TRUE DEMOCRACY SPRING 2001 TABLE OF CONTENTS
CLINTON'S ABUSE OF CLEMENCY PROCESS
BETRAYED NATIVE PEOPLES
Criticism of Bill Clinton's handling of pardons should also include
questioning about why he did not grant clemency to those who truly deserved
it. Why, for example, didn't Clinton commute the sentence of Leonard
Peltier, whose case more than any other would have demonstrated the proper
use of the clemency power?
Peltier has been wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years. Amnesty
International considers him a "political prisoner" who should be
"immediately released." He was convicted after a shoot-out on the Pine Ridge
Reservation took the lives of two FBI agents and one Native man whose death
was never investigated. Peltier, who had long been surveillanced by the FBI
for his American Indian Movement leadership, was found guilty in a trial
where witnesses were coerced, false testimony was utilized, and a ballistic
test reflecting his innocence was withheld from the defense. Today the U.S.
prosecutor admits, "we can't prove who shot those agents." The appellate
court found that Peltier might have been acquitted absent the FBI abuses,
but denied a new trial on a legal technicality. This appellate judge
expressed firm support for Peltier's release through executive clemency.
Indeed, executive clemency for Peltier would have exemplified not only a
proper use of the power, but an honorable decision to correct a terrible
injustice and take a historical step toward healing relations between the
U.S. government and Native Peoples. Instead, January 20, 2001 marked
another betrayal of the first peoples of this land by a government who has
yet to grant reparations for the many atrocities committed against them.
Clinton's legacy will forever be tainted by his abuse of the clemency
process, both in the pardons he granted, and the ones he did not. And
sadly, Leonard Peltier will continue to be a glaring reminder that America's
shameful treatment of Native Peoples is far from ancient history.
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
PO Box 583
Lawrence, KS 66044