of killing him in an escape attempt, according to the victim’s friends and family.

The convicted shooter, Ronnie Lee Gardner, has chosen a firing squad for his June 18 execution. In an effort to have Gardner’s sentence commuted, friends and family of the victim, Michael Burdell, says he would have not wanted Gardner to be put to death, CNN reports.

Burdell was a pacificist who opposed the death penalty, according to statements by his fiancée, his father and one of his friends. Most of his work as a lawyer was pro bono, according to Burdell’s father, Joseph Burdell, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The younger Burdell grew vegetables for the poor and lived like a monk, according to his friend, Ron Temu. Burdell and his fiancée, Donna Nu, were members of the religious movement Summum, which opposes capital punishment, Nu asserts.

“Michael would not have wanted Ronnie Lee killed,” Nu testified at the hearing, according to an account by

For his part, Gardner testified he believed in capital punishment, although he said he thinks he has been rehabilitated.

Summum got more widespread legal publicity when its followers lost a Supreme Court case that sought to force a Utah public park to display its Seven Aphorisms. Believers say the Seven Aphorisms are a separate set of creation principles that Moses received but discarded because the people were not ready for them.

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