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Leonard Peltier Trial: 1977

Arrest, Escape, Extradition

Some 300 FBI agents and BIA police, believing that 16 Indians had participated in the shootout, looked for evidence and arrested four men. One of them, Leonard Peltier, escaped and fled to Canada, where he appealed for asylum. His petition denied, he was extradited in December 1976. Meantime, two of the other men were tried in Cedar Rapids and acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Charges against the third were dropped.

As the trial of Peltier began on March 16, 1977, defense attorney Elliott Taikeff's opening statement set his own ground rules. "The only question is," he said, "did the defendant participate. That's what this trial is all about. The government doesn't have to prove first-degree murder, we concede first-degree murder."

A key prosecution witness was Mike Anderson, a youth who said he had watched the shootout from a rooftop. He testified he saw Peltier and two other men in Peltier's red-and-white van pursued by two FBI cars. He "saw everybody hop out" of their cars and move out of sight, then heard gunfire.

On cross-examination, Anderson admitted that, while he was jailed in Wichita on another matter since the shootout, an FBI agent had threatened to beat him up if he "didn't give him the answers that he wanted," that his Wichita charges had then been dropped, and that he had disagreements with Peltier, who had been trying to get him to stop drinking.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Leonard Peltier Trial: 1977 - Arrest, Escape, Extradition, "it Was The Agents …", Myrtle Poor Bear Irrelevant, Appeals Denied