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News ::
19 Sep 2003

By Moonanum James
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Sept. 25, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Moonanum James

On Sept. 19, oral arguments in Leonard Peltier's 1999 Habeas Corpus
petition will be heard before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in
Denver, Colo., the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee has announced.

This is the first time that Peltier's attorneys will have the
opportunity to argue in a circuit other than the Eighth Circuit. It was in the Eighth Circuit that Peltier was convicted and where all
subsequent appeals have been denied.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Peltier's legal team has
discovered a document that shows that the United States withheld
exculpatory evidence in his case, including critical ballistics data. A memorandum dated Oct. 2, 1975, unequivocally rules out the weapon, a Wichita AR-15--purportedly used by Peltier on June 26, 1975--as the
weapon used to kill two FBI agents that day in South Dakota.

The improperly suppressed evidence withheld by the FBI strikes at the
heart of the government's case and later Parole Commission findings. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Kansas has upheld the Parole
Commission's findings.

In 1995 Peltier appeared for an interim parole hearing. The government's statements, especially those of Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Crooks, moved the examiner. Crooks acknowledged, "The government does not know, insofar as having the evidence to sustain a conviction in court, that Leonard Peltier fired the fatal bullets into the agents."

The examiner "concluded after a review of the additional exculpatory
evidence that a preponderance finding that Peltier actually executed the agents cannot be made." And the examiner conceded that the 15-year parole reconsideration decision in 1993 was based on the mistaken belief that Peltier's convictions had "included a specific or directed finding by the jury that Peltier had fired the fatal shots into the agents causing their deaths."

The examiner ruled in Peltier's favor. Not liking the first examiner's decision, the U.S. Parole Commission appointed a second examiner--who then ruled in the government's favor. The Commission reaffirmed that it would not reconsider Peltier for parole until December 2008.

Now the Peltier legal team will have an opportunity to argue before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that the Commis sion has once again failed to adequately consider the impact of the critical exculpatory evidence that was improperly withheld by the government at trial.

The legal team will strongly contend that the Commission erred. They
will argue that its finding that Peltier had been involved in an
"ambush" of the two FBI agents and executed them at point blank range
after they had been incapacitated is undermined by the material
exculpatory evidence the government improperly withheld during Peltier's trial.

The U.S. Parole Commission's denial of parole to Leonard Peltier
constitutes a violation of law, and is also inconsistent with its own
congressionally mandated guidelines.

Peltier's attorneys will request that the appellate court issue an order that Peltier be given fair consideration for parole im med iately, under appropriate factors, which should lead to his immediate parole.

The legal team will present this and other arguments on Peltier's 1999 Habeas Corpus petition on Sept. 19, between 9 and 10 a.m., before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee is asking all to come and show their support at a candlelight march, vigil and sunrise ceremony the day of the court appearance.

The 10th Circuit sits at the Byron White U.S. Courthouse, located at
1823 Stout Street in downtown Denver. A news conference will follow the hearing.

Moonanum James is co-leader of the United American Indians of New
England/ Leonard Peltier Support Group.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
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