Should government seek clemency for Canadians on death row?
Ronald Smith, the only Canadian on death row in the United States, is expected to make a plea for his life at his clemency hearing in Montana this week. (Bill Graveland/Canadian Press)Smith, 54, was sentenced to death nearly 30 years ago after pleading guilty to murdering two men in Montana, Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man Jr.
The two men picked up Smith and an accomplice when they were hitchhiking. Smith marched the two men at gunpoint into the woods and shot them both in the head.
At his trial, Smith refused a penalty that would have sentenced him to life in prison and asked for a sentence of death. He later changed his mind.
Smith has exhausted his final appeal and only an order of clemency from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer will save him from a lethal injection.
Smith argues that he has already served the equivalent of a life sentence in the Deer Lodge federal penitentiary.
"Is it fair for me to serve a life sentence and then be executed?" Smith said in an interview on As It Happens in March.
"I've become a different person. I've educated myself. I've shown remorse through the years. I've done everything that you think would be required to show rehabilitation and I think I actually deserve [clemency] now," he said.
The Canadian government has sent a letter on Smith's behalf to the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole, but only after it was forced to do so by a Federal Court ruling. The court ruled that the government must follow the long-standing practice of lobbying on behalf of Canadians sentenced to death in other countries.
"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," the Dec. 5 letter from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird read. "The government of Canada ... requests that you grant clemency to Mr. Smith on humanitarian grounds."
Smith called the government's reluctant intervention "tepid."
Should the government always seek clemency for Canadians sentenced to death abroad? Why or why not? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)
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