Graham rebuffed in bid to block extradition
VANCOUVER - A British Columbia Supreme Court Justice has dismissed a defence motion to stay extradition proceedings against former Yukoner John Graham.
Graham's lawyers alleged abuse of process by the U.S. district attorney, claiming the U.S. has fabricated evidence and misled the Canadian courts in an effort to extradite him for trial.
Graham is wanted for trial in South Dakota in connection with the 1976 murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. He has pleaded not guilty.
The defense based its motion on a 2003 B.C. case in which proceedings were stayed due to unreliable evidence submitted by the U.K. in an extradition case.
Graham's attorney, Terry LaLiberte, alleged that U.S. district attorney Robert Mandel deliberately or negligently certified to the Canadian court that evidence exists, which in fact it does not exist.
LaLiberte pointed out that one certified witness is dead, and that another witness denies making statements attributed to him.
The U.S. has also certified that an eyewitness, Arlo Looking Cloud, already convicted of aiding in the murder, will testify against Mr. Graham. LaLiberte, however, has submitted an affidavit from Looking Cloud's new lawyer, Terry Gilbert, stating that his client will not testify against Graham.
Finally, LaLiberte submitted an affidavit from Leonard Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement now in prison, in which he claims that in 1998 a man visited him in prison and offered him a deal to have him released in exchange for providing false evidence against Graham.
Crown attorney Deborah Strachan, representing the U.S., has stated that the mistakes in the certified evidence do not prove intentional abuse of process. She pointed out that the U.S. certifies that the evidence is available for trial, not the specific witness.
She has also pointed out that under the current Canada-U.S. extradition treaty, the judge in this case cannot rule on the quality of the evidence certified by the requesting state, the U.S.
In dismissing the defence motion, Justice Elizabeth Bennett agreed with the Crown, stating that the evidence of errors and inconsistencies in the summary of evidence certified by the U.S. district attorney does not establish an abuse of process. She pointed out these issues could be brought before Canada's Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, should the court approve the order to extradite Graham.
She explained her only role is to determine if Graham is the person sought in the case and if there is a prima facia case for ordering the extradition.
A prima facia case means that on first appearance the evidence seems adequate.
Outside the courtroom, LaLiberte expressed displeasure with the ruling, saying he was disappointed but not surprised.
John Graham appeared stoic. He says it's what he expected.
Graham's daughter, Naneek, in tears outside the courtroom, was not so composed. She told reporters her father is being railroaded by the U.S.
If Justice Bennett approves the extradition, Graham's lawyers have already stated they will appeal.
The hearing continues today.
- end -