Ronald Smith, 59, a Canadian on death row in Montana, has admitted he murdered two young men more than 30 years ago, but with the support of Justin Trudeau’s government, he says he has renewed hope he might be able to return home . “I’m ready to come home,” he said in an interview, “If you’re willing to take me back, I’m willing to come home.”
Smith is getting hope from a statement Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion made following a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: “If the government of Canada does not ask for clemency for every Canadian facing the death penalty, how can we be credible when we ask for clemency in selective cases or countries? We must end this incoherent double standard. Canada opposes the death penalty and will ask for clemency in each and every case, no exceptions.”
Smith has been on death row since 1983 for shooting Harvey Madman Jr. and Thomas Running Rabbit while he was high on LSD and alcohol in Montana.
“I’m considerably more optimistic,” Smith said. “I’m considerably more positive about the Canadian government becoming involved at least, and with their involvement I think it bodes well for me.”
When he was first charged, Smith refused a plea deal that would have seen him get a life sentence and instead asked for the death penalty. Smith later thought differently. He said the reason he changed his mind about accepting his death sentence was because of his daughter, who he reconnected with some ten years ago. An execution date has been set five times and five times the order was overturned.
While Smith’s family wants to see him spared, the family members of his victims have lobbied for his death. “The decisions he made he has to pay for. He had no mercy for my father, a person I have never met.” Running Rabbit’s son said at Smith’s clemency hearing.
Smith, considered a model prisoner, said he understands the anger of the family members of his two victims. But he said he has grown up since he committed his crimes. Smith said: “I think that’s what so many people don’t understand, is separating the crime from the person. It was a drunken aberration is what it was and I think some people finally have started to realize that. It’s not who I was. I was drunk and stupid and committed a heinous crime during that time.”