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Montana Board Hears Mercy Case for Canadian on Death Row: David Murray of the Great Falls Tribune reports convicted murderer Ronald Smith, who has admitted to being the gunman in two 1982 murders, had his clemency hearing before the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole Wednesday, asking to have his death sentence commuted to life without the possibility of parole. In August of 1982, Smith and two friends illegally crossed into the U.S. from Canada, armed with a sawed-off .22 caliber rifle. After befriending two Blackfeet men, they marched the men a few hundred yards off the side of a highway, and shot them in the head at point blank range. During court proceedings in 1983, Smith said he had wanted to feel "what it would feel like to kill someone." He rejected a plea agreement and requested the death penalty, and was sentenced to death in 1983. But Smith changed his mind a few weeks after sentencing, and has been challenging his death sentence since. "It is not our intent here today to in any way minimize the significance or severity of the crimes committed by Mr. Smith," said attorney Ron Waterman. "Simply, it is a request for mercy." Relatives of the victims said the murders have forever scarred their families, and the dragging on of the case continues to cause them anxiety. A decision will be made within 30 days.

Missouri Legislature Approves Changes to Probation Policies: Virginia Young of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Missouri Legislature on Wednesday passed a measure with the goal of saving the state money by reducing its prison population and increasing community supervision. Probation officers can sentence offenders to short jail stays for minor violations, such as failing a drug test, as long as the county jail has space. The state will pay counties $30 a day to house these types of inmates. More serious violations could result in a 120-day sentence in state prison, an option judges would be required to try before revoking probation. Also, for every 30 days of compliance, an offender will have their supervision period shortened by 30 days. These new policies will only apply to those convicted of certain drug offenses and lower-level C and D felonies. Those convicted of certain felonies such as aggravated stalking and sexual assault are excluded.

Case for a Citation Against Holder Distributed to Committee: CBS News reports a briefing paper and 48-page draft citation, laying out the case for declaring Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over the Fast and Furious "gunwalking" operation, were distributed to members of the House Oversight Committee Thursday. The documents allege the Justice Department has issued "false denials, given answers intended to misdirect investigators, sought to intimidate witnesses, unlawfully withheld subpoenaed documents, and waited to be confronted with indisputable evidence before acknowledging uncomfortable facts."

Manure Used to Stop Protests at Santa Monica College: KTLA News reports students from Santa Monica College are accusing school officials of laying fresh manure on the grass and then watering the campus lawns to prevent protesters from gathering. Students had planned to camp out on campus Monday night. The school's director of facilities, J.C. Saunders-Keurjian, said the manure was a "coincidence." Santa Monica College spokesman Bruce Smith said the manure was a non-issue anyway, since the city of Santa Monica prohibits camping on public property.   

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"Mercy" is an interesting word to choose for the idea that letting someone off death row for an absolutely brutal double murder when the victims' families have waited 30 years for justice to be carried out.

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