After The Trial
The only evidence against Leonard Peltier was the fact that he was present at the Jumping Bull ranch during the fatal shoot-out. There were more than 30 other individuals there on the day of the shooting—members and nonmembers of the American Indian Movement (AIM)—but only AIM members were prosecuted. Leonard Peltier is the only person who was convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned. And, today, the U.S. Attorney admits that no one knows who fired the fatal shots.
At the Peltier trial, the prosecutor claimed in summation that “… we proved that he went down to the bodies and executed those two young men at point blank range…” At one appellate hearing, however, the government attorney conceded,
“We had a murder, we had numerous shooters, we do not know who specifically fired what killing shots… we do not know, quote-unquote, who shot the agents.”
At Peltier’s trial the prosecutor, referring to the weapon alleged to have been used in the killings of the agents, stated that, “There is only one AR-15 in the group. There is no testimony concerning any other AR-15 at Tent City or at the crime scene or anywhere else in the area…” Leonard Peltier’s lawyers later filed a Habeas Corpus petition claiming that the government had misled the jury by concealing evidence of the presence of other AR-15 rifles, and thus other potential weapons used in the killings of the agents, at the scene of the incident. The same prosecuting attorney, before the Eighth Circuit Court in 1992, claimed that “… I think it’s simply a misstatement of the trial that there was no evidence presented and it was suppressed as to other AR-15s at the scene…”
Prosecution’s Post-Trial Admissions
(Click on image to enlarge.)
Why Is Peltier Still in Prison?
Eligible since 1986, Peltier is long overdue for parole. The U.S. Parole Commission has yielded to the objections of the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in denying Peltier’s applications for parole at every turn.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, DOJ, from the time of Peltier’s conviction in 1977 until the mid-1990s, the average length of imprisonment served for homicide in the U.S. prior to being released on parole was about 8 years. Per 1977 standards, Peltier has served the equivalent of over five life sentences. But, in violation of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (and its amendments), the government has illegally extended Peltier’s prison term. Further, the government has failed to apply its 30-year rule regarding mandatory release (after 30 years served, all sentences are to be aggregated and the prisoner released.) The government has consistently stated that Mr. Peltier’s presumptive release date is October 11, 2040.
Leonard Peltier was denied clemency in 2009 by then President Bush, and will likely not receive another full parole hearing until 2024 when he will be nearly 80 years old. He was denied clemency again on January 18, 2017 by then President Obama.