[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MONT., MD., OHIO., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 2 02:29:06 CDT 2007
Ottawa won't seek clemency for death-row inmate in U.S.
The Conservative government has ended a long-standing federal policy of
automatically seeking clemency for any Canadian facing the death penalty
in a foreign country, CanWest News Service has learned.
The decision is likely to seal the fate of Alberta-born Ronald Allen
Smith, the only Canadian on death row in the United States, who faces a
lethal injection in Montana for killing 2 men in 1982.
Canada's sudden reversal follows a CanWest News story published Saturday
in which Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he has been under pressure
from Canadian officials to commute Smith's death sentence, pronounced in
1982 after he admitted murdering two aboriginal Americans -- Harvey Mad
Man, 24, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20 -- during a drunken road trip south
of the Canada-U.S. border in 1982.
On Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs told CanWest News it was
backing Smith's bid for clemency because "there is no death penalty in
Canada and the government of Canada does not support the death penalty."
The statement added that: "It is the policy of the government of Canada to
seek clemency, on humanitarian grounds, for Canadians sentenced to death
in foreign countries."
But the government's position changed this week. On Monday, in response to
questions about Canada's efforts to secure clemency for Smith and a
possible transfer to a Canadian prison, a spokeswoman for Public Safety
Minister Stockwell Day said "there are no ongoing efforts by our
government to seek a commutation of the death penalty for Mr. Smith."
Then, after two days of requests for a clarification of Canada's policy,
the Department of Foreign Affairs responded late yesterday with a
statement that the government will not, in fact, press the U.S. to save
Smith's life. "We are not going to seek clemency in cases in democratic
countries, like the United States, where there has been a fair trial," a
Foreign Affairs spokesperson stated.
The abrupt change in policy comes at a critical time in the Smith case.
His lawyer -- who has exhausted all appeal options at the state level and
expects a ruling within months on Smith's final appeal in federal courts
-- said last week that Canada's efforts on behalf of his client are
probably Smith's best chance to avoid execution.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution this week to a
Mississippi inmate on death row until the country's top judges rule on
whether the lethal injection method of execution -- used in Montana and
numerous other death-penalty states -- constitutes "cruel and unusual
Yesterday, Schweitzer met with the families of Smith's victims, who have
always argued that the Canadian inmate should be executed, regardless of
his home country's wishes.
The meeting was arranged after the Montana governor admitted last week he
is undecided about whether to commute Smith's sentence because of Canada's
(source: CanWest News)
Victims' families urge governor not to commute killer's sentence
The families of 2 young Browning men murdered 25 years ago tearfully urged
Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday not to send the killer back to his
The murderer, Ronald Smith, was sentenced to death and is the only
Canadian currently on death row in the United States. Canada does not have
the death penalty and Schweitzer said recently that Canadian officials
have contacted him about Smiths case.
Many who spoke with the governor said they were not "out for blood," as
one Blackfeet official put it, but concerned Smith might be released if he
was returned to Canada.
The men's families and representatives of the Blackfeet Nation filled the
governor's formal meeting room and spoke movingly for almost 2 hours about
the void the double murders left in their families and in the Blackfeet
community, where the two cousins were respected as role models and leaders
in the local Roman Catholic parish.
"They always say there's a hell on Earth and if there is, I've been
there," said Katrina Running Rabbit, the now-elderly mother of Thomas
Smith said at the time that he shot Running Rabbit, 20, and Harvey Mad
Man, 23, in the back of their heads because he wanted to know what it
would be like to kill someone, said Ed Corrigan, Flathead county attorney,
who was also at Wednesday's meeting. Smith later testified that killing
the men was "no big deal."
Running Rabbit, who had 3 small children, and Mad Man, were playing pool
in East Glacier in August of 1982 when Smith and 2 other Canadians
hitchhiked into town and came into the pool hall, Corrigan said. The
Canadians eventually left and began hitchhiking toward Kalispell. The 2
Blackfeet cousins later drove up on the trio and decided to give them a
ride because they recognized them.
Just over Marias Pass in Flathead County, the group stopped so Running
Rabbit and Mad Man could go to the bathroom. Smith followed them into the
woods and shot both at close range with a .22 rifle, Corrigan said. The
Canadians then drove off in the cousins' car and were eventually arrested
Local searchers found the men's bodies after 2 months of looking. They
were "desecrated," said Thomas Running Rabbit, Sr., who was with the
searchers when his son's body was found.
Smith, 50, of Red Deer, Alberta, initially pleaded guilty to the murders
and asked for execution. Later, he changed his mind and has been fighting
for years against his death sentence. 3 different judges have upheld the
sentence, said Mark Fowler, an assistant attorney general handling the
case for Montana. Smith's case is now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco. Fowler said he didn't expect a decision from the
court for months.
So far, Schweitzer said, no Canadian official has formally asked him to
either commute Smith's sentence or transfer the inmate back to his native
country. The governor told families that the case, as of now, is like "a
pick-up truck in neutral at the top of a hill." It's just coasting toward
a conclusion, which at present, appears to be Smiths eventual execution.
Schweitzer told the families that he wouldn't forget their story, but for
now, he had no decision to make.
Representatives from the Consulate General of Canada in Denver did not
return phone calls seeking a comment for this story.
Smith is 1 of 2 men awaiting death in Montana. As with all death sentence
inmates, he is housed in the maximum security wing at the Montana State
Prison, said Bob Anez, a Department of Corrections spokesman. That part of
the prison is sparse, with inmates spending all but an hour and a half of
their day in a small, single cell. They are only allowed outside in an
interior, cage-like enclosure surrounded by walls on four sides, with bars
Smith spends much of his time watching TV and walking in his cell,
according to Linda Moodry, a prison spokeswoman.
Katrina Running Rabbit looked down as she sat next to the governor and
wrenchingly described the horror of her oldest childs murder. She was
initially so distraught, she couldn't remember her own name and prayed for
years to be free of the hate she had for Smith.
"I've tried real hard not to remember those days, those gruesome days,"
she told the governor, adding that she did not come to Schweitzer seeking
violence and, after many years, has learned to forgive.
"Whatever you decide, whatever your decision is, I hope that it be good,"
she said. "I will be satisfied with whatever happens."
Others, including one of Mad Man's sisters, urged the governor not to
intervene in Smith's death sentence and allow the self-confessed murderer
to be put to death.
The Blackfeet Nation traditionally extended into Canada and Running Rabbit
has many relatives north of the border. Several of them were at
Wednesday's meeting and told Schweitzer that, as far as they were
concerned, Canada has no use for Smith, either.
"We certainly don't want him back in Canada," said Allan Running Rabbit,
of Canada's Siksika Nation, about an hours drive east of Calgary. Siksika
translates to "Blackfeet" in the Blackfeet language.
Jessica Running Rabbit, Thomas Running Rabbit's daughter, broke down as
she said had no memories of her father.
"We all graduated; we all went to college; we all have jobs and he missed
all of it because of Ronald Smith," she said. "I don't know if Im for the
death penalty, but I don't want (Smith) taken to Canada and released."
(source: Helena Independent Record)
Judge rejects request to toss out fingerprints----He 'respectfully'
disagrees with ruling barring them
An attorney for a man charged with murder in an armed robbery in the
Woodlawn area asked a judge yesterday to throw out fingerprint evidence in
what appears to be the first request of its kind since a Baltimore County
judge ruled that such evidence is too unreliable to be presented in a
death penalty trial.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh didn't wait to hear
prosecutors' arguments against excluding the fingerprint evidence before
turning down the defense attorney's request.
"I don't know that we have to have a hearing," the judge said.
Later, he said, "In this case, a jury is going to be the trier of the
Cavanaugh, who has developed a reputation for dispensing tough sentences
and tough comments to defendants, said he had read and "respectfully"
disagreed with the decision of Judge Susan M. Souder.
She ruled Oct. 19 that prosecutors in a capital murder case could not
offer at trial the fingerprint evidence that they say links a 23-year-old
Baltimore man to the fatal shooting of a Security Square Mall merchant
last year in the shopping center's parking lot.
In her 32-page decision, Souder characterized fingerprinting as "a
subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure that purports
to be infallible." The judge acknowledged the technique's nearly 100-year
record as a crime-solving tool but concluded that such history "does not
by itself support the decision to admit it."
Local and national experts characterized Souder's ruling as unprecedented
and predicted a flurry of similar requests from defense attorneys
challenging fingerprint evidence, which has long been considered a
mainstay of police work.
Prosecutors in Baltimore and in Baltimore County said yesterday that they
knew of no such challenges except the motion heard by Cavanaugh.
In that case, defense attorney Jane Loving told prosecutors late last week
that she intended to challenge the fingerprint evidence at the heart of
the murder case against her client, Kevin Banks.
"I think Judge Souder made some wonderful points," Loving said after
yesterday's hearing. "But [Cavanaugh] had her opinion in front of him, and
he just doesn't buy it."
Banks, 22, of West Baltimore was arrested in May after investigators
matched his fingerprints to seven latent prints left on the trunk and
windshield of a car parked at the scene of a fatal shooting in March.
Jamar Mackie, 24, was killed March 31 after he and two friends were robbed
by 2 men with a 9 mm handgun.
Witnesses told police that one of the robbers opened fire after Mackie and
a friend began to run. The gunman and his friend were chased by a pit bull
on the way back to their car, a burgundy Buick LeSabre, according to court
documents. Witnesses told police that the robber without the gun jumped
onto the trunk of a another car parked nearby to escape the dog.
Craig S. Schrott, a Baltimore County homicide detective, testified
yesterday at the pretrial hearing that the car was covered in dust and
that fresh fingerprints were clearly visible.
The prints lifted from the car - including a palm print - were not linked
to Banks until detectives in Baltimore questioned him about a nonfatal
shooting there 4 days before the Woodlawn homicide, Schrott said in court.
After finding that the city shooting involved men who fired at least 17
shots from two 9 mm handguns and fled in a burgundy Buick LeSabre, county
police asked their fingerprint analysts to compare the prints lifted from
the Woodlawn crime scene to those of the suspects in the city case. That's
when Banks' fingerprints were matched to those lifted from the dusty car,
Banks is not accused of firing a gun in the Woodlawn-area killing but is
charged, along with a co-defendant, with 1st-degree murder, armed robbery
and handgun offenses.
In declining to grant the defense attorney's request to bar the
presentation of the fingerprint evidence against Banks to a jury,
Cavanaugh mentioned the "abundance of cases" in Maryland in which judges
have upheld the reliability of such evidence.
Echoing a point raised in prosecutors' request to Souder to reconsider her
ruling, Cavanaugh compared fingerprints to X-rays.
"Do you want to attack them next?" the judge asked Loving, the defense
lawyer. "You can take X-rays to 3 different doctors and get 3 different
(source: The Baltimore Sun)
Court OKs death penalty hearings
County Common Pleas Judge James Burge can proceed with hearings on the
constitutionality of the lethal injection process used to execute
condemned inmates in Ohio, the states highest court ruled Wednesday.
In a 5-2 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Burge could proceed
with his review, despite objections from prosecutors and Ohio Attorney
General Marc Dann, who contend that the issue of its constitutionality
should only be dealt with after a conviction.
Burge said the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has yet to
comply with his order to turn over detailed information on the equipment,
drugs, process and training used in the states execution process that
defense attorneys have requested.
Burge agreed earlier this year to review whether the state's method of
executing prisoners violated the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual
punishment at the request of accused killers Ruben Rivera and Ronald
McCloud. Other accused murderers in the county have filed similar requests
with other county judges.
Jeff Gamso, the legal director of the Ohio chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union and an attorney for both Rivera and McCloud, praised the
decision. He said the state appears to be trying to keep its methods of
executing prisoners a secret.
"They're saying 'No, you can't know how we maintain the equipment,'" Gamso
said. "Why not? Whats the big secret? They think we're not allowed to
know. The people in Ohio, whose name they're executing people in, arent
allowed to know."
County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his position hasn't changed, despite
the Ohio Supreme Court ruling.
"We'll have to see what happens in the hearing, but our position is that
it's not ripe for consideration," he said.
Burge said he will proceed with the hearings despite the fact that the
U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the lethal injection process used in
Kentucky, which has created a virtual moratorium on executions throughout
Ohio law holds executions to a higher standard than the U.S. Constitution,
requiring that they be "quick and painless," Burge said, meaning he could
still prevent Rivera and McCloud from being executed no matter what the
U.S. Supreme Court decides.
"If the Supreme Court rules it's not cruel and unusual, I might decide
it's not painless and quick," Burge said.
Whatever Burge ends up deciding on the constitutionality of lethal
injection, his decision will likely be appealed and could reach the Ohio
Critics of the lethal injection process argue that the 3-drug cocktail
used in executions in Ohio, Kentucky and virtually every other state that
has lethal injection might not be an efficient killer. The drugs are
supposed to put the condemned inmate to sleep before paralyzing him and
inducing a heart attack.
But there's no guarantee that the inmate will remain unconscious
throughout the entire process and could die painfully, but remain
paralyzed and unable to cry out, the critics contend.
State officials argue that there's no evidence inmates have suffered
during their executions, which they have called constitutionally sound.
Will said lethal injection has already survived several legal challenges
in the courts.
Burge, a former defense attorney, has said while he's torn in his position
on the death penalty, he could impose it if a jury decided the punishment
fit the crime. In April, Burge pushed his former client, James Filiaggi,
to make a last-minute push to avoid execution, a move that ultimately
failed to win a stay for Filiaggi, who had been sentenced to death for
killing his ex-wife.
Filiaggi had sought to join a federal lawsuit, similar to the one being
considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, that was brought by several inmates
on Ohio's death row, which is still pending.
ALABAMA----2 new execution dates set
Court sets new execution date----Arthur scheduled to be put to death 6th
The Alabama Supreme Court has set Dec. 6 as the new execution date for
Tommy Douglas Arthur.
Arthur was sentenced to die for the 1982 shooting death of Troy Wicker, of
Muscle Shoals. He has been on death row for almost 25 years
. Arthur's scheduled execution was one of 2 set Wednesday by the court.
The other is for James Harvey Callahan, of Calhoun County, set for Jan.
31, the Supreme Court said.
Both Arthur and Callahan are in Holman Prison in Atmore.
Gov. Bob Riley on Sept. 27 stayed Arthur's execution, set for that day,
pending a review of the state's lethal injection protocol, a review that
now has been completed.
Arthur still has federal appellate reviews remaining, including to the
U.S. Supreme Court. That court did not issue a public comment about the
case after reviewing motions Friday.
Arthur's attorney, Suhana Han, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.
Arthur, 65, is challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection as a
method of execution, saying it's cruel and unusual punishment.
Alabama uses a series of drugs to first render the inmate unconscious
before administering the drug that causes death. The drugs administered
are sodium pentothal, Pavulon and potassium chloride.
The new lethal injection protocol requires attendants to try to determine
an inmate's consciousness by calling the inmate by name, by pinching an
arm and brushing an eyelash.
There are now 3 pending federal appellate court challenges to lethal
injection including the one in Alabama.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the lethal injection execution
planned that day in Mississippi for Earl Wesley Berry for a 1987 murder.
The court stayed Berry's execution so it can consider looking at the
underlying appeal by his attorneys, who say lethal injection is
In addition, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week agreed to
sit as an entire court and review a request for a stay of execution by
Alabama inmate Daniel Lee Seibert.
A 3-judge panel of the 11th Circuit on Oct. 24 granted a stay of execution
but Alabama Attorney General Troy King asked the entire court to consider
rejecting the stay. A court clerk's spokesman said a meeting date hasn't
The U.S. Supreme Court also said it wants to look at a case in Kentucky
that challenges that state's lethal injection.
Clay Crenshaw, the head of the attorney general's capital litigation
section, said Wednesday he's unsure whether the 2 issues will affect
Arthur's existing appeal. He said the Supreme Court has not indicated if
it will issue blanket stays of execution for the lethal injection issue.
(source: The Times Daily)
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