We’re working hard to abolish the death penalty in Montana. The system is broken beyond repair. Costly, prone to error and violating the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, the death penalty only creates more victims.
On the legal front, the ACLU of Montana is suing the state, challenging the constitutionality of its lethal injection procedure in our case Smith v. Ferriter.
The ACLU of Montana most recently filed a brief in July 2013 calling for the District Court to declare the Department of Corrections new two-drug lethal injection protocol unlawful because it creates an unreasonable risk of subjecting prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment, violates the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government and was not written in accordance with the public participation procedures outlined in the Montana Administrative Procedures Act.
The new execution protocol, written solely by DOC staff without consultation with scientific or medical experts, was written in response to a September 2012 ruling by District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock that Montana’s lethal injection protocol is unconstitutional. That ruling was in response to a suit filed in March 2008 by the ACLU of Montana and co-operating attorneys, Ron Waterman and Julie Johnson from Gough, Shanahan, Johnson and Waterman in Helena, and Greg Jackson of Helena, on behalf of Ronald Allen Smith, challenging the lethal injection procedure in Montana. Additional information about the case
POLICY AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
Together with the other members of the Montana Abolition Coalition, the ACLU of Montana continues to mobilizes victims’ family members, civil liberties supporters, law enforcement, faith leaders and you to end the death penalty.
During the 2013 Montana Legislature, the Coalition supported House Bill 370 to repeal capital punishment and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Despite being a truly bipartisan bill, the Montana House Judiciary Committee once again ignored the will of Montanans and voted 11 – 9 to block our effort to repeal the death penalty. While Montanans remain frustrated with the House Judiciary Committee’s unwillingness to let this issue be debated by the full House chamber, the Coalition achieved many successes during the 2013 Legislature.
We had unprecedented bipartisan support. Rep. Doug Kary, Rep. Margie MacDonald, Sen. Dave Wanzenried, and Sen. Matt Rosendale deserve to be recognized for their courageous leadership in our fight to repeal the death penalty. As a testimony to their ability to build bridges, a dozen Republicans and most Democrats publicly supported abolition. Few other issues at the 2013 Legislature generated that kind of bipartisan support.
The diverse voices that spoke out for abolition was encouraging-from murder victim family members, corrections workers, faith leaders, a Supreme Court Justice, everyday Montanans, and the list goes on. This is a movement that can only grow.
The public debate has shifted in favor of repealing capital punishment in Montana and across the country.
In addition, the ACLU has advocated for clemency for Smith, calling on his sentence to be commuted to one of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
WHAT IS THE MONTANA ABOLITION COALITION?
Originally started as an alliance of organizations, the Montana Abolition Coalition is a non-profit alliance of individuals working to abolish Montana’s death penalty. In addition to the ACLU of Montana, members include The Montana Human Rights Network, The Montana Catholic Conference, The Montana Association of Churches and Equal Justice USA. Get involved and check us out at www.mtabolitionco.org.