Canadian wants off Montana's death row

Feb. 23, 2012 at 2:11 PM
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OTTAWA, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The only Canadian on death row in the United States says he's disappointed his appeal for help to his government in Ottawa got a lukewarm response.

Ronald Smith, 54, is the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge for the 1982 execution-style shooting deaths of two Blackfoot Indians who stopped to pick him up as he was hitchhiking. He was arrested three weeks later and during his sentencing, asked the judge for the death sentence.

However, the Alberta native told Postmedia News in a telephone interview Wednesday he had sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking for help in his clemency hearing to commute his death sentence to life in prison.

Smith said a return letter he got from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird didn't hold much promise of swaying Montana's justice department, as it began with a distancing caution that Canada was under order by its Federal Court to act, although the government "does not sympathize with violent crime."

"Obviously, they said that they were backing the petition, but just the substance of the letter -- they left little doubt that they were being forced to do it," Smith said.

Smith has prepared a 19-page brief to present at a clemency hearing in May to commute his death sentence.

If denied, he will be subject to lethal injection later this year, the report said.

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