The burden of proof to convict Peltier was not very convincing, the FBI allegedly lost or failed to disclose all its evidence both proving his guilt or innocence. For example, they presented a round from an AR 15 found near the dead agents similar to that of Peltier's gun but failed to present the ballistic findings that it was not fired from his gun. They also failed to inform the jury that there were many AR 15 rifles shot on that day. The FBI was also not consistent on what vehicle the FBI agents followed into the reservation.
The agents radioed in it was a red pickup, but at the trial, the prosecution claimed it was a red and white van, a vehicle similar to Peltiers. The Federal government's prosecutor failed to present a clear-cut case for Peltiers guilt, which opened the government up for questioning of their legal integrity. Peltier was a militant who had used a gun at Jumping Bull Ranch, he had a history of anti government acts some of which were violent. In fact, Peltier was wanted at the time of the Pine Ridge incident for attempted murder of a police officer, and that was enough for the federal government to call a duck a duck.
They were convinced he was guilty, and allegedly tampered with evidence and witness testimony to try to ensure his conviction, to appease the cries for justice for the two FBI agents. Interestingly enough the shooting of Joseph Stuntz was never investigated and no one has ever been arrested for his death, this gives more fuel for the American Indians claims of a double standard within the federal justice system. Despite claims and counter claims about scapegoats and convincing evidence, the Federal Prosecutor failed to show that Peltier was guilty.
The case should have been acquitted at that point. However, the judge turned the case over to a jury, which found Peltier to be guilty. Since his conviction, Peltier has obtained new evidence, of the prosecutions alleged misrepresentation, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit; Peltier demanded a new trial. The Eighth Circuit ruled, that the jury may have acquitted Leonard Peltier had the records and data withheld from the defense been available to him "to better exploit and reinforce the inconsistencies casting strong doubts upon the government's case.
" However, the court denied Peltier a new trial. Peltier who will come up for parole in 2008 has been achieving a cult following all over the world, pro-Peltier activists hold vigils, protests, marches, hunger strikes. He has support for his release from celebrities like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Robin Williams, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell, , plus advocacy groups including Amnesty International which does not maintain that Peltier is innocent but contends, murderer or not, that he's a political prisoner and should be freed.
President Clinton was considering paroling Peltier but bowed to pressure from some 15,000 former and current FBI agents opposed clemency. Anyway you look at this case, Peltier may well have been acquitted if he had not hid in Canada and gone to trial with the other AIM members. The Federal Prosecutor botched this case, possibly because of the overwhelming desire to see someone pay for the killing of the FBI agents.
The illegal suppression of evidence, and failure to provide burden of proof opened up the government's case to criticism. Peltier although no angel, and may have actually have shot the agents did not receive a fair trial; Peltier for this reason should be granted a new trial, or be granted clemency. He has served 27 years of his sentence that is probably longer than most life sentences. The federal government by now should feel they have their pound of flesh, and make things right with Peltier and the American Indian Nations.