Democracy Now! recently published the proceeding segment where host Amy Goodman spoke to guests Martin Garbus, one of the country’s leading trial lawyers and lead counsel for Leonard Peltier; and Norman Patrick Brown, survivor of the 1975 Pine Ridge shootout, to plea for clemency for Peltier after 40 years of incarceration.
Actor Peter Coyote gave the following narration on Peltier’s conviction for a video from Amnesty International:
Leonard Peltier is a Native American activist who has been in prison for 40 years, serving two consecutive life terms for a crime he maintains he did not commit. In 1977, he was convicted of killing two FBI agents, Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier was a member of the American Indian Movement, AIM, founded in 1968 during the civil rights movement to advocate for the rights of Native Americans. The murders occurred at a time when AIM supporters and residents of Pine Ridge were being intimidated and killed, allegedly by paramilitaries connected to the government. A climate of fear and terror prevailed. After two AIM members were acquitted of the killings, witnesses were coerced by the FBI into saying they saw Peltier shoot the agents. Ballistics evidence that could have aided Leonard’s defense was hidden from his lawyers.
Brown spoke about the federal government’s characterization of Peltier:
But one thing I want to say, Amy, is that there’s this demonization of Leonard as a thug, as a murderous criminal, but that’s far from the truth. He is a very kind man. He’s a generous man. He’s a very funny person. You know, his people knew him as the person that he was. He was very kindhearted. And that was the reason why he went up to Pine Ridge, because the elders had asked him to lead this effort in protecting the various communities from the murders, from the gunfire, from the beatings, that were directed at the American Indian Movement members.