1975 AIM slaying defendant wants 1 count dismissed

By Carson Walker
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) 11-08

The lawyer for one of two former American Indian Movement members indicted for the 1975 slaying of Annie Mae Aquash wants one of the three counts dismissed.

John Graham and Richard Marshall pleaded not guilty to charges they committed or aided and abetted the first-degree murder of Aquash, a fellow AIM member, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

They are scheduled to stand trial at Rapid City starting Feb. 24 – 33 years to the day after her body was found.

Graham, a member of the Tsimshian Tribe in the Yukon, was to stand trial Oct. 6 but the judge threw out the indictment because grand jurors didn’t previously consider whether Graham or Aquash, both Canadians, belonged to a federally recognized American Indian tribe.

Graham fought his return to South Dakota from British Columbia for more than four years. He was extradited in December.

Marshall, a Lakota from South Dakota, was indicted in August, five years after Graham and another Lakota AIM member originally from South Dakota, Arlo Looking Cloud, were initially charged.

Looking Cloud was convicted in 2004 for his role in Aquash’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Witnesses at his trial said he, Graham and another AIM member, Theda Clarke, drove Aquash from Denver in late 1975 and Graham shot Aquash in the Badlands as she begged for her life.

Clarke, who lives in a nursing home in western Nebraska, has not been charged.

In court documents, prosecutors accuse Marshall of providing the handgun used to kill Aquash.

Graham has denied killing Aquash but acknowledged being in the car from Denver.

His lawyer, John Murphy, filed a motion to dismiss the third count against Graham that alleges jurisdiction over him based on his aiding and abetting Looking Cloud, Clarke and Marshall, all Indians.

Murphy argued the court doesn’t have jurisdiction because Graham and Aquash were Canadian citizens and affiliated with Canadian tribes when she was killed and the law requires them to be members of a tribe recognized by the U.S. government.

Federal prosecutors have said because Looking Cloud, Clarke and Marshall are legally Indians, the government has jurisdiction.

Murphy disagreed.

“Defendants who are affiliated with Indian groups not recognized by the United States government are not Indian for criminal jurisdiction purposes,” he wrote.

Alternatively, Murphy argued that the third count does not state an offense because it doesn’t establish that Graham is an Indian.

Aquash, a member of Mi’kmaq Tribe of Nova Scotia, was killed by a gunshot wound to the head near Wanblee. Her family exhumed her body in 2004 and returned it to Canada, where she was buried in her native Nova Scotia.

Some speculated Aquash was killed by AIM members because she knew some of them were government spies, while others said she was executed because she herself was an informant. Federal authorities have said Aquash was not an informant and they had nothing to do with her death.

Aquash was among the Indian militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee in a 71-day standoff with federal authorities in 1973 that included exchanges of gunfire with agents who surrounded the village.

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See narratives of historical NFIC investigation into Aquash murder case

See other historical articles on the Aquash case at jfamr.org

See related article: Prosecutors refuse details of cooperating Witnesses

See related 2001 Editorial: It's murderers who make headlines and devastate families