Canadian Man on Montana Death Row Exhausts Appeals

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of the only known Canadian on death row in the United States.

Ronald Allen Smith, of Red Deer, Alberta, was down to the final appeal of his death sentence in Montana. His case, which the Helena Independent Record says was declined Tuesday without the high court giving a reason, will go back to a Montana court to set an execution date. That means Smith’s last hope will lie with Brian Schweitzer, the state’s Democratic governor.

The 52-year-old Smith, who has argued he had ineffective counsel, was convicted in 1983 of fatally shooting Browning cousins Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, while he was high on drugs and alcohol. At the time of the 1982 deaths, Smith was 25 years old and had crossed the Canadian border on foot the previous day with two friends and a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle.

Prosecutors said he robbed the cousins and shot them execution-style in the woods near East Glacier.

Canadian officials have requested clemency for Smith, but Schweitzer said last week the wishes of the victims’ families also carry weight.

The governor could not be reached for comment Wednesday, nor could Smith’s attorney, Greg Jackson of Helena. Both men were out of town.

Smith’s case will be sent back to Flathead County District Court in Kalispell, where a judge will set an execution date. He will then have 10 days to file an application with the Board of Pardons seeking executive clemency from Schweitzer.

The governor’s decision could cap a legal battle that has been waged for several decades.

Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of deliberate homicide, as well as two counts of aggravated kidnapping. In February 1983, he was offered a plea agreement that called for a term of 110 years in prison, which he rejected in favor of a death sentence.

But Smith changed his mind in 1984 and has been fighting his death sentence ever since. His appeal took the case to the Montana Supreme Court in 1986, which upheld the death penalty. He also requested that the U.S. Supreme Court review the case, but that was denied.

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