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Canadian: AIM conviction came in "kangaroo court"

Associated Press (AP)
February 10, 2004, 3:42 PM EST

By Carson Walker, Associated Press Writer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A Canadian charged with the murder of a woman suspected of spying on American Indian Movement members says he will not get a fair trial if he's returned to the United States.

John Graham was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, in December on a warrant from the United States that charges him with first-degree murder in the death of AIM member Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, 30, in December 1975. The Canadian woman's frozen body was found in February 1976 on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

On Friday, a federal jury in Rapid City convicted Arlo Looking Cloud of first-degree murder committed in the perpetration of a kidnapping in the Aquash death. He faces mandatory life in prison when he's sentenced April 23.

Graham, who plans to fight extradition, said Looking Cloud's trial was a "kangaroo court." In an interview, Graham maintained his innocence despite testimony from several people that said he pulled the trigger.

Witnesses said Graham shot Aquash in the back of the head as she prayed. Looking Cloud was accused of helping take her from Denver and eventually to the spot where she was killed.

"You call that a trial?" Graham told The Associated Press. "Who's trial was it? It's unreal. ... It just reaffirmed my belief that I'm never going to get a fair trial in South Dakota.

"It's just like a show for the FBI. I don't see how they can get away abusing the justice system like that."

In responding to Looking Cloud's statements that Graham shot Aquash, Graham said he thinks Looking Cloud was drunk and was coached by the FBI when he took investigators to the crime scene in 1995.

"He didn't know what was happening last week," he said. "You've got to question the guy, pretty insecure, probably scared out of his mind."

Graham, a member of the Southern Tuchone First Nation in Canada's northern Yukon Territory, is free on bail and is due back in court March 1 unless a judge revokes his bond earlier.

U.S. Attorney Jim McMahon of South Dakota said he didn't know if the Looking Cloud conviction would affect whether Canadian authorities return Graham to the United States to face charges.

"We prepared paperwork required for the extradition, and in that paperwork we outlined what we thought the case was against Mr. Graham, which is what you heard at trial," he said Tuesday.

Lyse Cantin, spokeswoman for the Canadian Department of Justice in Vancouver, said the conviction would have no effect.

"Extradition will proceed in the normal way. It's up to the extradition judge to decide whether the United States has provided enough evidence to commit Mr. Graham for trial in the U.S.," she said.

Aquash's Canadian daughters, Denise Maloney Pictou and Deborah Maloney Pictou, thanked the people involved in the case and said the conviction was bittersweet.

"We are hopeful and optimistic that this is the first step in achieving justice for our mother and revealing the whole story, including those events that led up to her death," they wrote in a statement.


Copyright Associated Press (AP) 2004