Showing posts with label Montana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montana. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Montana: Headlines v. Intelligent Understanding

Gov. Bullock
The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) cannot help itself. "Montana Governor Grants Clemency to Man Convicted of Rape" is such a great headline. It catches the eye. It sells papers. It is the kind of headline that Governors loathe. Consequently, it is the kind of headline that keeps people in jails and prisons who belong elsewhere, and allows the cloud of post-conviction to hang over the heads of persons who have "served their time" (if they ever even had any) and prolongs and intensifies their efforts to reincorporate into society as law-abiding, productive citizens.

The Governor has pardoned a rapist ! OMG !

As it turns out, the conviction was over two decades ago, when Russell Foster was 19-years old and his "victim" was 15. Both Foster and his "victim" said the crime was actually consensual. What is more, after Foster was released from prison, they married (now for 17 years) and now have four children together. That's why the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole was smart enough to recommend clemency. How utterly stupid it would have been for Governor Steve Bullock to act otherwise!

So, what's with the headline? Why not these kinds of headlines:

Governor Follows Board Recommendation

Mercy Well Deserved

Clemency Sees What Law Cannot

Board, Governor Pursue Justice

Board, Governor Temper Justice with Mercy / Common Sense

See story here.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Montana: Recommendation for Clemency

The State's Board of Pardons and Parole voted unanimously to grant executive clemency to Russell Delano Foster who was "convicted of having sex without consent who then married the female and raised a family."   Great Falls Tribune reports:
If approved by the governor, it would be the second time House Bill 43 has been used to grant clemency. Passed in 2015, the bill gives the governor final authority over clemency requests from people convicted of crimes. The governor also would be able to waive fines, lessen a sentence or pardon someone. 
Foster was convicted in 2000, when he was 19 and his victim (and future wife) was 15. They married in 2004, and now have four children. The petition was first sent a request to the Board in 2012 and were denied. See story here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Montana: Beach Granted Clemency !

NBC News reports Barry Beach has "walked out of the Montana State Prison a free man a little after noon MST today." Montana Governor Steve Bullock granted clemency after Beach had served more than 32 years in prison for a 1979 murder. He has long maintained his innocence but was turned down by Montana's Board of Pardons and Paroles last year. The state legislature then passed a law allowing the Governor to pardon even if the Board denies an application. See story here.

See our own previous coverage of his somewhat bizarre case here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Montana: The Case of Barry Beach, Again

Barry Beach
Bob Brown, a Republican, former Montana Secretary of State and Montana state Senate president and Jim Elliott, a Democrat, who is former chair of the Montana Democratic Party and Montana state senator have penned an editorial calling on the Governor to pardon Barry Beach. They summarize the case as follows:

In 1983, the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's office in Louisiana got Beach to confess to the 1979 murder of 17-year old classmate Kimberly Nees. Beach also "confessed" to committing three Louisiana murders.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Montana: Pardon Power to the Governor?

The Montana Standard reports Rep. Margie McDonald (D-Billings) has introduced House Bill 43A " "to allow Montana's governor to grant clemency to prisoners even if the state parole board recommends against it." It is reported that the governor "would assume final authority over clemency requests" and be able to "waive fines, lessen a sentence or pardon someone. "

The State's parole board "drew increased scrutiny" when Gov. Steve Bullock supported a commutation of the life sentence of Barry Beach, but the board "declined to forward a clemency recommendation." See story here.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Toronto Star: Commute !

The Toronto Star is calling on Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to commute the death sentence of Ronald Smith (a Canadian) to life in prison. Smith says he is “horrendously sorry” for the double murders he committed and his lawyer says he is a "changed man.” Relatives of the victims, however, continue to see Smith as “the scum of the earth” and “an animal.”

The Star says Gov. Schweitzer should "let grace and mercy temper justice" because "the argument that the state must kill to uphold the sanctity of life has never been a strong one" (despite the fact that 43 states have the death penalty). The Star notes Amnesty International calls the death penalty “the ultimate denial of human rights” and a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Says the Star:
Capital punishment reduces the state to the same moral level as the most violent criminals, piling violence upon violence. It is used, disproportionately, by repressive regimes and against the poor and marginalized. Mistakes cannot be remedied. And the deterrent value is minimal, arguably no more than a life sentence. We have come to expect better of ourselves.
Finally, the Star notes Smith was "an abused youth" who was "drunk and high on hallucinogens when he committed his crimes" so his "his judgment was impaired when he actively asked for the death penalty." See entire editorial here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Montana: Smith Makes Last Plea

54-year old Ronald Smith, the only Canadian on death row in the United States, will be begging the Montana Parole Board to commute his sentence to life in prison. He was sentenced to death in 1983 after he shot two cousins in the head. The board will listen to testimony from more than two dozen witnesses and Smith will testify himself. It is reported that a document "inadvertently released" by the board last month "showed that parole board staff is recommending that Smith's request be rejected."

The ultimate decision, however, lies with Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who "has told the family of the victims that he will think of them, and their desire to see the death penalty carried out, in making any decision."

Smith argues his is "a far different person" than he was at the time of the murder, when he was 23 years old. He also says he was "heavily intoxicated" that day and "doesn't have a strong recollection of the men he killed."

The Canadian government supports clemency for Smith. The Montana attorney general's office, the Blackfeet Tribal Council, and most of the family members of the victim from that area are in favor of carrying out the death penalty.  is also defend the original conviction. See story here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Montana: Gubernatorial Debate

The Great Falls Tribune reports the following with regard to the contest between Democrat Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Republican challenger Roy Brown and Libertarian Stan Jones.
Jones said the United States has become a police state that incarcerates its citizens at a higher rate than any other country in the world. If elected, Jones said his first task will be to review the state's prison population and pardon any drug offender who has not committed a violent crime.
See story here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Montana: No. No Deal

Gov. Brian Schweitzer is now denying previous reports (here) suggesting that there was something like a commutation deal offered to Canada in 1997 on behalf of convicted double murderer Ronald Smith. Schweitzer says, "Nothing was put on the table, nor did I offer anything." He also explains that he has "listened to a lot of folks" and "explained to them" that he cannot act "unilaterally" in the matter. For sure, in Montana, requests for commutation of sentence are filed after an execution date has been set and they have to be filed with the state Board of Pardons and Parole. After public hearings, recommendations are made to the governor. See more details on the story here.

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 Canada.com 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 Canada.com report here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Montana: Rejection (Background)

On March 16, PardonPower posted material here on the case of Barry Beach, who was charged with murder in 1979 and sentenced to 100 years in prison. Tonight, Dateline NBC aired a broadcast on his case as well. The Dateline report can be found here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Montana: Rejection

On Friday, the Associated Press reported on 45-year old Barry Beach, who was convicted of the 1979 killing of a 17-year old girl on Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The conviction was obtained as a result of a confession he gave to Louisiana authorities while in jail for an unrelated crime. Beach is serving a 100-year prison term without the possiblity of parole, but now argues that the confession was "coerced." As he puts it, "I was so scared I would have said anything to get away from them. I was 20 years old. I just wanted to get out of that interrogation room.” Beach also insists that there is testimony from others that connects a group of girls to the murder. For example, Carl Fourstar testified (at Beach's clemency hearing) that a former co-worker confessed that she had gotten away with the murder. So, Beach is seeking a new trial based on testimony that the Board of Pardons and Parole calls "double and triple hearsay." This was the same body that rejected Beach's petition for executive clemency. See some background on the case here and here and here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Montana: Request

Ronald Allen Smith is sitting on Montana's death row because he pleaded guilty to double homicide in 1983 and asked to be sentenced to death. Just three weeks before his plea, Smith turned down an offer of life imprisonment in return for a guilty plea. After he began serving his sentence, however, Smith changed his mind and his death sentence was overturned three times before is was reimposed. In 2005, Smith's lawyer and the government of Canada began actively negotiating to win clemency from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D). However, Canada (which originally approached Smith for assistance) halted the negotiation effort on Oct. 31, 2007, and the 50-year old Smith is now asking the Federal Court of Canada to force the federal government to continue help him in the search for a commutation of sentence. Story here and here.

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