1975 AIM slaying gets appeal hearing before trial

By Carson Walker
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) 3-09

 John Graham

The U.S. attorney for South Dakota and a defense lawyer will argue an appeal in the 1975 slaying of a Canadian woman one month before the case is scheduled for trial.

John Graham from the Tsimshian Tribe in the Yukon is one of two men indicted on charges they killed or aided the murder of fellow American Indian Movement member Annie Mae Aquash, a member of the Mi’kmaq Tribe of Nova Scotia.

Graham’s lawyer, John Murphy, argued the U.S. 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.

Days before Graham was to stand trial in October in Rapid City, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol threw out the indictment because grand jurors didn’t previously consider whether Graham or Aquash belonged to a federally recognized Indian tribe.

U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley appealed that ruling, arguing that because other AIM members involved are legally Indians, Graham can be tried as an aider and abettor.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Jackley’s request for a hearing and scheduled oral arguments for April 15 in St. Louis before Judges William Jay Riley, Duane Benton and Bobby E. Shepherd.


Graham’s trial is set to start May 12 in Rapid City with co-defendant Richard Marshall, who was indicted in August, five years after Graham and Arlo Looking Cloud were charged.

Graham and Marshall pleaded not guilty to a new indictment charging that they committed or aided and abetted the first-degree murder of Aquash.

Several defense motions to dismiss the charges have been filed but not ruled upon, including one from Murphy, who also argued that the appeal should be dismissed on the grounds it’s moot because Graham was re-indicted on the same charge that was thrown out.

Witnesses accused Graham of shooting Aquash in the head Dec. 12, 1975, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near Wanblee on orders from AIM leaders who suspected she was a government informant.

The prosecution theory is that Looking Cloud, Graham and Theda Clarke drove Aquash from Denver, and Marshall gave the trio the revolver and shells Graham used to shoot Aquash in the Badlands as she begged for her life.

Graham fought extradition from Vancouver, British Columbia, until December 2007 when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to review his case. He has denied killing Aquash but acknowledged being in the car from Denver.

Looking Cloud, a Lakota originally from Pine Ridge, was convicted in 2004 for his role in Aquash’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

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