Looking Cloud has sentence reduced in Aquash murder case

Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP/ICC) October 2011

A Denver man convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the 1975 shooting death of an American Indian Movement activist has had his federal prison sentence reduced from life to 20 years, federal court documents show.

In February 2004, a federal jury in Rapid City, South Dakota, convicted Arlo Looking Cloud, 58, in the slaying of fellow AIM activist Annie Mae Pictou Aquash, a 30-year-old member of the Mi’kmaq tribe of Nova Scotia. He was sentenced to a mandatory life prison term.

Looking Cloud in December testified for state prosecutors against co-conspirator John Graham, whom jurors convicted of felony murder and had previously provided new information about the person, Richard “Dickie” Marshall who provided the gun that was used to shoot Aquash. Marshall was acquited of providing the gun knowing it would be used to shoot Aquash.

A series of court filings in Looking Cloud’s federal case since March have been sealed, but documents show that U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol signed an order in August reducing Looking Cloud’s sentence.

Included in his court file is a new Habeus Corpus requesting a new trial.

Aquash’s frozen body was found in February 1976 on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Canadian woman had been shot in the head.

Federal agents investigated for years but didn’t bring an indictment until March 2003, when Denver police arrested Looking Cloud.

Graham, of the Southern Tutchone tribe in Canada’s Yukon territory, was arrested in December 2003 in Vancouver, British Columbia, on federal charges in Aquash’s killing. But two courts ruled that the U.S. government lacked jurisdiction to try Graham because he is not American Indian, and the case was eventually moved to state court.

In Graham’s December trial, Looking Cloud testified that he stood nearby as Graham shot Aquash on the reservation and left her to die.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Graham, Looking Cloud and a third AIM activist, Theda Nelson Clark kidnapped and killed Aquash because AIM leaders thought she was a government spy.

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