Archive for the ‘Death penalty’ Category



By Duganz

Ronald Smith is set to die on January 31, 2011. That’s 88 days.

His final sentence came down yesterday in Deer Lodge, Montana, two days after a Helena judge imposed an injunction staying Smith’s execution.

But there are many more issues behind this: the state doesn’t have any sodium thiopental on hand to kill Smith, nor does the state have a place to execute Smith since they took Montana’s least homely trailer off its foundation–not to mention that Smith’s attorney’s filed papers back in January arguing that executing someone in a trailer, without medical staff was wrong (thus the injunction). So there’s that.

So what will happen now? District Judge John Larson says it’ll be up to the State Supreme Court to figure out which order needs to be followed.

Meanwhile, Smith’s attorneys will send a clemency request to the Board of Pardons within the next 10 days. The BoP will recommend to Brian what they think is the correct choice. Ultimately Brian will decide what to do. And we already know his answer: Kill.

It’s going to be a long couple of months for Ronald Smith, and it will be interesting to see how everything works out legally–and with international relations. It’s also interesting to read the international spin on this. From  the Toronto Sun:

“We’ll have to start a fairly elaborate planning process which begins with identifying staff to volunteer,” said [Montana State Prison Warden Mike] Mahoney.

Executions aren’t in the prison job description, so Mahoney needs people willing to work the equipment.

“We’ll have a meeting to ask for volunteers — by law, the only one who’s required to be involved is me.”

You might expect the warden to be a man hardened to the task, but Mahoney admits his three visits to the death chamber have been the worst part of his job.

“It’s without question the most difficult thing that I have to do as the warden,” said Mahoney.

“I can’t speak for other people who witness it, but you walk into a room, and when you walk out again, someone has lost their life.

“That, I think, is a life-changing experience — you know what will happen, but when it does, it’s a very profound moment.”

A callous killer of killers, Mahoney isn’t.

As an aside, I think it should be mentioned that Mike Mahoney is carrying a terrible burden on his shoulders, and I can’t imagine how difficult his day is just knowing that he’s going to go through it. Again. I truly wish that even if you’re a person for executing Smith, you take a moment to think of Mr. Mahoney, and how this will weigh on him.

And while you do that, read this:

The warden expresses sympathy for staff at the prison where Smith has lived since 1983, when he pleaded guilty to the murders of Thomas Running Rabbit Jr. and Harvey Mad Man Jr..

Twenty-seven years is a long time to get to know someone. In a facility filled with difficult criminals, Mahoney says Smith — now a grandfather — has always been an easy inmate to work with.

“This is a guy who we’ve provided custody and care for years, and that’s another dimension people don’t often think about,” said Mahoney.

“You’re not satisfying the order of a court on some total stranger — this is a person that all of us have dealt with for a good number of years, and staff would tell you he’s been a fairly easy inmate to deal with.”

If Mahoney is worried about his staff, the warden is also concerned about Smith’s reaction to the looming execution date.

“We obviously will be concerned about his state of mind, so we’ll have the mental health staff go around, to see if he has a desire to speak to anyone in that capacity, or a clergyman,” said Mahoney.

Those are some tough words to read, and I think a tough concept for people “on the outside” to understand. Having worked with incarcerated felons (several summers working at Montana State Hospital) I can say that eventually, for the most part, you stop thinking about people as murderers, and criminals, and start thinking of them as “the guy really good at cribbage” and “the one with the dirtiest jokes.” It’s the only way you can deal with that population: by remembering each day that no matter what they did, they are here now, and you’ve got to deal with them or find a new job. In Deer Lodge, Butte, and Anaconda, a “new job” is sometimes not gonna happen, especially with the benefits the state provides, so people adapt.

So whether or not you see Ronald Smith as human, someone working at MSP does. They may even see him as a person that — in another situation — they’d count as a friend. That’s a price for the death penalty that we’re not wont to talk about, and I’m glad the Sun brings it up.

But no matter what we all still have one question to answer: Is state-sanctioned murder okay?

by jhwygirl

Sen. David Wanzenried’s bill – SB236, which would abolish the death penalty in Montana, has its second round of hearings today (Wednesday) at 8 a.m. in House Judiciary.

This one has passed the Senate floor on a 27-23 bipartisan vote.

One person that has spoken in support of this bill is Marietta Jaeger Lane of Three Forks. Marietta is a former resident of Michigan who has now lived in Montana for 9 years. Her seven-year old daughter was abducted in 1973 from the Missouri Headwaters State Park while the family was on a camping trip. For more than a year, Ms. Jaeger Lane was left without answers. She made it known to the press that she wanted to speak to the person that took her precious little girl – and 15 months later, on the anniversary day of her daughter’s disappearance, that person called her, asking “”So what do you want to talk to me about?”

Marietta has testified in support of abolishing the death penalty.

To say the death of any other person would be just retribution is to insult the immeasurable worth of our loved ones who are victims. We can not put a price on their lives.

In my case, my own daughter was such a gift of joy and sweetness and beauty, that to kill someone in her name would have been to violate and profane the goodness of her life; The idea is offensive and repulsive to me.

I first heard those words during debate on the Senate floor. They absolutely moved me. I don’t describe myself as a religious person, but I found myself pondering may things in the days following that hearing – concepts of forgiveness and revenge, life and death, God…right and wrong. I’m not a religious person – I’ve not been inside a church for services in….in more than a decade?

I’ve also heard more than I needed ever to know about the kidnapping of Shasta and Dylan Groene – and Dylan’s subsequent murder at the hands of now-convicted Joseph Duncan III. There’s been other times in my life, too, where certainly I’ve (without reservations) unquestionably supported a death sentence.

But hearing Ms. Lane’s words made me feel, honestly – petty. Small. Ignorant.

The death penalty is something that I’ve wrestled with for decades. I’ve found myself of either side based on moral decision; based on the inequity with which it is overwhelmingly applied with regards to those of lesser means, based on the permanence of such a sentence and the possibility of imposing it falsely; based on a feeling that what that person did was so horrific that they aren’t worthy of living; based on killing the guilty is too easy of a sentence for those that committed the crime (in other words, it’s too easy of a way out); and, yes, based even on the costs to taxpayers.

There is much that can be found about Ms. Marietta Jaeger Lane – here is her testimony given during the 2007 legislature.


I’ve come to my own personal realization that more death does not bring closure. I’ve experienced situations – thankfully rarely – that have provoked real rage and feelings desirous of revenge. I’ve thankfully not acted upon those feelings, but I’ve also learned that things have a way of coming back around. Revenge, I don’t think, is for our hands. It is best left to something much more capable of passing judgment on that which it created than a mere mortal like me. And beyond those thoughts, I don’t believe that more killing serves justice to those that are killed, and it only prolongs coming to whatever closure is able to be had out of a horrific loss.

Consider contacting the House Judiciary committee to support SB 236 and abolish Montana’s death penalty. Jennifer Eck is the secretary, If you contact Jennifer, make sure to request that your comments be forwarded and provided to the entire committee.

You can also call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the entire House Judiciary legislative committee. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

by jhwygirl

65 committee meetings scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Argh. Looks like something is FUBAR (for a Sunday) – can’t read the bills.

The network path was not found.

Of note, I guess, based on previous posts, I see SB236, which is from Sen. David Wanzenried has its House committee hearing on Wednesday. This is the bill that would abolish Montana’s death penalty. It’s passed the Senate on a 27-23 vote. Help give this one the help that it needs to get it out of committee and onto the House floor. In House Judiciary – Jennifer Eck the secretary –

SB360, from Sen. Jim Kean, of Butte, has its second round of hearings on Wednesday, too. This one made my list of bad environmental legislation. It exempts 10 miles or up to 10% of new right-of-way from the major facility siting act. It also defines sensitive areas as “government recognized” only, which really exempts out a bunch of federally- owned lands. Automatically exempting new ROW on the premise that what is there is already there is piss-poor. What if conditions have changed? Won’t matter – it’s exempt – no need to look. Ugh. In House Natural Resources – Shirley Chovanak the secretary – Don’t wait until some enlargement of a major facility like the Yellowstone Pipeline – which runs right here through Missoula, folks – is proposed…because then it’ll be too late.

Well, that’s all I got.


by jhwygirl

First things first: Watch out for spontaneously combusting flowerpots.

The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (wonder if Al Gore is on it?) has accepted a plan to allow web domain users to put anything that they damned well please at the end of a web address. Instead of being restricted to the 18 approved endings (like .com, .org, .net, .biz, .tv and a whole bunch of others), users will be able to pick whatever they please.

hmmmm…..I’ll have to mull that one over.

Duncan’s defense team wants him found incompetent. No mullin’ that one over folks. We should have saved all that cash that has been spent so far on the whole affair. Dug a hole and put a bullet in the sick bastard’s head the night they got him out there in St. Regis.

For those of you that haven’t had the heart to follow the story – Duncan wants to defend himself just for the opportunity to have Shasta on the stand so he can question her. Like I said – sick bastard.

It’s OK to enjoy fresh tomatoes folks. The USDS lifted the salmonella warning late Thursday. Just in case you were wondering.  Of course, most Montanan’s won’t care – they’ve been picking up their produce at farmer’s markets – in all their glorious bounty – around the state.

The U.S. media is starting to notice that we’ve got a war in Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan? Osama bin Laden? The Taliban?

Finally, this from the Pew Research Center. People aren’t satisfied. But you probably already knew that.

by Jay Stevens

As I guessed, House Republicans wouldn’t let the bill abolishing the death penalty to reach the floor for debate.

I’m with Bigfork Republican, Bill Jones, who responded to Scott Sales’ implication that considering a death penalty ban would hurt Republicans politically:

“There’s more liability for those who obstruct the legislative process than those who vote their conscience,” Jones said.

The notion that death penalty support or opposition falls purely along party lines is a quaint notion. On one hand, you’ve got Wulfgar!, who supports the death penalty, and on the other you have Montana Headlines, who opposes it. (And by the way, anytime MH starts a sentence off with “liberals think…” you can skip the paragraph. If MH actually knew how liberals think, he’d be one.)

The death penalty is expensive, it’s not an effective deterrent, it’s unfairly applied, and it’s subject to mistakes, as the recent spate of pardons based on DNA evidence attests. Unease about the practice has grown, not just among liberals who are understandably uncomfortable with the idea of a government putting its citizens to death, but among Christians who value life, repentance, and an eternal soul; lawmakers, who hate to see the courts bogged down in endless appeals; prison officials who have to deal with the ugly and difficult mechanics of the process; and citizens of all ideological stripes who are beginning to realize that there are innocent men and women on death row, more than we can be comfortable with.

At the very least, House Republicans should be open to debate. Let the public record show how our representatives feel about the issue. Let them suggest ways that we can fix the obvious and glaring problems with the death penalty. It’s time we address this issue again.

by Jay Stevens

This week, Montana’s Assistant Attorney General, John Connor, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the bill that would eliminate the state’s death penalty:

The threat of death does not deter criminals and the process involved in death penalty cases is long and expensive, Assistant Attorney General John Connor told the House Judiciary Committee.

“It seems to me to be the ultimate incongruity to say we respect life so much that we’re going to dedicate all our money, all our resources, our legal expertise and our entire system to try and take your life. … Frankly, I just don’t think I can do it anymore,” he said.

With testimony like that from the state’s Attorney General’s office, I can’t see how the bill would get tabled in committee, especially as it’s already passed the state Senate.

Still, I have no feeling for this bill. It’s a complete mystery to me. I was surprised when it got out of committee. I was surprised when it passed the Senate. And I was shocked that the bill’s Senate supporters were from both sides of the partisan divide (as were the bill’s detractors).

As I’ve said before, I support the ban mainly because of the mistakes made in past prosecutions, the economic imbalance of the imposition of the death penalty, and its cost. Plus it’s a little weird that our state kills people.

So while it’s probably likely the bill gets buried in the House, it should at least merit debate on the floor. Let’s talk about it…

by Jay Stevens 

Today the Montana Senate voted to abolish the state’s death penalty on a 27-22 vote, which actually surprised me. I didn’t think this bill would get past committee – which it did – or a general Senate vote – which it did.

While the vote was largely carried by Senate Democrats, there was plenty of crossover on both sides. That’s the surprising thing about this bill, and that’s what has to be giving anti-death-penalty activists some hope that the House might go for it, too.

I admit I’m generally against the death penalty for a number of reasons. First, there have been too many mistakes made in death penalty convictions to make me confident we’re actually killing the right people. Also, as Ty Alper mentioned in his conversation on this topic, the poor and racial minorities are too often targeted by the death penalty, thanks to abysmal lawyering. That is, it’s not administered fairly. Finally, like Ty, I balk a little at the notion that our government can kill people. It’s a little creepy.

Like Ed Kemmick, though, I’m still a little conflicted. In a perfect world, without unequal or unfair or mistaken death penalty prosecution, maybe it would be better to simply dispatch those that we can’t rehabilitate or who are chronically violent.

But it’s not a perfect world. And maybe a lifetime in jail is actually a worse punishment, as Ed says. It’s certainly cheaper.

So, all things considered, I support the ban.

I’m curious to see how the House goes in this issue. Personally, I don’t think it has a chance. The Republicans in the Senate who voted for the abolishing of the death penalty no doubt did so because they knew the Republican-led House would have the last say on the matter. No doubt conservative leaders are lining up the votes to kill the bill and keep the illusion going that Republicans are tough on crime.

Still…all this bill needs is a couple of defections and the death penalty is gone from Montana.

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