Supreme Court Rejects Indian Activist Peltier's Appeal
Mon Apr 19, 2004 10:12 AM ET
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court rejected
on Monday an appeal seeking parole for American Indian
activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted for the
1975 killings of two FBI agents.
Without any comment, the justices let stand a U.S.
appeals court ruling that denied Peltier's bid for a
parole hearing and for release from prison.
Peltier, whose case has received international
attention, has been in federal prison in Leavenworth,
Kansas, serving two consecutive life sentences for the
slayings of the agents on the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation in South Dakota.
FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams got into a
firefight with Indians when they went to the
reservation to arrest four people charged with armed
robbery. The agents were wounded from a distance,
became incapacitated and were killed by shots fired at
At issue was a U.S. Parole Commission decision that
Peltier was ineligible for parole until Dec. 31, 2008,
because he ambushed the agents before executing them.
A U.S. appeals court in Denver last year upheld the
Peltier's lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court.
They said the appeals court "erroneously" affirmed the
commission decision and claimed government misconduct
during prosecution of the case because of withholding
of evidence and coercing witnesses to testify falsely.
Because of the commission decision, Peltier will have
to serve at least double the sentence he would have
received under federal guidelines, his lawyers said.
They said he should have been eligible for parole
after more than 16 years in prison.
"For over 28 years, Mr. Peltier has suffered indignity
and injustice," Attorney Carl Nadler wrote in asking
the high court to hear the appeal.
"It truly is a sad commentary upon our judicial system
and our government that a man must suffer 28 years in
prison because 'someone' must pay for a crime that the
government could not prove he committed," Nadler said.
Four people were charged in the slayings. Two were
acquitted and the government dropped its case against
a third. Peltier escaped to Canada and was later
extradited, tried, convicted and sentenced.
Peltier has unsuccessfully brought a number of appeals
challenging his conviction and sentence.