Thursday, August 13, 2009

The clock is ticking ever faster for Leonard Peltier


The clock is ticking ever faster for Leonard Peltier
Harvey Wasserman
August 11, 2009

By Tuesday, August 18, the four sitting members of the Federal Parole Commission must decide whether they will let Leonard Peltier rejoin his family.

Leonard has been in prison for a staggering 33 years, six more than Nelson Mandela. When he was locked up, Three Mile Island was three years away, and Ronald Reagan had barely begun to run for President.

Leonard has great-grandchildren he has never held.

His most recent hearing was [July] 28. According to his lawyer, Eric Seitz, it went very well. The Parole Commission had 21 days from then to issue its decision.

Now we are down to the final week.

All those familiar with the case agree that a positive political climate can make a difference in the decision. Calls to politicians (202-224-3121) could make all the difference, as could overnight letters to the Parole Commission (http://www.usdoj.gov/uspc/).

Below are two draft letters the attorney has termed "a little melodramatic but otherwise ok." Your own versions are more than welcome.

Leonard’s release would do much to begin the healing process between the native community and the US government. He has handled himself through this torturous third of a century with astonishing dignity, grace and eloquence.

Please do not let this moment go by without doing SOMETHING.

DRAFT LETTER ONE:
Dear Commissioners,

Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Cranston Mitchell, Edward Reilly and Patricia Cushware

Leonard Peltier is a man of deep sensitivities and compassion. It's no accident he has become a figure of tremendous empathy and personal pain all over the world.

For 33 years he has maintained his dignity and composure under incredibly difficult circumstances. He is now approaching the age of 65, and suffers from a wide range of ailments that threaten his continued existence. He has grandchildren and great-grandchildren he has never seen.

Leonard has a community of relations and supporters desperately awaiting his return. His freedom will come as a huge boost to our country's standing in the world. It will begin a desperately-needed healing process between our government and the native peoples of our own country and around the globe.

I urge you to look into your hearts at this man who has spent more than half his life behind bars and reunite him at last with his family.

Thank you,


DRAFT TWO:
To: US Parole Commission

Commissioners Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Cranston Mitchell, Edward Reilly and Patricia Cushware

Dear Commissioners

It is in your power to right a great wrong, to grant a man and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren the right to live the rest of their lives together in peace, and to remove a great stain from the global reputation of the American justice system.

For more than half his life, Leonard Peltier has been held in prison for a crime millions of people worldwide do not believe he committed.

Throughout his imprisonment, Mr. Peltier has conducted himself with extraordinary dignity and grace. His behavior has become an inspiration to countless citizens within the United States and virtually everywhere else on Earth.

Leonard Peltier’s time in prison now exceeds that of Nelson Mandela by six years. Yet he is viewed with much the same reverence and respect as the man who went from a jail cell to the presidency of the nation that put him there. When Mandela was finally set free, the system of racial hatred and separation that plagued South Africa began to crumble, to the betterment of all.

Leonard Peltier was a young man when he entered the prison system; he is now nearly 65. He is plagued with diabetes and a range of other serious illnesses that make it highly possible further imprisonment could result in his death, an outcome of horrific personal and political implications for all Americans. We would all have his blood on our hands.

To follow the history of the legal proceedings that put Leonard Peltier in prison is to journey enter a nightmare of missing documents, perjured testimony, implausible accusations and an impossible conviction.

It is not our intent here to reproduce the massive record surrounding this case. But we would be remiss to say any thing other than this incarceration is viewed throughout the world as a blight on the reputation of American jurisprudence.

We believe that 33 years of imprisonment meets the standard of cruel and unusual punishment set out in the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Its drafters would have freed Leonard Peltier long ago. Indeed, we do not believe great legal thinkers such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would have put Mr. Peltier in prison in the first place.

Every day Leonard Peltier is kept behind bars drives a wedge that grows deeper between this nation’s government and its native population. His time in jail is viewed with great antipathy by native populations, and their supporters, throughout the world.

This is a five-century wound that can only begin to heal when Leonard Peltier is released. We ask that you bring to yourselves and the rest of this nation the great relief that will accompany Leonard Peltier’s return to his family.

Thank you,


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