If the only Canadian on death row in the United States is unsuccessful in his
plea for mercy in May, it will likely be Leroy Kirkegard who oversees what
As the warden of Montana State Prison, it's Kirkegard role to make sure
executions are carried out. There are only 2 inmates on death row at his
institution. Double-murderer Ronald Smith, of Red Deer, Alta., is one of them.
"It is a load on my shoulders but I've made that commitment to the State of
Montana when I was hired for this job. I'm prepared to carry it out," said
Kirkegard, in an interview with The Canadian Press from his office in Deer
"It's not something I'm looking forward to, but if the State of Montana says
that's what we have to do, I'm prepared to do that."
Kirkegard moved to his post last November, after spending 20 years working in
detention services in Las Vegas. He presides over 1,467 inmates at the federal
prison, located in the middle of a 15,000 hectare ranch 6 kilometres west of
Smith is one of the most high-profile.
He was sent to death row for the 1982 shootings of Thomas Running Rabbit and
Harvey Mad Man Jr. near East Glacier, Mont.
Smith and his buddies were on a drug-addled road trip through the U.S. The
killings were cold blooded. Smith asked for and received the death penalty
after pleading guilty. He later changed his mind, but his legal appeals have
A clemency hearing is scheduled in Deer Lodge for May 2 and 3 before the
Montana Board of Pardons and Parole, which will make a recommendation to Gov.
It is Schweitzer that ultimately decides if Smith spends the rest of his life
behind bars or dies. It is Kirkegard's burden to carry out the governor's
"There's nothing fun about it," said Kirkegard.
He knew what he was signing on for when he took the job. But he acknowledges he
still needs to do a bit of homework.
"I'm going to be very honest with you. We have a very big manual, the execution
protocol, and I haven't got all the way through it yet. And my role is to
supervise the entire procedure from 45 days prior until it actually happens,"
"It's a lot of teamwork, it's a lot of co-ordinating activity and, as far as my
day to day and hour to hour, minute to minute duties, I can't tell you what
they're going to be at this point."
There have been 74 people executed in Montana since 1863, and 3 have been
killed by lethal injection since 1995. The last execution occurred in August
The warden said he doesn't have strong views on the death penalty and, in the
end, it wouldn't matter if he did.
"It's something I will have to deal with and I'll deal with it at the time."
(source: Winnipeg Free Press)