Demanding Justice for Peltier
FBI admissions underscore the need for a new
by Dave Dellinger
Toward Freedom magazine. June / July 2001
Before leaving office, President Bill Clinton pardoned Marcus
Rich and other rich people who gave money to his elitist post-presidency
plans. Now, we need a massive new campaign to free Leonard Peltier.
We must make action by the Parole Commission unavoidable. And
no matter what private views President George W. Bush holds, he
must understand that the only way he can answer is to issue a
A habeas corpus petition has been filed in Federal District
Court in Topeka, KS. Peltier is serving time nearby in Leavenworth.
The petition challenges the actions of the US Parole Commission;
specifically its illegal, erroneous, arbitrary, capricious, and
unconstitutional denial of parole. It also questions the decision
to schedule Peltier's next parole hearing for December 2008. That's
12 years in excess of the commission's applicable guidelines,
and six years after the date set by Congress for the abolition
of the commission itself. If and when a hearing is held, we need
to fill the courtroom.
Peltier's petition also charges that, as a result of changes
in federal parole laws, practices, and procedures since 1975,
Peltier has been imprisoned longer than the law then authorized.
This violates the US Constitution's ex postfacto clause, as well
as Peltier's right to due process and equal protection.
RECAPPING THE CASE
For those unfamiliar with the facts, Peltier has been in prison
for more than 25 years for a crime he didn't commit. In response
to a Freedom of Information Action-based lawsuit, the FBI has
admitted that agents provided false testimony during his trial.
The prosecutors have testified that they have no idea who actually
committed the crime.
Even before his arrest and extradition from Canada, Myrtle
Poor Bear was tortured and terrorized by the FBI into saying that
she was Peltier's girlfriend and had witnessed his shooting of
FBI agents. Actually, she didn't know him, and admitted prior
to the trial that the FBI had coerced her statement.
Years ago, the Canadian government said that it wouldn't have
extradited Peltier without the dishonest testimony provided by
the US. Later, the US admitted what it had done. Yet, when Myrtle
Poor Bear showed up at the trial to tell the truth, her testimony
His trial took place in a different state than the ones for
two of his co-defendants. They were acquitted, while an all-White
jury found Peltier guilty. In addition, he wasn't allowed to claim
self-defense. From several hundred yards away, he had fired back
at over 150 FBI agents, BIA police, SWAT team, and local posse
members who had already shot at men, women, and children.
There is also evidence that someone else killed the two agents,
who had entered the reservation on a false pretext.
Why was Peltier on the reservation? The FBI had worked with
local conservative Lakotas to sell part of the reservation to
a corporation that wanted to mine uranium deposits. After FBI-infiltrated
goon squads killed more than 70 Lakotas who actively resisted
the sale, Peltier was invited to set up an American Indian Movement
(AIM) group to protect local residents. Peltier was a Chippewa
Lakota Pipe carrier and AIM activist.
In fact, that's why the two FBI agents entered the reservation,
providing a pretext for others to follow and fire. Besides the
two agents, Joe Stuntz, a native Lakota, also died. But neither
the FBI nor any other part of the government ever investigated
QUESTIONS OF FAIRNESS
Dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure, and a serious
heart condition, Peltier has already suffered a stroke. His phone
privileges have been serious curtailed. In addition, he should
be able to visit with his children and grandchildren outside the
limitations and confines of prison.
Members of the Peltier Defense Committee, located in Lawrence,
KS, visit with him at least once a week. They report that his
sense of humor hasn't been lost, his spirits remain remarkably
strong, and he's still painting. Recently, he told them that he
was happy to receive a letter I sent. Among other things, I said
that my wife, Elizabeth Peterson, and I have one of his paintings
on our wall. But I've always been denied the right to visit him.
When Peltier's conviction was appealed, the appellate judges
decided that ballistic evidence had been improperly withheld,
and that, had the jury known about it, he might have been acquitted.
Shockingly, the appeal was nevertheless denied on a technicality.
But as Federal Appeals Court Judge Heaney later wrote: "The
United States government must share the responsibility with the
Native Americans for the June 26 firefight .... [T]he FBI used
improper tactics in securing Peltier's extradition from Canada
and in otherwise trying the Peltier case .... [A]t some point
a hearing process must begin."
We as a nation must treat Native Americans more fairly. To
do so, we must recognize their unique culture and their great
contributions to our nation. Favorable action by the president
in the Leonard Peltier case would be an important step in this
The Defense Committee doesn't plan to march outside the prison
in June, since the last time they did so Peltier was put in the
Hole. Instead, they'll restructure and issue a new call for local
community events soon. After more organizing and actions, they'll
announce a national event, probably in December.