Friday, November 19, 2021


Subject: Jennifer Bendery re Leonard Peltier


This is to provide a brief response to Jennifer Bendery’s Huffpost article regarding clemency, actually commutation, for convicted murderer Leonard Peltier.


If there were any, or even just one, “Constitutional violation” in Peltier’s conviction we would not be having any conversations today. The matter would have been settled long ago. The fact remains that every single allegation Peltier has raised over the years, both legal and frivolous, have been addressed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and to the U.S. Supreme Court, which twice denied certiorari. Taking the time to review and understand Peltier’s lengthy appellate history clearly establishes this fact.


The direct and circumstantial evidence of Peltier’s guilt was strong…” “…Peltier’s contention of manufactured evidence are far from convincing.” (Direct Appeal, 8th Circuit, 9/14/78)


Stating that the “Prosecutors hid key evidence,” and that “They withheld ballistic evidence that proved it wasn’t Leonard’s weapon…” is simply factually untrue. A three-day evidentiary (ballistics) hearing in 1985 and another appeal to the Eighth Circuit clearly proved otherwise: “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 (Peltier’s weapon). That point was not disputed; although the defense had its own ballistics expert, it offered no contrary evidence.’’ (8th Circuit, 9/11/86)


The claim that President Clinton did not free Peltier because of some imagined FBI pressure is erroneous and remains imbedded in Peltier’s longstanding folklore. The real reason is much simpler and a few people know why. 


Relying on former U.S. Attorney, James Reynolds’s representations concerning Peltier’s conviction are grossly erroneous. Reynolds makes claims to authority and knowledge over the Peltier case that simply collapse under even the slightest scrutiny. It remains bewildering that Reynolds makes these assertions:


Was Peltier’s trial perfect? No, criminal trials rarely are, but the important question is whether he received a fair trial. “I believe he got a fair trial, not a perfect trial, but a fair trial.” (8th Circuit Court Judge Gerald Heaney who ruled against Peltier based on the law but nonetheless later wrote letters of support that Peltier and his committee heavily relied upon for many years.)

A true journalist, even one operating as an advocate, would be remise in not asking about his only real alibi. If Peltier is innocent as he claims, why did he assert for nearly two decades that someone else, the phantom Mr. X, killed the Agents? A claim documented in books and by Peltier’s own admission in Redford’s film, Incident at Oglala. Barely looking into the camera, Peltier states “This story is true.” Well, it wasn’t and Peltier had to walk back that lie. One of his own came forward publicly to denounce it, along with one of his own attorneys. Without surprise Peltier never mentioned Mr. X in his own autobiography, Prison Writings. A truly innocent person would not have to fabricate his only alibi.


Any reasonable person with even a cursory understanding of the treatment of Native Americans could not deny history, nevertheless Leonard Peltier is the last person entitled to correct the wrongs of the past. 


Peltier is not deserving of commutation, whether he admits to the truth of the events of that June day at Pine Ridge, or not, but must continue to serve his consecutive life sentences and the additional seven consecutive years for an armed prison escape (a fact that Peltier and his supporters want everyone to ignore and forget).


Peltier has arguably had more appeals than many death row inmates. Any serious review of his convictions must include a thorough understanding of the lengthy appellate process. Without that it becomes more of the same tired rhetoric and fabrications promoted by decades of folklore and myth. 


The above barely scratches the surface of the entire case against Leonard Peltier’s remorseless guilt. In just about every sense one can imagine, Peltier and the truth are strangers to one another.


"In the Spirit of Coler and Williams"

Ed Woods

Cincinnati, Ohio