CALGARY - The Canadian government has sent a letter to Montana's governor requesting that he spare the life of death row inmate Ronald Smith.
The Dec. 10 letter from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to Montana's outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer is almost identical to one sent to the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole a year ago prior to the Alberta man's clemency hearing. It makes it clear that the Federal Court ordered the federal government to support Smith's case for clemency.
"The government of Canada requests that you grant clemency to Mr. Smith on humanitarian grounds," writes Baird. "The government of Canada does not sympathize with violent crime and this letter should not be construed as reflecting a judgment on Mr. Smith's conduct."
Smith has been on death row since admitting he murdered Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Madman Jr. near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982.
The Harper government initially refused to back Smith's calls for clemency, saying he was convicted in a democratic country. But the Federal Court ruled Ottawa must follow a long-standing practice of lobbying on behalf of Canadians sentenced to death in other countries.
One of Smith's lawyers, Don Vernay, wasn't sure why the government sent the second letter to Schweitzer. A spokesman for Baird's office responded to questions by reiterating the government's position in the letter.
"They just wanted to, I guess, put their two cents in which didn't really say too much, did it? It's the same lukewarm letter," Vernay said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Monday.
"I guess they just want to go on the record because they're probably like everybody else wondering what's going on here? 'We should make sure we get on the record just to appease the masses in Canada who are against the death penalty.'"
The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole recommended against granting clemency to Smith. The matter is now in the hands of Schweitzer, a two-term Democrat, who is to officially leave office in a matter of weeks.
Schweitzer hasn't commented since the clemency hearing, but earlier indicated he didn't want to leave a decision up to his successor. He did talk about death penalty cases in an interview with The Canadian Press last year.
"You're not talking to a governor who is jubilant about these things,'' he said from his office in Helena. "It feels like you're carrying more than the weight of an Angus bull on your shoulders.''
Vernay said he remains hopeful, but is disappointed that Schweitzer still hasn't met personally with Smith.
"I hope that he gets a chance to meet Mr. Smith before he does decide whether to uphold the recommendation of the board," Vernay said.
"We're a little disappointed that he hasn't met with our client. The Smith family came down here to meet with him. We'd all like to hear something one way or the other for everybody involved."
Smith, 55, and an accomplice were both high on drugs when they marched Running Rabbit and Mad Man Jr. into the woods and shot them in the head. It was a cold-blooded crime. They wanted to steal the men's car, but Smith also said he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.
He had been taking 30 to 40 hits of LSD and consuming between 12 and 18 beers a day at the time. He refused a plea deal that would have seen him avoid death row and spend the rest of his life in prison. Three weeks later, he pleaded guilty. He asked for and was given a death sentence.
Smith later had a change of heart and has since had a number of execution dates set and then put off.
His execution remains in limbo because of a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union on the methods Montana uses to carry out its lethal injections.
A ruling by Montana District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock in September declared the state's executions unconstitutional and placed any future executions on hold. Sherlock is to hear arguments next year on whether the state can make changes to it protocols without going to the legislature for approval.
A three-day hearing has been scheduled starting July 22.
Also on HuffPost:
Serial killer Ted Bundy had confessed to being responsible for 30 murders and was executed by the State of Florida on January 24, 1989 by way of the electric chair. He made no special requests and was offered the traditional meal of steak and eggs, that he didn't eat.
Hastings Arthur Wise
Hastings Arthur Wise was executed November 4, 2005 in South Carolina via lethal injection for the murder of four of his ex-coworkers. For his last meal he requested: a lobster tail, French fries, coleslaw, banana pudding and milk.
Robert Dale Conklin
Robert Dale Conklin was executed July 12, 2005 in Georgia for the murder of his ex-boyfriend. For his last meal he requested: Filet mingnon wrapped in bacon, de-veined shrimp sauteed in garlic butter with lemon, a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives, and real bacon bits, corn on the cob, aspara- gus with hollandaise sauce, French bread with butter, goat cheese, cantaloupe, apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream and an iced tea.
Dennis Wayne Bagwell
Convicted of murdering his half sister and her 4-year-old daughter, and two more women, Dennis Wayne Bagwell was executed in Texas on February 17, 2005 by lethal injection. He asked for a larger last meal than most, requesting: A beef steak, medium rare with A1 Sauce, three fried chicken breast, three fried chicken thighs, BBQ ribs, a large order of french fries, a large order of onion rings, a pound of fried bacon, a dozen scrambled eggs with onions, fried tatters with onions, sliced tomatoes, a salad with ranch dressing, two hamburgers with everything, peach pie or cobbler, ketchup, salt and pepper, milk and coffee, ice tea with real sugar.
Philip Workman was convicted of the murder of a police office that occurred during a failed robbery of a Wendy's in Tennessee. He was executed on May 9, 2007 via lethal injection. Workman actually declined a special last meal for himself, but rather asked that a large vegetarian pizza be given to a homeless person in Nashville, Tenn. Prison officials denied his request, but homeless shelters across the state received pizzas from all over the country honoring his last request.
Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Lee Gardner was already on trial for the murder of one man, when he fatally shot an attorney in an failed attempt to escape. He was executed June 18 2010 by firing squad in Utah. Not only did Gardner request steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7-up for his last meal, he also spent his last hours watching the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy received a lethal injection from the State of Illinois on May 10, 1994 for the rape and murders of 33 young men and boys from 1972 to 1978. Dubbed the "Killer Clown" by the media, his last meal included: a dozen deep-fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe chicken from KFC, French fries, and a pound of strawberries.
Convicted of five murders, Velma Barfield was the first women in the US to be executed after the 1977 return of capital punishment and the first woman to receive her sentence by lethal injection in 1984. Like Eddie Duval Powell, she made no special last meal, but rather a can of Coca-cola and a bag of Cheez Doodles.
James Edward Smith
With perhaps the strangest request, James Edwards Smith, was convicted and executed on June 26,1990 for a robbery and murder in Texas. Smith requested not a meal, but a lump of dirt that was apparently for a Voodoo ritual. As dirt was not an approved list of prison foods his request was denied and he settled for a small cup of yogurt instead.
Timothy McVeigh was responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1996 that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. McVeigh was executed via lethal injection in Indiana on June 11, 2001 and had another unusual request: two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.