Leonard Peltier Is Getting What Could Be His Final Likelihood At Freedom


WASHINGTON ― After almost 50 years in jail, Native American rights activist Leonard Peltier is about to get what could also be his final probability at freedom.

Peltier, 79, is up for a parole listening to on Monday.

His final parole listening to was in 2009. Given his poor well being and the numerous years he’d possible have to attend for his subsequent listening to, it’s unlikely he would survive to make one other one.

The U.S. authorities put Peltier in jail in 1977 after he was convicted for killing two FBI brokers in a 1975 shoot-out on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. However his trial was riddled with misconduct, and his extended imprisonment has drawn sharp condemnation from outstanding human rights leaders, together with Pope Francis, Mom Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. Dozens of U.S. senators and members of Congress have urged his launch. So have dozens of Indigenous legislators.

Amnesty Worldwide, a company usually targeted on human rights violations overseas, has a whole marketing campaign centered on Peltier’s case.

“Leonard Peltier has been imprisoned for nearly 50 years, and now suffers from severe health issues,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, instructed HuffPost in a press release. “It’s time for him to go home and live out his remaining days with his family and his community.”

Native American rights activist Leonard Peltier, proven right here in jail in February 1986, has been in jail for almost 50 years with none proof he dedicated against the law.

Cliff Shiappa/Related Press

There was by no means proof that Peltier dedicated this crime. The FBI and U.S. lawyer’s workplace by no means did determine who killed these brokers.

However Peltier, who was one in all dozens of individuals current on the shoot-out, was the one particular person left for them to go after. He had been separated from his co-defendants, all of whom had already been acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Prosecutors in his trial hid key proof. The FBI threatened and coerced witnesses into mendacity. On the second day of the trial, a juror admitted she was biased in opposition to Native People however was stored on.

Peltier has maintained his innocence the complete time he’s been in jail. He had an opportunity to be launched in 2009 when he was up for parole, however it will have required him to say that he murdered the 2 FBI brokers. He wouldn’t do it. His parole was denied.

On Monday, a listening to officer with the U.S. Parole Fee will conduct Peltier’s listening to in a convention room on the most safety jail in Sumterville, Florida, the place he’s incarcerated. He’s restricted to 2 witnesses talking on his behalf and also will communicate for himself, based on his lawyer.

One witness is a health care provider who has examined Peltier and can testify about his critical well being points, which embrace diabetes and an aortic aneurysm. The opposite is a Native American ally to Peltier who’s a outstanding voice in Indian Nation.

Peltier’s workforce will make the case that he be allowed to dwell out his ultimate years in residence confinement. He presently spends most days confined to a cell with inches of area to maneuver inside as a result of the jail is frequently in a state of lockdown. He wants a walker to get round. He’s blind in a single eye from a partial stroke.

“I implore the Parole Commission to show justice and mercy by granting Mr. Peltier parole on humanitarian grounds,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the highest Democrat on the Home Pure Assets Committee and a longtime supporter of Peltier’s launch, instructed HuffPost in a press release.

A rally outside the White House on Sept. 12, 2023, shows support for imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier.
A rally exterior the White Home on Sept. 12, 2023, exhibits help for imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier.

Stephanie Scarbrough/Related Press

Remarkably, a few of the similar U.S. authorities officers who helped put Peltier in jail within the first place have since come ahead and admitted how flawed his trial was, and have urged clemency for him. They embrace former U.S. Lawyer James Reynolds and the late U.S. appeals courtroom choose Gerald Heaney.

And in 2022, authorized consultants with the United Nations Human Rights Council issued an uncommon and damning authorized opinion that Peltier’s extended imprisonment is “arbitrary” and solely as a result of he’s Native American. Their concluded he must be launched instantly.

“He has now spent nearly five decades locked away from his community, family, and loved ones enduring a punishment that he and hundreds of thousands of others, including the U.S. attorney who prosecuted him, know he was never due,” Grijalva stated. “An injustice of that magnitude can never fully be made whole, but it is not too late to grant him the remaining years of a life that the federal government wrongfully stole from him so many years ago.”

So why is Peltier nonetheless in jail?

The FBI doesn’t need him launched. Ever.

“The FBI remains resolute in our opposition to Leonard Peltier’s latest application for parole,” FBI director Christopher Wray instructed HuffPost in a press release.

Wray supplied a prolonged assertion laying out the bureau’s causes:

Peltier was convicted of the brutal homicide of FBI Particular Brokers Jack Coler and Ronald Williams at South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. We should always remember or put apart that Peltier deliberately murdered these two younger males and has by no means expressed regret for his ruthless actions.

Over the previous 45 years, no fewer than 22 federal judges have evaluated the proof and thought of Peltier’s authorized arguments, with every reaching the identical conclusion: Peltier’s claims are meritless, and his convictions and sentence should stand. As well as, Peltier’s crimes embrace a post-conviction escape from federal custody, throughout which he and his crew fired photographs at jail staff.

Granting parole for Peltier would solely serve to decrease the brutality of his crime and additional the struggling of the surviving households of brokers Coler and Williams, in addition to the bigger FBI household.

However even by the U.S. authorities’s personal admission, Peltier is just not in jail for “intentionally” killing anybody ― and even for killing anybody. Authorities officers dropped that argument a long time in the past, when their case fell aside, and charged him with aiding and abetting whoever did kill these brokers. The declare that Peltier has “never expressed remorse for his ruthless actions” is smart given he’s maintained his innocence the complete time he’s been in jail, even when it’s nearly definitely resulted in him being denied parole.

The FBI has not acknowledged the misconduct at Peltier’s trial, or the pleas for his launch by the previous U.S. authorities officers who performed a direct function in placing him in jail.

The FBI has additionally not addressed the important thing context of that 1975 shoot-out: the FBI was deliberately fueling tensions on that reservation as a part of a covert marketing campaign to suppress the actions of the American Indian Motion, or AIM, a grassroots group of activists targeted on drawing consideration to treaty rights violations, discrimination and police brutality concentrating on Native People. Peltier was a outstanding AIM member and an FBI goal.

In a bombshell interview final yr, retired FBI particular agent Coleen Rowley stated the bureau’s steadfast opposition to Peltier’s launch is rooted in vindictiveness and misplaced loyalties. Rowley, who labored for years with prosecutors and brokers immediately concerned in Peltier’s case, described how new FBI brokers are “indoctrinated” with the bureau’s model of occasions surrounding the 1975 shoot-out. She has urged Peltier’s speedy launch.

By all appearances, the FBI merely needs Peltier to die in jail, if not for every other cause than to keep away from having to confess the U.S. authorities lied to place him in jail within the first place.

As Peltier’s lawyer Kevin Sharp beforehand instructed HuffPost, “In order to get clemency, you have to get the FBI on board. They have an inherent conflict. You have to get the U.S. attorney’s office on board. They lied to get him in prison. They have an inherent conflict. They’re not going to say, ‘Oops, sorry.’”

“It’s this holdover with the FBI,” added Sharp, who’s a former federal choose who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

“It’s this holdover with the FBI.”

– Kevin Sharp, Leonard Peltier’s lawyer

If Peltier’s parole is denied once more on Monday, there’s actually just one different manner he’s acquired an opportunity at dwelling out his ultimate years at residence in North Dakota together with his household and tribe: if President Joe Biden grants him clemency. The president might do that unilaterally at any level. To this point, he has chosen to not.

As a political matter, the difficulty of Peltier’s launch isn’t going away.

Democrats in Congress have publicly appealed to Biden no less than 4 occasions to grant clemency to Peltier. The Nationwide Congress of American Indians, the most important and strongest Indigenous rights group within the nation, has stated Peltier’s freedom is a precedence for the group and its membership heading into the November elections.

In 2022, the Democratic Nationwide Committee unanimously handed a decision calling on Biden to grant clemency to Peltier.

A White Home spokesperson didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In a uncommon interview in 2022, Peltier instructed HuffPost what he would say to Biden if he had 5 minutes alone with him: “I’m not guilty of this shooting. I’m not guilty. I would like to go home to spend what years I have left with my great-grandkids and my people.”

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