Former attorney whose office prosecuted Leonard Peltier now wants him freed
'40 years is enough,' says James Reynolds, former U.S. attorney for Iowa
His office prosecuted Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier 40 years ago; now former U.S. attorney James Reynolds is asking outgoing President Barack Obama for clemency.
Reynolds, the former U.S. attorney in Iowa, made the request in a letter sent to the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 21.
Peltier, 71, is in failing health. He's been behind bars for over 40 years after being convicted in the shooting deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
"I think it's time," Reynolds told the New York Daily News. "Forty years is enough."
Reynolds, who was appointed to his position by former president Jimmy Carter in 1980, became U.S. attorney for Iowa after the original prosecution of Peltier and was part of the appeal that upheld the Peltier conviction.
But he now joins many people and groups, including Amnesty International, who believe Peltier may have been wrongfully convicted in the 1975 trial and subsequent appeal.
"Amnesty believes that political factors may have influenced the way in which the case was prosecuted," the organization said on its website.
"We might have shaved a few corners here and there," Reynolds admitted to the New York Daily News.
Amnesty also believes Peltier — who suffers from diabetes and other ailments — should be released because of his health.
"U.S. authorities should order Leonard Peltier's release from prison on humanitarian grounds and in the interests of justice," the human rights organization said.
To many, Peltier is a hero of the Indigenous rights movement in the 1970s and a wrongfully convicted political prisoner whose story has inspired books, songs and T-shirt slogans.
The Assembly of First Nations in Canada has frequently spoken out in support of Peltier, though in recent years that has sparked controversy.
Denise Maloney Pictou believes Peltier protected her mother's killers and was involved in events that led to her death in 1975.
"Leonard Peltier has been romanticized as a hero," Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, told CBC News in March.
"The [Aquash] family has taken great offence to that."
With files from New York Daily News, The Canadian Press