Robert Bolden, Canadian sentenced to death in the United States since 2006, dies of natural causes

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Bolden had fought for his death sentence to be overturned; his last court hearing came just days before his death in September

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Robert Bolden, a Canadian sentenced to death in the United States since 2006, has died of natural causes.

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Bolden, 58, was one of two Canadians threatened with execution in the United States. The other, Ronald Allen Smith, an Albertan, is on Montana state death row.

Bolden had fought for his death sentence to be overturned; his last court hearing was just days before his death in a medical prison in Springfield, Missouri, in September. The US Bureau of Prisons says he died of natural causes.

In October 2002, Bolden shot dead a bank warden, Nathan Ley, in a botched robbery in St. Louis, Missouri. Four years later, on August 25, 2006, Bolden was sentenced to death. A statement from Ley’s family remembers him as “kind, funny, responsible and hardworking”.

“We were fortunate that his killer was brought to justice. Too many families do not have this chance, ”said the statement, published via the Bureau of Prisons.

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Early in his life – and in his later years – Bolden struggled with many health issues. For much of his youth he suffered from poorly controlled diabetes; During the last years of his life, Bolden suffered from stage four kidney disease, lost his eyesight and had considerable mental health issues, court documents show.

  1. Robert Bolden - 48-year-old Newfoundland-born man convicted of killing a security guard in a botched bank robbery in St. Louis in 2002.

    A Canadian on Death Row: The Untold Story of Robert Bolden

  2. Ronald Allen Smith of Red Deer has been on death row in Montana since 1983 for the murder of two young Native cousins.

    Lethal injection death gets suspended, could lead to execution of Canadian

The US Bureau of Prisons did not respond to the National Post’s request for more information on the cause of death.

The case represented a particularly strange case for Canada, as for many years during Bolden’s legal battles the Canadian government was unaware that a Canadian was in danger of being executed abroad.

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The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which the United States is a signatory, requires a nation to allow those arrested to contact their consulate for assistance.

Bolden was not so lucky. And the Canadian government didn’t find out that a Canadian citizen was on death row until 2012 – six years after his conviction.

This was a crucial aspect of Bolden’s fight to avoid death, in which his lawyer, Jennifer Merrigan, argued that Bolden’s trial lawyers had failed by not contacting the Canadian government.

“They knew it was their responsibility to contact a foreign government… and then they didn’t contact Canada without ever learning how Canada could have helped them,” Merrigan said at the final court hearing in September.

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Merrigan did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment. Neither can the Canadian government.

Robert Bolden was born in Stephenville, a town south of Corner Brook, on the west coast of Newfoundland, in 1963. His mother, Stella Decker, was a prostitute, his father, allegedly an American serviceman named Curtis Roberts , has never been a part of his life.

They knew it was their responsibility to contact a foreign government… and then they failed to contact Canada

Rather, Bolden grew up with Lavale Bolden, another American soldier, as his father. For Robert Bolden, his family life was one of “domestic violence, alcoholism and drug addiction,” with Lavale Bolden, a heroin addict, and Stella Decker, an alcoholic, struggling constantly.

Robert Bolden developed his own addictions, and he “spent a lot of his time in the basement … smoking crack, drinking alcohol, and blowing turpentine when alcohol and crack were not. available, ”says a psychiatrist’s report contained in court documents.

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Yet court documents portrayed Bolden as a devoted father; his daughter, Ariel Bolden, described him as “really wonderful,” according to a court transcript.

“He did a lot of things with us and our friends. He took us to the movies. He collected Pokémon cards with us. He took us swimming; took us to Six Flags when her job went to Six Flags and a lot of things like that, ”she said.

His son, Robert Bolden, said his father had taken him fishing. They played basketball and video games together, and he always pushed his kids to get good grades in school, the son said.

“He was a huge influence at school for me. That’s why I wanted to stay in school, because of him. I wanted to do my best in school so that I could make him proud, ”his son said.

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