Death row inmate’s final words to victim’s family before execution
The first execution in the United States of 2020 has been carried out in Texas, with a man who killed his wife 15 years ago put to death by lethal injection.
John Gardner, 64, was sentenced to death in 2006 for killing his fifth wife, who had left him after multiple incidents of physical violence and filed for divorce.
Two weeks before the divorce was to be finalised, Gardner broke into the woman’s new home and shot her in the head. Tammy Gardner died two days later.
Before the lethal injection was administered Gardener made a final statement to the family of his murdered wife, who were watching through a nearby window.
He told her daughter, son and mother that he hoped “one day” they could forgive him.
“I would like to say sorry for your grief,” he said.
“I hope what I’m doing today will give you peace, joy, closure, whatever it takes to forgive. I am sorry. I know you cannot forgive me, but I hope one day you will.”
Gardener then turned to his friends who were watching and told them he loved them before apologising again.
He then told the warden to go ahead with the injection, adding: “I want to see the Lord Jesus so bad. I hope you all understand”.
A few minutes after the injection was administered Gardener took a few deep breaths and started snoring before becoming completely still.
He was pronounced dead on Wednesday at 6.36pm local time, 16 minutes after he was injected.
Prosecutors say Gardner had a long history of violence against his wives. He fatally shot his second wife while she was pregnant.
He had also kidnapped his third wife and beat her daughter, prosecutors say.
Lawyers for Gardner filed an appeal before the US Supreme Court in September, asking that the case be reopened on grounds that he was not properly defended in his trial.
They argued that his lawyers should have developed the theory of “abandonment rage” to explain his actions.
The court refused to take up this appeal on Monday and no further appeal was filed.
Last year 22 people were executed in the United States, including nine in Texas.