Peltier Hearing Adjourned
A hearing into allegations that the FBI falsified evidence to convict Leonard Peltier in the shooting deaths of two FBI agents was adjourned by the original trial judge, Paul Benson after a bureau firearms expert was apparently caught in a lie.
The expert, Evan Hodge, had testified that he and an assistant were the sole authors of a ballistics report which linked a.223 caliber shell found at the scene of the killings with the firing pin in an AR- 15 rifle attributed to Peltier. According to Peltier attorney, William Kunstler, this evidence was the only difference between Leonards trial and that of two other Native Americans charged in the same incident but acquitted after a jury trial.
This conflicts with a second document, an FBI teletype dated Oct. 2, 1975. The teletype stated that the AR-15 rifle which the FBI claimed belonged to Peltier contained a "different firing pin" from the rifle used in the shootout.
When Hodge was confronted under oath by Kunstler during the hearing he stated that he was the author of the document. The attorneys then requested that the FBI turn over handwriting samples to confirm Hodges statement. However after an unexplained delay the FBI stated that in fact Hodge was not the author of the ballistics report. Hodge himself testified that he had "forgotten" that in fact he was not the author of the report.
Judge Benson expressed disgust with the FBI gaff and in an attempt to divorce himself from the governments troubled case ordered the hearing adjourned and directed the FBI to comply with a defense motion to produce all documents, including memos and records of phone conversations. Bensons Role
When 12,000 pages of FBI files were released to Peltiers attorneys it was discovered that the Bureau was terribly dissatisfied with the first trial in the reservation murders. That was the case of two Native American men Robert Robideau and Dino Butler. They were tried in Cedar
Rapids, Iowa, separately from Peltier because he was a fugitive in Canada undergoing extradition proceedings. After they were aquatinted the FBI, in a revealing memoranda pointed out faults with the judge in Cedar Rapids. They asked for a new judge because they felt that the Cedar Rapids judge was favorable to the defense. So, the government moved the case without any consultation with the Cedar Rapids judge and sent it to Fargo, North Dakota-a state known for its intense racism against Indians.
Benson was the new judge and he went on to run the trial in a way more favorable to the FBI. In fact, the FBI met with Benson on several occasions and he was told that he should fear demonstrations and acts of terror by Native activists as well as other things that remain undocumented.
When Benson was presented with the new evidence in the case this year he refused to hear oral arguments, much less an evidentiary hearing. It was the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that considered the new findings important enough to require the hearing. According to attorney Bill Kunstler this was an indication that they were dealing with a judge who was "pro prosecution, anti-Leonard Peltier, and probably anti-Indian".
Leonard Peltier is presently waiting at the Federal Prison Hospital in Springfield, Mo. for the hearing to resume in Bismarck, North Dakota. Meanwhile the lockdown at Marion Prison in Illinois marked one year of torture for the men imprisoned there. This is where Leonard will be sent back to serve out a double life sentence if the courts rule against him.
However Leonard does not wait alone. This summer the District Court in Fargo reported receiving 3,000 letters addressed to Judge Benson expressing concern and support for Leonard. By now the amount of letters is much higher. Letters have been reported from every state and at least nine European countries. In the face of this public support Benson issued a gag order preventing reporters from interviewing Peltier and he has restricted visitors to his parents, siblings, and attorneys.
Leonard Peltier is a symbol of Indian resistance and has become a symbol for millions fighting this oppressive society. His struggle has been a continuing thorn in the side of all imperialists and when his freedom comes it will be X great day for the oppressed-through out the world.