Leonard Peltier was denied parole once again at a hearing in mid-December at Leavenworth prison. Two examiners from the federal parole commission recommended Peltier not be considered for parole for an additional 15 years.
The two examiners acknowledged Peltier’s excellent prison record but recommended further incarceration “in light of the crime.” The recommendations were made to regional parole commissioner Carol Pavilack-Getty. Pavilack-Getty can either validate the decision or call for an original jurisdiction hearing to recommend an earlier parole hearing date or an outright release.
Peltier is widely considered a symbol of injustice against First Nations. He is one of two people recognized by Amnesty International to be a political prisoner in the United States. Thousands of people are involved in organizations across the world working for his release. He was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences in 1976 for the murder of two federal agents who were shot to death during a firefight on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The 48-year-old Lakota-Chippewas from North Dakota first went to the reservation in 1975 with the American Indian Movement to protect the reservation’s “full bloods,” those who supported traditional ways, from tribal chairman Dick Wilson and his goon squads.
The firefight lasted nine hours. When it was over, one native, Joe Kills Right Stuntz, and two FBI agents, Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, lay dead. Following a massive manhunt, Dino Butler and Robert Robideaux along with Peltier were charged with the murder. Butler and Robideaux were found not guilty by reason of justifiable defense. U S. prosecuter Lynn Crook accused Peltier of firing the fatal bullets that killed the agents. The all-white jury found him guilty.
Peltier remains in jail despite overwhelming evidence that he didn’t kill the agents and that he was framed by the FBI. On Nov. 9, 1992, 17 years after Peltier’s conviction, Lynn Crook, who was still a U.S. prosecuter, admitted to an appeal court reviewing the case: “We don’t know who killed the agents.” Yet his appeal was dismissed and he remains in a maximum-security prison.