Beverley Lumpkin: Halls of Justice

The letter from Freeh to Reno is rather peculiar in that it clearly was not drafted to be a message from the director to the attorney general. It does not employ the usual language of an agent to a prosecutor, either.

It quotes lengthy passages from various court rulings upholding Peltier’s conviction, but the excerpts are frequently repetitive. It reads as both a hurried attempt to recite the main pieces of evidence against Peltier (they are impressive), and to persuade the ignorant, and also as a rallying point for the faithful agents who seem to be Freeh’s actual intended readers.

Those agents, the rank and file, are so alarmed at the prospect of Peltier’s release that they are planning a demonstration in front of the White House, Dec. 15. Needless to say, a public demonstration by FBI agents is exceedingly rare. The rally is technically not sanctioned by headquarters, and the agents who participate will be taking leave to do so, but there’s no question the top ranks will be giving moral support to the demonstrators.

John Sennett, president of the FBI Agents’ Association, said the purpose of the rally is to draw the attention of the president, “and frankly the media,” to the reality of the murders of the two agents by Peltier, and, “to offset what we regard as the misinformation and disinformation regarding the guilt of Leonard Peltier.”

They are aware of the intense lobbying effort under way by Peltier’s supporters and are concerned there may be some basis for the supporters’ optimism.

One agent said there probably wouldn’t be signs or banners because that wouldn’t be “dignified.” Another, when asked what the demonstration would look like, responded, “it will be a very dignified and quiet gathering of a couple hundred people in raincoats.” They plan on leaving a letter signed by a large number of agents at the White House gates.

One senior Justice official told me that Justice thinks Clinton was just “pandering” and has no real intention of granting Peltier clemency.

The department long ago made its recommendation to the president against it, and, this official said, Justice people would be “shocked” if the president were to commute his sentence.


Speaking of clemency…it’s almost a sick joke for Juan Raul Garza: the good news is President Clinton has granted you a six-month reprieve; the bad news is, George W. Bush will likely be president when that time runs out.

Garza was convicted and sentenced to death in 1993 under the federal kingpin statute for three murders committed as part of a drug-trafficking organization based in Brownsville, Texas.

Reno really agonized about this one, according to several officials. At her weekly briefing Thursday morning, regarding the clamor for a moratorium on all federal executions, she reiterated, “I have not seen a basis for supporting it thus far.”

And she made clear she wanted to review all the additional information, mentioned here last week, that’s being collected from the U.S. attorneys’ offices on crimes that could have been charged under death penalty statutes but were not.

With Garza’s scheduled execution looming Dec. 12, Reno was still insisting she wanted to review all that information before making a final recommendation to the president.

Late Thursday afternoon, she and Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder went over to meet directly with the president, his chief of staff, and his counsel.

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