President Bill Clinton will review pending requests for executive clemency before he leaves office in January, including that of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian leader convicted of murdering two FBI agents in South Dakota in 1975, the White House said Sunday.
“The president will focus on as many clemency cases as he can before he leaves office, and the Peltier case will be one of them,” said White House spokesman Daniel Cruise.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International urged Clinton to pardon Peltier, who has spent 24 years in prison for killing two FBI agents during the 1975 siege at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The international human rights organization said his case was riddled with prosecutorial misconduct, perjury, fabrication of evidence and suppression of exculpatory evidence.
‘An Honest Look-See’
In an interview with WBAI-FM in New York City on Nov. 7, Clinton said he would look at the Peltier case as part of an overall review of clemency cases, according to excerpts released by the White House.
Asked specifically about Peltier, Clinton said he has “never had time actually to sit down myself and review that case.”
“I know it’s very important to a lot of people, maybe on both sides of the issue,” Clinton told the radio station. “And I think I owe it to them to give it an honest look-see.”
On June 26, 1975, FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler were shot and killed during a gunfight involving federal agents and American Indian activists at the Pine Ridge reservation.
Peltier was arrested, found guilty and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in June 1977.
Peltier has maintained his innocence.
Amnesty International said the trial judge refused to let a witness that could have swayed the jury’s opinion take the stand and that prosecutors withheld a ballistics report that could have proved Peltier was not the killer.
The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee says the FBI singled out Peltier as a leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and had made him and other AIM members the subjects of the so-called COINTELPRO program. The group said the program was aimed at silencing AIM through attacks and arrests.