As of this year, my good friend, Native American leader Leonard Peltier, has been imprisoned for 29 years for a murder that even the government has no idea if he committed or not. The Appeals Court judge that sentenced him wrote a letter to President Clinton asking for clemency, and informing the President that the case had many errors in it, but that his hands had been tied. Furthermore, he held the FBI equally culpable for the events that started a massive fire-fight on the Sioux reservation that resulted in the deaths of two FBI agents.
Leonard has been in prison longer than many people convicted of murder. He has been eligible for parole for many years and every appeal has been denied. Both his parents have died while he was incarcerated and he has survived two attempts on his life; had his jaw wired shut after botched surgery and is now suffering from old age. During the 1996 Democratic Convention I asked a Deputy in the Justice Department about Leonard and he told me, "When you first spoke to me, I thought you were crazy. Iâ€™m embarrassed to say that everything you told me was the truth. All I can say is that there are some very powerful people in Washington that do not want to see him leave prison alive."