Canada seeks clemency for Alta. man on U.S. death row

A Red Deer, Alta. man on death row in Montana deserves clemency, a representative of the Canadian government has told the state's governor.
Ronald Smith, the only Canadian on death row in the United States, has spent more than 25 years at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Mont. ((Bill Graveland/Canadian Press))
A Red Deer, Alta. man on death row in Montana deserves clemency, a representative of the Canadian government has told the state's governor. 

Canadian Consul General Dale Eisler delivered the message Thursday to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Ronald Smith was convicted of killing two young aboriginal men while hitchhiking in Montana in 1982 and sentenced to death in March 1983. He has not asked for clemency but has been fighting the death sentence in court.

Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian government had decided to break with past practice and stop seeking clemency for Smith, but the Federal Court later ordered the government to reverse that decision.

Eisler told Schweitzer that the official position of the government is to ask for clemency should the case reach the governor's desk.

The governor, an advocate of the death penalty, has told the families of the victims he will consider them first before making any decision.

On Aug. 4, 1982, Smith shot and killed 20-year-old Thomas Running Rabbit Jr. and 23-year-old Harvey Madman Jr. near Glacier National Park. He marched the two cousins into the woods by the highway and shot them both in the head with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle.

Smith initially pleaded not guilty to the killings but withdrew his not-guilty pleas and pleaded guilty and asked to be executed. The court granted him a death sentence, but he later changed his mind and appealed the decision, arguing that he had had ineffective defence counsel.

He is the only Canadian currently on death row in the U.S.