Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jury Finds Canadian Indian John Graham Guilty of the 1975 Kidnapping and Murder of Anna Mae Aquash on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

"A prosecutor isn't saying if there will be other charges filed in connection with a decades-old killing of an American Indian Movement activist...State attorney general Marty Jackley, who prosecuted the case, says he'll meet with authorities to decide if anyone else will be charged."---AP/Singapore (12-12-10)

The New York Times (12-10-10) reports that a Pennington County, South Dakota jury has found the Canadian Indian John Graham guilty of kidnapping and second degree murder in the 1975 killing of the Canadian Indian Anna Mae Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. Both Aquash and Graham were members of the American Indian Movement (AIM).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution (12-11-10) reports:

The daughters of a slain American Indian Movement activist said Saturday they are pleased with the latest conviction in the 35-year-old murder case but remain convinced there are others who haven't been charged...

Marty Jackley, the state attorney general who prosecuted the case, declined to say Saturday if anyone else might face charges.

"We want to take an opportunity to look back at what the evidence showed and make an informed decision," Jackley said.

Aquash's daughters, Denise Maloney Pictou and Debbie Maloney Pictou, said they still don't believe the full story is known about their mother's death.

"I want people to take responsibility for their involvement," Denise Maloney Pictou said. "People now know who the main players are."

Debbie Maloney Pictou, a corporal in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said she thought Graham's case was "just a step forward" in finding justice. "There's still a lot of work that needs to be done," she said.

Graham was acquitted of premeditated murder, but found guilty of felony murder in connection with a kidnapping, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. One juror said afterward there was swift agreement that Graham was culpable but disagreement during jury deliberations about whether he actually fired the fatal shot.

Another activist Arlo Looking Cloud, was also convicted in Aquash's slaying six years ago and is serving a life sentence.

Prosecutors did not address at trial who ordered Aquash's death. Several former leaders of the group — which gained prominence in the 1970s but has since faded from public view — have denied being involved.

During five days of testimony at Graham's trial, prosecution witnesses testified they saw Graham and two other AIM supporters tie Aquash's hands and place her in the back of a red Ford Pinto. The three took Aquash from Denver to Rapid City and then toward South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation, witnesses testified.

But several expected witnesses — including Thelma Rios, who pleaded guilty last month in connection with Aquash's kidnapping — did not testify at Graham's trial. One witness, Angie Janis, testified that Rios called her in November 1975 to say Aquash was an informant and needed to be taken from Denver, where she was living, to Rapid City.

Rios' testimony could shed light on who asked her to make that call. Jackley would not comment on why Rios didn't testify at Graham's trial.

I will tell you that it wasn't an oversight," he said. "We certainly discussed it within our trial strategy, but that's all I can disclose."

Paul DeMain, an Indian journalist who's long researched the Aquash case, likened Graham and the two other activists to soldiers following orders.

"Somewhere in that pyramid, it leads right to the top," he said, adding that he thought more than one leader was involved.

Russell Means, an early leader of AIM, has blamed Vernon Bellecourt, another group leader, for ordering the murder. When asked before the trial whether he was involved, Means replied, "Get real."

Vernon Bellecourt denied allegations against him in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press, four years before he died.

"To this day I don't know who shot Anna Mae Aquash," he said at the time.

Two other leaders, Clyde Bellecourt and Dennis Banks, have declined to comment. [See the full text.]

The Rapid City Journal has a timeline of the case. News From Indian Country also has a special news file and timeline about Anna Mae's murder and a December 10 TV clip about about Anna Mae's murder from the perspective of her nephew Mark Aquash.

According to News from Indian Country (12-10-10):

John Graham [was] found guilty of aiding and abetting [the] first degree murder of Annie Mae Pictou Aquash.

Canada's CBC News (12-10-10) reports some legal details:

A South Dakota jury has found John Graham guilty of felony murder in the 1975 slaying of a native woman originally from Nova Scotia.

Graham, 55, was acquitted of a second, more serious charge of premeditated murder in the slaying of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a Mi'kmaq from Indian Brook, N.S., and an activist with the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Felony murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The two charges roughly parallel what are known as second- and first-degree murder charges in Canada.

Graham looked straight ahead and didn't move as the verdicts were read. His daughter, Naneek, began to cry as the jury members stood one by one to affirm the verdicts.

"We waited 35 years," said Denise Maloney Pictou, one of Pictou-Aquash's daughters, "It's been a long road for us." [See the full text.]

The Washington Post (12-6-10) reports:

Arlo Looking Cloud testified against John Graham, saying he watched as Graham shot Annie Mae Aquash on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation and left her to die. Prosecutors believe Graham, Looking Cloud and a third AIM activist, Theda Clark, kidnapped and killed Aquash because AIM leaders thought she was a government spy. Aquash's death has long been synonymous with AIM and its often-violent struggles with federal agents during the 1970s...

Another witness testified Monday that she and Aquash heard AIM activist Leonard Peltier admit to killing two FBI agents in June 1975. Peltier was convicted in 1977 of shooting the agents and is serving a life sentence. He has maintained his innocence, saying the FBI framed him. The agency denies that claim.

Darlene "Kamook" Ecoffey told jurors Peltier talked about the shooting in the fall of 1975, a few months before Aquash disappeared.

"He held his hand like this," Ecoffey said, making a gesture resembling a gun with her hand. "And he said, 'That (expletive) was begging for his life, but I shot him anyway.'" [See the full text.]

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