Here’s what they are demanding…
A group primarily composed of House and Senate Democrats, including prominent figures like House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., recently composed a letter addressed to President Biden. The letter, delivered on the eve of Indigenous People’s Day, October 9, urged the President to consider clemency for Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who was convicted in the 1970s for the point-blank shooting deaths of two FBI agents.
According to Fox, the Democratic lawmakers expressed reservations about the circumstances surrounding Peltier’s 1977 conviction, emphasizing their commitment to ensuring justice for all Americans and holding the government accountable when they perceive an injustice. They highlighted Peltier’s prolonged incarceration, his ailing health at the age of 79, and his confinement in a high-security prison in Florida.
Peltier’s legal history dates back to 1977 when he was found guilty of first-degree murder, receiving two consecutive life sentences, for the killings of FBI Special Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams during a shootout in June 1975 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The agents had entered the reservation to apprehend a burglary suspect, leading to a confrontation with several individuals, including Peltier. The court concluded that Peltier, at point-blank range, fatally shot the agents after they had been wounded by gunfire. Peltier fled to Canada but was later extradited to the United States to stand trial.
Despite claims by Peltier, Democrats, and various activist groups that the trial lacked sufficient evidence of his guilt, his conviction was upheld through multiple appeals, including two appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 and 2004. Peltier’s request for parole in 2009 was also denied by the U.S. Parole Commission.
Notably, the FBI, represented by former FBI Executive Assistant Director Thomas Harrington, vehemently opposes Peltier’s parole, asserting that his actions constituted not just an attack on the two FBI agents but on law enforcement as a whole, undermining the rule of law. The FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), an organization mainly representing active FBI special agents, has consistently opposed clemency for Peltier. FBIAA President Natalie Bara emphasized that Peltier remains an unremorseful murderer in their view, and they are committed to ensuring he serves his full sentence.
In addition to the aforementioned Democrats, Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Ted Lieu, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, and Ilhan Omar signed the letter. A notable inclusion was Republican Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, who also endorsed the letter.