Open letter to the Government of Canada

RE: Canadian Ronald Smith on Montana’s Death Row

    Guilty pleas must be knowing and voluntary. Smith’s fateful decision to plead guilty and seek the death penalty was neither. At the time of the arraignment, he was deeply depressed because he had been in solitary confinement for some time and subjected to harsh living conditions. He had received deaths threats from Native American inmates and believed that he would be killed in prison. Most importantly, his attorney was manifestly ineffective,” wrote Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the US Court of Appeal, Ninth Circuit, regarding the pre-trial circumstances of Ron Smith.

    When Ron Smith was convicted by Judge Michael Keedy in 1982, I was a young man in Calgary. I knew there was something wrong with the reports I was reading in the Calgary Herald. Something did not make sense. So I dug a little deeper. I wrote letters to Smith, but he was not particularly open. So I drove down to Kalispell, Montana and met with trial Judge Keedy.

    Judge Keedy was most open. We met in his office and he told me why he sentenced Smith to death. He would not accept Smith’s plea, unless Smith testified against himself. I was shocked by what he disclosed. He encouraged Smith to commit suicide.

    It all goes back to Smith’s treatment before he plead guilty. The Canadian consulate did not rush to Smith’s aid to ensure his legal rights were protected. Again, it was 1982 and Montana was not easily reached by consulate staff. As a result, Smith made a regrettable decision: to plead guilty and request the death penalty. Judge Fletcher’s single paragraph explains why.

    Her full opinion can be read HERE .

    Mitigating factors were not introduced at the sentencing hearing, and Smith got his wish–at least that was his wish at the time. Without the protection of legal counsel, without the protection of consulate services, Smith did something not wise.

    Regardless how repugnant Smith’s acts may have been, under our system of justice, and American justice, a man deserves a fair hearing. That is a foundation of justice. The American courts have not come to this conclusion, sadly.

    Thus, it is imperative that the Government of Canada intervene in a proactive way to ensure the life of Canadian Ron Smith is spared. My only interest in this is to see that Smith receive the benefit of fairness. I am sure this is a value you also embrace.

    I thank you for your time and I would appreciate being apprised of what the Canadian Government is, and has recently done, in respect of Smith’s case.

    Sincerely,

    Jack Locke

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