As the co-director of the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC), I have spent many years working to see justice for Leonard. A political prisoner wrongly convicted — on demonstrably false evidence — of killing FBI agents in 1975 at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Leonard is now 77 years old, and he’s still stuck in a Florida federal prison. In January, to add to his plight, he contracted COVID-19.
As you may know, for many years, we’ve been asking U.S. presidents to do the only responsible and human thing: Free Leonard Peltier. I urge you to watch Lakota Law’s new video, as their media team was on hand to film our recent rally in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Watch: We rallied to free Leonard earlier this month.
President Joe Biden has the power to pardon Leonard, right now. In addition, Leonard is eligible for release under COVID-19 guidelines or compassionate release under Bureau of Prisons rules — but he has been denied multiple times. Unfortunately, Leonard can’t appeal these denials, because he was convicted prior to November, 1987.
Due to constitutional violations and prosecutorial misconduct surrounding his case, Leonard should have been freed long ago. For instance, the government originally withheld exculpatory evidence — including a ballistics report showing the shell casings collected from the scene didn’t come from Leonard’s weapon. In addition, the prosecution relied on testimony from so-called witnesses who later recanted their statements, saying that FBI agents threatened and coerced them into lying.
Leonard’s conviction was wrong from the start, and he has now suffered behind bars for decades. The many people who have called for his clemency include Nobel Peace Prize winners Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Rigoberta Menchú; Judge Kevin Sharp, former Chief Judge of Tennessee’s U.S. District Court; Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT); and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Also, in a move we believe to be unprecedented, James Reynolds, the chief prosecutor who helped convict Leonard, has called his conviction an injustice and written on Leonard’s behalf to Presidents Obama and Biden.
Will you join us in our fight for Leonard’s freedom? To learn more about our struggle, please visit our ILPDC website.
Wopila tanka — I thank you for your care and solidarity!
Co-Director, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project