Ronald Smith is shown on Wednesday

Ronald Smith is shown on Wednesday

Clemency sought for death row Canadian

The Canadian government has sent a letter to Montana’s governor requesting that he spare the life of death row inmate Ronald Smith.

The Canadian government has sent a letter to Montana’s governor requesting that he spare the life of death row inmate Ronald Smith.

The Dec. 10 letter from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to Montana’s outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer is almost identical to one sent to the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole a year ago prior to the Alberta man’s clemency hearing. It makes it clear that the Federal Court ordered the federal government to support Smith’s case for clemency.

“The government of Canada requests that you grant clemency to Mr. Smith on humanitarian grounds,” writes Baird. “The government of Canada does not sympathize with violent crime and this letter should not be construed as reflecting a judgment on Mr. Smith’s conduct.”

Smith has been on death row since admitting he murdered Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Madman Jr. near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982.

The Harper government initially refused to back Smith’s calls for clemency, saying he was convicted in a democratic country. But the Federal Court ruled Ottawa must follow a long-standing practice of lobbying on behalf of Canadians sentenced to death in other countries.

One of Smith’s lawyers, Don Vernay, wasn’t sure why the government sent the second letter to Schweitzer. No one in Baird’s office was available for comment.

“They just wanted to, I guess, put their two cents in which didn’t really say too much, did it? It’s the same lukewarm letter,” Vernay said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Monday.

“I guess they just want to go on the record because they’re probably like everybody else wondering what’s going on here? ’We should make sure we get on the record just to appease the masses in Canada who are against the death penalty.”’

The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole recommended against granting clemency to Smith. The matter is now in the hands of Schweitzer, a two-term Democrat, who is to officially leave office in a matter of weeks.

Schweitzer hasn’t commented since the clemency hearing, but earlier indicated he didn’t want to leave a decision up to his successor. He did talk about death penalty cases in an interview with The Canadian Press last year.

“You’re not talking to a governor who is jubilant about these things,” he said from his office in Helena. “It feels like you’re carrying more than the weight of an Angus bull on your shoulders.”

Vernay said he remains hopeful, but is disappointed that Schweitzer still hasn’t met personally with Smith.

“I hope that he gets a chance to meet Mr. Smith before he does decide whether to uphold the recommendation of the board,” Vernay said.

“We’re a little disappointed that he hasn’t met with our client. The Smith family came down here to meet with him. We’d all like to hear something one way or the other for everybody involved.”

Smith, 55, and an accomplice were both high on drugs when they marched Running Rabbit and Mad Man Jr. into the woods and shot them in the head. It was a cold-blooded crime. They wanted to steal the men’s car, but Smith also said he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.

He had been taking 30 to 40 hits of LSD and consuming between 12 and 18 beers a day at the time. He refused a plea deal that would have seen him avoid death row and spend the rest of his life in prison. Three weeks later, he pleaded guilty. He asked for and was given a death sentence.

Smith later had a change of heart and has since had a number of execution dates set and then put off.

His execution remains in limbo because of a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union on the methods Montana uses to carry out its lethal injections.

A ruling by Montana District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock in September declared the state’s executions unconstitutional and placed any future executions on hold. Sherlock is to hear arguments next year on whether the state can make changes to it protocols without going to the legislature for approval.

A three-day hearing has been scheduled starting July 22.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Attendees of the Downtown Red Deer Market, which runs every Wednesday during the summer on Little Gaetz Avenue, have complained about the lack of public washrooms. (Photo contributed by Red Deer Downtown Business Association)
Portable washrooms to be set up in downtown Red Deer this summer

More data is needed before the city invests in a permanent structure

A survey of 3,083 Red Deer residents was done by an online platform on behalf of the City of Red Deer, generating about 11,607 comments.. (File photo)
Red Deerians speak out about COVID-19 concerns in survey

More than 3,000 city residents were surveyed

A Calgary energy company's request for a tax break was turned down by Lacombe County. About $31,000 was owed by a company that went bankrupt and Silverleaf Resources Inc. bought some of their assets.
(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe County turns down oil company’s tax break request

Silverleaf Resources Inc. hoped for break on $31,000 in back taxes

RCMP recovered hundreds of stolen items, including Bibles and historical items stolen from the Bowden Pioneer Museum.
(Photo from RCMP)
Museum artifacts among hundreds of stolen items recovered by RCMP in central Alberta

Second World War and other historical and religious items recovered

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly (44) reach for the rebound from Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson (30) during second-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 1, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman watches his solo home run during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros Monday, March 1, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) clears the puck in front of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) as Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40) looks for the rebound during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Monday March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Rugby training gear is shown during a Torotno Wolfpack during a practice at Lamport Stadium in Toronto. Bradford, Featherstone, Leigh, London,  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) and centre Chris Tierney (71) get sandwiched between Flames defencemen Rasmus Andersson (4) and Juuso Valimaki (6) during second-period NHL action in Ottawa on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Skiers may be safe from COVID-19, but not those working to keep slopes open: experts

Skiers may be safe from COVID-19, but not those working to keep slopes open: experts

Armas likes what he sees in Toronto FC camp but there are still issues to resolve

Armas likes what he sees in Toronto FC camp but there are still issues to resolve

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver on February 5, 2020. The Canadian women's hockey team opened a camp Monday in Halifax, which is co-hosting the upcoming world championship. Hockey Canada invited 35 players to participate in the seven-day camp closed to the public and media at Scotiabank Centre. The women are training under restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a limit of 25 players on the ice at one time. "They will continue to follow strict COVID-19 testing as per team health and safety protocols that have been detailed and approved by Nova Scotia Public Health," Hockey Canada said Monday in a statement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian women’s hockey team preparing for possible May world championship

Canadian women’s hockey team preparing for possible May world championship

Most Read