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Trial of John Graham, Native Land Defender Begins: Reports from
Rapid City (scroll for update)
As many who have been following this case know, John Graham has been charged with the 1970's murder of his friend and comrade in the American Indian Movement (AIM), Anna Mae Aquash. Throughout the trial we will bring you the latest from court and the situation.
We understand the real intentions of this so called "investigation" to be two-fold. The first is an attempt by the State to rewrite history in order to cover up the brutal acts of repression they themselves committed. The second intent is to neutralize Native American struggle for survival in the face of colonial and economic domination.
No news is objective and we are not here to pretend.
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UPDATE: RAPID CITY, SD, November 29th, 2010
Today, jury selection began in the trial of Tuchone native John Graham. So far only four jury members have been selected. The process is expected to take at least until Wednesday.
Attorney for the defense, John Murphy made a thorough examination of the prospective jurors. Responding to questioning, a number of jurors admitted to being familiar with AIM activities in the 1970's. Those familiar with AIM, also shared that they had negative feelings towards AIM at that time, spurred by the media and effects AIM activity had on certain businesses. All said that this was in the past and would not impact their impartiality now as jurors.
As you may know, federal charges against Graham were repeatedly dismissed because prosecutors couldn't prove they had the authority to charge him, as Graham and Aquash are both from "Canadian tribes". The case is now being tried in state court.
Former federal prosecuting attorney in the Aquash case, Marty Jackley, was recently elected State Attorney General of South Dakota and, so, continues on as chief prosecutor of the Aquash case. Alongside him sits Robert Mandel, prosecuting attorney in the the 2004, 4-day railroad trial of Arlo Looking Cloud, found guilty of aiding and abetting in the murder.
The day before trial began the Rapid City Journal (main local newspaper) ran an a three page spread entitled "Search for the Truth." This well timed piece of propaganda was published just before the future jury was directed to refrain from all media. The article, by Heidi Bell Gease, quotes Paul Demain, stating "There is a whole generation of people who love hating the FBI." Gease takes this further, "That us against them mentality doesn't have much to do with finding justice for a murdered woman, he said. but for many people the Aquash case is bigger than that." "Us against them" existed for Anna Mae Aquash and others when they were being fired upon by hundreds of law-enforcement agents at Wounded Knee, 1973. It also existed when she was being threatened by the FBI. Native people fighting for survival in opposition to the entire state/economic apparatus are up against a very dangerous and well-armed force. "Us against them" is not just a mentality, it is a reality and this is why neither truth nor justice can not be sought in their courts.
Jury selection resumes at 8:30am.
Background About the "Case":
In 2003, the US government charged Vancouver resident, John Graham with
the 1970’s execution style killing of his friend and comrade in the
American Indian Movement (AIM), Anna Mae Aquash. He was extradited from
Vancouver in 2007 to stand trial in South Dakota. The trial begins
November 29, 2010. He is facing life in prison. He maintains his
John Graham is a Tuchone native from the Yukon, Canada. Among other
things, he is a father to eight, a pipe layer and a community organizer.
In the 1970’s, Graham was involved with AIM.
In 1975, Anna Mae had confided in Graham and other friends that she had
been threatened by FBI agent David Price who told her she would not live
out the year if she didn’t become an FBI informer. She refused.
When Anna Mae’s frozen body was discovered on Pine Ridge Reservation, FBI
agent David Price was one of the first to examine her body. Price claimed
he could not identify the body, despite having interviewed her multiple
times. Her hands were removed and sent to Washington for “identification.”
The government coroner listed her cause of death as exposure and she was
quickly buried as a Jane Doe without a death certificate.
After the identity of her body was confirmed, a second autopsy by an
independent coroner was demanded. This autopsy determined her cause of
death to be the obvious bullet wound in the back of her head.
In the 1990’s, John Graham was visited four times by law enforcement
officials at his home in the Yukon. He says they asked him to sign false
statements implicating AIM leaders in the death of Anna Mae. When he
refused, he was told he would face the murder charges himself.
In an affidavit sent to Graham’s extradition hearing in Vancouver, Canada,
Leonard Peltier stated that he was offered release from prison if he
agreed to sign false statements implicating John Graham in Anna Mae’s
death. Leonard refused.
In 2004, a Lakota man, Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted for the murder of
Anna Mae. Looking Cloud “admitted” to the murder in interview with law
enforcement agents Abe Alonzo and Robert Ecoffey. During the interview
Looking Cloud also admits to being heavily intoxicated.
At Looking Cloud’s trial, the prosecution called Darlene Nichols to the
stand (the ex-wife of AIM leader Dennis Banks). She said she was paid
$43,000 to cooperate with the so-called investigation. Shortly after the
trial she married lead investigator, Robert Ecoffey. One witness was
called to the defense, FBI Agent David Price.
In April, 2010, Richard Marshall, former AIM member and Lakota, was tried
and acquitted as an accomplice to the murder. His case was won largely on
the basis that the testimony of Looking Cloud was unreliable and the
State’s evidence too weak.
John Graham is being targeted because he fought for the survival of Indian
ways of life, ways that are in conflict with resource exploitation, thus
in conflict with the interests of profit. The railroading of John Graham
is just another attempt to cover up acts of brutal repression committed by
Why was Anna Mae Killed?
In the Lakota’s Fort Laramie treaty land, corporations found a good deal
of gold, coal and uranium. Some Lakota resisted (and still resist) the
ensuing resource exploitation and even refused to take money for land that
had already been stolen from them.
In the 1970’s, major uranium deposits were located on the Pine Ridge
Reservation. The South Dakota and tribal governments sought to suppress
the traditionals and the American Indian Movement supporters in order to
secure the land for profit.
During the early 70’s a paramilitary group called the GOONS (Guardians of
the Oglala Nation), funded by the tribal government and supported by the
FBI, shot up people’s homes and cars and engaged in other acts of
brutality, intimidation and murder.
While the FBI orchestrated the Oglala shoot-out, 133,000 acres of the Pine
Ridge Reservation (treaty land) was signed away in Washington D.C. The
shoot-out followed nearly three years of extreme violence against the
traditional Lakota's and AIM. Over 60 leaders and supporters were murdered
in this period of political violence referred to as the “Reign of Terror”.
This was the context of the death of Anna Mae Aquash. She was a respected
warrior whose life was dedicated to fighting for the land and people.
Responding to her arrest and interrogation by FBI agents on the Rosebud
Reservation in South Dakota, September, 1975, Anna Mae said:
“They offered me my freedom and money if I’d testify the way they
wanted. I have those two choices now. I choose my kind of freedom, not
their kind, even if I have to die."
On the death of Anna Mae Aquash:
“No. I never believed nor took seriously rumors that Anna Mae Aquash
was an FBI informant. I believe instead that Anna Mae was killed because
she was a skilled organizer & leader for our people.”
- Leonard Peltier
Resources for more Information:
The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash, by Johanna Brand
Lakota Woman, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdos
Blood of the Land, by Rex Weyler
Prison Writings: My Life is My Sundance, by Leonard Peltier
The Trial of Leonard Peltier, by Jim Messershmidt
(A news site for John Graham and Leonard Peltier)
Free John Graham: Booklet
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
The Tyee: Delivering a Framed John Graham
The Case of John Graham
Transcript of Arlo Looking Cloud Trial