A Utah death row inmate featured in the popular book Under the Banner of Heaven after killing his sister-in-law and her child for resisting his polygamist beliefs inched closer to becoming the first American to be executed by firing squad in nearly a decade after losing his latest appeal Monday. Ron Lafferty, 78, could be executed as soon as next year after his latest legal setback, said Andrew Peterson, assistant solicitor general at the Utah attorney general’s office. Lafferty’s lawyer, Dale Baich, said in an email that he will use all options to challenge the ruling and will likely ask the US Supreme Court to review the case, the AP reports. Lafferty chose the firing squad decades ago when he was sentenced to die—before Utah changed its law to use it only as a backup method if lethal injection drugs aren’t available.
Lafferty was convicted in the 1984 slayings of his sister-in-law and her baby daughter, which he carried out with his brother. Per NBC News, the “self-declared prophet” slit their throats. The Daily Herald, which calls Lafferty a cult leader, explains that Brenda Lafferty was married to a third Lafferty brother. Ron Lafferty claimed he got a revelation from God to kill the two because of her resistance to his fundamentalist beliefs in polygamy. His case became well known nationwide when it was included in Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book about radical offshoots of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The ruling Monday by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver backed lower-court judges in their previous rejections of the arguments. The last time a firing squad was used in the US was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed in Utah for the 1984 murder of an attorney during a failed courthouse escape. (Read more Utah stories.)