Canada told to seek clemency in Montana murder case

Wed Mar 4, 2009 3:35pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian court ordered the federal government on Wednesday to help seek clemency for a Canadian citizen facing a death sentence in the United States for murdering two people.

Ronald Smith, who has admitted to the 1982 murders, won his case before the Federal Court of Canada to have the Canadian government plead for clemency on his behalf.

Smith was set to be executed in Montana and had argued that Canada's Conservative government was violating his human rights by refusing to intervene.

Canada, which does not have a death penalty, has traditionally intervened on behalf of Canadians facing execution in other countries. It also does not send people back to death-penalty states without assurances there will be no execution.

In 2007, however, the minority Conservative government, elected on a platform of law and order, said it would no longer seek clemency for death row inmates sentenced by what it called democratic jurisdictions.

Federal Court Judge R.L. Barnes ruled on Wednesday that Ottawa must "take all reasonable steps to support the applicant's case for clemency before the governor of Montana."

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)