Friday 4 May 2012


PLEASE NOTE; The difference in size of some of the paragraphs has no significance with respect to my views. It is an anomaly in the typing only.

Ronald Allen Smith, then 24 and a Canadian citizen from  Wetaskiwin, Alberta,  was sentenced to death in March 1983, in the State of Montana after pleading guilty to two charges of aggravated kidnapping and two charges of homicide. After his conviction, he asked for the death penalty during the penalty phase of his trial.

Seven months earlier, Ronald Smith, 24, Rodney (James) Munro, 21, and Andre Fontaine, 19, crossed the Canadian border into Montana earlier that same day. The three men planned to hitchhike to California, leaving behind their troubled pasts in Red Deer, Alberta. The three hitchhikers after having crossed into the United States had met the two victims in a bar in Montana and the victims stopped to give the Canadians a lift. Before getting into the car, the three Canadians discussed stealing their car. For some reason in which is unknown to me, the two victims left the car for a few minutes. Perhaps they want to take a leak. When Running Rabbit and Mad Man returned and got back into their car, Smith pulled out his rifle and put it to the back of Mad Man's head. Smith and Munro then forced the two men out of the vehicle, and marched them about 40 yards into the woods, near mile marker 195 of U.S. Highway 2. Smith later admitted in court; “I intended to kill them on my own before we took them into the woods.”

Smith says that he was high on LSD when he murdered two aboriginal men. They marched their two victims, cousins, Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods by the highway and then Munro stabbed one of them and  then Smith shot them both in the back of their heads with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle. He shot one in the presence of the other before shooting the second victim after both victims begged for their lives. 

After their arrest, Fontaine began to cooperate with the investigators. The 19-year-old from Quebec had remained in the car while Smith and Munro forced Running Rabbit and Mad Man into the woods. It was established that he did not directly participate in their kidnapping or their murders. Fontaine received five years for other offences committed prior to his arrest.

Munro, who also took part in the plan to steal the car and walked with Smith as they took the two victims into the forest, pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping and was handed a 60-year sentence. He was later transferred to a Canadian prison under a bilateral treaty and subsequently was granted parole.

Now this sniveling killer has for years been begging the American authorities for mercy. He now has asked Montana's parole board for clemency on May 2, 2012, saying he was a changed man who felt “horrendously sorry” for murdering the two young men 30 years ago on an Indian reservation. Smith, now 54, has been on death row ever since he admitted committing the two murders in 1982.

This is the man who originally said that he committed the murders in a drunken, drug-fueled rage because he “wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.” This is the man who later said in a TV interview that he had no regrets with respect to killing the two men or that he had been sentenced to death for the murders. He obviously didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison and chose death as to what he believed would be a suitable alternative.  However, soon after, he changed his mind and has been begging for his life ever since. The Supreme Court refused a bid by Smith’s lawyers since then to overturn the sentence, leading ultimately to Smith's clemency petition. He is currently one of just two inmates on Montana's death row and the only Canadian national awaiting execution in the United States.

He said in part at his clemency hearing;

“I've discovered today listening to them, (victim’s relatives) there are not words to say. Sorry just doesn't cover it, how bad I feel.  I would stand here for months on end apologizing if I thought it would help them. They (victim’s families) have had to live with this for 30 years. I understand completely.” unquote

A majority of the 40 witnesses who testified during the nine-hour proceeding in the western Montana town of Deer Lodge, consisted of victims' family, members of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and others who opposed commuting his sentence to life in prison without parole.

Smith’s supporters also described him as a model inmate who gave up drugs and alcohol, educated himself while incarcerated, assisted other prisoners and felt true remorse for his crime. The condemned killer also argued that he was truly sorry, though he said he did not expect forgiveness from the victims' families. His expectations were right on.

William Talks About is an uncle to both men who Smith shot in the back of the head in August 1982. He said at the clemency hearing;  

“Our boys pleaded and begged for their lives. This guy's having remorse today. Back then, nothing.”unquote

The state Pardons and Parole Board said it planned to present its non-binding recommendation the week of May 21 to Governor Brian Schweitzer, who will determine whether to commute Smith's death sentence to life in prison without parole.

 In a brief statement on May 2nd Governor Schweitzer, who has previously described himself as a supporter of capital punishment, said that he “will review the record of the hearing and the board's recommendation.”

The Canadian government withdrew its support for Smith's clemency bid several years ago, (despite the fact that it abolished capital punishment in 1976) but that decision was reversed in 2009 by Canada's Supreme Court, though the government has done little to actively lobby on Smith's behalf since then. It is the view of the Canadian government that if one of its citizens is sentenced to death for murder, they will not intervene if the government is satisfied that the murderer was given a fair trial and the method of execution is not outrageous.

In 1999, the Canadian Consul General wrote to the Governor of Montana requesting that he consider granting clemency to the applicant. The Consul General stated that the practice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to seek clemency for Canadian citizens sentenced to death in foreign countries is based on humanitarian considerations. Nothing resulted from this request, but DFAIT continued to take interest in Smith’s case.

Smith’s lawyers made an application to the Supreme Court of Canada seeking an order compelling the Canadian government Ministers, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to assist him in pursuing commutation of the death penalty by way of an anticipated clemency petition to the Governor of Montana. In 2007, Smith’s lawyers described to consular officials the importance of the Canadian government’s assistance in obtaining the Governor’s clemency. Shortly thereafter, however, the Canadian government withdrew its longstanding support for the Smith, stating that there were no ongoing efforts to seek a commutation of his death penalty.

The government claimed that no justifiable legal duties were owed to the applicant (Smith) because the decision not to support him fell within the Crown prerogative to conduct Canada’s foreign affairs, and that no duty of procedural fairness arose because government interventions would not be determinative of Smith’s fate.

At issue was whether the issues raised in the Supreme Court hearing were justiciable (subject to trial in a court of law) and if they were, whether the government breached a duty of fairness in the manner of their withdrawal of diplomatic assistance for the applicant’s pending petition for clemency. The court ruled;

“It is open to the Government of Canada in its assessment of the public interest to freely change its policies from time to time. Similarly, the exercise of the prerogative to develop and implement diplomatic and foreign policy initiatives is generally beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny.
“However, decisions of an administrative character which affect the rights, privileges or interests of an individual are reviewable and they are subject to the principles of procedural fairness. In the case at bar, (before the court) any new clemency policy had to be applied to the applicant to determine whether he fit within it. The respondents’ justiciability argument was dependent on the existence of a new clemency policy. However, there was no such policy, nor was there evidence of a consensus or a policy decision being taken. Government policy cannot be the sum total of contradictory public statements of its ministers and spokespersons made inside or outside of Parliament. The applicant was entitled to know precisely what the new clemency policy was before it was applied to his situation.
“It is the Court’s obligation to ensure that the Government’s decisions are made fairly and with appropriate regard to the applicant’s legal interests. The reversal of the Government’s position gave rise to a reasonable expectation that it would be made in full consultation with the applicant, followed by a fair and objective consideration of the appropriateness of applying any new policy to the facts of his case. Fairness also required that there be a clear articulation of any new clemency policy such that the applicant could understand it and a decision maker could apply it. Absent such clarity, any resulting decision will be arbitrary and unlawful. The Government’s failure to recognize any of these rights represented a fundamental breach of the duty of fairness.
“Finally, evidence showed that government intervention for clemency would influence the Governor’s decision. In conclusion, because the Government’s decision to withdraw support for the applicant was made in breach of the duty of fairness, it was set aside. In the absence of any other policy, the Government must continue to support clemency for Canadians, including the applicant, facing execution in a foreign state.” unquote
The most that Smith could expect from Canadian authorities is that it exert its influence on the Montana Governor in support of his bid for clemency. But, as noted before, the Canadian government has chosen to remain passive to his plight.

That may seem odd considering that Canada is an abolitionist nation. In 1976, I prepared a paper for the House of Commons and the Canadian Senate on capital punishment and I pointed out the risk of executing an innocent person. Judging from the record in Hansard (Parliamentary Record of Proceedings) this was the same concern of the members of both Houses. My concern was also published in Hansard.

I am convinced that if there was any reasonable doubt that Smith didn’t commit the two aggravated kidnappings and the two murders, the government of Canada would fight for him. But this killer killed two human beings for the thrill of it and then bragged about it on TV adding that it didn’t concern him that he killed them or that he would be executed for the crimes he was convicted of. The fact that he later changed his mind about being executed is academic. In other words, who really gives a damn?  

As I see it, the fact that he was high on LSD isn’t really a mitigating factor that should be taken seriously. While in that condition, he still killed the two young men for the thrill of it. Lots of people were high on LSD and they didn’t kill people for the thrill of it. That is because they were not murderers. Smith was a murderer.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2006 in the Kansas v, Marsh case that the states are not prohibited from imposing the death penalty when mitigating and aggravating sentencing factors were both present. This means that although there is a mitigating factor to consider such as he has reformed to some degree, and that he was under the influence of LSD when he committed the two murders and that he is sorry for what he did to those two men,  there are the aggravating factors to also consider which was the killing of two innocent persons for the thrill of it.

The State of Montana uses hanging as the means of carrying out the death penalty. Smith’s lawyers can give up any hope of getting sympathy from the Supreme Court on that issue. In Baze v. Rees, the court ruled in 2008 that executing someone by lethal injection does not violate the Eighth Amendment of the American Constitution, to wit; cruel and unusual punishment. This would also apply to hanging a condemned man since death is presumed to be very quick if done properly.
Capital punishment in the  United States was administered for a wide variety of crimes ranging from drug trafficking to aggravated murder. However, in practice, it is now reserved only for homicide-related crimes including  aggravated murder, felony murder (one which is committed during the committing of another crime) and contract murder as the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that it can only be applied if someone is murdered.  

Capital punishment is a contentious social issue in the US. While historically a large majority of the American public has favored it in cases of murder, the extent of this support has varied over time. There has long been strong  opposition to capital punishment in the United States from certain sectors of the population, and as of 2012, seventeen states (as well as  Washington D.C.), have banned its use.

A 2011 Gallup poll showed 61 percent of Americans favored it in cases of murder while 35 percent opposed it.

Abolitionists will say that the mere fact that the death penalty is by virtue of its nature, irreversible also raises a number of other issues. Firstly that judges and juries do make mistakes. Studies around the globe have shown that the error rate is unacceptably high. Many people in the U.S. prisons (some on death row) were released when it was later determined by DNA testing that they were innocent and had been wrongly identified by witnesses to the crimes the innocent persons had been convicted of. There is also the fact that many of these detainees had very little to no real legal representation brought about by lawyers who slept through their trial, lawyers who were using drugs or alcohol to excess during their trial, lawyers who had been disbarred, police and expert witnesses who had latter admitted to 'lying under oath', forced and falsified confessions and a host of other errors that bring the entire system of trying capital cases into disrepute and places unquestionable reasons as to why the U.S. states that abolished the death penalty did so for these reasons alone.

Those who want murderers executed state that their reason is that the Bible says that murderers should be executed. But in my respectful opinion, that is not a justifiable reason considering that the Bible was written centuries ago and people in England (including children) were executed for simply pick pocketing.

Many people feel that killing convicted murderers will satisfy their need for justice and/or vengeance. They feel that certain crimes are so heinous that executing the criminal is the only reasonable response. This belief even extends to some Christians where their need for vengeance overrules their ability to forgive. I am one of those people. If Smith had murdered my two daughters while he was high on LSD and committed the crime for the thrill of it, I would never forgive him for that deed. I would want him dead also.  

This is one of the reasons why both state and federal governments in the U.S. permit family members to watch executions of those who murdered their loved ones.

Many people feel that the death penalty will deter criminals from killing their victims. It  does not seem to be confirmed by an analysis of the available data or by the opinions of leading criminologists. It does nevertheless feel intuitively correct for many people. However, the recidivism rate of murder or manslaughter is the lowest of all crimes and misdemeanors—suggesting that most murders are crimes of passion. The death penalty is also even less effective at protecting society as its proponents claim it to be. Life imprisonment is just if not more as effective at preventing the offender from committing a crime again especially if the sentence is life without parole. The prospect of rotting in prison for years and years and never being released is a strong deterrent for many people.

Once a convicted murder is executed and buried, there are no further maintenance costs to the state. This appears to be invalid as the cost to the state paying for multiple appeals is generally much greater than the cost of imprisoning an inmate especially when the condemned person is on death row for many years and has subjected the state to many appeals.

Once a convicted murderer is executed, there is zero chance that he will break out of prison or be released from prison and kill or injure another person. There have been instances in Canada and the United States were convicted murderers in both countries have murdered fellow inmates while serving their life sentences in prison.

Many years ago, a child killer in Quebec killed two young boys and was sentenced to hang. His sentence was commuted to life in prison. However, the parole board released him years later and after his release, he killed two more young boys. He was sentenced to life in prison but was later killed by the inmates. Had he been hanged for the murder of the first two boys, the second two boys would have been spared.

Back in 1979, a man in Peru was convicted of killing 360 children over a period of many years. He was sentenced to only 12 years in prison since that was the longest prison sentence that could be given for murder in Peru, no matter how many murders were committed.

In Norway, the mass killer who killed 77 persons when convicted can only be forced to serve 21 years in prison unless a court later states that he is still a danger to society. But suppose he is declared not be a further danger to society—will he be free to wreak more terror on society?  

In closing, I want to say that although I am against capital punishment solely for the reason that an innocent person may be executed, I am for capital punishment if the evidence against the murderer is so heinous and is conclusive that there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the murderer really is guilty. This is why every step should be undertaken to make sure that the murderer is given a fair trial and that the evidence against the murderer is unquestionably valid. Unless the murderers were insane and really didn’t know that what they were doing and that what they were doing was wrong, then they should forfeit their lives for extinguishing the lives of their victims.

If the governor of Montana spares the life of Ronald Allen Smith and he is subsequently incarcerated for the remainder of his life in prison, what guarantee does anyone have that sometime during the remainder of this killer’s life, he won’t kill again? Anyone that kills just to see what it is like is too much of a risk to allow him to mingle amongst members of society, even when those members of society are prison inmates.

If he spares this man’s life, what is to stop him from applying for a transfer to a Canadian prison? For that request to be granted, it would require the approval of both the Canadian and the State government’s approval. That is unlikely to happen because the authorities in Montana would be aware that once in Canada, Smith could apply for parole. If he was convicted in Canada and was serving his life sentence in Canada, he would be eligible to apply for his parole after having served 25 years in custody. Smith has been in custody at least 30 years so if he was transferred to a Canadian prison, he would be eligible to apply for parole. Even if he did, I am not convinced he would get it. But who knows for sure that he wouldn’t get it? That is why I am convinced that such a transfer wouldn’t be approved by the State of Montana. 

Smith cannot apply for commutation to the president of the United States as that power is given to the president only if the applicant was convicted of a federal offence. Smith was convicted of two state offences.

Smith was also convicted of kidnapping but the Federal jurisdiction over kidnapping extends to the following situations: (1) kidnapping in which the victim is willfully transported in interstate or foreign commerce; (2) kidnapping within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; (3) kidnapping within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; (4) kidnapping in which the victim is a foreign official, an internationally protected person, or an official guest as those terms are defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1116(b); (5) kidnapping in which the victim is a Federal officer or employee designated in 18 U.S.C. §  1114; and (6) international parental kidnapping in which the victim is a child under the age of 16 years. This means that the president can’t commute Smith’s sentence for kidnapping as that offence to which he was convicted of was a state offence and not a federal offence.    

The International Court of Justice acts as a world court. The Court has a dual jurisdiction. It decides, in accordance with international law, disputes of a legal nature that are submitted to it by States (jurisdiction in contentious cases); and it gives advisory opinions on legal questions at the request of the organs of the United Nations or specialized agencies authorized to make such a request (advisory jurisdiction). Applying to that court is not an option for Smith.

 There are no more options for Smith to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The decision to commute or not to commute is entirely in the hands of the governor of Montana and he will decided after he hears from the Montana Board of Pardons. If I was the governor of that State, the decision I would make and the speed in which I would make it would be no different then when I see a mosquito land on the skin of my arm. SPLAT.

Death is a just consequence to this man who asks for mercy for committing his murders when this sniveling wretch refused to give it to the two men he killed after they cried for mercy. He is entitled to as much mercy as an offending mosquito gets when it lands on your skin.

UPDATE (May 22, 2012) 

The Montana Board of Pardons has recommended against allowing Ronald Smith to live the rest of his life in prison. The final decision rests with the governor of Montana. He hasn't made his decision yet as of today. 

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