Montana clergy, including Episcopal Bishop The Rt. Rev. Franklin C. Brookhart, are working together to save the only Canadian in an American death-row from execution.
The Times-Colonist reports:
While Canada’s Conservative government is still weighing whether to comply with a Federal Court order and resume efforts to seek clemency for the only Canadian on death row in the U.S., a coalition of Montana religious leaders has launched its own bid to help abolish capital punishment in their state.
The Montana clergy are backing a bill that would save Alberta-born killer Ronald Smith from execution.
Renewed debate over capital punishment and the fate of Smith produced oddly divergent arguments in the two countries last week, with the Conservative government here accusing opposition MPs of being too sympathetic to killers while the alliance of Montana clergy decried the “morally corrosive” effects of state-sanctioned executions.
At the centre of both debates is the 51-year-old Smith, who on Wednesday won a lawsuit against the Canadian government over its October 2007 decision to stop helping him avoid death by lethal injection at the Montana State Prison, where he’s been jailed since his conviction for the 1982 murders of Blackfoot Indian men Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man.
Smith’s case was also in the spotlight in Montana last week as legislators there moved toward a historic vote next month that could abolish the death penalty and reduce Smith’s sentence to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
At a news conference on Thursday in the northern Montana city of Great Falls, a coalition of 80 religious leaders urged the state’s House of Representatives to pass an abolition bill that has already cleared the Senate.
“I have seen no research that indicates that (the death penalty) acts as a deterrent to violent crime,” Rev. Franklin Brookhart, Bishop of Montana for the Anglican-affiliated Episcopal Church, argued in a letter to state legislators. “I cannot see how it makes us a better nation, that is, a more compassionate and fair society. And it clearly does not set a good example for individual conduct or moral maturity.”
He added: “For Christians, vengeance is no virtue.”
A joint letter signed by the alliance of Montana preachers, priests and rabbis argued that capital punishment has “consistently proved to be ineffective, unfair and inaccurate,” resulting in a disproportionate number of executions among minority groups and the tragic deaths of some inmates later proved to have been wrongfully convicted.