Laws and Justice

A Fight for Freedom After 46 Years of Controversy and Injustice

Main image to the post A Fight for Freedom After 46 Years of Controversy and Injustice

A Fight for Freedom After 46 Years

Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist and federal prisoner, is due for a full parole hearing on Monday, his first in 15 years. This hearing holds immense significance for Peltier, who has maintained his innocence in the murders of two FBI agents nearly 50 years ago. His supporters fear this may be his last chance to advocate for his release.

Peltier, now 79, is in good spirits as he prepares for the hearing. His attorney, Kevin Sharp, emphasizes that Peltier wants to go home and recognizes this as his last opportunity. Sharp is confident in presenting a strong case for parole, supported by medical and re-entry experts, letters from Peltier's community and prominent figures, and Peltier's own nonviolent record in prison.

Over the decades, numerous human rights and faith leaders, including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and Nobel Peace Prize recipients like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, have backed Peltier's release. Sharp argues that Peltier's age, declining health, and lack of danger to society should be considered by the commission.

The FBI, however, remains resolute in its opposition to Peltier's release, citing his past escape from prison and the brutality of the crime. They maintain that Peltier has never expressed remorse for his actions.

Peltier's case has been shrouded in controversy for decades. While he was identified as the only person on the reservation with a weapon capable of firing the type of bullet that killed the agents, no witnesses at his trial could identify him as the shooter. Additionally, the federal government withheld a ballistics report indicating the fatal bullets didn't come from his weapon.

Despite his conviction, Peltier maintains his innocence and hopes for a new trial to prove it. He has served more than 46 years on the basis of minimal evidence, a sentence many believe is unjust.

Peltier's parole hearing falls into a unique category for elderly federal prisoners who committed their offenses before 1987. The process is complex, involving multiple examiners and commissioners, and can be detrimental to inmates if the thread is lost.

Peltier's supporters remain hopeful for parole, but also urge President Biden to consider compassionate release. They believe Peltier deserves the dignity of living the rest of his life outside prison walls, after having been wrongfully deprived of his freedom for so long.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09