Senator Brian Schatz calls on Merrick Garland to pardon Leonard Peltier

Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) unexpectedly asked Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday to pardon Leonard Peltier, a Native American rights activist who has been in prison for 46 years without any evidence that he committed a crime.

“How do you feel about pardoning Leonard Peltier?” Schatz asked Garland, who was testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee about President Joe Biden’s 2023 budget request for the Justice Department.

Instead, Garland spoke of the formal process that a petition for clemency must go through.

“Petitions go to the prosecutor for pardon, the prosecutor, through the deputy prosecutor general, makes recommendations to the president,” he said. “So I won’t comment on it now.”

“Can you comment on where we are in the process?” Schatz followed him.

Garland said he didn’t even know if Peltier had petitioned for clemency. (He It has.)

“I mean, I read about it in the press,” the attorney general said. “Therefore, I know no more about it than I read in the press.”

The senator from Hawaii still held on to Garland’s responsibility.

“It doesn’t cross your table?” he asked.

“Of course, not as an initial or even a secondary issue. It goes to the Attorney for Pardons and then to the Deputy Attorney General,” Garland replied. “I’m not saying I won’t participate, but it definitely didn’t come to my table.”

Leonard Peltier, shown here in jail in February 1986, is still in jail after a deeply flawed trial and despite no evidence that he committed the crime. He is now 77 years old and has serious health problems, including diabetes and an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The Attorney General’s comments were generally rather weak on Peltier’s pardon. But what was notable is that Garland ran into questions about Peltier at all, which is a sign that renewed momentum for Peltier’s release has reached a level where the U.S. senator thinks it’s pushy enough to raise the issue during hearings on budget in the Senate, which are otherwise unrelated.

What was also notable was that Garland said he knew nothing about Peltier other than what he had read in the press. Peltier is one of the country’s most notorious prisoners who has fought for pardon for decades. The FBI and US Attorney’s Office jailed him in 1977 for the murder of two FBI agents – based on lies, threats and lack of evidence that he committed the crime.

To give an idea of ​​how sensitive his prison sentence is, when HuffPost recently emailed the U.S. Attorney for Pardons with a tech question about Peltier’s clemency petition, the FBI responded unexpectedly. It stated that they strongly objected to Peltier’s pardon and provided an unsolicited statement full of misinformation about the Peltier case.

Peltier has maintained his innocence for decades, even when it likely prevented him from getting parole. International human rights leaders, senators, members of Congress, tribal leaders, celebrities and others called for his release.

Schatz, who is chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is one of two senators who recently pushed for Biden to let Peltier go home. The other is Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Numerous members of Congress also wrote to the president in February calling for Peltier’s pardon.

Also, if it is true that the US Attorney General only knows about Peltier based on what he has read in the press, then he is obviously a regular reader of HuffPost as we have been aggressively covering the Peltier case for months. Hey Merrick!

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