Canadian loses extradition appeal for 1975 Pine Ridge slaying 6-26-07

Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A Yukon native has been taken into custody after a British Columbia court denied his appeal of an order that he be extradited to the United States to stand trial for a 1975 slaying in South Dakota.

The ruling against John Graham came Tuesday morning, June 26, 2007 in Vancouver and his bail was immediately revoked, so he was taken to jail.

Graham had been under house arrest since he was charged in December 2003 with first-degree murder in the killing Anna Mae Pictou Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in late 1975. Her body was found Feb. 24, 1976. The Nova Scotia native had been shot in the head.
Greg Del Bigio, one of Graham's lawyers, said the defence team must sit down and digest the 19-page decision and decide if an argument can be made to apply for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

If that is not done within a 30-60 time frame, Del Bigio said, Graham could find himself back in the United States.

Lead defence lawyer Terry Laliberte still questions the evidence that was brought before the extradition judge. Much of it is hearsay, he said. Further, he said one witness has recanted while another is dead.

He's also skeptical about Graham's chances at trial in the United States.

We have to rely on the integrity of our extradition partner, the United States," he said. "I have seen much integrity."

He said if the murder case were to be brought in Canada, it wouldn't even meet the standard of charge approval.

The Court of Appeal disagreed.

"As a planned and deliberate killing, it constitutes murder in Canadian law," the decision said.

Aquash's murder came amid a series of bloody clashes in the mid-1970s between federal agents and members of the American Indian Movement. Aquash, a member of Mi'kmaq Tribe of Canada, was among Indian militants who occupied Wounded Knee, S.D., for 71 days in 1973.

Prosecutors have said AIM leaders ordered Aquash's killing because they suspected she was a government informant. AIM leaders have denied that assertion.

The other man charged with killing Aquash, Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud, received a mandatory life sentence in 2004 after a federal jury in Rapid City, S.D., convicted him of first-degree murder committed in the perpetration of a kidnapping. A federal appeals court upheld the conviction.

Graham has said he's innocent, but a Canadian judge who issued a written ruling Tuesday disagreed.

"In my opinion, a properly instructed jury acting reasonably, could convict on the evidence that the appellant brought the deceased from Denver to South Dakota and there carried out her execution with the assistance of Looking Cloud," Justice Ian Donald wrote.

Witnesses at Looking Cloud's trial testified that Graham shot Aquash, whose family exhumed her body in 2004 from an Oglala, S.D., grave and reburied it in Nova Scotia.

A Canadian judge ruled in 2005 that Graham should be extradited and the Canadian minister of justice affirmed that decision last year.

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