July 20, 2009

Coyote on Peltier

An update on Leonard Peltier from actor and author Peter Coyote and another source:

Leonard PeltierAs of this year, my good friend, Native American leader Leonard Peltier, has been imprisoned for 29 years for a murder that even the government has no idea if he committed or not. The Appeals Court judge that sentenced him wrote a letter to President Clinton asking for clemency, and informing the President that the case had many errors in it, but that his hands had been tied. Furthermore, he held the FBI equally culpable for the events that started a massive fire-fight on the Sioux reservation that resulted in the deaths of two FBI agents.

Leonard has been in prison longer than many people convicted of murder. He has been eligible for parole for many years and every appeal has been denied. Both his parents have died while he was incarcerated and he has survived two attempts on his life; had his jaw wired shut after botched surgery and is now suffering from old age. During the 1996 Democratic Convention I asked a Deputy in the Justice Department about Leonard and he told me, "When you first spoke to me, I thought you were crazy. I'm embarrassed to say that everything you told me was the truth. All I can say is that there are some very powerful people in Washington that do not want to see him leave prison alive."
Leonard Peltier gets first parole opportunity in 15 yearsLeonard Peltier will receive his first full parole hearing in 15 years on July 28 in a Lewisburg, Pa., federal penitentiary, where he has spent the past few years in maximum security, his niece Kari Ann Cowan said Sunday.

Peltier, 64, is serving two life sentences for the deaths of FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, who were shot in the head at close range after being injured in a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier’s trial was held in Fargo.

Although Peltier has received interim parole hearings, his last full parole hearing was in 1993, Cowan said. He will be represented at July’s hearing by Eric Seitz, a Honolulu attorney.
Comment:  I haven't heard a good reason for the government's denying parole to Peltier when it grants parole to others prisoners convicted of murder.

I really haven't heard a good reason for the government's denying a parole hearing to Peltier when it grants parole hearings to others prisoners convicted of murder. I believe Peltier has been a model prisoner, so what exactly is the excuse for denying him a hearing? If you don't like his case, turn him down at the hearing, but don't deny him a hearing altogether.

For more on the subject, see Erdrich on Peltier, Peltier Committee Reforms, and Myth Busters Target Peltier.

P.S. Does Coyote do anything other than work on Native projects and issues these days? It sure doesn't seem like it.

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