Convicted murderer Leonard Peltier again denied parole

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Leonard Peltier, a Chippewa activist and member of the American Indian Movement who was convicted in 1977 of the murder of two FBI agents, has been denied parole. Peltier is serving two consecutive life sentences in the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Peltier had been previously denied parole in 1993.

Peltier, along with Robert Robideau and Darelle "Dino" Butler, was charged with the murders of FBI Special Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams after a shootout during unrest on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Robideau and Butler were acquitted, the jury finding the shootings of Coler and Williams having been in self defense, but Peltier had fled the country and was tried separately on his return and found guilty.

Peltier's attorney, Eric Seitz, stated that the announcement of Peltier's being denied parole was made without the courtesy of informing the defense, and noted that Peltier, currently 64 years of age, is in poor health with numerous complaints. U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, meanwhile, called Peltier "an unrepentant, cold-blooded murderer who executed FBI special agents" who is "exactly where he belongs — federal prison".

Peltier has consistently denied that he murdered Coler and Williams and maintains that the FBI framed him. Supporters of his release include a wide range of world figures, including Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama and Amnesty International, while not classifying Peltier as a political prisoner, asserts that "there is concern about the fairness of the proceedings leading to his conviction and it is believed that political factors may have influenced the way the case was prosecuted."

A statement from the FBI released after the announcement that Peltier would stay in jail reads, in part, "His callous criminal acts demonstrated a complete disrespect for human life and for the law. His time served in jail for their 1975 murders has not diminished the brutality of his crimes or the pain and sorrow felt by the families of his victims or the FBI family."

Leonard Peltier is next eligible for parole in 2024.

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