HELENA (AP) — Gov. Brian Schweitzer isn't disclosing what his plans are for the pending request for clemency from a Canadian citizen on death row for the slaying of two Native American men.
Earlier this year, the Montana Parole Board recommended to the governor that Ronald A. Smith be denied clemency. Schweitzer can accept that recommendation, reject it and offer clemency or do nothing at all.
Schweitzer, who leaves office in early January, isn't indicating which way he is leaning.
"I am not saying one way or another," Schweitzer said in a Friday interview.
Smith is asking for life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of the death sentence he now faces. Smith argues his original 1983 trial for shooting two Blackfeet cousins — in which he asked for and received the death penalty — was botched.
Smith was 24 years old in 1982 when he marched the two young men into the woods just off U.S. Highway 2 near Marias Pass and shot them both in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He said he was out of his mind on drugs and alcohol.
Smith's lawyers are asking the governor in the clemency request to look beyond the horrific killings of Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, and consider that Smith is now a different person. They hope Schweitzer will take an objective look at the matter since he is leaving offices and isn't facing another election.
Family members of the victims are asking the governor to keep the death penalty in place.
Smith's relatives have met with the governor and asked for clemency, arguing he is now a far different man than the out-of-control youth behind the killings.
The governor made it clear he doesn't believe he has to make a public declaration one way or another in the case.
"The recommendation to me was not to do anything," Schweitzer said. "His case is not any more on the table at this point than anyone else's."
In July, Smith's family members met with Schweitzer for a long, frank discussion. At that time, Schweitzer sympathized with the plight of Smith, pointing out he that also does not believe it is fair for Smith to be executed after an accomplice was paroled long ago.
Rodney Munro took a plea deal on the charges and avoided the death penalty.
But the governor also has spoken with the victims' families, who told him they want Smith's death for closure.
The Canadian government, after some internal policy changes, is again asking Schweitzer to spare Smith's life.
Regardless, Smith's execution will have to wait until courts clear up a separate legal challenge to the state's method of execution.