The Bush Administration holdovers on the U.S. Parole Commission adopted the position of the FBI that anyone who may be implicated in the killings of its agents should never be paroled and should be left to die in prison.
Despite judicial determinations that the unrepentant FBI fabricated evidence and presented perjured testimony in Leonard Peltier’s prosecution; despite a jury’s acquittal on grounds of self-defense of two co-defendants who were found to have engaged in the same conduct of which Mr. Peltier was convicted; despite Mr. Peltier’s exemplary record during his incarceration for more than 33 years and his clearly demonstrated eligibility for parole; despite letters and petitions calling for his release submitted by millions of people in this country and around the world including one of the judges who ruled on his earlier appeals; and despite his advanced age and deteriorating health, the Parole Commission informed Mr. Peltier that his “release on parole would depreciate the seriousness of your offenses and would promote disrespect for the law.”
They set a reconsideration hearing in July 2024. This is the action of the same law enforcement community that brought us the indefinite imprisonment of suspected teenage terrorists, tortures, and killings in CIA prisons around the world and promoted widespread disrespect for the democratic concepts of justice upon which this country supposedly was founded.
These are the same institutions that have never treated indigenous peoples with dignity or respect, or accepted responsibility for centuries of intolerence and abuse. At his parole hearing on July 28th Leonard Peltier expressed regret and accepted responsibility for his role in the incident in which the two FBI agents and one Native activist died as the result of a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Mr. Peltier emphasized that the shootout occurred in circumstances where there literally was a war going on between corrupt tribal leaders, supported by the government, on the one hand, and Native American traditionalists and young activists on the other.
He again denied – as he as always denied – that he intended the deaths of anyone or that he fired the fatal shots that killed the two agents, and he reminded the hearing officer that one of his former co-defendants recently admitted to having fired the fatal shots, himself.
Accordingly, it is not true that Leonard Peltier participated in “the execution style murders of two FBI agents,” as the Parole Commission asserts, and there never has been credible evidence of Mr. Peltier’s responsibility for the fatal shots as the FBI continues to allege. Moreover, given the corrupt practices of the FBI, itself, it is entirely untrue that Leonard Peltier’s parole at this juncture will in any way “depreciate the seriousness” of his conduct and/or “promote disrespect for the law.”
We will continue to seek parole and clemency for Mr. Peltier and to eventually bring this prolonged injustice to a prompt and fair resolution.