The American Civil Liberties Union may intervene in efforts to stop the Dec. 1 execution of convicted kidnapper and killer David Keith, ACLU officials said.
Steve Ungar, a Bozeman attorney and president of the Montana ACLU chapter, acknowledged that Keith is not fighting his death sentence."We have not been requested by Mr. Keith to intervene; he hasn't asked anyone to intervene," Ungar said. "Regardless of his wishes, we'd still resist his execution."
Keith, 32, was sentenced to die for the Jan. 11, 1984, shooting death of Harry Lee Shryock, a pilot taken hostage by Keith at the airport in Polson, a small northwest Montana city to which Keith fled after robbing a pharmacy in Missoula, about 60 miles away.
Keith's execution by lethal injection at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge would be the first death sentence carried out in the state since 1943.
Ungar said the ACLU has been contacted by "various church groups" seeking to stop the execution.
"At present we don't have a specific plan of attack," he said. "It's being actively explored. In a week or two we should have some line of attack."
The ACLU considers the death penalty "intolerable," said Henry Schwartzchild, director of the ACLU capital punishment project in New York City.
Schwartzchild worked on the case of Gary Gilmore, a killer who was executed by firing squad in Utah in 1976. Gilmore, like Keith, also did not fight his death sentence, but the ACLU intervened in the case to try to stop the execution.
"We didn't succeed in that; we may not with David Keith either," said Schwartzchild.
But both Gilmore's and Keith's desires to die are "irrelevant" in the ACLU's view, Schwartzchild said.
Ungar said the ACLU opposes the death penalty on grounds that it discriminates against the disadvantaged, is cruel and unusual punishment, does not deter crime and is irreversible if new evidence in the case surfaces after the execution.