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Looking Cloud trial raises questions
Indian Country Today
February 12, 2004 at 2:53pm EST
By David Melmer
RAPID CITY, S.D. - The guilty verdict of Arlo Looking Cloud and how it
was reached has led to discussions about justice in South Dakota and the
John Graham, living in Vancouver, B.C., is also charged in the death of Anna
Mae Pictou-Aquash. Graham is under house arrest and faces an extradition
"I was shocked the trial went as far as it did. I was shocked the judge
didnít stop it," John Graham said.
"They pulled a number on (Looking Cloud). Thatís publicized distortion from
the start. There is no justice for activists in South Dakota.
"It was a typical South Dakota kangaroo court. What happened to Arlo proves
there is no chance of a fair trial in the U.S.," Graham said. Graham has
pleaded not guilty to the charge of first degree murder and has always
maintained his innocence.
In a telephone interview with Indian Country Today Graham said he did not
know Looking Cloud very well, had met him on Dec. 10 in Denver, yet prayed
"He doesnít have a clue what happened to him, other than he may spend his
life in prison," Graham said.
Graham said he drove Pictou-Aquash from Denver to Pine Ridge and then
dropped her off. Different from what was brought out by witnesses at the
trial. Graham also said he didnít know why his name kept coming up. "Some
guy said that if you shake the AIM tree my name comes up."
Graham said Looking Cloud was coached by others to tell a story the way he
did. "I believe Arlo was told what to say."
Graham said he was approached by the FBI in 1988 to reveal the names of the
higher AIM leaders that may have been involved. He refused. He said they
offered him immunity and could be put in the witness protection program. "I
didnít know anything, why would I need to be protected," he asked.
Graham said he and Pictou-Aquash were in Cedar Rapids, Iowa attending Crow
Dogís trial at the time of the June 26, 1975 killing of the two FBI agents.
The two went back to Oglala to help people out. "I know she wasnít an agent.
You donít go openly back into that if you were. We were concerned about
Grandpa and Grandma Jumping Bull and there were kids in there."
He said the same mentality that was present at the Wounded Knee Massacre in
1890, when the 7th Cavalry was involved in killing nearly 300 Lakota, was in
retaliation for the Battle at the Little Big Horn. "This is the same
mentality," he said.
"The FBI is trying to weld the door shut on Leonard (Peltier)."
Graham and Pictou-Aquash met in Minneapolis at the Red School House run by
AIM. He said the two went to the Farmington, N.M. national convention of
AIM, and that they were good friends.
What was missing from the Looking Cloud trial, he said, was a knowledge of
the atmosphere in South Dakota at the time. "It was shocking to me at the
time. I thought it only happened in the movies."
He said he was hopeful that a legal team could help Looking Cloud with an
"There is a feeling in Johnís legal team; they canít believe the case
against Looking Cloud," said Mathew Lien of the John Graham Defense
Terry LaLiberteí, extradition attorney for Graham, said after the trial and
verdict Looking Cloud received, "we will have to work harder to keep my
client from extradition to the U.S.
"The verdict was appalling. From the type of evidence I see, it was
Lien said the Looking Cloud trial demonstrated that
to allow Graham to stand trial in the
United States was "out of the question."
Looking Cloud family members have contacted the Graham defense committee and
others to ask for help with a legal appeals team for Looking Cloud. Tim
Rensch, Looking Cloudís court-appointed attorney has come under criticism
for not mounting a credible defense for his client.
LaLiberteí said he didnít think there would be any
shortage of lawyers who would be willing to take the case.
"The people who have worked on Johnís team have a pretty good idea
of what the truth looks like. What happened in the
Looking Cloud trial is not the truth," Lien said
"If the FBI could have their ultimate case, they
would want some bad Indians to take the fall for Anna Maeís death," Lien
The four day Looking Cloud trial, Lien said, provides the Graham Defense
team with some insight about the governmentís
During the Looking Cloud trial Graham was named as the trigger man numerous
times by persons who repeated what they said was the story told to them by
Yet the John Graham Defense
Committee will help form a legal appeals team for Looking Cloud. "Why
help him when he implicated John?" Lien said. "We
donít believe he intended to implicate John."
LaLiberteí said that Looking Cloud was convicted on the lack of forensic
evidence. "It was some type of innuendo," that convicted Looking Cloud.
He said the transcript of the trial would be important to juxtapose the
testimony of the various witnesses.
Should the extradition process work favorably for Graham he could be tried
in Canada, something his legal team, friends and many residents of Canada
want to see. He is a Canadian living in Canada and charged with the murder
of another Canadian, Lien said.
Graham implied that the FBI doesnít want the truth to come out. He said that
more information about the first autopsy should be revealed. He also
mentioned that all the same agents and players today were around Oglala,
including Robert Ecoffey.
"I feel now, more than ever, that John must not be extradited. This feeling
is based on all that has gone on in the Dakotas with respect to the Leonard
Peltier trial, and now the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud, which shows that a
conviction can be achieved on unreliable hearsay with so many
discrepancies," said Jennifer Wade, Amnesty International for British
The bar has been lowered for extradition to the United States since 9/11.
The Graham case has drawn some high level legal people to the case to use it
as a means to challenge the constitutionality of the new extradition laws,
Lien said the Canadian courts saw fit to trust Graham and let him out of
jail pending the extradition hearing. Graham walks from his home to a police
station in Vancouver, B.C. every day. He enjoys the long walk, because he is
joined by friends and residents who support him.
© Copyright Indian Country Today 2004