Canada.com posts, "Ronald Smith death-row clemency case not likely to be resolved until new governor takes over." It's by Randy Boswell of Postmedia News.
Montana’s outgoing governor has given the clearest signal yet that he won’t be granting clemency to Canadian death-row inmate Ronald Smith during his final days in office, likely placing the Alberta-born killer’s fate in the hands of governor-elect Steve Bullock when he takes over the state’s top job next week.
It’s a situation that one of Smith’s lawyers describes as “uncharted waters” for Montana’s justice system, which has been dealing with Smith’s case for more than 30 years.
The 55-year-old Albertan is one of only two Canadians currently sentenced to death in the United States; the other, Newfoundland-born Robert Bolden, 48, is appealing his death sentence after being convicted in the 2002 killing of a St. Louis bank guard.
Responding to questions about the Smith case in recent days, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer told The Associated Press: “The recommendation to me was not to do anything.”
He added that he’s still “not saying one way or another” whether he might commute Smith’s death sentence before his gubernatorial term ends on Monday or endorse the recommendation made by Montana’s parole board earlier this year that the execution should proceed.
But Smith’s case “is not any more on the table at this point than anyone else’s,” Schweitzer added — apparently referring to unresolved issues concerning the legality of Montana’s lethal-injection system, which must be dealt with before the Canadian’s execution could be carried out anyway.
Schweitzer’s comments point to a hands-off approach that would leave the potentially explosive issue to his successor, Bullock, currently the state’s attorney general and nominally the Montana justice official who has been responsible for fighting Smith’s legal appeals in recent years to avoid execution.
Yet Bullock, a Democrat like Schweitzer, is not considered an ardent supporter of capital punishment, and his moderate views on the subject have sparked attacks in the past by Republican rivals intent on preserving the ultimate punishment in a state sharply split over the issue.
“We are waiting for Gov. Schweitzer to act on the clemency petition, and without his action then the issue shifts to the next governor,” Ronald Waterman, one of Smith’s three main lawyers, told Postmedia News this week. “But I don’t know that the clemency petition would automatically transfer over or whether a new petition would have to be presented before Gov. Bullock would be able to act on the petition. We are in uncharted waters here.”
"Baird seeks clemency for death row Canadian," is by Bill Graveland of the Canadian Press. It's via the Province.
The Canadian government has sent a letter to Montana's governor requesting that he spare the life of death row inmate Ronald Smith.
The Dec. 10 letter from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to Montana's outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer is almost identical to one sent to the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole a year ago prior to the Alberta man's clemency hearing. It makes it clear that the Federal Court ordered the federal government to support Smith's case for clemency.
"The government of Canada requests that you grant clemency to Mr. Smith on humanitarian grounds," writes Baird. "The government of Canada does not sympathize with violent crime and this letter should not be construed as reflecting a judgment on Mr. Smith's conduct."
Smith has been on death row since admitting he murdered Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Madman Jr. near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982.
The Harper government initially refused to back Smith's calls for clemency, saying he was convicted in a democratic country. But the Federal Court ruled Ottawa must follow a long-standing practice of lobbying on behalf of Canadians sentenced to death in other countries.
Earlier coverage of Ronald Smith's case begins at the link. Montana's lethal injection procedure was ruled unconstitutional last year. Also, available is advance coverage of the state legislature, which meets this year.