Please pray for Ronald Smith!
A Canadian facing execution in Montana has told relatives of the two men he shot and killed that he doesn't expect them to forgive him, although he is “horrendously sorry” for what he did.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/canadian-on-us-death-row-breaks-down-at-clemency-hearing/article2420260/singlepage/#articlecontent
Ronald Smith also told the families at a clemency hearing Wednesday that he understands the misery he has caused them.
“I do understand the pain and suffering I've put you through,” he said. “It was never my intent to cause any suffering for anybody. I wish there was some way I could take it back. I can't.
“All I can do is hope to move forward with my life and become a better person.”
Mr. Smith is fighting for his life before the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole. He has been on death row ever since he admitted to shooting two young men near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982.
Earlier during the hearing, Mr. Smith broke down and cried when his sister, Rita Duncan, read a letter he had written to their mother after her death last year.
Mr. Smith covered his eyes, brushed away tears and was patted on the shoulder by his lawyer.
Ms. Duncan said although she shut Mr. Smith out of her life for years, he has always loved her and she is proud to be his sister.
“I honestly do not know what I would do without my brother by my side. I can't bear the thought of losing another brother and I'm sorry if this sounds selfish. I don't know what I would do without him,” said Ms. Duncan, her voice quavering.
She asked people in the packed courtroom to put themselves in her place.
“Wouldn't you want grace and mercy to be shown to him when he's done everything in his power to change himself and become the man he is today?” she asked.
“Mercy is not about getting something that we deserve. Grace is getting something that we do not deserve, so today I am here pleading for both mercy and grace for my brother Ron.”
Mr. Smith, 54, has been on death row since shooting Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man Jr. near East Glacier, Mont., 30 years ago.
Originally from Red Deer, Alta., he was 24 and had been taking LSD and drinking when he and Rodney Munro marched the two men into the woods, where Mr. Munro stabbed one of them and Mr. Smith shot them both in the head.
It was a cold-blooded crime. They wanted to steal the men's car, but Mr. Smith also said at the time he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone. He asked for and received the death penalty. Later he changed his mind and has been fighting for his life ever since.
Mr. Smith is asking the board to recommend his death sentence be commuted.
His daughter, Carmen Blackburn, said she didn't know the man her father was back then but she knows who he has become.
“This situation is not easy on anybody involved, but I can only hope that everyone can look into their hearts and listen to the real facts about my dad, because I truly don't know what I would do without him in my life,” she said, crying as she spoke.
“I've seen a man who has many regrets about the things that he has done. He shows his remorse in his eyes and in his voice and every time we talk. I wish I could take away that pain.”
A psychologist told the hearing that Mr. Smith is a model prisoner and poses little threat to the people around him. Dr. Bowman Smelko said Mr. Smith has shown improvement during his time in prison and his cognitive ability has jumped 16 points from low to high average.
“He was not exposed to drugs and alcohol. He was not exposed to chaos. He has demonstrated significant change in attitude, thoughts and behaviour,” Dr. Smelko said.
The hearing also heard that Mr. Smith is well-liked by prison guards.
Joe Warner, who has now retired, was there the day Mr. Smith arrived at the prison 30 years ago. Over the years, he said, Mr. Smith showed him nothing but respect and he considers Mr. Smith a friend. Once a proponent of the death penalty, Mr. Warner said he now feels differently.
“I've kind of changed my mind,” said Mr. Warner, who added that getting to know Mr. Smith contributed to that.
Mr. Warner drew disapproving murmurs from the families of the victims when he said he would like to see Smith eligible for parole some day.
The uncle of Mr. Smith's two victims says 30 years is too long to wait for justice and Montana authorities should execute Mr. Smith.
William Talks About says the families searched up and down the highway for 30 days after the men disappeared — only for the bodies to be found near their home.
He told Mr. Smith's clemency hearing that the young men were loved very much.
Tom Esch, former Flathead County prosecutor, was the first state witness. He said that Mr. Smith smuggled across the border the rifle he used to kill Mr. Mad Man Jr. and Mr. Running Rabbit.
Mr. Esch said doing so today would make Mr. Smith an international terrorist.
He also said the loss of the two young men devastated their families.
The hearing is also expected to hear from a Canadian consular official based in Denver who plans to read a statement from the government asking the board to spare Smith's life. Ottawa had already written a letter favouring clemency, but critics say the government's support has been tepid.
The board is to give its final recommendation the week of May 21.
After decades of appeals, the clemency hearing is Mr. Smith's last chance to make a case before the board as to why he should not be executed. Once the parole board delivers its recommendation, Mr. Smith's fate will ultimately end up in the hands of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat whose term in office runs out in November.
“It's got to be over. Thankfully we've hit this point in time where there's no more long drawn-out waiting. We're going to get it finished one way or the other,” Mr. Smith said in March in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“It's time. It would be nice to keep it going for my family's sake, but once the decision is made — and if it goes against me — it's over. There's nothing else to it.”
Smith lawyer Greg Jackson told the hearing in his opening arguments that the bid for clemency isn't meant to minimize the “terrible crime” that Mr. Smith is guilty of, but “is a request for mercy.”
Mr. Jackson said Mr. Smith is not the same man who killed the young men.
“He is a changed man” said Mr. Jackson. “He has reformed his life. He has expressed deep remorse and deep regret.
“He has a life that is worth preserving.”