"Montana governor meets family of Canadian on death row," is the AP report by Matt Gouras. It's via the Missoulian.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Friday told the family of a Canadian on death row that he is undecided on the inmate's request for executive clemency, at times expressing sympathy for his plight and at other times noting the desire of the victims' families for retribution.
The governor had a long, frank discussion with relatives of convicted murderer Ronald A. Smith. Schweitzer told them that his options include doing nothing with the clemency request, which seeks life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of the death penalty.
Schweitzer sympathized with the plight of Smith, who is scheduled to be executed in the 1982 killings of two Blackfeet Indian men. The governor said it is not fair for Smith to be executed after an accomplice was paroled, and indicated he believes that Smith may be a different man.
But the governor said he has spoken with the victims' families, Blackfeet tribal members, who have told him they need Smith's death for closure. The governor said he remains uncertain whether Smith's death would improve the situation, and said he is not sure the traditional form of justice for the Blackfeet would include the death penalty.
"In their system of justice, when people did something very bad, they were banished,'' Schweitzer said.
A tribal council member has said that many in the tribe believe that if the governor gives clemency to Smith that means the governor values Native American lives less.
Schweitzer told Smith's family, from Alberta, Canada, that he is aware of that criticism, but argued it does not have merit because he believes he has done more than past governors to include Montana's largest minority group in his administration. Still, the governor is weighing the desire of those on the reservation.
The board is recommending that Schweitzer dismiss the clemency request, writing in their report that "justice is best served" by continuing with the execution. The governor makes the final call.
Smith's sister, Rita Duncan, told the governor much of the same that she and others told the parole board: Smith is a changed man who deserves to live the rest of his life behind bars. Speaking in a barely audible whisper, Duncan at times broke down in tears, as she described the impact Smith has helping the rest of his family through letters and phone calls.
Also at the meeting were Smith's dad Nelson Smith, his daughter Carmen Blackburn and her two children.
The governor told them all options remain on the table. He does not have a timetable for making a decision, but noted the best-case scenario for Smith is life behind bars.
"His sentence, one way or another, is death: slow or long," Schweitzer said.
Schweitzer also expressed anger at Smith, who originally sought the death penalty at trial before changing his mind, for putting the state of Montana in the position of aiding a suicide he once wanted.
The Calgary Sun reports, "Family pleads Montana Governor to spare Ronald Smith's life." It's by Bill Kaufmann.
Four generations of Canadian death row inmate Ronald Smith’s family pleaded Friday with Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to commute the killer’s death sentence.
The five Albertans spent about an hour with Schweitzer in the governor’s Helena office, lobbying him to commute the death sentence the state’s parole board upheld last May.
Smith is the only Canadian on death row in the U.S.
Since May, Schweitzer also met with members of the families of Smith’s victims, Harvey Mad Man and Thomas Running Rabbit, whom he kidnapped and gunned down at the side of a Montana highway on Aug. 4, 1982.
The Democrat governor’s office wouldn’t comment on Friday’s meeting but Smith’s lawyer, Don Vernay, said it’s a worthwhile effort for his client’s family.
“Absolutely — they’re good people who have an incredibly strong relationship with Ron — he’s a foundation for them and the grandkids,” said Vernay.
Making the trip from Alberta to Helena was Smith’s father, Nelson, his sister Rita Duncan, his daughter Carmen Blackburn and grandchildren Myles and Nycole Blackburn.
Vernay said he’s still hopeful Schweitzer, in whose hands Smith’s fate now rests, will commute his sentence to life in prison.