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Child Killer Faces Utah Firing Squad

January 26, 1996

POINT OF THE MOUNTAIN, Utah (AP) _ A child killer who said he would rather die at the point of a rifle than fastened flat on a gurney awaited the nation’s first execution by firing squad in 19 years early Friday.

John Albert Taylor, 36, was scheduled to be shot at 12:01 a.m. at Utah State Prison by anonymous marksmen firing the same type of deer rifle used to execute Gary Gilmore at the same institution in 1977.

Taylor had his first cigarette in six years as he was led from maximum security to the death-watch cell, prison spokesman Randy Ripplinger said. As he waited there Thursday night, he ate pizza with his family and met with the Catholic priest who baptized him last week.

Under Utah law, Taylor was offered the choice of lethal injection or firing squad. Idaho is the only other state to have a firing squad as one of its methods of execution.

Taylor said he chose the firing squad because it would be a costly inconvenience to the state and because he feared ``flipping around like a fish out of water″ if given an injection. He also hoped the method would more dramatically underscore his claim that his death would be state-sanctioned murder.

Gov. Mike Leavitt said the state had an obligation to make the execution dignified and orderly.

``There is nothing but sadness in this event,″ Leavitt said. ``This is the highest penalty that society can exact and the most difficult task government could be delegated.″

Taylor, diagnosed at 17 as ``a remorseless pedophile,″ was convicted of raping 11-year-old Charla Nicole King and strangling the girl with a telephone cord in 1989.

``They say executing him is so barbaric,″ said the victim’s mother, Sherron King. ``Tell me what’s barbaric. My daughter was alive (while being raped and choked). He won’t even hear the sound of the bullets.″

Taylor had insisted he was wrongly convicted. But he abruptly dropped all appeals and fired his lawyer in December, determined to die now rather than spend years confined to a death-row cell for 23 hours a day.

Wearing a black hood, he was to be strapped into a steel chair 23 feet from five executioners, a white cloth target pinned over his heart and a pile of sandbags behind him.

The executioners _ all law enforcement volunteers paid $300 each _ were to fire through rectangular openings. One gun is traditionally loaded with a blank round; none of the shooters knows which.

Like Gilmore, Taylor could demand to halt the execution right up until the moment he’s strapped into the chair. But when asked this week if he planned to appeal, he snapped at Beverly DeVoy, a freelance journalist who was one of Taylor’s three invited witnesses.

``I’m tired of you asking me that question,″ he told her over the telephone. ``I’m not going to appeal.″

In Delaware, a killer went to the gallows early Thursday in the nation’s third hanging since 1965. Billy Bailey, 49, was executed for the shotgun slayings of an elderly couple at their farmhouse in 1979.

Gilmore was the first person put to death in the United States after the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment in 1976. His execution ended a 10-year moratorium on the death penalty.

It was during a visit to his sister in Washington Terrace that Taylor entered a neighbor’s apartment and attacked Charla Nicole King. The girl’s nude body, underpants stuffed in her mouth, was found on a bed by her mother.

Taylor’s own sister, Laura Galli, who testified at his sentencing that he had raped her three times when she was 12, tipped off police that he may have murdered the child.

Taylor’s fingerprints were found on the bedroom telephone. He claimed he had merely burglarized the apartment, taking $3 from under the phone.

His strategy of requesting a non-jury trial backfired when Judge David Roth found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

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