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Utah Supreme Court Clears Way for Condemned Killer's Execution by Firing Squad

The top court in the western U.S. state of Utah has denied an appeal from a convicted murderer, who now faces execution by firing squad this week after 25 years of appeals.

Utah's Supreme Court late Monday rejected an argument by attorneys for Ronnie Lee Gardner that he deserved a new sentencing hearing. Earlier Monday, the Utah parole board also rejected his appeal.

Gardner was convicted in 1985 of fatally shooting an attorney during a failed escape attempt at a courthouse in the state capital, Salt Lake City.

His execution is scheduled for shortly after midnight Friday. It is not known if he will file further appeals to federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under state law, the 49-year-old Gardner had a choice between death by lethal injection or by a five-person team of shooters.

Utah is one of two states that permit execution by firing squad.

Utah outlawed the method in 2004, but prisoners convicted before then still have it as an option.

The central state of Oklahoma also permits death by firing squad, but only if other methods are rejected in particular cases.

Lethal injection is the preferred means of executing prisoners in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Since then, only two prisoners have been executed by firing squad, both of them in Utah.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.