Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Utah National Guard Can't Find One

Salt Lake City - It appears that lethal injection is becoming increasingly unpopular among condemned inmates in the state of Utah's penal system. Following the announcement last week that convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner rejected lethal injection in favor of a five man firing squad, possible only in Utah, and countries Iran, North Korea and China - another inmate is taking the plunge.

Randy Peterson, lawyer for prisoner Akweil Makbar Smith, announced via conference call yesterday that his client is interested as well in pursuing death "by other means." When asked what that meant, Peterson responded, "Akweil wants to make a statement. He has an explosive personality. He would like to have an end that reflects that."
Mr. Smith, a performance artist, was convicted in 1989 for the murder of his agent Drake Sutherland two years prior, apparently cutting off his head with a bread knife over a dispute involving a show using embalmed body parts recovered from corrupt New York City morgue officials. The head was never found.

Mr. Smith's lawyers at the time initially issued a plea "of temporary insanity, due to stress trying to make a living as a misunderstood artist," but Smith fired them all and changed his plea to self defense, stating that Sutherland went after him with a Swiss Army pen knife, "the one with twenty-two functions."

Smith was sentenced to the death penalty, set to occur this July 12. Mr. Peterson has indicated that all appeals to delay and possibly reverse the decision have been halted. The execution of his client is "now to be a celebration of this man's life, and his uncompromising approach to his art. With that in mind, we have petitioned the Utah Board of Corrections to permit Mr. Smith to be executed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher (RPG), specifically a Russian one recovered in Iraq used by forces opposing the American occupiers."

"We want this device," Mr. Peterson went on, "to be aimed directly at the chest of Mr. Smith, from a distance of approximately seventy-five meters, for maximum effect. We have calculated that impact will absolutely obliterate the body of my client, with spray and other bodily fluids covering the lenses of the five video cameras that will be trained on him. This is very important."

According to state law, Utah has no choice but to comply. "Using prison grounds is out of the question, we don't have enough room," said Utah Penitentiary Commissioner Perry Mellon, "instead, we're thinking of using the cemetery area behind the Mormon Tabernacle Church here in town. We're callin' the National Guard now to find the requisite weapon. It's highly unusual, but personally, I think it's kinda' cool."

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