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Will President Obama Free Leonard Peltier?Bonnie King Salem-News.com
President Obama Should Grant Leonard Peltier Clemency “in best interest of justice”
(SALEM, Ore.) - Native American activist Leonard Peltier was convicted in 1977 for the deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Wrongfully convicted, by most accounts.
41 years is a very long time, more than a lifetime for some. That is how long Leonard Peltier has been imprisoned. Long enough.
Over 50 Members of Congress and others—including Judge Gerald Heaney (8th Circuit Court of Appeals) who sat as a member of the court in two of Peltier’s appeals—have all called for his immediate release. Human rights organization such as Amnesty International have been active supporters of his release for many years.
But, the question remains: Will President Obama respond to the cries of the people?
Last month, former United States Attorney James H. Reynolds sent a letter to President Obama in support of clemency for Leonard Peltier.
Mr. Reynolds was appointed to the position of U.S. Attorney for the District of Iowa by former President Jimmy Carter. He held the position in 1977, the year that Mr. Peltier’s case went to trial, and supervised the prosecutors through trial and appeals, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Hultman. He was later appointed as U.S. Attorney for South Dakota.
Evidence of government misconduct in the Peltier case has been repeatedly acknowledged by Appellate courts. One such example is the government knowingly presenting false statements to a Canadian court to extradite Mr. Peltier to the U.S., and forcing witnesses to lie at trial.
A federal prosecutor has twice admitted that the government "can't prove who shot those agents."
Per the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals "the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier’s extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case."
The court concluded that the government withheld evidence from the defense favorable to Peltier "which cast a strong doubt on the government's case."
Had this other evidence been brought forth, the court added, "there is a possibility that a jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier."
In 2003, the judges of the 10th Circuit stated: “Much of the government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed.”
The average length of imprisonment for homicide in the U.S. is about 8 years1 (1977-mid90’s). Even in relation to the existing standards at the time of his sentencing (arrest February 6, 1976), Peltier is long overdue for discretionary parole. Per 1977 standards, he has served the equivalent of over five life sentences.
The government has not considered the good-time credit earned by Peltier (20 years, to date). Peltier has long been eligible for mandatory release.
President Obama’s human rights standards should include the release of Leonard Peltier.
As Reynolds said in his letter to President Obama, “Clemency is…in the best interest of justice in considering the totality of all matters involved.”
Age 71 and in poor health, Peltier formally applied for clemency on February 17, 2016, and awaits President Obama’s decision.
Peltier lived his life for the People, doing what he could to help. He has earned the right to finish his life a free man.
Call the Justice Dept. comment line - open 24 hrs: 202 -353-1555.
Sources: 1 Per the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ); December 21, 2016, Letter from James H. Reynolds to President Barack Obama; International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; THE TRIAL OF LEONARD PELTIER. South End Press, 1983.
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