Alberta man hopes for death row reprieve by Monday
Clemency could come for Ronald Smith as state's governor changes
An Albertan on death row in Montana is hoping to be granted clemency this weekend.
Ronald Smith, 55, was sentenced to die for killing Harvey Mad Man and Thomas Running Rabbit on the side of a Montana highway in 1982.
The state's parole board recommended that Smith's death sentence be upheld following a hearing last May.
Ron Waterman, one of Smith's lawyers, says his client is hoping outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer grants him clemency before his term ends on Monday.
"We are coming up to, probably, what one could call a decision point. At the end of Gov. Schweitzer’s term he would have the ability, up until the time he was no longer governor, to grant clemency to Ron Smith — to act on the petition and to grant it. Likewise, he could decline to do that."
Schweitzer’s successor Steve Bullock could also grant Smith clemency. Bullock will be sworn in as governor on Monday.
Another of Smith’s lawyers, Greg Jackson, says Smith is apprehensive ahead of a decision.
"He is obviously very anxious about things being in limbo. Given the fact that his life is on the line, it is something that he no doubt thinks about virtually every waking minute and hour of every day."
It's believed that Schweitzer might have second thoughts about dealing with the clemency request because of an outstanding civil action involving the American Civil Liberties Union.
The group had filed a civil lawsuit in 2008 on behalf of Smith and another death row inmate that argues lethal injections used by the state to execute people are cruel and unusual punishment.
A ruling by Montana District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock last September declared the state's method of execution unconstitutional, putting all executions on hold.
But the Canadian government also sent a letter to the Parole Board asking that clemency be granted last month.
The letter from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made it clear that Canada's 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 was born in Red Deer, Alta.
With files from The Canadian Press