Convicted murderer Gary Mark Gilmore is to die Monday, hours after the Supreme Court refused to block his execution by firing squad.
In Washington today, Justice Byron R. White turned down a request to delay the execution filed by lawyers representing two other Utah death-row prisoners who said Gilmore's death would prejudice their challenges of the state's death penalty law.
Gilmore, 36, has consistently said he wants to die "like a man" rather than spend his life in prison. He is to be shot by a five-man squad at 9:47 a.m. (EST) at the Utah state prison, 20 miles from here.
White, who represents the high court in matters from the 10th U.S. Circuit, which includes Utah, said in a two-sentence denial of today's request that he was "authorized to say that a majority of my colleagues concur in this action."
White's refusal virtually guaranteed that Gilmore would become the first person executed in the United States in nearly a decade.
But the lawyers then resubmitted their request to Justice Thurgood Marshall. The clerk of the court notified them that Marshall was unavailable. The request was next submitted to Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who also refused it.
White's action came about 90 minutes after an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, John Shattuck, had asked him to block the execution.
White apparently polled at least four other justices by telephone before acting.
The ACLU argued on behalf of two other Utah death-row inmates that Gilmore's execution would, in effect, validate the state's capital punishment law, which has never been formally tested by either the state high court or the U.S. Supreme Court because Gilmore chose not to appeal his conviction for slaying a Provo motel clerk. Bennie Bushnell, 26, during a robbery last summer.
Supreme Court because Gilmore chose not to appeal his conviction for slaying a Provo motel clerk, Bennie Bushnell, 26 during a robbery last summer.
The ACLU has not been able to obtain a full hearing on its arguments because both the federal district court and the appeals court determined that the inmates had no "standing" to block Gilmore's exection.
Lack of standing essentially means that legally the inmates were not directly involved in the Gilmore case and their own rights would not be so affected by the execution that they could invoke action from the courts.
Meanwhile, Gilmore met with his lawyers and family members. Otherwise, he spent a quiet, contemplative day on death row, with two guards watching him. Prison officials said he was "thinking a lot."
By traditional, Gilmore would be led from his cell shortly before the scheduled time Monday morning, taken to an execution site on the prison grounds and strapped by the neck, arms, wrists and ankles into a wooden armchair. A hood, without eye slits, would cover his head, and a red, heart-shaped target would be pinned on his clothes over his heart. At a signal, five rifle-men would aim through a mesh screen 10 yards away and fire four steel-jacketed bullets. One weapon would contain blanks so that none of the marksmen could be sure he killed the convict.
Gilmore has asked to be allowed to stand and face the firing squad without the hood. Warden Sam Smith has not said if the wish would be granted.
Gilmore, by law, may invite five persons to witness his execution, from which reporters are barred. He has chosen his lawyers: his uncle, Vern D'Amico; his fiancee; Nicole Barret, and Lawrence Schiller, a Hollywood promoter who bought book and film rights to Gilmore's story. Warden Smith said today that it was assumed the hospital where Barrett is recovering from a suicide attempt would not allow her to attend.
Gilmore has requested that his body be donated to the University of Utah Medical Center, which plans to use his corneas, skin and peripheral nerves in transplants.
Physicians would utilize his kidneys and thigh bones for research, according to hospital spokesman John Keahy. The kidneys could not be transplanted because of the violent nature of Gilmore's death. Keahy said the body would be rushed to the hospital, 25 miles from the prison, "as soon as possible" after an autopsy at the penitentiary hospital by the state medical examiner and the prison doctor.