In a video produced by former Franciscan friar Jack Healey, who once headed Amnesty USA, a plea for compassionate release is made for Leonard Peltier, who’s been imprisoned these past 46 years for a crime many are convinced he did not commit. Peltier, who is now 77 years old and in failing health, was convicted of murder after a shootout occurred with FBI agents on a South Dakota reservation in 1975, two years after the Wounded Knee occupation. Amnesty has long contended that he was unfairly convicted because of fabricated affidavits, withheld exculpatory evidence, and other prosecutorial misconduct. (For more details, see the author’s editorial at the Los Angeles Times.)
Many have supported Peltier’s clemency pleas:
• Pope Francis brought the case to the attention of the Obama White House.
• James Reynolds, the U.S. attorney who supervised the government’s prosecution of Peltier, today is lobbying for his release and admits the government still doesn’t know who killed the FBI agents.
• Deb Haaland, current Secretary of the Interior, drafted a clemency appeal when she was a congressmember in 2020 with another colleague. An updated appeal was sent to President Biden last month, this time signed by 12 Members of Congress.
• Eighty-one Native American legislators from 20 U.S. states passed a resolution last week asking President Biden to expedite Peltier’s release.
Over the decades, Peltier’s case has drawn intense criticism from the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, seven Nobel laureates, legal experts, celebrities like Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, and Robert Redford, and — at one point in the ’90s — no fewer than 55 Members of Congress.
President Biden may be open to granting clemency before the end of this year, but he’s going to need a lot of calls and letters to generate the necessary political cover from the expected attacks from the right.
Consider calling the White House or writing a short email — one or two sentences is enough: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/