Canadian killer on Montana's death row seeks clemency

Thu May 3, 2012 12:46am EDT
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By Dan Boyce

DEER LODGE, Montana (Reuters) - The sole Canadian on death row in the United States asked Montana's parole board for clemency on Wednesday, saying he was a changed man who felt "horrendously sorry" for murdering two young men 30 years ago on an Indian reservation.

Ronald Smith's plea came during a hearing that marked the first time the 54-year-old convicted killer, who once said he committed the murders in a drunken, drug-fueled rage because he "wanted to know what it felt like," heard directly from relatives of his victims.

A majority of the 40 witnesses who testified during the nine-hour proceeding in the western Montana town of Deer Lodge, consisted of victims' family, members of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and others who opposed commuting his sentence.

"Our boys pleaded and begged for their lives. This guy's having remorse today. Back then, nothing," said William Talks About, an uncle to both men who Smith shot in the back of the head in August 1982 -- Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man.

Both victims were in their early 20s. Smith, who was from Alberta, was 24.

The victims saw Smith and two friends hitchhiking on the reservation near Glacier National Park and offered them a ride. Smith and one of his companions forced the two victims from their car at gunpoint, marched them into the woods, and Smith shot them.

Smith was later captured in Wyoming and pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of deliberate homicide, and asked for the death penalty. The judge granted his request.

'SORRY DOESN'T COVER IT'   Continued...