Much of Montana tuned in last week when death row inmate Ronald Smith made his appeal for clemency to the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole.
We, too, take a keen interest in this case. Though the ACLU does not provide criminal defense, we care deeply about the death penalty and are working hard for its abolition in Montana.
We're urging the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole to grant clemency to Smith.
In a May 2, 2012 letter to the pardons and parole board, ACLU Staff Attorney Anna Conley wrote, "We believe state-sanctioned killing of an individual is inherently cruel, unusual and inhumane, regardless of the crimes that individual committed in the past," adding that such punishment is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
These protections are heightened in Montana by our state constitution's emphasis on human dignity. The very basis of human dignity is life itself.
"The death penalty contradicts the very basic fundamental constitutional principles we as Montanans hold sacred."
We don't argue about the horrific nature of the murders Smith was convicted of, but we don't believe that another murder evens the score.
Former Montana Supreme Court Justice Karla Gray points out "the cause of death on all three death certificates of the people executed in recent years in Montana give the cause of death as 'homicide.'"
The ACLU is currently partnering with co-operating attorneys, Ron Waterman and Julie Johnson from Gough, Shanahan, Johnson and Waterman in Helena, and, Greg Jackson of Helena on a lawsuit, Smith v. Ferriter, challenging the state's lethal injection procedure.
Seventeen states and 97 countries have abolished the death penalty as a violation of basic human rights. "Montana should be riding the crest of this wave, not floundering in its wake," Conley said.
Learn more about the ACLU of Montana's and other organizations' efforts to end the death penalty and find out how you can help at www.mtabolitionco.org, the website of the Montana Abolition Coalition.