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Board Says “NO” to Clemency for Ronald Smith

The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole denied clemency for Ronald Smith on Monday, saying his death sentence should stand. Of course, the final decision will be made by Montana Governor Schweitzer, the only person allowed to grant clemency.

The Governor would not specify when we should expect his decision.

The board said they based the decision on testimony from the hearing in Deer Lodge on May 2nd as well as “observation and evaluation of Mr. Smith himself during his hearing.”

Smith was convicted of a double murder of Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man Jr., both of Browning. At the time of his trial he asked for the death penalty.

The two Browning men gave Smith and two other men a ride after meeting them in an East Glacier Park Bar. Smith, who said he was high on drugs and alcohol, later made the two Browning cousins stop the car, marched them into the woods and shot them. Running Rabbit was 20 years old at the time and Mad Man was 23.

He is one of only two men on death row in Montana and two Canadian citizens known to be on death row in the United States. The other Canadian, on death row in Missouri, has dual American-Canadian citizenship.

Smith has exhausted his criminal appeals and is currently the lead plaintiff in a 2008 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s lethal injection execution process. A trial on the lawsuit is scheduled this September before state District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena.

Smith’s lawyer, Greg Jackson, said Monday that the board’s decision is “obviously very disappointing,” and that board members ignored “entirely unrebutted” testimony at the May 2 hearing that Smith had become a changed man in prison.

“Frankly, that is what clemency is based on,” he said. “It’s incomprehensible that the board could have issued a unanimous decision against clemency.”

Gabe Grant of Browning, an uncle of both victims and often a spokesman for the victims’ families, could not be reached for comment Monday.

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