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Utah judge denies motion for condemned inmate

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2010/06/10 15:50

Lawyers for a death row inmate scheduled for execution by a firing squad on June 18 failed Wednesday to persuade a federal judge to block a commutation hearing because the process is riddled with conflict.

The emergency hearing in U.S. District Court came hours after attorneys for Ronnie Lee Gardner argued an appeal of the case before the Utah Supreme Court — asking justices to vacate Gardner's death sentence.

It's unclear when the state's high court will rule.

But the federal court's Chief Judge Tena Campbell said Gardner failed to prove he could not get a "fair and impartial hearing" before Utah's Board of Pardons and Parole.

A two-day hearing before the board is set to begin on Thursday.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court late Tuesday, attorney Andrew Parnes argued that the board's process was tainted because lawyers that represent the board work for the Utah attorney general's office — the same entity that sought Gardner's death warrant. Those state attorneys will also argue against the board commuting Gardner's death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


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