Last-minute witness at Canadian’s death row clemency hearing in Montana

There’s a last-minute addition to the witness list at the clemency hearing for a Canadian on death row in Montana. A Canadian consular official based in Denver plans to read a statement from the government asking the Board of Pardons and Parole to spare Ronald Smith’s life. Ottawa had already written a letter favouring clemency, but critics say the government’s support has been tepid.

DEER LODGE, Mon. — There’s a last-minute addition to the witness list at the clemency hearing for a Canadian on death row in Montana.

A Canadian consular official based in Denver plans to read a statement from the government asking the Board of Pardons and Parole to spare Ronald Smith’s life.

Ottawa had already written a letter favouring clemency, but critics say the government’s support has been tepid.

Smith’s defence team was only informed about the latest witness on Monday.

Smith lawyer Greg Jackson told the hearing the bid for clemency isn’t meant to minimize the — quote — “terrible crime” that Smith is guilty of, but is a request for mercy.

Jackson said Smith is not the same man who killed two young men near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982.

“He is a changed man” said Jackson. “He has reformed his life. He has expressed deep remorse and deep regret.

“He has a life that is worth preserving.”

Smith was brought into court in chains and wearing a bright orange prison jumpsuit. He is sitting at a table directly in front of the witness box.

The chairman of the three-member panel told the packed courtroom that he will have “zero tolerance” for any kind of outbursts.

The board is to give its final recommendation the week of May 21.

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