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Canadian accused of killing AIM activist may get out of jail

Associated Press (AP)
Monday, January 12, 2004

By Carson Walker

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - One of two men accused of killing an American Indian Movement activist in South Dakota may be released from the Canadian jail in which he's been held for six weeks.

John Graham was arrested in early December in Vancouver, British Columbia, on a warrant from the United States that charges him with first-degree murder.

He and Arlo Looking Cloud, who was picked up in March in Denver, are accused of killing Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A rancher found her frozen body in February 1976.

A March indictment accuses Graham and Looking Cloud in the fatal shooting of Aquash, 30, around Dec. 12, 1975. They would serve mandatory life prison terms if convicted. Looking Cloud is scheduled to stand trial starting Feb. 3 in federal court in Rapid City. Graham is fighting extradition.

His lawyer, Terry LaLiberte of Vancouver, said a judge will likely release Graham from jail after a hearing scheduled for Thursday.

"The judge is going to grant bail. There's just a question of what the conditions will be," he said late Monday.

The judge wanted a group of people to come up with $25,000 bail to post on behalf of Graham and that has happened, LaLiberte said. That amounts to about $19,500 in American dollars.

U.S. Attorney James McMahon of South Dakota said Monday he was aware of Graham's attempt to get out of jail but did not know the status of the case.

"At some previous hearing, there was some comment made by the judge up there that he would consider letting Graham go if conditions were met," he said.

Aquash's daughters also live in Canada and sent out a statement Monday asking the Canadian government not to release Graham until his extradition hearing, which has not been scheduled.

"We are the victim's family. We are not spearheading the investigation. We do, however, support any efforts made to bring my mother's murder case to trial so that we may, in a court of law, hear the truth and hopefully have justice delivered," wrote Denise and Debbie Maloney Pictou.

"There has been little or no support from this country offered to our family to date."

But LaLiberte said if Aquash's family members want justice they will stop accusing Graham.

"They've got him convicted," he said. "I think there's a very, very skimpy case against him, certainly in Canadian standards. It's all based on hearsay and double hearsay and double innuendo. To my knowledge there's not one iota of forensic evidence against him."

LaLiberte said Graham has been living in Vancouver and his whereabouts before authorities arrested him were well known.

"Where's he going to run to? The United States?" he said.

Looking Cloud grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation. A former classmate said Looking Cloud moved to Denver after high school. Most recently he was homeless.

In the 1970s, Graham and Looking Cloud did low-level security at AIM events, said Paul DeMain, editor of News From Indian Country, a newspaper.

Copyright Associated Press (AP) 2004