Leonard Peltier Speaks Out from Prison on Denial of Medical
Care, Bid for Clemency

by Amy Goodman

December 19, 2012
Democracy Now!


Leonard Peltier, one of the nation's most well-known and
longest-incarcerated prisoners, speaks out from the U.S.
Penitentiary at Coleman, Florida, where he is currently

Peltier is the Native American activist and former member of
the American Indian Movement who was convicted of aiding in
the killing of two FBI agents during a shootout on South
Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Sentenced to
prison in 1977, Peltier is now 68 years old. Democracy Now!
host Amy Goodman spoke with Peltier on Saturday when he
called into a press conference organized by his supporters.

AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, after the Leonard Peltier concert
at the Beacon Theatre, I had a chance to speak directly with
Leonard Peltier, when he called into a news conference that
was organized by Native elders, his lawyers and Pete Seeger.
I conducted the interview in the front row of the press
conference by telephone as he spoke to me from the U.S.
Penitentiary at Coleman, Florida. Peltier was sentenced to
prison in 1977. He's now 68 years old.

    AMY GOODMAN: Leonard, this is Amy Goodman from Democracy
    Now! I was -

    LEONARD PELTIER: Oh, hi, Amy. How are you?

    AMY GOODMAN: Hi. I'm good. I was wondering if you have a
    message for President Obama?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Concerning what?

    AMY GOODMAN: Your situation or the situation in the
    world or your own situation.

    LEONARD PELTIER: Stop all the wars. Stop all the wars.
    Or what? What kind of message are you talking about?

    AMY GOODMAN: You can share several messages.

    LEONARD PELTIER: OK. Well, I just hope he can, you know,
    stop the wars that are going on in this world, and stop
    getting -  killing all those people getting killed, and,
    you know, give the Black Hills back to my people, and
    turn me loose.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you share with people at the news
    conference and with President Obama your case for why
    you should be -  your sentence should be commuted, why
    you want clemency?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, I never got a fair trial, for
    one. You know, my case has been throttled from the
    moment they had grand jury hearings. They had somebody
    on the grand jury hearing, at the hearing testifying
    against me I've never met in my life. And from the
    extradition from Canada, they violated international
    laws. And then at the trial, they had admitted racists -
    at the trial, they had admitted racists on the jury.
    They wouldn't allow me to put up a defense, and
    manufactured evidence, manufactured witnesses, tortured
    witnesses. You know, the list is - just goes on. So I
    think I'm a very good candidate for - after 37 years,
    for clemency or house arrest, at least.

    AMY GOODMAN: What would house arrest mean? And can you
    describe your conditions in the prison in Florida where
    you are right now?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, I'm in a United States
    penitentiary with -  a supermax penitentiary. And it's
    like all the rest of the penitentiaries. And house
    arrest would be that I'd be home on -  I'd be home on
    house arrest. I'd probably have to wear an anklet, a
    bracelet on my ankle, but that would be a lot better
    than this. At least I could get some medical treatment
    then. You know, I got real bad prostate right now, and
    it's just getting worse and worse. It ain't getting any
    better. It isn't healing itself, so, you know, it just
    continues to grow worse.

    AMY GOODMAN: You were convicted of aiding and abetting
    the killing of these two FBI agents. What is your
    response to that?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, originally I was convicted of
    first-degree murder, but after their case fell apart,
    they confirmed the conviction on the most critical
    evidence against me, the murder weapon. Then we filed a
    Freedom of Information Act and found two documents where
    they had done scientific tests from their firearms
    laboratory, and it came out negative. So this was a
    piece -  another piece of manufactured evidence, besides
    Myrtle Poor Bear, the witnesses and stuff like that.
    But, so then there case fell apart.

    And then, in '92 -  in 1985, when the federal 8th
    Circuit Court of Appeals judge, Judge Heaney, asked the
    prosecutors just what was Mr. Peltier convicted of,
    because we cannot find no evidence of first-degree
    murder in the record, the prosecutor, Lynn Crooks,
    stated that the government doesn't know who killed the
    agents, nor does he know what participation Leonard
    Peltier may have had in it. So, in 1992, I filed an
    appeal, again asking, "What am I -  what was I in prison
    for if the government doesn't know what I'm in here
    for?" So they changed it to aiding and abetting, which
    is illegal, because I was never indicted for it, I was
    never prosecuted for it, and it takes a whole different
    defense in your trial. So I don't know what the hell I'm
    in here for.

    AMY GOODMAN: How is your health? And can you describe
    the conditions at Coleman?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, it's a United States
    penitentiary, you know, and they're getting worse and
    worse every year. they're not -  they're not like they
    were 20, 30 years ago.

    And I have a -  well, I have a bad prostate. I mean, you
    know, the doctor said that one side is -  one side looks
    healthy, and the other side is not healthy, of my
    prostate, when they gave me that scope test over a year
    ago. But so far it hasn't shown any cancer. I mean, you
    know, that's pretty -  this is one of the biggest
    killers of men. So, all they give me is a pill for it.

    AMY GOODMAN: And diabetes?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, I got -  well, yeah, I got all
    the other stuff, too -  diabetes, high blood pressure,
    had a mild heart attack, had a mild stroke at one time.
    I mean, I'm falling apart.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any hope that you will be

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, you know, according to the laws,
    they have the 30-year mandatory release law. After 30
    years, I was supposed to be released. Of course, that
    went by. Come February, I'll have 37. But also, when I
    was sentenced to prison, a life sentence was seven
    years. I did not get life without parole; I got a life
    sentence. So I've done actually about five, six life
    sentences now. And, you know, that's really -  you know,
    they're in violation of their own laws again, just on
    that. So, and I don't know. I'm fighting. I'm fighting
    for it. I'm going to try to get out.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is your -

    LEONARD PELTIER: can't predict that. So far -  so far,
    it ain't looking very good, I'll tell you that much.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to the FBI that
    campaigns against your release?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Oh, they're full -  they're full of
    crap. You know, they're the ones that should be
    investigated for all the murders they committed on Pine
    Ridge. They supported that, those killings. They
    financed it. They gave intelligence and armor-piercing
    ammunition and sophisticated weaponry. This was all done
    -  this was all stated by Duane Brewer, who was one of
    the leaders of the GOON squads on the reservation. So, I
    mean, they're the ones who should be investigated,
    which, by the way, some - I might add now, some of the
    Indians and one state senator -  state senators in South
    Dakota are now calling for an investigation on that.
    They are going to put it together. And the son of Tim
    Johnson, who is an attorney in one of the -  in the
    attorney general's office in South Dakota - Tim Johnson
    is a congressman over there. His son is going to lead
    that investigation.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what's the significance of that?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, to put the murderers in jail. I
    mean, that's the way I look at it. I mean -

    AMY GOODMAN: For people who don't know about your case,
    especially young people, how would you like to be
    described? How would you, Leonard Peltier, like to be
    known to them?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, just somebody that stood up for
    his people's rights and who tried to stop the
    Termination Act and all the other crimes committed
    against my people. That's the only reason I'm here. They
    ain't got me -  they ain't proved nothing about me. They
    ain't proved I did anything, let alone kill somebody.

    AMY GOODMAN: What would you do if you were free?

    LEONARD PELTIER: Well, I'd probably go home on house
    arrest. I mean, that's the only thing I can expect,
    because I don't think Obama is going to give -  he's
    going to do what Bill Clinton did, and he ain't going to
    give no clemencies until his last year. He's just not
    going to - it's not going to happen. I really don't
    believe it. So, I'm trying to -  we're trying to -
    George Bush signed the Second Chance Act, which is house
    arrest, and so we're trying to push that, so I can get
    over there, at least to maybe get some -  if I do get
    the house arrest, I can at least get some medical
    treatment, you know, because they're not giving -
    they're not giving it to me. they're just -  you know,
    they're not going to give it to me. That's all there is
    to it. And, well, if I did, I'd go home to North Dakota.
    I got about 10 seconds left. That buzzer just give me
    about -  well, about a minute, I think, I got left. But
    anyway -

    AMY GOODMAN: What gives you -  what gives you hope,


    AMY GOODMAN: What gives you hope?

    LEONARD PELTIER: People like you and all the other
    supporters out there and people that are behind me, my
    people. That's the only hope I got.

    AMY GOODMAN: And the meaning of Harry Belafonte and Pete
    Seeger and about a thousand other people who came out
    last night to this event in your honor?

    LEONARD PELTIER: I got to say this. I got to say this
    really quick. I've got 10 seconds. Thank you all very,
    very much. And I'm sorry I can't -  my time is up. I've
    got to get off this phone.

    PELTIER SUPPORTERS: We love you, Leonard. Love you,
    Leonard. Stay strong.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Leonard Peltier. I was speaking with
him at a news conference on Saturday on the telephone. He
was - he is in prison at the U.S. Penitentiary at Coleman in
Florida. He's been in prison for 37 years, is now asking
President Obama for clemency. On Friday, a major concert was
held here in New York calling for his release. Peltier is
one of America's most well-known and longest-incarcerated
prisoners. Go to our website at democracynow.org to see him
reading his own poetry
and to see Peter Coyote describing his case.



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