Ronald Smith is led into the courthouse on May 2,2012 in Deer Lodge, Montana. The 30-year legal process began after a Montana judge sentenced Smith to death for killing cousins Harvey Mad Man and Thomas Running Rabbit in 1982.
Credits: STUART DRYDEN/Calgary Sun/QMI AGENCY
Convicted Canadian killer Ronald Smith should be denied clemency, a Montana parole board recommends.
In a letter to Gov. Brian Schweitzer Monday, the Board of Pardons and Parole unanimously recommended against granting a final clemency bid to prevent the Albertan's execution.
Smith, 54, is Canada's only inmate on death row, convicted of killing cousins Thomas Running Rabbit Jr. and Harvey Mad Man Jr. in August 1982.
Don Vernay, Smith's lawyer, said the decision was disappointing but not surprising -- he called the process "a sham."
"He could have showed up at that hearing with a halo over his head and they still would've wanted to kill him," Vernay told QMI Agency.
Vernay said Smith has shown exceptional behaviour for 30 years, earned a college degree and raised a family from behind bars, but believes the parole board has wanted his client dead just as long.
"Since 1983, since he made those unfortunate remarks -- since his lawyer let him go ahead and request the death penalty rather than get his head shrunk like normal people would do," he said. "He had some emotional problems, but he was also coming down from drugs, alcohol ... he was completely and totally isolated, his lawyer (at that time) didn't give a crap about him (and) the thought, 'You're going to spend 100 years in prison'."
During his emotionally charged clemency hearing May 2, Smith apologized and openly wept in a Deer Lodge, Mont., courtroom packed with families of the men he executed after they offered him a ride.
At the hearing, a cousin of the dead man called Smith an "animal" and the "scum of the earth," and others testified he was a calculated killer who must pay for his crime.
Smith's family issued tearful pleas to have forgiveness and save a changed man's life.
While acknowledging the emotional testimony was "compelling and heartfelt," and even unprecedented to the board, the board's ruling said the evaluation of Smith's merits for applying for clemency and the recommendation is based on the same criteria used in every case.
"Ultimately our decision was based on our observations and evaluation of Mr. Smith himself during his hearing, considering his petition, all written and verbal testimony presented, Mr. Smith's own statements and testimony and finally, his response to questions from the board members," it states.
Family of the victims feel the decision was fair and are hopeful the state's governor will make the right decision as a result.
"(The board) took into account everything and made a decision," said Gabriel Grant, uncle of the victims.
"The family wanted justice, (and we're) still awaiting it. This is a step closer."
Grant noted his is not the only family affected by Smith's actions.
"Several of us testified and we all said that the family had no ill feelings against (Smith's) family," he said. "They were victims like we were victims.
"They have been equally victims of his actions and the sorrows -- it's just a little different avenue of sorrow that they're feeling."