Leonard Peltier, 38 Years A Detainee: How Did We Get Here?

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Amnesty has serious concerns about the fairness of Leonard Peltier's (above) trial (Photo Credit: Taro Yamasaki).

Amnesty has serious concerns about the fairness of Leonard Peltier’s (above) trial (Photo Credit: Taro Yamasaki).

February 6th marked the 38th anniversary of the arrest of Anishinabe-Lokota Native American, Leonard Peltier. Amnesty International marked this date, as did many others in the U.S. and around the world.

Leonard Peltier was arrested 38 years ago in connection with the murders of two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, during a confrontation involving American Indian Movement (AIM) members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in June 1975. While he admits to having been present during the incident, Leonard Peltier, who in 1977 was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the murders, has always denied killing the agents as alleged by the prosecution at his trial.

All legal appeals against Leonard Peltier’s conviction have been exhausted; his most recent petition for release on parole was denied by the pardon board in 2009, and he will not be eligible for parole again until 2024, when he will be 79. His scheduled release date is not until 2040, when he will be over 96 years of age…if his declining health allows.

Leonard Peltier, a Chippewa-Lakota Indian serving a life sentence for the murder of 2 FBI agents, posing in the open doorway of his cell at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary  (Photo Credit: Taro Yamasaki//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images).

Leonard Peltier, a Chippewa-Lakota Indian serving a life sentence for the murder of 2 FBI agents, posing in the open doorway of his cell (Photo Credit: Taro Yamasaki//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images).

He is currently held at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida, far from his family, spiritual advisers and friends in North Dakota. Due to the nearly 2000 mile distance, he rarely receives any visitors.

Recently, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, traveled to Coleman Penitentiary with Peltier’s spiritual adviser, Len Foster, to meet and speak with Leonard in prison. SR Anaya met with Leonard for four hours to discuss his case and touch upon topics of Peltier’s interest such as the state of the world’s indigenous population.

Anaya has previously stated, “…new or renewed consideration should be given to clemency for Leonard Peltier” in order to achieve a meaningful reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of the United States.

Amnesty International recognizes the seriousness of the crime for which Leonard Peltier was convicted and has the deepest sympathy for the relatives of Jack Coler and Ronald Williams. However, after studying the proceedings and the information which has been released since his conviction, Amnesty has serious concerns about the fairness of his trial.

Amnesty International continues pushing for Leonard Peltier’s release based on the interests of justice and upon humanitarian grounds due to his declining health. Please take part in any solidarity events in your local area and take action on Leonard’s behalf.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

10 thoughts on “Leonard Peltier, 38 Years A Detainee: How Did We Get Here?

  1. Leonard Peltier is innocent.! The trial never proved that Leonard Peltier murdered the agents. The judge even admitted that in the his sentencing.

  2. "However, after studying the proceedings and the information which has been released since his conviction, Amnesty has SERIOUS CONCERNS about the fairness of his trial". Uhhh like what? Anything dozens of appeals and several parole boards have or haven't heard? Care to back that intentionally vague statement up with ANYTHING? Short of the death penalty — Peltier is where he belongs. For those interested in more than just A.I.'s lack of the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth — do yourself and your mind a favor. RESEARCH for yourself. Just for the heck of it look up Anna Mae Aquash and the circumstances surrounding her death. Ohhh and back to the executed FBI agents… for two bonus points research who is quotted during sworn/under oath testimony saying " "The mother****** was begging for his life but I shot him anyway." You Peltier "supporters" are gullible. There is no doubt and Peltier is far from an advocate or activist.

  3. “This story is true.”
    Leonard Peltier, assuring his supporters that his alibi, a mysterious Mr. X, shot FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler. After reading American Indian Mafia, Peltier’s own lawyer, Mike Kuzma, finally admitted that Leonard’s story was a complete concoction.

    “I seen Joe when he pulled it out of the trunk and I looked at him when he put it on, and he gave me a smile.”
    Leonard Peltier, standing over the bodies of Jack Coler and Ron Williams, moments after their heads were blown off, commenting on Joe Stuntz wearing Jack Coler’s green FBI jacket taken from his car trunk, as quoted in Peter Matthiessen’s, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

    “I didn’t think nothing about it at the time: all I could think of was, We got to get out of here!”
    Leonard Peltier, reacting to Joe Stuntz wearing Jack Coler’s jacket, from In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Peltier could hear the chatter over the FBI car radio from other agents who were racing to the scene and attempting to re-establish contact with Agent Williams in response to his calls for help.

    More inconvenient truths:
    “Peter, you put my life in jeopardy and you put the lives of my family in jeopardy by putting that bullshit in your books. Why didn’t you call me and ask me if it was true?”
    Dean Butler, chastising Peter Matthiessen for including Peltier’s lone alibi, Mr. X, in his book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Note: An AIM member, David Hill, reportedly played the role of Mr. X in a video aired on American television.

    “The two witnesses testified outside the presence of the jury that after their testimony at trial, they had been threatened by Peltier himself that if they did not return to court and testify that their earlier testimony had been induced by F.B.I. threats, their lives would be in danger.”
    United States v. Peltier, 585 F. 2d 314, U.S. App. Decision September 14, 1978.

    “The motherf—er was begging for his life but I shot him anyway.”
    Leonard Peltier, boasting in the Marlon Brando motor home about shooting Ron Williams, as heard by Dennis Banks, Ka-Mook Banks, Bernie Lafferty, and soon-to-be-murdered Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. According to the autopsy report, Ron Williams died with his right hand held up in front of his face; there were powder burns on his fingers. Anna Mae, already under suspicion of being a government informant, was executed partly because she heard Peltier’s confession. Six months earlier, Anna Mae told friends that Peltier had interrogated her by putting a loaded gun in her mouth, calling it “truth serum” and saying he wanted to hear it “…straight from the horse’s mouth.”

    "… the greater probability is that you yourself fired the fatal shots… It would be unjust to treat the slaying of these F.B.I. agents, while they lay wounded and helpless, as if your actions had been part of a gun battle. Neither the state of relations between Native American militants and law enforcement at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation prior to June 26, 1975, nor the exchanges of gunfire between individuals at the Jumping Bull Compound and the law enforcement agents who arrived there during the hours after Agents Coler and Williams were murdered, explains or mitigates the crimes you committed…Your release on parole would promote disrespect for the law in contravention of 18 U.S.C…."
    Leonard Peltier’s 1993 Parole Board, commenting on his aiding and abetting conviction.

    And one more, straight from the real horse’s mouth, the Bernie Madoff of political prisoners:
    “I never thought my commitment would mean sacrificing like this, but I was willing to do so nonetheless. And really, if necessary, I’d do it all over again, because it was the right thing to do.”
    Peltier’s statement to supporters, 2/6/2010.