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Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg

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8th Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms John Graham Conviction

CONTACT:  Sara Rabern (605) 773-3215     
PIERRE, S.D. -  Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit dismissed John Graham’s effort to overturn his conviction on a writ of habeas corpus.  Graham claimed that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over him because he is a Canadian citizen whose extradition allegedly violated the United States-Canada extradition treaty.

Graham was convicted in 2010 of the December 1975 kidnapping and murder of American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Annie Mae Aquash.  Aquash was one of the highest ranking female members of AIM.  She was married at Wounded Knee and participated in AIM’s 1973 occupation of the town.

Members of an AIM faction that included Leonard Peltier and John Graham accused Aquash of being a government informant.  She was kidnapped from Denver, Colorado, by Graham, Arlo Looking Cloud, and Theda Clarke, driven to Rapid City, and then to the Badlands of South Dakota where Graham executed her.

Graham left the country and relocated to Canada but was eventually extradited and tried for Aquash’s murder.  He was convicted by a jury in December of 2010 and his conviction was affirmed by the South Dakota Supreme Court in May of 2012.

Graham sought to overturn his conviction on a writ of habeas corpus challenging the Canadian government’s decision to extradite him to the United States.  United States District Court Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled that United States courts are not a proper forum for challenging Canada’s decision to extradite one of its own citizens.

“Canadian officials reviewed South Dakota’s extradition request and concluded that John Graham needed to stand trial in the United States for the murder of Annie Mae Aquash.  I am grateful to Canadian officials for cooperating with the State of South Dakota’s efforts to bring John Graham to justice,” said Attorney General Jackley.  “Today’s ruling is an important step toward justice for Annie Mae and her family.”