Unclear if botched Oklahoma execution will impact Ronald Smith case

The botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate buttresses the case of a Canadian man using the courts to try to avoid a lethal injection in Montana, his lawyer says.

CALGARY — The botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate buttresses the case of a Canadian man using the courts to try to avoid a lethal injection in Montana, his lawyer says.

Ron Waterman, lead lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Montana, began a lawsuit in 2008 on behalf of Alberta’s Ronald Smith and another death-row inmate in the state. It argues the lethal injections Montana uses are cruel and unusual punishment and violate the right to human dignity.

Montana district court Judge Jeffery Sherlock ruled in September 2012 that the injections were unconstitutional. He pointed to a lack of training for individuals who administer the drugs and a discrepancy over whether two or three drugs should be used.

Earlier this week in Oklahoma, convicted killer Clayton Lockett began writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow while undergoing that state’s new lethal injection combination.

The execution was halted, but the 38-year-old died of a heart attack about a half hour later.

“Obviously this will have an impact, but whether it will have an impact on the pending case or on future matters is yet to be determined,” said Waterman. “This situation only underscores that, as states experiment with different drugs, they do so risking exposing inmates to pain and suffering in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

The Eighth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution includes a cruel and unusual punishments clause that restricts the severity of punishments that state and federal governments may impose upon persons who have been convicted of a criminal offence.

Waterman’s lawsuit is on hold while Sherlock considers whether the state can change the way it carries out executions without seeking the approval of politicians in the legislature. A decision on that issue expected within a matter of months.

Smith was convicted in 1983 for shooting Harvey Madman Jr. and Thomas Running Rabbit while he was high on drugs and alcohol near East Glacier, Mont.

He had been taking 30 to 40 hits of LSD and consuming between 12 and 18 beers a day at the time of the murders. 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 had a number of execution dates set and overturned.

Just Posted

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

Human waste ‘backlog’ from Red Deer to be spread on farmers’ fields this spring

Council approved $1 million to compensate for loss of crops

Red Deer city council tries to find more cost-savings

Many spending proposals are queried, discussed

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Red Deer man sentenced for child porn

Man sentenced to one year in prison after being arrested in major anti-child pornography operation

Replay Red Deer Jan. 14: Watch news highlights in pictures

Stories mentioned: Red Deer RCMP seize large quantity of cocaine: Read more… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Photo: Chilly work in Veterans’ Park

What a chilly job but somebody has to do it.… Continue reading

Boy, 15, one of three hit in Vancouver shooting

Police believe a man in his 20s was the target of the shooting

UBCO psychology professor placed under supervision with focus on “boundary issues”

Dr. Stephen Porter has stepped aside from his teaching duties

Alberta elementary school teacher arrested on child porn charges

Investigators charged a 44-year-old Pincher Creek man with possessing, accessing, and distributing child pornography

Report: Health problems could arise as Alaska warms

Climate change in Alaska has the potential to create serious physical and… Continue reading

U.S. cold snap was a freak of nature, quick analysis finds

Consider this cold comfort: A quick study of the brutal American cold… Continue reading

Canadian Kennel Club seeking to add 12 more dogs to its pack

2018’s incoming class could include the Portuguese sheepdog, Tibetan mastiff, rat terrier and Spanish water dog

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month