CANADA REFUSES CLEMENCY FOR MAN ON DEATH ROW IN MONTANA
September 29, 2008: a¬†decision by the Conservative government to stop seeking clemency for a Canadian man on death row in the United States was arbitrary and unfair, his defense lawyer said.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that allowing a convicted killer to return to Canada would send the wrong message to Canadians. Harper is proposing stricter anti-crime initiatives as he fights for re-election next¬†month.
Ronald Smith was sentenced to die in 1983 after he pleaded guilty to killing two men in cold blood during a drug and alcohol-fuelled trip across Montana with two¬†friends.
Defense lawyer Lorne Waldman told a federal court judge Monday that the government's position is hurting efforts to have the governor of Montana commute Ronald Smith's¬†sentence.
"This is a matter of life and death for Mr. Smith. Everyone knows his best hope is for clemency,"
Before Harper won a minority Tory government in 2006, the former Liberal government had promised to pursue clemency for any Canadian sentenced to die¬†abroad.
"We evaluate these on a case-by-case basis," Harper said during a recent campaign event in Ottawa. "The facts here indicate to us that intervention would not be appropriate, particularly when the governor linked any clemency to repatriation of Mr.¬†Smith."
Waldman said without explanation, the government decided last fall to abandon its decade-long fight to save Smith from a lethal¬†injection.
Documents show Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer was open to commuting the sentence if Smith were repatriated to¬†Canada.
Smith still has one more appeal pending in the U.S. before a date for his execution could be set, although his lawyers say that could happen in the¬†spring.
Smith's legal team wants Canada's Federal Court Judge Robert Barnes to order the government to resume fighting to have the sentence¬†commuted.
Government lawyers were slated to make their case for dismissing the suit on¬†September 23. (Sources: Ap, 29/09/2008)