FLORIDA – Carlie Brucia’s killer appeals death sentence – Joseph Smith

february 5, 2014 (

Carlie BruciaSARASOTA, Fla. – The man convicted of killing 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in 2004 is appealing his death sentence to Florida’s Supreme Court. 

Joseph Smith was found guilty of the 2004 kidnapping, sexual battery and murder of the young girl in Sarasota County.  Smith’s attorney claims a number of errors in his trial led to his death sentence.

Florida’s Supreme Court judges will hear the argument Wednesday.  Smith’s appeal requests a new trial or penalty phase.

This is the second appeal for Smith, who is currently on death row in a Tallahassee prison



Carlie Brucia

Jury decides gang member should be executed for killing 4 people – Charles Ray Smith

June 10 2013, Los Angeles Times

Gang member sentenced to death


Jurors decided Monday that a gang member should be executed for the slaying of four people, including a 10-year-old boy gunned down from close range as he rode his bicycle along a quiet South Los Angeles street.

Charles Ray Smith, 44, stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as the verdict was read in a downtown courtroom.

Smith was convicted during a previous trial of taking part in two deadly shootings in 2006, including one that became known as the “49th Street Massacre” in which two men wielding AK-47s opened fire on children and adults enjoying a Friday summer afternoon.

Sergio Marcial Sr., whose son and brother were among those killed, said the trials in the case had taken an emotional toll on him and his family. He said one of the most painful moments during the legal proceedings was seeing an autopsy photograph of his slain son.

His oldest son, who was 12 at the time, was seriously wounded in the attack and had to repeatedly recount his ordeal in court.

“I’m glad that we can move on and not worry about going and hearing how my son got killed — and my brother and my neighbor,” Marcial said. “I’m glad that it’s over.”

Defense attorney James Cooper said he and his colleague, James Bisnow, knew the case would be difficult given the age of the victims and the fact that none had any gang ties. Bisnow noted that his client has gone through four trials, including one in which a jury deadlocked on whether Smith was guilty and two more that could not decide if he should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.

“It was an unprecedented fourth trial, which is extremely costly to the taxpayer and was unjustified in view of the mitigating evidence,” Bisnow said.

The brutality of the 49th Street killings shocked a city long used to gang violence. The shooting was one of several high-profile gang crimes that stoked fears among some of a possible race war. Witnesses described the gunmen as black; the victims were Latino.

But prosecutors have argued that race had little to do with the killings and that Smith and another man, Ryan T. Moore, mistook the victims for rival gang members in a tit-for-tat feud over turf, drugs and pride. Moore was convicted during a separate trial and sentenced to death.

Smith’s attorneys urged the jury last week to spare their client, arguing that there was a lingering doubt that he was involved in the killings. They said jurors should also consider a variety of disorders from which Smith suffers, including post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by his upbringing. They said his afflictions warped Smith’s view of the world, impaired his logic and made him react impulsively.

Smith, they said, was raised by parents who were heavy drinkers when he was a child and who were addicted to crack cocaine when he was a teenager. All four of his brothers ended up in jail or prison, the attorneys told jurors during closing arguments.

The lawyers also noted that many of Smith’s relatives testified that he was a loving father who encouraged his children to do well in school.

But Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Amy Ashvanian described Smith in court as a gang shot-caller who showed no remorse for his crimes. She said Smith told an associate after the 49th Street shooting: “If they’re old enough to shoot, they’re old enough to get shot.”

Smith’s killings, Ashvanian said, began in March 2006 after an incident in which a rival gang member in a green sedan shot at one of Smith’s friends. In response, Smith used an AK-47 to shoot Bani Hinojosa, 27, in the back. Hinojosa, a construction worker who had been sitting in his green sedan, was bringing milk home to his wife and daughters. He had no gang ties and had nothing to do with the earlier shooting involving Smith’s friend.

The victims of the 49th Street shooting on June 30, 2006, were David Marcial, 10; his uncle, Larry Marcial, 22; and Luis Cervantes, a 17-year-old neighbor. David’s brother, Sergio Marcial Jr., was seriously wounded. He and David had been riding their bicycles on the sidewalk outside their home.

Maribel Marcial, David’s aunt and Larry’s sister, said she and her family would have accepted a verdict of life in prison for Smith but were gratified by the jury’s decision.

“It is the beginning of healing for all my family,” she said after the verdict. “We’re all going to die. But in this matter, he’s going to pay for what he did. He’s going to know the reason that he is dying.”

DELAWARE – Chester man gets death sentence for ’94 murder – Wayne Smith

June 23, 2012 Source :

MEDIA COURTHOUSE — A second Delaware County jury has decided on a death sentence for a Chester man who was convicted nearly two decades ago in the murder of 26-year-old Eileen Jones.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours before returning the repeat-decision for Wayne Smith. The decision capped a life-or-death battle among expert witnesses, which played out this week in a penalty phase trial resulting from Smith’s death-sentence appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Smith, now 56, reportedly showed no reaction when the decision was announced, or when Judge James Bradley remanded him to death row at SCI Rockview — where his death by lethal injection would be imposed. No execution date has been set. The last person to be executed in Pennsylvania was Gary M. Heidnik, on July 6, 1999, under former Gov. Tom Ridge.

Smith is currently serving time in a Greene County prison for the Nov. 18, 1994, strangulation of Jones. The Eddystone mother of two was three months pregnant at the time of death.

Assistant District Attorney Erica Parham, spokeswoman for the D.A.’s office, said she anticipates further legal proceedings.

“However, we are very satisfied with the decision of the jury,” she said. “The jury appropriately determined that the defendant’s prior conviction for voluntary manslaughter of a bar patron with a machete, a commonwealth aggravating factor, outweighed any mitigating factor presented by the defense.”

Under Pennsylvania law, death by lethal injections can only be sought in cases in which aggravating circumstances are present.

Smith was one of two men charged in 1980 in the fatal stabbing of a Chester resident in a bar. He pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge and served a two- to four-year jail term.

The previous conviction was one of two aggravating circumstances cited by the prosecution in 1995. The second was that Jones’ killing occurred during the commission of a second felony of attempted rape.

Parham noted that Ed Martin, Jones’ father, was in the courtroom throughout the week and left about an hour before the jury returned with a decision, shortly before 7:30 p.m.

“He bravely endured the proceedings this week,” Parham said “He has felt the loss of his daughter since 1994. His presence showed his commitment to justice, and the Office of the District Attorney is just as committed.”

Smith was convicted of first-degree murder in May 1995 and given a death sentence. At that time, after the verdict he turned and apologized to the victim’s family for the strangulation.

“I’ll never forgive myself,” said Smith. “I just hope that in time the family and her kids will forgive me,” he added, while beginning to cry.

Jones’ partially clothed body was fished from the waters of Ridley Creek near Ninth Street — between the Chester and Eddystone border — on Nov. 22, 1994.

During the initial trial, the prosecution claimed Smith killed Jones after she rejected his sexual advances. Defense counsel Raymond Williams argued Smith killed the woman while in a cocaine-induced frenzy.

According to testimony given at trial this week, Smith had made an arrangement with Jones that she would give him sex in exchange for cocaine. After several hours spent with the victim, the sexual encounter occurred in a park near the Ninth Street Bridge, where the victim was later found.

Smith told police that at some point the two began wrestling on the ground, according to a statement read in court. He then became afraid that Jones, who is white, would say Smith had raped her. Smith said he did not believe a jury would believe him because he is black.

He strangled the woman and dragged her to the creek where her body was later discovered. Smith would have had to strangle Jones for two-and-a-half to three minutes to choke the life out of her, according to former Delaware County Medical Examiner Dr. Dimitri Contostavlos.

Smith initially lied to police about the murder, but later confessed, according to a taped statement played for the court.

He appealed the death penalty sentence to the state Supreme Court. The court affirmed the murder conviction in 2010, but ordered a new hearing on the death penalty. Because the murder conviction was upheld, only two options remained open to the new jury: Life imprisonment or death.

full story : click here 

MONTANA – Canadian on death row deserves to live: co-accused – Rodney Munro

june 3, 2012 Source :

A man who was convicted along with Ronald Smith in the murder of two Montana men 30 years ago says his former partner-in-crime saved his life and deserves to live.

Rodney Munro, in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, has ended decades of silence and is speaking out in defence of Smith, 54, who sits on death row and whose fate is now in the hands of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

“I thank God everyday for him,” Munro said about Smith in a telephone interview from his home in a quiet community in Western Canada.

On Aug. 4, 1982, Smith and Munro were hitchhiking in Montana when they caught a ride with Harvey Madman Jr. and Thomas Running Rabbit. Smith and Munro marched the two men into the woods and shot and stabbed them to death.

Both Canadians were charged with murder. Smith pleaded guilty to two charges of deliberate homicide and two charges of aggravated kidnapping in February 1983 and requested the death penalty. He rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors which would have given him life in prison.

He later changed his mind and asked the District Court to reconsider the death penalty. That led to three decades of legal wrangling which is almost at an end.

Munro accepted the plea bargain and pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison but was returned to Canada and released in 1998.

“It’s because of Ron that I’m out and doing as well as I am,” Munro said. “Because of what he said in court, I didn’t get the death penalty. And because of that I had a chance of actually getting out and trying to make something of myself.

“He saved my life.”

The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole has recommended that Smith not be granted clemency, even though he was described as a model prisoner during his 30 years at Montana State Prison at a hearing last month.

There was emotional testimony from both sides. Smith’s friends and family said he is a changed man who has rehabilitated himself. But the families of the victims said he deserves no mercy.

The state attorney downplayed Munro’s role in the killings and said it was Smith alone who should pay the ultimate price.

But Munro, who still speaks with Smith by phone every couple of weeks, said he was equally to blame and feels guilt about the murders.

“When you’re involved in what we were involved in, how can you not feel it? We put ourselves in a spot and two guys ended up dead and I think about it all the time,” he said quietly.

“They don’t want to know (about my role). That just brings up that he’s not the monster.

“I hate to say it this way, but it makes them feel better to think they’re killing a monster other than who he is.”

The two men had been taking 30 to 40 hits of LSD and consuming between 12 and 18 beers a day at the time of the murders.

Munro said he and Smith became friends after hanging out in the same circles and through mutual acquaintances.

“We could have been the Bobbsey twins. We kind of connected with each other and away we went. Our life revolved around booze, drugs and partying, and that’s just not who we are any more.”

Now married, employed and free of drugs and alcohol, Munro said he’s sad about what is happening to Smith.

He is also angry that the Canadian government’s support of Smith has been less than enthusiastic.

But Munro is hopeful that Schweitzer will have the political will to spare his friend’s life.

“Ron is not even close to the man he used to be. The guy has learned his lesson. I think we all have.”

Smith told his clemency hearing that he was “horrendously sorry” for his actions.

“I do understand the pain and suffering I’ve put you through,” he said to the victims’ relatives. “It was never my intent to cause any suffering for anybody. I wish there was some way I could take it back. I can’t.”

Munro wanted to send his own message to the families.

“We are just so sorry that this ever happened. If we could change it, we would, but how do you change the past?” he said.

“I think about it everyday and it’s what keeps me on the straight and narrow, making sure nothing like this will ever happen again.”


MISSOURI – Another Canadian on U.S. death row fights to stay alive – ROBERT BOLDEN

June 1, 2012 Source :

Robert Bolden, a Canadian on death row in the U.S. A lawyer representing a Canadian on death row in Indiana wants Ottawa to advocate to save her client's life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

While Alberta-born killer Ronald Smith awaits the outcome of his high-profile bid to avoid execution for a 1982 double-murder in Montana, the U.S. government is engaged in a court battle with another Canadian citizen facing the death penalty in a little-known case in Indiana — ensuring that the controversial issue of capital punishment will be kept alive for years in Canada regardless of Smith’s fate in the coming months.

The case of Robert Bolden — a 48-year-old, Newfoundland-born man convicted of killing a Missouri security guard during a botched bank robbery in St. Louis in 2002 only recently came to the attention of the Canadian government, partly because Bolden moved to the U.S. as a toddler with a drug-addicted mother who used forged documents to emigrate from Canada.

Bolden’s lawyers have launched an appeal aimed at winning a new trial and overturning his death sentence, largely on the basis that he was “deprived” of what could have been “vital” consular assistance by the Canadian government when he was arrested almost 10 years ago and later in his bid to avoid execution.

“The consulate’s assistance would have been critical to Mr. Bolden’s defence,” states a petition filed on behalf of the Canadian death-row inmate by Jennifer Merrigan, a lawyer with the Kansas City-based Death Penalty Litigation Clinic.

The petition was backed by a detailed affidavit from Gar Pardy, a retired Canadian public servant who headed the consular affairs section at the federal Department of Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2003, during which time he led several diplomatic missions to prevent Canadians from being executed abroad.

But in a 200-page counter-argument filed last week at the U.S. District Court in Missouri, the U.S. Department of Justice insisted that prosecutors “had every reason to believe that Bolden was a United States citizen” at the time of his arrest, and that defence claims that the death sentence might never have been pursued or secured because of Bolden’s Canadian citizenship are unfounded.

Bolden alleges that the (U.S.) government deprived him of the ‘unique and pivotal role’ of the Canadian Consulate, violating his due process right and right to a fair trial,” states the Department of Justice submission. “This claim is facially implausible. The ‘unique and pivotal role’ the consulate plays is to inform a foreign national of his rights as a defendant in the United States and explain the differences in the American legal system.”

Bolden “had no need for a ‘cultural bridge’,” the statement contends, “because he was very familiar with our legal system. Bolden had been convicted of three prior felonies and has been arrested numerous times.”

The Department of Justice submission recalled Ley’s “unique qualities, his aspiration to become a police officer, his exceptional gift of helping others, the excruciating pain he suffered after Bolden shot him twice in the head, and the catastrophic impact of his death on his family.”

Bolden was born in Stephenville, Nfld., in June 1963. His mother, identified in court documents as “S.D.” Decker, is described as a heroin-addicted, white prostitute who died in the U.S. in 2001. Bolden’s father was an unidentified black American soldier stationed at the U.S. military’s former Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville, which was closed in 1966.

Alleged racism directed at Decker because of her biracial child appears to have prompted her move to the U.S. around 1966, according to Merrigan.

Bolden was principally raised by the St. Louis-based family of another U.S. soldier with whom Decker  had a fleeting relationship in Newfoundland.

In an interview with Postmedia News, Merrigan said the option of life imprisonment was never adequately explored in the Bolden case because Canadian officials didn’t get a chance — due to the actions of prosecutors and the oversights of defence lawyers — “to weigh in on whether the U.S. government should pursue the death penalty.”

She added that a thorough investigation of Bolden’s early childhood in Newfoundland by his original defence lawyers would have illuminated deep-rooted social and psychological challenges flowing from his mother’s troubled background — a potentially mitigating factor in death-penalty cases in the U.S.

The Decker family’s history of interpersonal violence, verbal abuse, mental illness, addiction, and diabetes — none of which was explored by counsel — is the genetic and psychosocial cornerstone of Robert Bolden’s life story,” states the petition to overturn his death sentence.

John Babcock, a spokesman for Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy — who oversees consular issues for the Conservative government — confirmed that Bolden is a Canadian citizen and added: “Mr. Bolden was convicted of the very serious charge of murder. Canadian officials are providing Mr. Bolden with consular assistance, and will continue to do so.”

Bolden is being held in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Until October 2007, the Canadian government’s long-standing policy was to automatically seek clemency for Canadians facing execution in foreign countries.

Then, in response to a Postmedia News story about Canadian diplomats lobbying Montana’s governor to commute Smith’s sentence, the Conservative government halted those efforts and declared a new policy of reviewing clemency requests on a “case-by-case” basis — which Prime Minister Stephen Harper said was more in keeping with his government’s tough-on-crime agenda.

The Federal Court of Canada later ruled that the government had acted unlawfully by ending its support for Smith and ordered it to resume clemency efforts.

In December, ahead of Smith’s clemency hearing last month in Montana, the Canadian government sent a letter requesting that Smith be spared execution for “humanitarian reasons.” But opposition critics and Smith’s lawyers panned the letter as a lukewarm expression of the Canadian government’s formal opposition to capital punishment, which was abolished in this country in 1976.

Montana’s parole board has recommended to the state’s governor, Brian Schweitzer, that Smith be denied clemency. But Schweitzer, whose final term as governor automatically ends on Dec. 31 this year, is not likely to be in office by the time an outstanding lawsuit related to Montana’s lethal-injection is resolved early next year, clearing the way for an execution date to be set for Smith.

Canadian on death row ‘horrendously sorry’ but victims’ families show no mercy

may 2 2012, source :

watch the court’s video : click here

DEER LODGE, Montana – A Canadian on death row in Montana for killing two men said he is “horrendously sorry” Wednesday, but the passage of time appeared only to have steeled the resolve of the victims’ families to show him no mercy.

A visibly angry Thomas Running Rabbit, son of one of the victims, said he would seek justice for the father he never knew until “Ronald Smith’s last breath.”

“The decisions he made he has to pay for,” Running Rabbit told Smith’s clemency hearing. “He had no mercy for my father – a person I have never met.”

He then pointed at Smith and said: “I’m Thomas Running Rabbit. I do not fear you.”

A cousin, Camille Wells, called Smith “an animal.”

“He is the scum of the earth and I will hate him until the day I die.”

And an uncle told the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole that 30 years was too long to wait for justice. William Talks About said the victims’ mothers never got to see justice done before they died.

“Ronald Smith needs to be executed,” said Talks About. “Thirty years is too long.”

Smith, 54, has been on death row ever since he admitted to shooting Thomas Mad Man Jr. and Harvey Running Rabbit in 1982. He originally asked for the death penalty, but soon after changed his mind and has been fighting for his life ever since.

He is asking the board to recommend his death sentence be commuted. The board is to give its recommendation the week of May 21. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer will have the final say.

Originally from Red Deer, Alta., Smith was 24 and had been taking LSD and drinking when he and Rodney Munro marched the two men into the woods where Munro stabbed one of them and Smith shot them both in the head.

Munro accepted a plea deal, was eventually transferred to a Canadian prison and has completed his sentence.

It was a cold-blooded crime. They wanted to steal the men’s car, but Smith also said at the time he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.

Talks About said both victims were much loved by their families. They searched for them for a month after they disappeared.

“Up and down both sides of the highway,” he said. “This is how much we loved our boys. This is how much we cared for them.”

Earlier during the hearing, Smith faced the families and said he didn’t expect them to forgive him, but hoped to be given the chance to get on with his life.

“I do understand the pain and suffering I’ve put you through,” he said. “It was never my intent to cause any suffering for anybody. I wish there was some way I could take it back. I can’t.

“All I can do is hope to move forward with my life and become a better person.”

Smith broke down and cried when his sister, Rita Duncan, read a letter he had written to their mother after her death last year.

Smith covered his eyes, brushed away tears and was patted on the shoulder by his lawyer.

Duncan said although she shut Smith out of her life for years, he has always loved her and she is proud to be his sister.

“I honestly do not know what I would do without my brother by my side. I can’t bear the thought of losing another brother and I’m sorry if this sounds selfish. I don’t know what I would do without him,” said Duncan, her voice quavering.

She asked people in the packed courtroom to put themselves in her place.

“Wouldn’t you want grace and mercy to be shown to him when he’s done everything in his power to change himself and become the man he is today?” she asked.

“Mercy is not about getting something that we deserve. Grace is getting something that we do not deserve, so today I am here pleading for both mercy and grace for my brother Ron.”

Smith was long thought to be the only Canadian facing execution in the United States, but a Canadian connection recently emerged in another case.

Court documents say Robert Bolden, currently on death row for murdering a bank security guard in Missouri, has Canadian citizenship. He was born to a Canadian woman in Newfoundland where his father was stationed with the U.S. air force. The family moved back to the U.S. when Bolden was a young child.

Smith’s daughter, Carmen Blackburn, also spoke at the hearing. She said she didn’t know the man her father was in 1982, but she knows who he has become.

“This situation is not easy on anybody involved, but I can only hope that everyone can look into their hearts and listen to the real facts about my dad, because I truly don’t know what I would do without him in my life,” she said, crying as she spoke.

“I’ve seen a man who has many regrets about the things that he has done. He shows his remorse in his eyes and in his voice and every time we talk. I wish I could take away that pain.”

A psychologist told the hearing that Smith is a model prisoner and poses little threat to the people around him. Dr. Bowman Smelko said Smith has shown improvement during his time in prison and his cognitive ability has jumped 16 points from low to high average.

“He was not exposed to drugs and alcohol. He was not exposed to chaos. He has demonstrated significant change in attitude, thoughts and behaviour,” Smelko said.

The hearing also heard that Smith is well-liked by prison guards.

Joe Warner, who has now retired, was there the day Smith arrived at the prison 30 years ago. Over the years, he said, Smith showed him nothing but respect and he considers Smith a friend. Once a proponent of the death penalty, Warner said he now feels differently.

“I’ve kind of changed my mind,” said Warner, who added that getting to know Smith contributed to that.

Warner drew disapproving murmurs from the families of the victims when he said he would like to see Smith eligible for parole some day.

After decades of appeals, the clemency hearing is Smith’s last chance to make a case before the board as to why he should not be executed.

Smith’s lawyer Greg Jackson told the hearing that the bid for clemency isn’t meant to minimize the “terrible crime” that Smith is guilty of, but “is a request for mercy.”

Jackson said Smith is not the same man who killed the young men.

“He is a changed man,” said Jackson. “He has reformed his life. He has expressed deep remorse and deep regret.

“He has a life that is worth preserving.”

When the state asked if Smith had any comment to make about the testimony of the witnesses, he replied: “I wish there were words I could say that would help ease their pain. How do you apologize? Sorry just doesn’t cover it.

“My words of sorrow don’t mean anything to these people. I wish they did.”

MONTANA – Ronald Smith makes his final bid to escape execution

April 27 source


Albertan Ronald Smith is the only Canadian on death row in the U.S. He has finally exhausted his legal appeals to avoid execution for the 1982 murders of two men, but is seeking executive clemency. Ronald  Smith  is the only Canadian on death row in U.S

It happened along the highway that cuts through a picturesque mountain pass in northwest Montana, not far from the Canada-U.S. border south of Lethbridge, Alta., in a roadside stand of trees located almost exactly on the Continental Divide.

The place where 24-year-old Albertan Ronald Smith murdered two young Montana men in August 1982 was, looking back over nearly 30 years, a portentous setting: Smith’s cold-blooded killing of Blackfeet Indian cousins Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, and Harvey Mad Man, 23 — whose fatal mistake was kindly offering a lift to the drunk and drugged-up Canadian hitchhiker and his two friends from Red Deer, Alta. — has underscored North America’s deep continental divide over capital punishment, which is still in use throughout much of the United States but was abolished in Canada in 1976.

Now 54, Smith is the only Canadian on death row in the U.S. He has finally exhausted his legal appeals to avoid execution for his horrific crimes, but is seeking executive clemency — and a new sentence of life imprisonment — at a Montana parole board hearing to be held on Wednesday in Deer Lodge, a city in the Rocky Mountain foothills where the state’s maximum-security prison is situated.

The three-member parole panel — which will make its recommendation to Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who ultimately decides Smith’s fate — will hear arguments from state justice officials, members of the victims’ families and others who believe Smith should, as originally sentenced three decades ago, be put to death by lethal injection in the prison’s execution chamber.

“This is the first time that we get to, as a family, sit in the judicial system to face the guy that murdered our boys,” Gabe Grant, uncle to both Running Rabbit and Mad Man, told Postmedia News this week. “We intend to go down there (to Deer Lodge) and be strong. We intend to be adamantly and unitedly joined in denying his clemency.”

The 62-year-old Grant, a housing administrator with the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Mont., said he will speak at the clemency hearing to describe how his nephews’ deaths were “devastating” for members of their large extended family and led to the “early deaths” of his two sisters — the mothers of Mad Man and Running Rabbit.

“It drove them to break down. They were seemingly normal people back then. But when this happened, it completely devastated their lives,” he recalled.

“We used to do all kinds of family things — the sisters and brothers. Our mother was the hub of our family, Cecile, and when this happened, it put a screeching halt to family activities because of the impact of what happened. We eventually recovered to a certain point, but never to the fullest extent of the good times that were enjoyed prior to that.”

Montana state attorneys will lean heavily on the family’s anguish in arguing to parole officials that Smith does not deserve clemency.

The Alberta-born killer “remorselessly took the lives” of two cousins, Montana’s justice department states in its written submission to the clemency panel, obtained this week by Postmedia News.

Running Rabbit and Mad Man “were loved by countless family members and friends,” the document states, noting how the victims’ “loved ones have suffered the pain and agony of their deaths for over a quarter of a century, a pain that never ends. They can never be replaced.”

Smith confessed to the gunshot murders of the two men. And he initially asked for the death penalty before changing his mind and launching what became a decades-long legal struggle to avoid execution for a crime he claimed was carried out in a haze of drug- and alcohol-fuelled “foolishness.”

Smith’s legal team — including Montana-based defence attorney Greg Jackson and Texas human rights lawyer Don Vernay — will argue that the Canadian inmate is a model prisoner and a transformed human being, a man so filled with regret and remorse over his murderous actions 30 years ago that the state should give Smith what he so brutally denied Mad Man and Running Rabbit: a chance to keep living.

“We would never, ever question the horrendous nature of the crime and the horrendous impact it had on the community,” Jackson said Friday. But echoing several points made in the 19-page clemency application he filed on Smith’s behalf in January, Jackson highlighted the “tremendous growth and rehabilitation” and “exemplary behaviour” the Canadian inmate has exhibited during his incarceration, as well as “the remorse and repentance” he has shown.

“He’s a changed man,” the lawyer said.

Others will address the hearing, possibly Smith’s daughter and sister — both of whom recently told Postmedia News that they’ve nurtured close relationships with Smith despite his long incarceration — as well as advocates on both sides of what has become a lively death-penalty debate in Montana and the broader United States.

But conspicuously silent during the proceedings will be the Canadian government, which recently — and only reluctantly — sent a letter to Montana officials seeking clemency for Smith.

The letter, signed by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, stated that while the Canadian government “does not sympathize with violent crime,” it is seeking clemency for Smith “on humanitarian grounds.”

Baird’s letter also noted that the government’s backing of the clemency bid “should not be construed as reflecting a judgment on Mr. Smith’s conduct,” and stipulated that his department was, in fact, “ordered” by the Federal Court of Canada in 2009 “to support Mr. Smith’s case for clemency.”

In effect, the Conservative government has made clear that if its court-forced request to spare Smith’s life is ignored by Montana officials, it won’t be terribly miffed.

“Ultimately, decisions regarding Mr. Smith’s case lie with the relevant U.S. authorities,” a Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Postmedia News earlier this month. “Mr. Smith pleaded guilty and was subsequently convicted of murdering two people. These were admitted crimes.”

Jackson called the Canadian government’s grudging, quasi-backing of Smith “a tremendous disappointment,” adding: “The statement they’ve made (in the letter) is the statement we’re stuck with.”

Opposition critics have condemned the government’s lukewarm efforts in support of Smith’s clemency bid as a “deplorable” indication of the Conservative party’s ambiguous stance on capital punishment and as a “cynical” strategy that could, in fact, “sink” Smith’s petition to avoid execution.

Nevertheless, obtaining even Canada’s nominal endorsement for the clemency initiative was a significant achievement for Smith’s legal team after the Conservative government’s previous decision, in October 2007, to halt diplomatic efforts to prevent Smith’s execution.

That move was prompted by a Postmedia News story that detailed fresh efforts by Canadian diplomats to convince Schweitzer to commute Smith’s sentence and transfer him to a prison in Canada.

At the time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government’s decision to abandon Smith was driven by concerns that lobbying for the killer’s life would “send the wrong signal” to Canadians about violent crime.

“We have no desire to open the debate on capital punishment here in Canada — and likewise, we have no desire to participate in the debate on capital punishment in the United States,” Harper stated at the time. “The reality of this particular case is that were we to intervene, it would very quickly become a question of whether we are prepared to repatriate a double-murderer to Canada. In light of this government’s strong initiatives on tackling violent crime, I think that would sent the wrong signal to the Canadian population.”

But the Federal Court ruling in a lawsuit later launched by Smith’s legal team said the government’s withdrawal of support for clemency was “unlawful.” The decision compelled Canadian officials to restart talks with Montana — and eventually forced Baird’s hand in the December letter that officially, if not insistently, asked the state not to put Smith to death.

Grant acknowledged that critics of capital punishment have a point when they say innocent people are sometimes executed in the United States.

“It’s not that in this case,” he said. “Ronald Smith, right from the get-go, said ‘I did it.’ He boasted about it. He jumped up and down and said, ‘Take me — give me the death penalty.’ So it’s not a case of executing somebody innocent.

“He was not remorseful then. I don’t believe he’s ever been.”

ALABAMA- Dothan man sentenced to death for third time – Jerry Jerome Smith

april 18, 2012 source :

Randolph Flournoy said he’ll never forgive Jerry Jerome Smith for killing his brother more than 15 years ago.

Jerry Smith

“God already done spoken through the judge,” said Flournoy.

Houston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Conaway sentenced 41-year-old Smith to death Wednesday, affirming a recommendation by a jury returned earlier this year.

It became the third time a Houston County judge has sentenced Smith to death for the same capital murder convictions.

A jury found Smith guilty of killing Willie James Flournoy, 40, of Dothan, Theresa Ann Helms, 26, of Wicksburg and David Lee Bennett, 29, of Midland City. The three people were killed at a Sturgeon Court residence on Oct. 19, 1996, which police had described as a crack house. All three people were shot to death in the home.

Several months ago the state Supreme Court upheld Smith’s conviction, but reversed his sentence.

The judge could have affirmed the jury’s recommendation of the death penalty or overturned it and issued a sentence of life in prison without the opportunity for parole.

“Let’s go ahead and give him his last meal,” Flournoy said. “You can not pat the devil on the head and think he’s going to change.”

Marvin Helms said Smith fatally shot his sister seven times.

“I’m tired of coming here for the same thing,” Helms said. “He shot two men less times than he shot my sister. They don’t need to give him life. They need to go on and kill him. They need to take him down to sparky.”

According to the website, the primary method of execution is lethal injection in Alabama, although inmates convicted before 2002 can choose either electrocution or lethal injection.

In contrast, Bobby Bennett, the brother of David Lee Bennett, said he disagreed with the court’s sentence.

“I think it should’ve been life without parole. Maybe God can use this young man, even in prison,” Bennett said. “I just don’t believe in taking a man’s life. Who are we to judge?”

Bennett recalled his brother as a forgiving person.

“I still believe in chances even though my brother didn’t have any,” Bennett said. “God brings closure. God forgives, and so must we.”

Conaway heard arguments from Smith’s attorney, Aaron Gartlan, and Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska before making his ruling.

Attorney David Hogg, who also represented Smith, said his client’s first two sentences were reversed. The death sentence was reversed because of comments made by some of the relatives of victims in the murders during the jury selection of the trial.

Valeska referred to Smith as someone who ran a drug trafficking enterprise. Valeska also said Smith has shown the court no remorse.

Smith turned down an opportunity to say anything before the court made its ruling.

“All he wanted was money for his drug enterprise,” Valeska said. “Jerry Jerome Smith is the worst of the worst. In the history of the city of Dothan no one has ever killed three people and tried to kill a fourth. We don’t call for vengeance, we call for justice.

Gartlan asked the court to consider reports he turned in to the court indicating his client was mentally retarded.

“We were not allowed to develop that issue with the jury,” Gartlan said. “They were not allowed to consider the full picture.”

The state Supreme Court upheld the court’s ruling that Smith was not mentally retarded, which in the state of Alabama would have prevented him from facing the death penalty.

The Supreme Court’s opinion said Smith’s actions of “systematically” killing three people and attempting to kill a fourth after his gun jammed were not the actions of a mentally retarded individual.

Gartlan said the Supreme Court’s ruling did not limit him from presenting his client’s mental retardation as mitigating evidence.

Valeska told the Eagle earlier that it was a death penalty case because two or more people were killed at the same time, and that they were killed during a burglary.