[Ppnews] Transcript of Leonard Peltier on Democracy Now
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 19 15:51:50 EST 2012
*AMY GOODMAN:* On Saturday, after the Leonard Peltier concert at the
Beacon Theatre, I had a chance to speak directly with Leonard Peltier,
when he called into a news conference that was organized by Native
elders, his lawyers and Pete Seeger. I conducted the interview in the
front row of the press conference by telephone as he spoke to me from
the U.S. Penitentiary at Coleman, Florida. Peltier was sentenced to
prison in 1977. He's now 68 years old.
*AMY GOODMAN:* Leonard, this is Amy Goodman from /Democracy Now!/ I
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Oh, hi, Amy. How are you?
*AMY GOODMAN:* Hi. I'm good. I was wondering if you have a message
for President Obama?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Concerning what?
*AMY GOODMAN:* Your situation or the situation in the world or your
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Stop all the wars. Stop all the wars. Or what?
What kind of message are you talking about?
*AMY GOODMAN:* You can share several messages.
*LEONARD PELTIER:* OK. Well, I just hope he can, you know, stop the
wars that are going on in this world, and stop getting---killing all
those people getting killed, and, you know, give the Black Hills
back to my people, and turn me loose.
*AMY GOODMAN:* Can you share with people at the news conference and
with President Obama your case for why you should be---your sentence
should be commuted, why you want clemency?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, I never got a fair trial, for one. You
know, my case has been throttled from the moment they had grand jury
hearings. They had somebody on the grand jury hearing, at the
hearing testifying against me I've never met in my life. And from
the extradition from Canada, they violated international laws. And
then at the trial, they had admitted racists---at the trial, they
had admitted racists on the jury. They wouldn't allow me to put up a
defense, and manufactured evidence, manufactured witnesses, tortured
witnesses. You know, the list is---just goes on. So I think I'm a
very good candidate for---after 37 years, for clemency or house
arrest, at least.
*AMY GOODMAN:* What would house arrest mean? And can you describe
your conditions in the prison in Florida where you are right now?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, I'm in a United States penitentiary
with---a supermax penitentiary. And it's like all the rest of the
penitentiaries. And house arrest would be that I'd be home on---I'd
be home on house arrest. I'd probably have to wear an anklet, a
bracelet on my ankle, but that would be a lot better than this. At
least I could get some medical treatment then. You know, I got real
bad prostate right now, and it's just getting worse and worse. It
ain't getting any better. It isn't healing itself, so, you know, it
just continues to grow worse.
*AMY GOODMAN:* You were convicted of aiding and abetting the killing
of these two FBI agents. What is your response to that?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, originally I was convicted of first-degree
murder, but after their case fell apart, they confirmed the
conviction on the most critical evidence against me, the murder
weapon. Then we filed a Freedom of Information Act and found two
documents where they had done scientific tests from their firearms
laboratory, and it came out negative. So this was a piece---another
piece of manufactured evidence, besides Myrtle Poor Bear, the
witnesses and stuff like that. But, so then there case fell apart.
And then, in '92---in 1985, when the federal 8th Circuit Court of
Appeals judge, Judge Heaney, asked the prosecutors just what was Mr.
Peltier convicted of, because we cannot find no evidence of
first-degree murder in the record, the prosecutor, Lynn Crooks,
stated that the government doesn't know who killed the agents, nor
does he know what participation Leonard Peltier may have had in it.
So, in 1992, I filed an appeal, again asking, "What am I---what was
I in prison for if the government doesn't know what I'm in here
for?" So they changed it to aiding and abetting, which is illegal,
because I was never indicted for it, I was never prosecuted for it,
and it takes a whole different defense in your trial. So I don't
know what the hell I'm in here for.
*AMY GOODMAN:* How is your health? And can you describe the
conditions at Coleman?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, it's a United States penitentiary, you
know, and they're getting worse and worse every year. They're
not---they're not like they were 20, 30 years ago.
And I have a---well, I have a bad prostate. I mean, you know, the
doctor said that one side is---one side looks healthy, and the other
side is not healthy, of my prostate, when they gave me that scope
test over a year ago. But so far it hasn't shown any cancer. I mean,
you know, that's pretty---this is one of the biggest killers of men.
So, all they give me is a pill for it.
*AMY GOODMAN:* And diabetes?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, I got---well, yeah, I got all the other
stuff, too---diabetes, high blood pressure, had a mild heart attack,
had a mild stroke at one time. I mean, I'm falling apart.
*AMY GOODMAN:* Do you have any hope that you will be freed?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, you know, according to the laws, they have
the 30-year mandatory release law. After 30 years, I was supposed to
be released. Of course, that went by. Come February, I'll have 37.
But also, when I was sentenced to prison, a life sentence was seven
years. I did not get life without parole; I got a life sentence. So
I've done actually about five, six life sentences now. And, you
know, that's really---you know, they're in violation of their own
laws again, just on that. So, and I don't know. I'm fighting. I'm
fighting for it. I'm going to try to get out.
*AMY GOODMAN:* What is your---
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Can't predict that. So far---so far, it ain't
looking very good, I'll tell you that much.
*AMY GOODMAN:* What is your response to the FBI that campaigns
against your release?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Oh, they're full---they're full of crap. You
know, they're the ones that should be investigated for all the
murders they committed on Pine Ridge. They supported that, those
killings. They financed it. They gave intelligence and
armor-piercing ammunition and sophisticated weaponry. This was all
done---this was all stated by Duane Brewer, who was one of the
leaders of the GOON squads on the reservation. So, I mean, they're
the ones who should be investigated, which, by the way, some---I
might add now, some of the Indians and one state senator---state
senators in South Dakota are now calling for an investigation on
that. They are going to put it together. And the son of Tim Johnson,
who is an attorney in one of the---in the attorney general's office
in South Dakota---Tim Johnson is a congressman over there. His son
is going to lead that investigation.
*AMY GOODMAN:* And what's the significance of that?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, to put the murderers in jail. I mean,
that's the way I look at it. I mean---
*AMY GOODMAN:* For people who don't know about your case, especially
young people, how would you like to be described? How would you,
Leonard Peltier, like to be known to them?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, just somebody that stood up for his
people's rights and who tried to stop the Termination Act and all
the other crimes committed against my people. That's the only reason
I'm here. They ain't got me---they ain't proved nothing about me.
They ain't proved I did anything, let alone kill somebody.
*AMY GOODMAN:* What would you do if you were free?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Well, I'd probably go home on house arrest. I
mean, that's the only thing I can expect, because I don't think
Obama is going to give---he's going to do what Bill Clinton did, and
he ain't going to give no clemencies until his last year. He's just
not going to---it's not going to happen. I really don't believe it.
So, I'm trying to---we're trying to---George Bush signed the Second
Chance Act, which is house arrest, and so we're trying to push that,
so I can get over there, at least to maybe get some---if I do get
the house arrest, I can at least get some medical treatment, you
know, because they're not giving---they're not giving it to me.
They're just---you know, they're not going to give it to me. That's
all there is to it. And, well, if I did, I'd go home to North
Dakota. I got about 10 seconds left. That buzzer just give me
about---well, about a minute, I think, I got left. But anyway---
*AMY GOODMAN:* What gives you---what gives you hope, Leonard?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* Huh?
*AMY GOODMAN:* What gives you hope?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* People like you and all the other supporters out
there and people that are behind me, my people. That's the only hope
*AMY GOODMAN:* And the meaning of Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger
and about a thousand other people who came out last night to this
event in your honor?
*LEONARD PELTIER:* I got to say this. I got to say this really
quick. I've got 10 seconds. Thank you all very, very much. And I'm
sorry I can't---my time is up. I've got to get off this phone.
*PELTIER SUPPORTERS:* We love you, Leonard. Love you, Leonard. Stay
*AMY GOODMAN:* That was Leonard Peltier. I was speaking with him at a
news conference on Saturday on the telephone. He was---he is in prison
at the U.S. Penitentiary at Coleman in Florida. He's been in prison for
37 years, is now asking President Obama for clemency. On Friday, a major
concert was held here in New York calling for his release. Peltier is
one of America's most well-known and longest-incarcerated prisoners. Go
to our website at democracynow.org to see him reading his own poetry
and to see Peter Coyote
describing his case.
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