Dennis Banks speaks about Leonard Peltier

The case of Leonard Peltier requires extensive discussion and examination. For seventeen years, we have relied on the higher courts to overturn the lower court decisions owing to irregularities we felt were inconsistent with a fair trail in Fargo, North Dakota. Yet the Supreme Court denied the final appeal which terminates the legal avenues of Leonard's chance for a new trial. And, so, we. have to now take it out of the legal arena and bring it into the Executive Branch, asking President Clinton for Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier. We must begin to approach the freedom of Peltier as an issue of morality, an issue of clemency.

First, we must look at the issue of clemency as one of right and wrong as opposed to legal or illegal. There were many wrongs and irregularities which occurred during the trial. The prosecution has admitted that the FBI had indeed fabricated and withheld evidence which would have been beneficial to the defense. There were also wrongs that happened prior to the actual trial including how Myrtle Poor Bear was used to gain extradition of Leonard Peltier from Canada.

The other issue is clemency itself based upon some hard facts of the case, i.e.,the admission by the federal prosecutor Lynn Crook, that the government does not actually know who killed the agents. However, over 18 years ago, he told the jury hearing the case that Peltier had in fact shot the agents point blank. The conflict arises from the scenario that the prosecution painted to a jury from an area of North Dakota that has been historically biased against Native people. Another consideration is the fact that the FBI went "judge shopping" to find a court that was willing to appease the federal government and the FBI, a blueprint for conviction and sentencing.

Peltier was also a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) which had been targeted and labeled by the FBI as a terrorist organization. They had lost a major field battle against AIM at Wounded Knee in 1973 and were intent upon destroying the group and its leadership.

At the time of the shooting at Oglala, a camp of AIM leaders and supporters, including women and children, were situated at the Jumping Bull Ranch at Pine Ridge Reservation. Two FBI agents allegedly had a warrant for a man named Jimmy Eagle who was charged with stealing a pair of cowboy boots. They drove on the Jumping Bull property supposedly following this man in a red pickup. What followed exactly is unknown .

What is known is that gunfire erupted and those in the camp were only aware that unknown assailants were firing upon them. With women and children present, their response was the return of fire. Within a short time, the farm was filled with 200 FBI agents and federal police. People at the camp escaped through the hills, escorted and hidden by members of the local community. When it was all over, one of our security people, Joe Stuntz, and two FBI agents were dead. No one has ever been charged with the murder of Stuntz.

The FBI then launched the largest manhunt in US history. The FBI press releases portrayed AIM as a terrorist group that had murdered federal agents. Peltier, Robideau, and Butler were charged with the murders. Robideau and Butler were tried in Iowa and found not guilty based upon the self-defense theory. This showed that we did not know who was shooting at us, and, not knowing that, the fire was returned in self-defense.

Peltier was tried later after an extradition from Canada based on fabricated accounts by Myrtle Poor Bear, who was coerced by government agents. Peltier was not permitted to use the self-defense theory preventing much of the evidence from being presented to the jury. Other evidence was withheld, lost, fabricated and misinterpreted.

Not until the Freedom of Information Act did much of the misinformation by the prosecution and government become available.

And yet Leonard Peltier remains in prison. In a letter to Senator Inouye, Judge Heaney of the Eighth Circuit Court outlines five reasons why Leonard Peltier should be free.

He concludes with the statement that the healing process must begin. However, the healing cannot begin until the wounding ends. Peltier's continued incarceration is the open wound that festers every day.


Please send an email to the President now and,

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FREE Leonard NOW!

Letter to me from Anne McLellan
Letter from Anne McLellan to Janet Reno
Canadian release of extradition information
Summary of Canadian extradition information
File review of the extradition
News release Dec. 17, 1976
Comments from Dennis Banks ref: Leonard
CNN/Time "show" about Leonard
LPDC comments about the CNN "show"
Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits
International Office of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

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