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Canadian on death row says execution may be ‘preferable’ to endless prison time

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Ronald Smith sounds tired.

Despite good news last month, when a bill to resume executions in Montana was unexpectedly defeated, the Canadian on death row in that state is in a sombre mood.

Smith, originally from Red Deer, Alta., has been facing capital punishment since 1983 for killing two young Montana men in 1982.

“I thought we were screwed,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press from Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Mont.

“I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that this wouldn’t be approved. Once my daughter found out, I explained to her which road we were going down and what the probable outcomes were going to be. I was that sure that it was over.”

All executions have been stayed in Montana since 2015 because the state requires the use of an ultra-fast-acting barbiturate, which is no longer available. There hasn’t been an execution in Montana since 2006.

Montana’s house of representatives passed a bill in February that would have amended protocol to include any substance in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death. But the senate voted it down 26-24.

The execution issue is likely to arise again in two years when the state legislature reconvenes.

“Obviously, I’m happy about it, but at the same time it keeps running through the back of my head, ‘Oh crap. I’m stuck sitting around here again,'” Smith sighed.

“A lot of people look at it and say, ‘Well at least you’re alive,’ but I’m really not. I’m just sitting around like a bump on a log is all I’m doing, and after almost 40 years of this, anything is preferable.”

Smith, 63, rephrased his response when asked if he would prefer to be executed.

“Well, maybe not preferable, but I wouldn’t be bothered by it. As soon as I heard what was going on, I accepted it. I went, ‘OK, cool. I don’t have to deal with this crap anymore.’

“I was worried about my family because they were going to take it hard. Personally, I don’t care. I’ve hit that point where I’ve done enough of this. If they’re (legislators) not going to cut me a break, than go ahead and do away with me.”

Smith and Rodney Munro, both high on LSD and alcohol, shot and killed two Indigenous cousins near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982. They admitted to marching Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods by a highway. They shot each man in the head with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle.

Court heard that Smith and Munro wanted to steal the victims’ car. Smith also said at the time that he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.

He was initially offered a plea deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table, but he rejected it. He pleaded guilty and asked to be put to death, but later changed his mind. He has had five execution dates set over the years. Each has been overturned.

The victims’ families have continued to push for Smith to be executed.

Munro took the plea bargain, was eventually transferred to a prison in Canada, and has been free since 1998.

“He’s been out 23 years and doing well and I wish him all the very best. Had I taken that plea deal, then I’d have been out a long time ago. It’s hard not to have that in the back of your mind on a pretty regular basis.”

Smith said he’s content with paying for his crimes, but would like to be transferred to a prison in Canada, where he has a daughter, two sisters, grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

“I’m getting pretty much what I deserve for the crime I committed,” he said. “If I was in a position where I could see my family on a constant basis, then leave me locked up. I don’t care.

“It is what it is. I committed the crime.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021.

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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Rampaging bear in Japan injures 4 before being shot dead

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TOKYO (AP) — A wild brown bear on the the loose all night in a city in northern Japan wounded four people, entered a military camp and disrupted flights at an airport Friday before being shot and killed by authorities.

The bear was seen wandering through the streets of Sapporo in the early hours of Friday, triggering a number of calls to police. Over the next eight hours, Hokkaido prefectural police said the bear injured a woman in her 80s, a man in his 70s and a man in his 40s before attacking a soldier.

Police said the condition of those injured was not known, but the Asahi newspaper reported that the man in his 40s suffered serious injuries to his chest, back and limbs after he was mauled by the bear while walking on the street.

Footage on local television showed the bear wandering a street in Sapporo. Chased by a car, it crossed a busy road and forced its way into the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Camp Okadama. The bear knocked down a uniformed soldier on duty at the gate.

The soldier suffered cuts to his chest and stomach, but his injuries were not life threatening, according to the Defense Ministry.

Next the bear ran through the camp and intruded onto the runway at a nearby airport, causing several flights to be grounded.

The bear then ran into a forest, where it was shot by local hunters.

Toshihiro Hamada, an official at Sapporo city environmental department, said the bear’s presence in town was a surprise and officials were investigating how the animal ended up in town.

“We are sorry that four people were injured,” Hamada said.

Brown bears roam mainly in Hokkaido forests, but experts say they have been increasingly spotted in inhabited areas looking for food, especially during the summer.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press

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Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry talks injury, ‘scary looking’ eyes after return

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Jeff Petry’s young sons were warned by their mother that dad looked a little different.

A hand injury suffered by the Canadiens defenceman in Game 3 of Montreal’s series against the Winnipeg Jets had also eventually resulted in broken blood vessels in both of his eyes.

It gave the soft-spoken blue-liner a demonic look that startled his children — despite Julie Petry’s best efforts to calm their fears.

“Kids were at school when I came home,” Petry recalled Thursday. “(They) didn’t want to look at me and decided that I would be the villain and they’d be the super heroes and we started playing.

“That got them to relax and feel a little bit more comfortable.”

Petry wasn’t a super hero Wednesday night, but his return to the lineup helped the Canadiens secure a 3-2 victory in Sin City to even their semifinal matchup with the heavily favoured Vegas Golden Knights 1-1.

Game 3 of the best-of-seven showdown goes Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Petry was hurt June 6 when his right hand got caught in one of the holes photographers and television camera operators use along the glass. He departed that game, wasn’t available when Montreal completed a sweep of Winnipeg the following night, and sat out the opener against Vegas.

The 33-year-old was confident he’d suit up Wednesday after coming through the morning skate while sporting a specially made glove, but he didn’t take line rushes in warmups and was initially scratched before being added to the game sheet just prior to puck drop.

Once in the lineup, it didn’t take long for TV viewers and social media users to notice Petry’s eerie, blood-tinged eyes.

“He’s scary looking,” Canadiens goaltender Carey Price joked following his ninth victory of the post-season. “But he’s obviously a big part of our team and played a big game.”

Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme, who also got defenceman Jon Merrill back after he was injured during the Canadiens’ stunning comeback win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, said his team wasn’t being coy with Petry’s status.

“He was confident he was gonna play, but we needed to talk to the doctors, we needed to have the green light,” Ducharme said Thursday morning before Montreal flew home. “They wanted to make sure everything was fine.

“There’s no game there.”

Petry, who doesn’t have any vision issues, finished second on the Canadiens with 42 points during the pandemic-shortened regular season, and has four assists in 11 outings in these playoffs with the Original Six franchise now just three victories from the Stanley Cup final.

“It is the most important time of the year,” he said after logging nearly 21 minutes Thursday. “With any injury that you’re dealing with, you’re trying to cut the timeline down and get out there as quick as possible.”

Normally a player with terrific puck-handling skills, Petry said he’ll have to continue relying on his skating and stick work to get by in the defensive zone with his hand still ailing.

“It’s come along,” he said. “It was something that needed to get time — talking with the doctors, getting a timeline and coming up with what made sense, but what was realistic.

“It was just a matter of when I felt like I could play without hurting the team.”

That was certainly the case in Game 2.

RED-HOT TOFFOLI

Tyler Toffoli led the Canadiens offensively throughout the regular season.

Not much has changed in the playoffs.

The winger, who had 28 goals in 52 games in 2021, has 12 points in 13 contests this spring. Toffoli is also on an eight-game point streak — one back of the franchise record shared by Guy Lafleur (1977) and Larry Robinson (1978).

FLEURY HEADING HOME

Golden Knights netminder Marc-Andre Fleury is looking forward to playing in his home province for the first time since before the pandemic because of COVID-19 border restrictions.

The Canadiens will have 3,500 fans in attendance at the Bell Centre for Games 3 and 4 — up 1,000 as coronavirus rules continue to loosen in Quebec — but the 36-year-old is only focused on what happens between the whistles.

“I haven’t been back in a little while,” said Fleury, a native of Sorel-Tracy, about an hour’s drive northeast of Montreal. “It’s always a building that’s fun to play in. It’s usually pretty loud.

“But the goal is the same — just go in and grab the win.”

PERRY LIVING THE DREAM

Montreal forward Corey Perry fell in love with the Canadiens as a kid when his father was an Ontario Provincial Police officer not far from the Quebec border in New Liskeard, Ont.

After playing his entire career in the U.S., the 36-year-old former Hart Trophy winner and 2007 Stanley Cup champion signed with his childhood team for US$750,000 right before training camp.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“To put on that jersey each and every night and play for this franchise, it’s a special feeling,” said Perry, who has three goals and five assists in the post-season. “It’s been a dream come true.

“But there’s a lot of work left to be done.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2021.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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