Kristofferson & Leonard Peltier

Kris Kristofferson supports Leonard Peltier

Kris Kristofferson has always been an activist, & man oh man, didn’t he look amazing in that sleeveless black T Shirt he used to wear?  You know the one – It had FREE LEONARD PELTIER emblazoned on the front of it. If he wore it to increase awareness of the plight of Peltier, it certainly worked its magic on me.

I read up, wrote letters & signed petitions, confident that with Kris on the case, the matter would be quickly resolved.

It wasn’t, & isn’t. I was reminded today that Mr Peltier remains incarcerated without any re-trial or parole. His situation remains frozen in limbo, as if someone pushed the pause button four decades ago.

There is some footage below that I hope interests you. The information from the video post (which I can only embed from a tweet due to copyright) says that it is from :

Two Rivers Cultural Explosion, 1991 – Confluence of the Mississippi & Minnesota Rivers – Clemency for Leonard Peltier. Kris Kristofferson, Larry Kegan & Larry Long singing Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door with Melvin James on Electric Guitar,  Sid Gasner on Bass & Greg “Trax” Traxler on Drums.

Note the additional verse by Larry Long

Seems like every time I look around
Another good person is mowed down
Sometimes it’s hard to believe
One day we will be free

 Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier was found guilty of the shooting & killing of two FBI agents, Jack R Coler & Ronald A Williams  on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota 26 June 1975. Joseph Stuntz, an AIM member, lost his life in the same incident after being shot by a BIA member.  The death of Native American Joseph Stuntz remains unresolved & nobody has been convicted or even arrested for his death.

More about incident here

Cedar Rapids & Fargo

Peltier was named on the FBI ten most wanted fugitives list on 22 December 1975 until his arrest on 6 February 1976.  AIM members Bob Robideau and Darrelle “Dino” Butler who were also on the scene were found not guilty by a court in Cedar Rapids, as it was ruled they acted in self-defence.  Peltier, however, was tried later due to extradition (from Canada) delays & was tried separately.

Leonard Peltier FBI Poster

Leonard Peltier FBI Poster – Public Domain

 Same Case Different Rules

Evidence that was not submitted in the Cedar Rapids trial was used in Peltier’s trial in Fargo. Graphic crime scene photographs & detailed injury reports presented in his trial were omitted from the previous trial. Peltier was convicted & sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in April 1977.

He has always claimed that he is innocent of the murders, although he has admitted that he participated in the shootout. Varies appeals over the years have resulted in his conviction & sentence being upheld despite concerns being raised about the fairness of his trial.

Inconsistencies – Evidence & Process

  • The vehicle he was driving did not match the description that the FBI agents were chasing (based on their radio contact)
  • Evidence of previous FBI evidence tampering heard in other cases was disallowed in Peltier’s hearing & kept from the jury
  • Three witnesses recanted their testimony citing FBI intimidation & claims that they were tied to chairs & denied legal representation
  • Conflicting ballistics testimony including a later FBI ballistics report that concluded the casings at the scene did not come from Peltier’s rifle was kept from the jury.

Charge, Change & Cul de Sacs

Peltier claims that during his 1992 appeal, his charge was illegally changed from First Degree Murder to Aiding & Abetting

The US Parole Commission denied Peltier parole in 1993 based on their finding that Peltier “participated in the premeditated and cold-blooded execution of those two officers.” They have, however,  has since stated that it (The Parole Commission) “recognizes that the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that [Peltier] personally participated in the executions of the two FBI agents.” (source)

Controversy & Support

Controversy around the fairness of the handling of the Peltier case, including the management of his appeals, has caused concerns & calls for a fair trial or release to be raised by many organisations & individuals including:

Aim (American Indian Movement) –  regards Peltier as a political prisoner

Nelson Mandela

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Amnesty International

The European Parliament

The UN high Commissioner for Human Rights

The Belgian & the Italian Parliament

& many more – Including Kris

Clemency & Lawsuit

In 2002, a civil rights lawsuit was filed by Peltier after President Clinton failed to answer a clemency request after an FBI friends & family protest.  It was against the FBI & others who organised & participated in the campaign to thwart his clemency request, alleging that they “engaged in a systematic and officially sanctioned campaign of misinformation and disinformation.” This suit was dismissed on 22 March 2004 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. In 2009, President George W Bush denied Peltier’s clemency petition. Time will tell how President Obama will respond.

Why?

There have been claims that mineral rights & wealth are some reasons why Peltier was convicted & has not been able to obtain a fair trial despite many other cases being overturned by the USA courts for far less irregularities than the many found in this one. There might be concerns that reputations could be affected, police & FBI staff might protest & the case may be politically sensitive because of Peltier’s membership of the American Indian Movement.

Humanitarian Consideration

Leonard Peltier was born in September 1944, he will be 72 this year (2016) He has been incarcerated for almost 40 years now for a crime that he says he did not commit.

Not everyone believes he is innocent, but most people believe that his trial was unfair for many reasons, & only some of these have been mentioned here. Further information is available for anyone interested in learning more, & from a variety of sources.

Resources, Links & Sources

Warrior , a film about the life of Leonard Peltier (produced & directed by Suzie Baer) won a gold award at the Worldfest Houston International Film Award as well as best Documentary American Indian Film Festival.

Who is Leonard Peltier – Official site for the ILPDC – Int. Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

Free Peltier now  – Information & petition

Sources & Citations: FBI headshot is Public Domain. Tweet is posted with full details. General information from Wiki & any other sources are provided by links in the text

As always, if anything needs correcting, adding or removing – Just let me know.

 

 

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