Aired Monday June 21st, 2010 at 9:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
If all goes according to the state's plan, convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner will be killed by a firing squad sometime around midnight on June 18. On Monday night, June 21 at 9:00 p.m. KUED will air Condemned, the latest documentary project from the Utah Now team that looks back on the execution and reflections on the death penalty.
"We're interested in the questions that naturally come with the death penalty; questions of justice and mercy, but we're also exploring the passage of time that leads up to this moment and what it means to watch a man die," says producer Doug Fabrizio. "It's not specifically about the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner. It's driven by people's stories. It's intimate, personal and spare."
The half-hour film has no narration, but interweaves the stories of religious leaders and writers including journalist Charles Bowden, who witnessed an execution that he says changed his view on the death penalty. Among the others in the film are former KTVX reporter Paul Murphy who witnessed the 1996 firing-squad execution of John Albert Taylor; a UVU professor who witnessed an electrocution in Virginia in the 1980s; the wife of the man shot and critically injured by Ronnie Lee Gardner; and a prison cook, who has prepared nearly 200 last meals.
The result is a unique approach to the discussion of capital punishment. It includes personal experiences, insights into justice, mercy and retribution when a person's life is legally taken. "It's another example of our attempt at finding a new way of telling stories," says Fabrizio.
Charles Bowden tells the story of personally experiencing an execution as the guest of the condemned man. He stood between the man's two sons as a witness. He wrote about the experience, "There's a dream-walk quality to an execution. No one can be murdered before their appointed hour, and so the whole thing has that frantic and yet slow quality of a big wedding."
Most Reverend Canon Mary Jane Nestler of the Salt Lake Episcopal Diocese says the aftermath will be "dull and unsatisfying." "There will be some who will drink their coffee during that following week with thinking, 'Well, we got the job done.' There will be no rejoicing. There should be no rejoicing. Nothing good has come from the death of that man or the death of his perpetrator. But I think there is something else that will happen.... Our society in this state will once again reflect on whether we've done something good."
Political consultant Dave Owen offers another perspective. "The only value I see in it is retribution," he says. "It's punishment. It is, 'We have made a determination that this crime is heinous and unacceptable, that punishment will be death. And that's really all that's been accomplished in my opinion. And it can be sufficient."
For more information and to watch a promo video, visit our websight, www.kued.org/utahnow
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