Posted: May 2, 2012 8:06 AM by Marnee Banks - Montana's News Station
Updated: May 2, 2012 8:07 AM
In 1983, death row inmate Ronald Allen Smith testified he had always had a "morbid fascination to find out what it would be like to kill somebody."
Now, nearly 30 years later, he claims he is a changed man and is asking Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) for clemency.
Court documents detail the events on August 4th, 1982.
Smith and two of his friends, Rodney Munro and Andre Fontaine, left Canada for Mexico. They stopped in East Glacier Park and had a few beers at the Park Bar. They played pool with two Native American men, Thomas Running Rabbit Jr. and Harvey Mad Man Jr.
Smith and his friends left the bar hitchhiking. Fontaine suggested they steal a car, even "if they had to kill someone to get it."
Running Rabbit and Mad Man picked the men up, drove about 20 minutes and stopped to go to the bathroom on the side of the road.
When Running Rabbit and Mad Man returned to the truck Smith put his sawed off .22 caliber rifle in the back of one of their heads, forcing them out of the car. Then Smith and Munro walked Running Rabbit and Mad Man into the woods.
Smith unloaded, killing both men.
Months later, Smith confessed to the murders and asked the judge for the death sentence saying he was a "violent person" and "felt no remorse for his actions."
Soon after Smith was sentenced to death, he changed his mind and asked the courts to reconsider his sentence. Each appeal was denied.
Montana Board of Pardons and Parole Executive Director Fern Osler says Smith has now exhausted his appeals and executive clemency is the only chance he has at getting his sentence reduced.
"He is asking for the Board to relieve him of the death penalty in lieu of life in prison without parole," Osler said in a press conference on Tuesday in Deer Lodge.
The Board of Pardons and Parole will hear Smith's case on Wednesday at the Powell County Courthouse. Then they will advise Governor Schweitzer on whether or not to grant Smith clemency. However, Schweitzer is not bound by the Board's recommendation.
Schweitzer hasn't indicated what he will do. He told The Globe and Mail, "I'm not absolutely sure about the death penalty."
He also told the CBC News, "It feels like you're carrying more than the weight of an Angus bull on your shoulders."
Montana is one of 33 states where the death penalty is legal. However, many are still fighting to abolish it.
Montana Catholic Conference Director Moe Wosepka heads an organization called the Montana Abolition Coalition which has been trying to abolish the death penalty in Montana for years.
Wosepka says society needs to focus on helping the victims of heinous crimes and making sure law enforcement has the tools it needs to make streets safer. He says, instead, the death penalty puts the focus on the perpetrator.
"We as a society should not be taking the lives of our citizens, no matter what they did, no matter who they are. I think some people need to be locked up and separated. But we should not be taking their lives," Wosepka says.
In the case of Ronald Allen Smith, the alternative to being executed by lethal injection is life in prison without parole. So he will now once again take the stand, this time pleading for his life.