Two days set aside for Ronald Smith clemency hearing

A clemency hearing has been set for two days in early May for the only Canadian on death row in the United States.

CALGARY — A clemency hearing has been set for two days in early May for the only Canadian on death row in the United States.

Ronald Smith, 54, originally from Red Deer, Alta., has been on death row for the murders of Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man Jr. 30 years ago near East Glacier, Mont.

The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole has set aside May 2-3 for the clemency hearing in Deer Lodge, near the federal penitentiary where Smith has spent the last three decades of his life.

“The hearing will be conducted as a parole hearing. Witness testimony will be submitted but witnesses will not be subject to cross-examination,” Smith’s lawyer, Greg Jackson, said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“The board may, however, question the witnesses.”

Jackson said there will be initial arguments on the first day and the board will take public comments on the second. Each statement, similar to a victim impact statement, will be limited to three minutes.

Smith’s daughter and sister are expected to make a plea for his life.

Jessica Crawford, Running Rabbit’s daughter, told The Canadian Press before Christmas that she will ask the board to recommend clemency.

“I think he should just remain locked away. That’s my feelings for it now,” Crawford said.

“I just feel it is more of a punishment for him that he just sit out his years.”

The Canadian government has also requested that Smith’s life be spared on humanitarian grounds, while at the same time condemning his actions.

The board will make a recommendation, but the final decision will fall to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Smith pleaded guilty to two charges of deliberate homicide and two charges of aggravated kidnapping in February 1983 and requested the death penalty. He rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors which would have given him life in prison.

He later changed his mind and asked the District Court to reconsider the death penalty. That has led to three decades of legal wrangling.

His clemency application says Smith is a changed man.

“In the face of the harsh circumstances of being locked down in virtual isolation for 28 years, he has nonetheless made a genuine attempt to live a life that exhibits remorse, rehabilitation, a changed heart and mind and a potential for good,” reads the document prepared by lawyers Jackson and Don Vernay.

“We request that you consider and grant this application and commute Mr. Smith’s sentence from death to life without parole.”

Smith’s lawyers say his drug and alcohol use impaired his judgment. They also say he received poor advice from his lawyer at the time.

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

Just Posted

New federal climate think tank looking for a road map to zero emissions

OTTAWA — A new climate change think tank funded by the federal… Continue reading

Fracking caused March 2019 earthquake near Sylvan Lake, say scientists

4.18 earthquake south of Sylvan Lake rattled doors and windows as far as Red Deer

Possible Red Deer cougar sighting creating a stir

Many have posted their own cougar stories online since Advocate story ran last Friday

Red Deer’s emergency management team is watching to learn how Newfoundland handles its massive snowfall

“We’ve had extreme snowfalls before,” says co-ordinator Karen Mann — and will again

Red Deer city council wants answers before re-zoning for women’s shelter expansion

Is the creek escarpment stable enough for construction?

WATCH: Canadian kid shovelling snow video goes viral

Rory might just be Canada’s most popular toddler right now, thanks to… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

David Marsden: Warm tales about the cold

The recent deep freeze has rocked all of us. Every Red Deer… Continue reading

Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Military personnel armed with shovels spread out across… Continue reading

Canadian airlines feel the pressure of flight-shaming and the ‘Greta effect’

MONTREAL — Swedish may not be the lingua franca of the aviation… Continue reading

Trump thanks farmers for backing him through China trade war

AUSTIN, Texas — President Donald Trump thanked farmers Sunday for supporting him… Continue reading

CETA can serve as template for post-Brexit Canada-U.K. trade deal

CALGARY — Canada’s trade agreement with the European Union should serve as… Continue reading

MEC cuts costs, boosts perks in effort to turn around struggling retailer

VANCOUVER — Mountain Equipment Co-op is making major changes as it “needs… Continue reading

Most Read