Friday, May 9, 2008

Montana: Canada and the Death Penalty

Ronald Allen Smith, a native of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, was sentenced to death in March 1983 after he was found guilty of shooting two men in the back of the head just after they had offered him a ride while hitchhiking. Smith later said that he did it "to find out what it would be like to kill somebody." He also accepted his death sentence as an appropriate fate, but then changed his mind and engaged in a spirited round of appeals.

For years, Canada has lobbied foreign governments to show mercy to its citizens when they face the death penalty, requesting commutations of sentence (to life in prison) or that prisoners be returned to Canada to serve their term there. Canada got rid of the death penalty for its own citizens in 1976. Smith is the only Canadian on death row in the United States but, in November of 2007, the government of Canada announced a change in policy. It would not seek clemency for Smith. Today, however, a report at notes:
Montana's governor told a top Canadian consular official last year that he was willing to consider commuting the death sentence of Alberta-born killer Ronald Smith - the only Canadian on death row in the U.S. - and transfer him to a Canadian prison if Canada would guarantee he'd be kept behind bars for at least five years. The revelation is contained in briefing notes prepared in November for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and released on Friday after an Access to Information request by Canwest News Service.
As of now, no execution date has been set for Smith. See report here.

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