Saturday, September 12, 2020


                            September 12, 1944*

Dear Supporters:


(Please feel free to forward this blog.)


Peltier has been the subject of a recent series of podcasts claiming he is the “longest- serving political prisoner” in American history. The fallacy of Peltier’s self-proclaimed notoriety and promotion by the podcast is easily dismissed along with years of myth and folklore. The murders had nothing to do with politics or political activities. There were no ‘political issues’ at Jumping Bull; only the criminal acts by Peltier and other AIM cowards.


To be absolutely clear, this is not an attack on the people running the podcast. They are dedicated and passionately support their cause. However, this is a criticism of providing disinformation to Peltier supporters and the general public. They deserve the truth. If the podcasters have issues with Peltier’s conviction then they can continue to challenge it. Nevertheless, they are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.


Responses to allegations from the podcast are readily available and need not be repeated yet again, but only now to address just a few of the erroneous comments made in the last segment of the first season and how simple and straightforward are the explanations to discredit Peltier’s and the podcast’s claims:


The following quote from the podcast cannot go unchallenged. This is beyond most previous Peltier fabrications and is devoid of any relation to the record and facts. It is not known whether the narrator is repeating what their attorney claimed, or has embellished the truth. In either case these claims are fatally flawed and if offered as facts, they are illusory. 


The podcast narrator made the following statement:


But here’s a quick primer on why (name omitted) believes that the federal government essentially framed Leonard. Leonard was convicted of murdering FBI Special Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams in April 1977 largely on two pieces of evidence; a sworn affidavit of a woman named Myrtle Poor Bear claiming that she saw Peltier execute the agents and the testimony of an FBI ballistics specialist who performed tests on a .223 shell found near the agents’ vehicle. To the second point first, Leonard had access to an AR-15 which fired the .223 round, but the gun had suffered serious damage in a fire. It was impossible, the FBI’s expert testified, to test the weapon’s firing pin. However, he was able to analyze the weapon’s mechanism that discharged the spent casings. Markings on the shell found at the scene, the specialists alleged, could have only been ejected from Leonard’s rifle. Twenty-three years later though a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the ballistics expert had lied on the stand. He had in fact had been able to test the firing pin, and the impressions didn’t match Peltier’s gun. 


Now to the affidavit: Myrtle Poor Bear signed an affidavit claiming she’d been on the Jumping Bull ranch on June 26th1975 and had seen Leonard kill the agents. But by the time Leonard’s trial was scheduled to begin she reversed her story and began to claim publically that the FBI had pressured her into inventing her eyewitness account, but when she attempted to correct her statement Judge Paul Benson barred her, quote, “on grounds of mental incompetence.”


1) Myrtle Poor Bear


It should be no surprise that Poor Bear never testified, either at Peltier’s trial or during his extradition from Canada. 


After a thorough review of Peltier’s extradition, the Canadian Minister of Justice stated that the three Poor Bear affidavits, along with other submissions by Peltier’s attorneys had been considered by the Ministry of Justice and the Canadian Courts. The Canadian Minister of Justice A. Anne McLellan wrote to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno; “As I have indicated above, I have concluded that Mr. Peltier was lawfully extradited to the United States. In my opinion, given the test for committal for extradition referred to above, the circumstantial evidence presented at the extradition hearing, taken alone, constituted sufficient evidence to justify Mr. Peltier’s committal on the two murder charges.”(Footnote 1)


Further, claiming that Judge Paul Benson barred Poor Bear’s testimony at Peltier’s trial demonstrates either a fundamental unawareness of the facts or yet another effort to promote Peltier misinformation. This cannot be casually dismissed as an inadvertent misreading, a misinterpretation of the facts, or a lack of understanding of the trial and appellate record. The narrator’s statement is explicit and clearly given; there is no confusion on the points offered.  


So what really happened regarding Poor Bear?


It was not Judge Benson but Leonard Peltier, through his attorney, who threw Poor Bear under the proverbial bus.


From the 8thCircuit Court of Appeals, quoting the trial record:


Indeed, defense counsel, anticipating that she would be called as a witness for the government, described her in his opening statement as a “witness whose {F.2d 333} mental imbalance is so gross as to render her testimony unbelievable.” (Fn. 2) 


It was Peltier’s attorney John Lowe, not Judge Benson who chose to eliminate Poor Bear as a potential witness. (A curious but irrelevant question at this late stage is why they decided to do so.)


2) The .223 shell casing vis-à-vis the murder weapon; Peltier’s (the ‘Wichita’) 



The issue here relates to an October 2, 1975 FBI Laboratory Teletypethat Peltier later received under the Freedom of Information Act. The narrator erroneous claims that an FBI ballistics expert “lied” and that he had “in fact been able to test the firing pin and the impressions didn’t match Peltier’s gun.”  These “in fact” claims are false. 


In order for the podcast to have even a shred of credibility on this point, what follows is a review of the chronology of the crucial legal history of the shell casing and the 1975 Teletype.


    After receiving the October 2, 1975 Teletype Peltier appealed to the District Court which denied his motion noting an October 31, 1975 FBI Laboratory ‘Report’ (already in evidence) and concluded, in part, “Peltier’s allegation that Hodge gave perjured testimony is a clear misstatement of the record and is obviously without substance or materiality.” Peltier appealed the District Court denial to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, (It is vital that the narrator and podcast team not lose sight of the role of Judge Gerald Heaney during Peltier’s appeals, and thereafter.) After a review concerning issues related to the Brady legal test, the Court of Appeals decided to “…remand to the district court for an evidentiary hearing.” During October 1-3, 1984 an evidentiary (ballistics) hearing was held by the District Court. After lengthy testimony and review of the facts the Court concluded, in part, “On the basis of the foregoing, it is clear the October 2, 1975 Teletype does not evince perjured testimony.” Peltier again appealed this decision to the 8thCircuit. In another lengthy decision, the Court of Appeals denied Peltier’s appeal based on the law that Peltier had not proven a Constitutional violation of Brady v. Maryland or U.S. v. Bagley and noted, most significantly, as a finding of fact; “When all is said and done, however, a few simple but very important facts remain. The casing introduced into evidence had in fact been extracted from the Wichita AR-15. This point was not disputed; although the defense had it’s own ballistics expert, it offered no contrary evidence. Peltier raises general questions regarding the handling and examination of the .223 casing and the Wichita AR-15, but does not make specific allegations of tampering.” (Fn. 3) 


The narrator made an utterly unsupported statement: “He had in fact had been able to test the firing pin, and the impressions didn’t match Peltier’s gun.”


Nowhere within the perhaps thousands of pages of transcripts, motions and decisions in the Peltier case is there even a hint or suggestion (except for an allegation by Peltier) that Peltier’s ‘Wichita AR-15’ had a successful firing pin test. A firing pin test was not possible because of its smooth characteristics and thus the extractor markings on the .223 shell casing were the relevant and probative evidence. “He (FBI firearms examiner Hodge) was not able to reach either a positive or negative conclusion based upon a comparison of the firing pin impression on Q#2628 and the Wichita AR-15 exemplars, because he was not able to identify a sufficient number of characteristics in the firing pin impressions left on the exemplars.” For the podcast narrator to claim this was “in fact” not the case, abandons the very provable facts and obvious truth.


3) “…the sixty-some Aim activists and supporters killed on Pine Ridge in the 1970s.”


            This has been a familiar refrain by Peltier and his supporters. An early claim (2000 and before) by the prior Leonard Peltier Defense Committee stated, “Yet these deaths were never adequately investigated and no prosecutions were brought.” The facts, however, tell a different story: 


Of the then 56 named deaths, 21 resulted in federal convictions, 22 were declined prosecution by the U.S. Attorney, by ‘No-Bill’ after presentation to a Grand Jury, insufficient evidence or no proof of a crime, 1 resulted in local prosecution, 11 deaths were not within FBI jurisdiction and ‘one’ (at that time) remained unsolved.


Fifty-six of the named deaths included: child abuse 3, domestic violence 4, alcohol- related 5, robbery 2, fights/personal disputes 14, vehicular homicide 4, accidental shootings 2, health issues 2, suicide 1, accidental 2, no record of death 1. (Fn. 4)


However, that ‘one unsolved death’ was Anna Mae Aquash, the AIM member suspected of being an FBI informant. She was the one who the brave warrior, Leonard Peltier put a gun to her head to make her confess. If there is any doubt about this, just ask Anna Mae’s daughters. Anna Mae was not an informant but a loyal AIM activist who was nonetheless kidnapped, raped, murdered and dumped in a ravine. However, nearly three decades later two AIM members were convicted for her AIM ordered murder. 


* * *


Over the past twenty years every allegation contesting Peltier’s conviction has been addressed using primary and relevant sources; the trial transcript, the lengthy appellate process and decisions, Matthiessen’s In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Redford’s Incident at Oglala, statements by Peltier’s many ‘committees,’ and most certainly Prison Writings and Peltier’s public statements. Taken as a whole, these resources leave no doubt as to Peltier’s valid conviction and remorseless guilt.


The podcast is just a further sad, bordering on shameless, example of how Peltier and others have ignored, albeit deliberately it appears, the facts of his conviction. The podcast, with its glaring faults will be added to the dustbin of prior decades of Peltier myth and folklore. Peltier’s guilt is unmistakable as he denigrates the memory and sacrifice of two young men killed in the line-of-duty as well as what is otherwise a proud and noble Native heritage.


As the late Judge Gerald Heaney publicly stated, (even after writing letters essentially supporting Peltier’s release, but never suggesting by any means that Peltier was innocent), “Peltier got a fair trial, not a perfect trial, but a fair one.


On June 26, 1975 Leonard Peltier took a step from which there was no turning back.


“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”

Ed Woods



1) Canadian Minister of Justice letter, October 12, 1994;

2) II.B.2.i)

3)-Peltier’s 12/30/82 appeal to the District Court,

 -Court of Appeals orders that an evidentiary (ballistics) hearing be held in the District court,

-District Court evidentiary (ballistics) hearing,

-Court of Appeals final decision,

4) (Response to murders claimed or alleged on Pine Ridge. July 2000) (Mention of Arlo Looking Cloud and Peltier’s ‘M-F’ statement.}


*The date should be apparent. As a matter of full disclosure, this writer did not listen to the entire series, only the final episode of season one anticipating what Peltier may have said during a phone call with the narrator. However, Peltier mostly talked about health issues. As we know, Jack and Ron never had the chance to face the usual and expected infirmities of the aging process.


            Previous Blog:

            Peltier & November 3, 2020