The Law: Much Ado About Gary

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What's to become of Gilmore, the killer who wanted to die? Will they just do away with Gilmore, or will they give him another try?

—The Ballad of Gary Gilmore

To all appearances, the long wait seemed almost over for Gary Mark Gilmore last week. Just as he had been demanding ever since his conviction two months ago for the murder of a 25-year-old motel clerk in Provo, Utah, Gilmore was being given the right to die. After a steamy two-hour hearing before the state board of pardons, the board voted 2 to 1 to grant the condemned man's plea that he stand "like a man" in front of a firing squad in the first U.S. execution in almost a decade. The following day, District Court Judge J. Robert Bullock set the execution date for sunrise, Dec. 6, just two days after Gilmore's 36th birthday. "That's acceptable," Gilmore said quietly.

The pardon-board hearing took place, like some futuristic fantasy, on television. At 9 a.m. Gilmore was led in, his tattooed wrists manacled. He wore a white prison uniform, and he looked somewhat gaunt from his twelve-day hunger strike (he has lost about 201bs.).

Ex-Judge George W. Latimer. 75. chairman of the board, asked Gilmore if he had anything to say. Answered Gilmore: "Your board dispenses privileges that I always thought were sought, deserved and earned. I haven't earned anything. To paraphrase Shakespeare, this is much ado about nothing. I simply accepted my sentence."

Gilmore repeated his earlier charge that Governor Calvin Rampton was a "moral coward" for staying his execution last month. As for the others who wanted to speak in his defense—the witnesses at the hearing included a right-to-life housewife and a vociferous representative of the Citizens Against Pornography and Other Crimes Committee —Gilmore was equally blunt: "All I have to say to all of them—the rabbis, the priests, the A.C.L.U.—I'd like them to butt out. It's my life and my death."

"Courtroom graphics and Gilmore in chains," said TV Reporter John Hollenhorst as he sat in the studio of Salt Lake City's KSL-TV and watched the 10 p.m. news. "The story today has all the visual elements."

"Most people around here want the Gilmore story to disappear because they're embarrassed by the publicity," said the program's producer, Janice Evans. "But I think it's terrific."

The next day's hearing before Judge Bullock was brisk. Again the manacled prisoner was asked whether he had anything to say. Gilmore rose shakily to his feet and made one request: "I understand, your honor, they are planning to seat me in a chair with a hood over my head. I don't want that. I don't want a hood, and I want to be standing."

The judge said he did not have the authority to set the details of the execution but would notify Warden Samuel Smith of Gilmore's request. That left only the time to be set.

"I'm going to set it at sunrise Monday," the judge said. "Do you request another time?"

"I don't request anything," Gilmore said.

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