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Attorney General Marty Jackley

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Graham Conviction for the 1975 Execution of Annie Mae Aquash Upheld by South Dakota Supreme Court

   Thursday, May 31, 2012    
CONTACT:    Sara Rabern,  (605) 773-3215 

Graham Conviction for the 1975 Execution of Annie Mae Aquash Upheld by South Dakota Supreme Court

PIERRE, S.D.  – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the South Dakota Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the lower court conviction of John Graham for the felony murder kidnapping of Annie Mae Aquash.

The Court rejected all issues that Graham raised on appeal. The Court held that Graham’s extradition on federal murder charges did not preclude the State’s prosecution on the murder charge. The Court held there was sufficient evidence to support the state murder conviction. The Court also rejected Graham's argument relating to the admissibility of testimony of various witnesses, including Leonard Peltier’s admission of killing two FBI Agents. Finally, the Court rejected all Graham’s arguments regarding his legality of his life sentence without parole.

“For 35 years federal, tribal and state law enforcement have cooperated to bring justice for Annie Mae Aquash  and her family,” said Jackley. “The jury verdict and the South Dakota Supreme Court opinion affirm the adage that you cannot get away with murder in South Dakota.”

Annie Mae Aquash was a leader in the American Indian Movement. In December of 1975 Aquash was kidnapped by Theda Clarke, John Graham and Arlo Looking Cloud in Denver. Aquash was believed to be an FBI informant. Aquash was taken to Rapid City, then to the Rosebud Reservation and finally to the Pine Ridge Reservation. She was shot in the back of the head and left for dead near Kadoka, South Dakota. Her decomposed body was found by a rancher in February of 1976.

In 2003, Graham and Looking Cloud were indicted federally for the 1st degree murder of Aquash.
In 2004, Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted in federal court for his involvement in the death of Aquash. However, Graham’s trial was delayed for federal extradition from Canada. In April 2009, Federal District Court dismissed the Graham case for lack of jurisdiction. In September of 2009, a Pennington County grand jury indicted both Graham and Rios for their involvement in the murder of Aquash. In November of 2010, Rios pled guilty to accessory to kidnapping for her role in this crime. Rios died in February of 2011. Theda Clarke who was never formally charged died earlier this year. On December 10, 2010, almost thirty-five years to the day, John Graham was convicted by a jury of the murder of Aquash during the commission of a felony and ultimately sentenced to life in prison.