Ronald Allen Smith

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Ronald Allen Smith
Born (1957-09-07) September 7, 1957 (age 61)[1]
Criminal statusDeath Row at the Montana State Prison
Conviction(s)Pleaded guilty to all counts in 1983[2]
Criminal charge2 counts of aggravated kidnapping
2 counts of deliberate homicide [2]

Ronald Allen Smith (born September 7, 1957) is a Canadian man who was sentenced to death in Montana for murdering two people. As of 2019, Smith is one of two prisoners on Montana's death row (the other is William Gollehon).[3] Judge Jeffrey Sherlock granted Smith a stay of execution so his civil lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection could be decided.

Murder in Montana[edit]

Smith, who is from Wetaskiwin, Alberta, was sentenced to death in March 1983, after he himself asked for the death penalty after his conviction. Seven months earlier, he along with an accomplice, who were both under the influence of LSD, killed two aboriginal men who offered them a ride while hitchhiking. They marched cousins Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods by the highway and shot them both in the head with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle.[4]

Smith refused a plea deal that would have seen him avoid death row but spend his life in prison. He pleaded guilty three weeks later and then asked for — and was given — a death sentence. Later he changed his mind. Smith has had several previous execution dates, but each has been overturned. In November 2001 the United States Supreme Court denied a petition for review and in 2010 The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeal and the case was sent back to the State of Montana for another date for execution.

Canadian government involvement[edit]

The Government of Canada had maintained an interest in Smith's case since 1983, with Canadian consular officials communicating with some regularity with Smith, with his lawyers, with prison officials, with the Office of the Governor of Montana, with other Montana state officials, and with the U.S. Department of State.[5]

In 1997, Canadian consular officials requested clemency for Smith on humanitarian grounds and the governor of Montana apparently showed some sympathy to these requests.[6]

In October/November 2007, however, the government of Canada announced that it would not seek clemency for Smith. Whereas Canadian government policy had always been to seek clemency through diplomatic channels for Canadians sentenced to death in foreign countries, the government now announced a new policy: "that multiple murderers and mass murderers who are convicted in a democracy that adheres to the rule of law cannot necessarily count on a plea for clemency from the Canadian government and patriation back to this country."[7] As of 2010, Smith remained on Montana's death row.

Counsel for Smith launched a proceeding in Canada's Federal Court against the cabinet ministers responsible for the change in Canada's policy.[8] In a decision rendered on March 4, 2009, Mr. Justice Barnes found that the Canadian government did not have a coherent new policy on seeking clemency in death-penalty cases and therefore the government was required to apply the former policy to Smith's case. The court did not determine whether there is, generally, a legal duty on the government to help its citizens sentenced to death abroad; rather, the court based its decision on issues of procedural fairness, holding that before withdrawing support of Smith's clemency application, the government had a duty to consult fully with Smith and his legal advisors, followed by a fair and objective consideration of the appropriateness of applying any new policy to the facts of his case.[9] In the result, the court ordered the Government of Canada to "take all reasonable steps to support [Smith's] case for clemency before the governor of Montana and his advisors in accordance with the current government policy."[10]

The government did not appeal the ruling of the Federal Court,[11][12] and on June 19, 2009, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon said that the government is complying with the court ruling.[13][14] Earlier the same day, Cannon explained the government's policy as follows: "Our government respects the decisions made by sovereign, democratic states. We are determined to ensure that justice is served for Canadians abroad. In that regard, we will continue to study each instance on a case by case basis and, where appropriate, seek clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty abroad."[15]

Smith is, as of 2014, the only Canadian on death row in the United States.[16]

Criminal Record[edit]

Prisoner #20055 - Ronald Allen Smith's criminal record[1]
Offense Date of offense Sentence
Escape 26-JAN-83 5 years
Committed w/dangerous weapon 26-JAN-83 2 years 6 months
Deliberate homicide 04-AUG-82 Death penalty
Aggravated kidnapping 04-AUG-82 5 years
Aggravated kidnapping 04-AUG-82 5 years

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ronald Allen Smith". Montana Government. 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  2. ^ a b "Ronald Allen Smith". Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty. November 17, 2001. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  3. ^ Associated Press (2009-04-03). "Death-row Canadian wants more info for public". Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  4. ^ "No more clemency appeals for Canadians on death row in U.S.: Tories". CBC News. November 1, 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  5. ^ Smith v. Canada (Attorney General), 2009 FC 228, at paragraph 6.
  6. ^ Smith v. Canada (Attorney General), 2009 FC 228, at paragraph 45.
  7. ^ "Nicholson's nuances". Edmonton Journal. 2007-11-25. Archived from the original on 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  8. ^ Smith v. Canada (Attorney General).
  9. ^ Smith v. Canada (Attorney General), 2009 FC 228, at paragraphs 42-43.
  10. ^ "Court orders Ottawa to help Canadian on death row". CBC News. March 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  11. ^ "Government won't appeal ruling forcing it to help Albertan on death row". 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  12. ^ Canadian Press (2009-04-03). "Ottawa to seek clemency for Canadian on death row". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  13. ^ "House of Commons Debates Official Report". Hansard. 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  14. ^ Michael Platt (2009-06-24). "As clock runs out for Canadian death row inmate in U.S. our action on clemency looks like it was too little too late".
  15. ^ "House of Commons Debates Official Report". Hansard. 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  16. ^ Randy Boswell (2009-06-08). "Canada rejects rights council call for clemency for all". Windsor Star. Retrieved 2009-11-26.