[Ppnews] 10 Reasons why Leonard Peltier should be released

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 6 08:38:23 EST 2006

From:  "Eto Akwahnv" 
<http://us.f368.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=eto_akwahnv@hotmail.com><eto_akwahnv at hotmail.com>
<http://us.f368.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=nwpeltiersupport@lists.riseup.net>nwpeltiersupport at lists.riseup.net
Subject:  [nwpeltiersupport] Reasons
Date:  Sun, 05 Feb 2006 13:40:27 -0500


1. According to Judge Fred Nichol, after 
presiding over the Wounded Knee trial of American 
Indian Movement (AIM) leaders Dennis Banks and 
Russell Means, "... the FBI was determined to get 
the AIM movement and completely destroy it." (NY 
Times, Sept. 17, 1974.) Numerous instances of 
investigative and prosecutorial misconduct came 
to light in that case. In open court, Nichol 
spoke with particular severity of the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation (FBI). "It's hard for me 
to believe," he remarked, "that the FBI, which I 
have revered for so long, has stooped so low." 
Addressing the court, Nichols said: "The fact 
that incidents of misconduct formed a pattern 
throughout the course of the trial leads me to 
the belief that this case was not prosecuted in 
good faith or in the spirit of justice. The 
waters of justice have been polluted, and 
dismissal, I believe, is the appropriate cure for 
the pollution in this case." This ruling, 
however, failed to prevent further instances of 
misconduct in subsequent AIM-related prosecutions.

2. Jury Foreman Robert Bolin, after the 
acquittals of Leonard's co-defendants, Dino 
Butler and Bob Robideau, stated: "The jury agreed 
with the defense contention that an atmosphere of 
fear and violence exists on the reservation, and 
that the defendants arguably could have been 
shooting in self-defense. While it was shown that 
the defendants were firing guns in the direction 
of the agents, it was held that this was not 
excessive in the heat of passion." (Bolin has 
stated that he was genuinely alarmed by the anger 
exhibited by FBI agents when the verdict was read 
to the court.) Had Leonard been tried with his 
co-defendants, he also would have been acquitted 
of the crimes he was alleged to have committed. 
However, Leonard was tried separately and not 
allowed to argue self-defense (even though his 
actions on June 26, 1975, were no different than 
those of his co-defendants). Also, during 
Peltier's trial, repeated reference was made by 
the prosecution to the actions of Butler and 
Robideau--who allegedly did what, where, when and 
how... to the extent that the prosecutor even 
stated outright, during closing arguments, that 
all three men had murdered the agents in cold 
blood. The one thing the Peltier jurors were not 
told was that co-defendants Butler and Robideau 
had been acquitted the previous year--and by reason of self-defense.

3. The first appeal of Peltier's conviction 
occurred in 1977 before the Eighth Circuit Court 
of Appeals. Judge Donald Ross stated: "But can't 
you see... that what happened happened in such a 
way that it gives some credence to the claim... 
that the United States is willing to resort to 
any tactic in order to bring somebody back to the 
United States from Canada? And if they are 
willing to do that, they must be willing to 
fabricate evidence as well." This statement was 
made in reference to the coerced and perjured 
affidavits discovered to have been used to 
extradite Leonard Peltier from Canada. 
Nevertheless, on September 14, 1978, the Judgment of Conviction was affirmed.

4. Prosecutor Lynn Crooks, during oral arguments 
before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on 
October 15, 1985, and in stark contrast to his 
summation to the jury at Peltier's trial in 1977, 
stated: "We can't prove who shot those agents." 
Crooks argued that Peltier had been "proven" to 
have "aided and abetted" the killings of the 
agents. Such contortions generated a marked 
confusion among the appeals judges. "Aiding and 
abetting Robideau and Butler?" they asked. 
"Aiding and abetting whoever did the final 
shooting," Crooks responded. "Perhaps aiding and 
abetting himself. And hopefully the jury would 
believe that in effect he had done it all." In 
its ruling on September 11, 1986, the judges' 
indicated that Crooks' aiding and abetting 
argument held no merit. The judges observed that 
all indications were that the jurors had 
convicted Peltier of first degree murder on the 
premise that he was the shooter. Also, as a 
matter of law, the elements of "aiding and 
abetting" are well defined, i.e., "aiding and 
abetting" isn't merely a matter of the accused 
having been present at the scene of a crime. It 
also is true that when the principals in a crime 
have been found not guilty, as Butler and 
Robideau were, there is no one who can be 
responsible for having "aided and abetted."

5. The trial testimony on the Wichita AR-15 
(claimed by the government to have been Leonard 
Peltier's weapon and to have caused their agents' 
fatal injuries) was the lynchpin of the 
prosecution's case. A FBI teletype dated October 
2, 1975, indicated that (FBI ballistics expert) 
Evan Hodge had performed a firing pin test on the 
Wichita AR-15  and compared it to the cartridges 
found at the scene of the shooting. Contrary to 
his trial testimony that the test was 
inconclusive, this memo stated that, without a 
doubt, the rifle contained "a different firing 
pin" from the weapon used in the firefight. This 
exculpatory evidence was withheld from the 
defense at trial and discovered years later with 
the release of documents via the Freedom of 
Information Act. The prosecution also had claimed 
that the Wichita AR-15 was the only weapon of its 
type present at the scene on the day of the 
shoot-out. FBI documents obtained after the trial 
show that this also was a false claim.

6. Allegedly, the Wichita AR-15 shell casing was 
found in the trunk of  Agent Coler's vehicle. FBI 
documents released after Peltier's trial showed 
that two different FBI agents claimed to have 
discovered that shell casing--and on two 
different days. The judges of the Eighth Circuit 
Court of Appeals stated: "There are only two 
alternatives... to the government's contention 
that the .223 casing was ejected into the trunk 
of Coler's car when the Wichita AR-15 was fired 
at the agents. One alternative is that the .223 
casing was planted in the trunk of Coler's car 
either before its discovery by the investigating 
agents or by the agents who reported the 
discovery. The other alternative is that a 
non-matching casing was originally found in the 
trunk and sent to the FBI laboratory, only to be 
replaced by a matching casing when the importance 
of a match to the Wichita AR-15 became evident." 
The Court recognized, then, that key evidence 
against Leonard Peltier could only have been fabricated by the government.

7. In 1986, in its ruling on Peltier's 1985 
appeal, the Eighth Circuit of Appeals implicitly 
acknowledged that the United States government 
had used dishonest means to effect Peltier's 
conviction. The court concluded that the 
government withheld evidence from the defense 
favorable to Peltier, "which cast a strong doubt 
on the government's case," and that had this 
other evidence been brought forth, "there is a 
possibility that a jury would have acquitted 
Leonard Peltier." The court had erred in its 
strict interpretation of the Bagley standard 
(United States v. Bagley, 478 U.S. 667, 1985), 
however. While under the circumstances, a jury 
might well have arrived at a different decision 
in the Peltier case, the judges claimed, these 
circumstances fell short of the judicial standard 
required in ordering a new trial, that is, the 
court must find that the jury "probably" rather 
than "possibly" would have acquitted Peltier. 
However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had 
previously rendered an opinion in another case 
and established the legal precedent that a clear 
"possibility" of acquittal was all that was 
required. The author of the Eighth Circuit 
Court's decision, Judge Gerald Heaney, commented 
that the decision on Peltier's appeal was the 
most difficult one he'd ever been required to 
make. In a letter supporting a 2001 award of 
Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier, Heaney 
wrote: "The United States government must  share 
in the responsibility for the June 26 
firefight... It appeared that the FBI was equally 
to blame for the shootout... the government’s 
role can properly be considered a mitigating 
 At some point, a healing process 
must begin... Favorable action by the President 
in the Leonard Peltier case would be an important step in this regard."

8. Before the Court of Appeals on November 9, 
1992, Prosecutor Lynn Crooks again admitted, "We 
don't know who shot those agents." Also in 1992, 
Crooks demonstrated his predisposition to achieve 
a conviction even if based on false or fraudulent 
evidence when, in an interview conducted by Steve 
Kroft on the television show "West 57th Street," 
he said, "It doesn't bother my conscience one 
bit... Doesn't bother my conscience one whit. I 
don't agree that there's anything wrong with 
that, and I can tell you, it don't bother my conscience if we did."

9. At the time of Peltier's sentencing, convicted 
defendants could request "a second round before 
the sentencing judge... giv[ing] the judge an 
opportunity to reconsider the sentence in light 
of any further information about the defendant or 
the case which may have been presented to him in 
the interim." In 2002, an appeal was heard by the 
Eighth Circuit Court regarding a sentence 
reduction for Peltier. Leonard's attorney argued 
that his two life sentences, at minimum, should 
have been concurrent rather than consecutive. On 
December 12, 2002, the appellate court stated 
that the sentences imposed were themselves legal, 
but they "were imposed in violation of 
[Peltier's] due process rights because they were 
based on information that was false due to 
government misconduct." The appellate judges 
upheld the district court's ruling denying 
Peltier's motion saying that, while the court may 
correct a sentence imposed in an illegal manner, 
the courts lacked authority to rule on a motion 
filed more than twenty-two years after the 
120-day filing period expired. Unfortunately, 
Peltier's attorneys could never have filed within 
the 120-day period because much of the evidence 
on government misconduct in Leonard's case was 
not discovered until years later.

10. As late as November 2003, the 10th Circuit 
Court of Appeals acknowledged that "
Much of the 
government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge 
Reservation and its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is 
to be condemned. The government withheld 
evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."

"But I'm still here. What are we going to do about it?"--Leonard Peltier, 2004

For more information, contact 
<http://us.f368.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=info@leonardpeltier.org>info at leonardpeltier.org. 

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