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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) — The family of a Canadian on death row in the United States tearfully pleaded with the Montana Parole Board on Wednesday to give him clemency, saying he has changed and deserves to live. Equally emotional relatives of two Blackfeet cousins killed by Ronald A. Smith argued the “scum of the earth” criminal should be put to death.
The case pits Blackfeet tribal members from both sides of the border who want the death sentence upheld against a Canadian government that is asking Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who ultimately makes the decision, to spare Smith’s life.
Smith, of Red Deer, Alberta, is believed to be one of only two Canadians on death row in the country.
He is asking board members to recommend that Schweitzer commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Smith’s lawyers say the board should look beyond the horrific 1982 killings of Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, and consider that Smith is now a different person.
Prosecutors and victims counter that the original sentence has stood through several appeals for good reason: Smith orchestrated a premeditated double murder during an international crime spree that stretched to California.
Board chairman Michael McKee said the decision will hinge on whether the board members conclude that Smith’s rehabilitation and remorse is genuine.
Relatives of the victims said the killings have forever scarred their family, and the case continues to cause anxiety as it drags on. Running Rabbit’s son, born just months before the killing, said he was shown a gravestone when he was old enough to ask who his dad was.
“At a young age I realized what kind of people are in this world, what kind of hatreds and injustice we have to deal with,” said Thomas William Running Rabbit IV. “How does a child deal with that?”
An aunt, Camille Wells, said Smith is an “animal” who “does not deserve to breathe the same air.”
Smith was sentenced just seven months after he marched the two young men into the woods just off U.S. 2 near Marias Pass and shot them both in the head with a .22-caliber rifle in an alcohol- and drug-fueled episode.
Smith was 24 and said at the time he wanted to know what it was like to kill. On Wednesday, he said he made that statement only to force the death sentence he was requesting at that time out of depression.
Smith spurned a plea deal that would have spared his life. His co-defendant has since been paroled and is living in Canada, while Smith resides in the maximum-security portion of the Montana State Prison, where he gets one hour outside his cell each day.
Smith turned to a dozen or so relatives of his victims and apologized.
“I wish in some way I could take it back. I can’t. All I can do is go forward with my life and be a better person,” Smith said. “I am just horrendously sorry. All I can do is apologize. I am not asking for forgiveness. I am not asking for understanding.”
He said he understands the desire of the victims’ family to see him executed.
“They have every right to feel that way, and I don’t blame them in the least,” he said.
Advocates and family members portrayed Smith as a thoughtful man who provides a needed sense of calm at the prison, and one who remains very engaged with letters and phone calls to his sister, daughter, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
His sister, Rita Duncan, asked the parole board to let him live out his days in prison, where he has educated himself and proven to be a helpful inmate.
“If this was your son, your brother, your father, your grandfather, your uncle, who was in this predicament, wouldn’t you want grace and mercy shown to him when he has done everything in his power to change and become the man he is today?” Duncan said.
Prosecutors argued Smith’s crime was premeditated, pointing out he sawed off the rifle in Canada and sneaked it across the border with the stated intent to use it in a crime.
Afterward, Smith was sober enough to drive out of the state, stopping to put stolen license plates on the car taken from the victims before robbing a convenience store in California with the same rifle.
Prosecutors also argued Smith was the ringleader in the crimes, and noted he overpowered a Montana jail guard in a successful escape shortly before his trial.
“Today he could be called an international terrorist. He used the weapon to kill two Americans less than 24 hours after illegally entering the country,” former Flathead County Attorney Tom Esh said.
Smith’s request comes just a week after the board quickly and sternly rejected a parole request from another high-profile inmate, Don Nichols. The aging “mountain man” is serving an 85-year sentence for abducting a world-class athlete in the 1980s with the intent of making her his son’s wife.
A Smith supporter argued the board sent a strong message in the Nichols case that inmates who show no remorse with their behavior do not deserve leniency. Helena attorney Ron Waterman said the board should grant clemency to Smith for the same reason — to show other inmates that good behavior matters.
“When you do, and if you do, you will send a message to those incarcerated that their conduct can improve their situation — that good conduct can lead to good results,” said Waterman, who is also a lead attorney in a separate case challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol.
Schweitzer has told the victims’ families that he will think of them and their desire to see the death penalty carried out, in making any decision. He also has said he does not take lightly any decision to execute a man.
Smith was long thought to be the only Canadian facing execution in the U.S., but a link to Canada recently emerged in another case.
Court records show Robert Bolden, on death row for killing a bank security guard in Missouri, has Canadian citizenship, the Canadian Press reported. Bolden was born to a Canadian woman in Newfoundland and moved to the U.S. when he was young.
The Canadian government, which does not believe in capital punishment, initially refused to support Smith, saying he had been convicted in a democratic country. It now formally supports clemency for Smith, in accordance with a long-standing policy of seeking clemency for Canadians sentenced to death in foreign lands.
Smith’s support included a letter read into the record from the Canadian government supporting clemency.
The board said it expects to issue its findings in three weeks, although there is no time limit for a final decision from Schweitzer, who leaves office at year’s end.
"Californication" (seven seasons)
"Entourage" (eight seasons)
Much like “Californication,” this man-centric show started strong and buzzy -- a perpetual nominee at the Golden Globes and Emmys, and a perceived gender-swapped “Sex and the City.” Then it ground on and on, and what might once have been read as a sophisticated satire of Hollywood materialism became a grinding conveyor belt of self-congratulatory guest-star appearances.
"Will & Grace" (eight seasons)
Hey, did someone say “self-congratulatory guest-star appearances?” Look -- it’s Jennifer Lopez, and Cher, and Janet Jackson, and Madonna! The latter seasons of “Will & Grace” effectively ruined the fun of watching the show in syndication now -- will it be a fun and jaunty early episode, or a later episode in which title characters enact an Ibsen play about having a baby together (really) while Jack and Karen meet one pop star or another? The fact that the show hastened a widespread acceptance of gay people that, then, made the show something of a throwback by the time it ended is one thing; the fact that the show itself seemed uninterested in relying on its actors’ sharp comic timing is quite another.
"The King of Queens" (nine seasons)
This CBS stalwart just kind of kept going, exactly as long as was needed to launch Kevin James’ film career. In the show’s final minutes, a formulaic sitcom became a mile-a-minute soap, with the central characters considering divorce and then having two children.
"Frasier" (11 seasons)
Though it ended strong, "Frasier" had something of the opposite problem as “The King of Queens”: While the CBS comedy chucked a whole bunch of plot at viewers toward the end, NBC’s Emmy magnet stayed stuck in familiar ruts, with Frasier questing endlessly for love and Daphne and Niles in fairly unthrilling domestic bliss. The jokes stayed good, but this maybe could have gone one or two years shorter.
"Weeds" (eight seasons)
As “Homeland” viewers may be learning, Showtime isn’t particularly good at keeping its shows coherent over time. (Maybe this is “Californication”’s issue -- we wouldn’t know!) This show changed settings and, effectively, organizing conceits so many times that by the end, it had few earnest defenders.
"Nip/Tuck" (six seasons)
This FX series, too, changed settings midway through, moving from Miami to Los Angeles four seasons in for no compelling reason. The show’s most gripping subplots had a way of petering out (remember the anticlimactic solution to the mystery of the Carver?), and its bizarre tendencies overtook any sense of fun.
"Glee" (five seasons and counting)
The series has, like its sibling show “Nip/Tuck” (Ryan Murphy created them both), switched locations, moving in large part to New York once its core cast graduated high school. But what’s the point of a high school series when the stars graduate? Despite some lovely moments, the show’s heat seems gone, and attempts to get back into the conversation (the school shooting episode, for instance) have been more desperate and tone-deaf than effective.
"Grey's Anatomy" (10 seasons and counting)
Here’s the thing: By all accounts, “Grey’s Anatomy” is not a creative failure. And it’s still widely watched. But when you begin your life as a world-beating hit, anything else seems somewhat marginal. “Grey’s Anatomy” has shed more regular viewers than many shows will ever hope to get in the first place (same’s true of “Survivor” and latter-day “ER,” to name just a few). Those who stopped watching once the Golden Globe nominations petered out may wonder why the show is still on; loyal viewers know better.
"The Simpsons" (25 seasons and counting)
Like the “Grey’s” doctors, the Springfield clan and their neighbors still draw a crowd. But “The Simpsons” is so omnipresent in syndication and in pop culture that the first-run series seems besides the point (not least because, though there are good episodes here and there, the show’s best days are universally agreed to be behind it -- like way behind it, in the 1990s).
"The Office" (nine seasons)
There was a natural break for this show, where it ought to have ended -- with the departure of lead actor Steve Carell in Season 7. The latter years were a creative fugue state, and as NBC’s Thursday night lineup continued to flatline in the ratings, one-time fans could be forgiven at their surprise that the adventures of Jim and Pam kept on unfolding.
"The X-Files" (nine seasons)
Once one of the show’s leads departs and has to be replaced -- as Steve Carell did on “The Office,” or David Duchovny did here -- the show faces a reckoning; if the lead is so central to the show’s plot as to make people wonder how the show could possibly go on, maybe the show shouldn’t. And even “X-Files” superfans might have been happier with fewer seasons of drawing out the conspiracy string toward a famously unsatisfying ending.
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