In 1977, Leonard Peltier, an American Indian activist was convicted for the murder of two FBI agents. The murders happened during a shootout in South Dakota, and so far Pelter has served 38 years in a federal prison.

Peltier and a small group of AIM members had set up camp on a ranch. Two unmarked cars pulled up and the AIM members became alarmed, fearing an attack. A shootout then occurred and soon over 150 agents had the ranch surrounded.

Two FBI agents and one AIM member were fatally wounded, with the AIM member being shot in the head by a sniper bullet. The death of the AIM member has never been investigated, and even though over 40 Americans were in the gunfight, it was only Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau and Darrell Butler who were tried.

Butler and Robideau were freed on self-defence, as they could not be tied to any of the shootings at close range. Peltier however was arrested in 1976 and his “girlfriend” Myrtle Poor Bear said that she saw him shoot the agents in person. In reality, she had never met Leonard, nor was she present during the shootout. Myrtle Poor Bear then recanted her statements and told informants that the FBI had forced her to sign the affidavits.

Key witnesses were not allowed to testify, and instead, three native witnesses who testified against Peltier then later admitted that they were forced into doing so by the FBI like Myrtle Poor Bear. The prosecuting U.S Attorney stated that the government had given the defence all the information they needed, including FBI documents. But actually over 140,000 pages had been withheld.

Peltier is now serving two life sentences in prison. The “I Will” Clemency campaign hopes to free him before more years of unjust incarceration.

 

Natalie