Attorneys for a Texas native convicted of a 1983 murder on the Devils Lake Sioux Reservation in North Dakota plan to file a second petition for executive clemency Monday, one year after the first was denied, reported
In the decades following his conviction, Richard LaFuente refused to admit guilt at six separate parole hearings, despite knowing it could lead to his release from prison. LaFuente argues that he can’t ask forgiveness for something he didn’t do. Though 11 people were originally convicted of the crime, La Fuente is the only one still serving time for it.
In the clemency petition, Julie Jonas, Managing Attorney of the
Innocence Project of Minnesota
will emphasize how LaFuente has been a model prisoner with no disciplinary infractions and is actually innocent. Even the victim’s mother, brother and sister believe LaFuente is innocent.
In the summer of 1983, LaFuente was visiting relatives on the Devils Lake reservation when a former police officer named Eddie Peltier was found on a rural highway, apparently the victim of a fatal hit and run. Two years later, after having returned to Texas, LaFuente, his cousin and nine other American Indians, were arrested for murdering Peltier after four witnesses said he was beaten to death at a party. Despite a lack of physical evidence and alibis for 10 of the 11 defendants, all of the men were found guilty. LaFuente was sentenced to life in prison in 1986 and his cousin received 20 years.
Two witnesses have since recanted and details about the party emerged as false. Three years later, the convictions of nine defendants had been overturned based on insufficient evidence. LaFuente’s cousin was paroled in 1999. Federal Courts have twice ruled that LaFuente should be granted a new trial, but both decisions were overruled. As quoted in The Texas Monthly, the victim’s sister Andrea Peltier, says:
“I want justice for my brother. It’s been too long. Eddie’s spirit won’t be able to cross over until the right ones are caught. And I want to get Richard out of prison. He didn’t do it. He had nothing to do with it.”