Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian on death row scores reprieve -- for now

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CALGARY -- A Canadian on Montana's death row scored a minor legal victory Thursday after a judge declared the state's method of execution unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a civil lawsuit in 2008 on behalf of Ronald Smith that argued the lethal injections the state uses are cruel and unusual punishment and violate the right to human dignity.

District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock agreed, pointing to problems such as lack of training for the individual who administers the drug, a discrepancy over whether two or three drugs should be used in the execution and the method used to determine whether the inmate is actually unconscious. But he said the protocol could easily be brought into line.

Smith's lawyer said the ruling means it could be at least a year before Smith faces execution again.

Smith, from Red Deer, Alta., pleaded guilty in 1983 to shooting two men in the head. He asked for a death sentence but later changed his mind.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2012 A16

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