Montana board rejects Ronald Smith’s clemency bid

CALGARY — A Canadian on death row in Montana for killing two men 30 years ago was dealt a major blow Monday in his bid to avoid execution. The Montana Board of Pardons and Paroles is recommending against allowing Ronald Smith to live out the rest of his life at the state prison — despite his emotional apology from Smith at his clemency hearing earlier this month.

CALGARY — A Canadian on death row in Montana for killing two men 30 years ago was dealt a major blow Monday in his bid to avoid execution.

The Montana Board of Pardons and Paroles is recommending against allowing Ronald Smith to live out the rest of his life at the state prison — despite his emotional apology from Smith at his clemency hearing earlier this month.

“It’s not a surprise at all. Even though they made a big to-do about it, this report just shows the way the state of Montana has been all along,” Smith’s longtime lawyer Don Vernay said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.

“It’s always been they’re going to kill this guy because for them to do an investigation in the manner they did shows they don’t care.”

A report done by staff at the board, obtained prior to the clemency hearing, strongly recommended against granting Smith mercy.

Vernay said the board obviously didn’t want to rock the boat.

“It’s the easy route. It’s just going with the flow and it flies in the face of all the prison officials that testified and wrote letters for him,” he said.

“It’s just ridiculous when prison guards come up and say they sought this guy out to say goodbye when they retired. These people like him. I’ve never seen anything like it. If there is a case for clemency it is this one.

“The guy really has changed. You can’t fake it for 30 years.”

Smith had asked the board to recommend his death sentence be commuted, but the board ruled that he did not meet the conditions necessary for clemency.

The recommendation is not binding. It is now up to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to decide if Smith lives or dies.

“All we can do is hope, obviously. It is mind-boggling to me that they did not recommend clemency given what we put on at that hearing,” Vernay said.

“We just hope the governor is more open-minded than the rest of the state of Montana.”

Schweitzer talked 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 at the time from his office in Helena. “It feels like you’re carrying more than the weight of an Angus bull on your shoulders.”

Smith, 54, has been on death row ever since he admitted to shooting Thomas Mad Man Jr. and Harvey Running Rabbit near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982. He originally asked for the death penalty, but soon after changed his mind and has been fighting for his life ever since.

Originally from Red Deer, Alta., Smith was 24 and had been taking LSD and drinking when he and Rodney Munro marched the two men into the woods where Munro stabbed one of them and Smith shot them both in the head.

Munro accepted a plea deal, was eventually transferred to a Canadian prison and has completed his sentence.

Smith told the clemency hearing that he was “horrendously sorry” for his actions.

But one by one members of the Mad Man and Running Rabbit families demanded that Smith be executed for his crimes.

Even if Schweitzer denies clemency, there is one more factor in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a civil lawsuit on Smith’s behalf in 2008 that argues Montana’s executions amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

The next court date in the lawsuit is scheduled for September.

An official with the group, Ron Waterman, told The Canadian Press earlier this year that the lawsuit and the clemency hearing were “parallel proceedings” and the application for clemency was not a factor in the civil suit.

Waterman said the lawsuit has stalled while Montana attempts to upgrade the trailer where state executions take place.

Just Posted

Red Deer respiratory therapist Sarah MacKenzie was among the first central Alberta health professionals to receive the Pfizer vaccine in December 2020. Since then, nearly 3.4 million doses have been administered and COVID cases are falling rapidly. Photo by Alberta Health Services
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall sharply

Red Deer cases almost into the double digits after topping more than 900 only five weeks ago

(Advocate file photo.)
Red Deer city council discusses strategies to restore integrated emergency dispatching

Red Deer city councillors discussed additional ways on Tuesday to try to… Continue reading

Local developers who are doing building upgrades or new construction will face less land servicing costs and gain some flexibility. (File photo by Advocate staff)
From left: Montana First Nation councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation councillor Shannon Buffalo and Samson Cree Nation chief Vern Saddleback were present during the painting of the Maskwacis Pride crosswalk. (Contributed photo)
Being gay made him contemplate suicide: Councillor in Maskwacis opens up

Maskwacis got a bit mote colourful over the weekend. Volunteers spent Saturday… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Pornhub says it has removed all content uploaded by non-verified users. The sex website faced accusations it hosted illegal content. The company, which is owned by Montreal-based Mindgeek, says it has suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by one of its content partners or members of its Model Program. THE CANADIAN PRESS
International women’s rights advocates call on Canada to hold Pornhub to account

Jeanette Westbrook says being sexually abused as a child will haunt her… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2021 file photo, transporters Miguel Lopez, right, Noe Meza prepare to move a body of a COVID-19 victim to a morgue at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000, even as the vaccination drive has drastically slashed daily cases and deaths and allowed the country to emerge from the gloom. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
US COVID-19 deaths hit 600,000, equal to yearly cancer toll

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 600,000 on Tuesday, even as… Continue reading

FILE - In this April 1, 2019 file photo, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry talks about health care legislation he's backing in the upcoming session, in Baton Rouge, La. The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday by a federal judge in Louisiana. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty's ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana’s Republican attorney general, Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)
Federal judge blocks Biden’s pause on new oil, gas leases

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and… Continue reading

Israeli police officers detain a Palestinian man during clashes that erupted ahead of a planned march by Jewish ultranationalists through east Jerusalem, outside Jerusalem's Old City, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Israelis march in east Jerusalem in test for new government

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hundreds of Israeli ultranationalists, some chanting “Death to Arabs,”… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) vies for the puck with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (7) during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Vets Pietrangelo, Perry contributing for Vegas, Montreal

LAS VEGAS — Alex Pietrangelo and Corey Perry had very different free… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen stands for the national anthem prior to an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Montreal, Saturday, January 30, 2021. Public health experts say Quebec should wait until more people have received a second dose of COVID-19 before increasing the number of fans allowed to attend Montreal Canadiens home games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Quebec to increase arena capacity before first home game in Habs playoff series

MONTREAL — Quebec will increase the number of people allowed to attend… Continue reading

New CFL balls are photographed at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium in Winnipeg, Thursday, May 24, 2018. Halifax regional council will consider today a new report on a proposed 24,000-seat stadium, the pivotal component of a bid to land a Canadian Football League team for the East Coast's largest city.THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Most Read