Ronald Allen Smith’s most immediate hope of avoiding lethal injection is clemency from Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Smith, of Red Deer, Alberta, was convicted of killing Harvey Mad Man and Thomas Running Rabbit after meeting them on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana in 1982.
As Eve Byron of the Helena (Mont.) Independent Record writes here of Mad Men and Running Rabbit:
The two men picked up Smith and his friends, who were hitchhiking along U.S. Hwy. 2. Smith wanted the car for his own use, and eventually marched Mad Man and Running Rabbit into the woods, then shot each in the back of the head.
Smith later told authorities he always had “kind of a morbid fascination to find out what it would be like to kill somebody,” according to court documents.
Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of deliberate homicide, as well as two counts of aggravated kidnapping. In February 1983 he was offered a plea agreement calling for a term of 110 years imprisonment, but rejected that in favor of a death sentence. However, Smith changed his mind in 1984 and has been fighting his death sentence ever since.
But the recent 2-1 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court’s 2-1 ruling specifically mentions Schweitzer’s ability to grant clemency in the case.
“He has expressed deep regret for his deplorable actions. However, consideration of these issues are beyond our jurisdiction in this case,” says the opinion written by Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas. “Clemency claims are committed to the wisdom of the executive branch.”
Mark Warren, a Canadian human-rights specialist who has testified on Smith’s behalf, terms that language “extraordinary,” according to Canwest News Service, here.
“The court signaled as clearly as it could that Ron Smith should be granted clemency by the governor of Montana,” Warren says.
Two years ago, Canada’s Conservative government ended years of efforts for a commutation of Smith’s sentence. (See video below.) That policy, CanWest writes, was ruled “unlawful” last year by the Federal Court of Canada, which urged the Canadian government to renew its efforts on Smith’s behalf.
Smith’s attorneys are expected to seek a wider review of the ruling, and a U.S. Supreme Court appeal also is possible. In the meantime, Warren says the Canadian government should do everything in its power to help Smith obtain clemency from Schweitzer.
Tags: Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Canadian government, capital punishment, clemency, death penalty, Federal Court of Canada, Gwen Florio, Harvey Mad Man, lethal injection, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Native American news, Ninth Circuit Court, Ronald Allen Smith, Thomas Running Rabbit