Our Freedom

Honour Anna Mae Pictou Aquash and Harriet Nahanee / Free John Graham and Leonard Peltier

The Trial of Land Defender, John Graham December 30, 2010

Filed under: Legal — ourfreedom @ 1:28 am

The Trial of Land Defender, John Graham
Graham maintains his innocence despite a guilty verdict. He now faces life in prison.

by freejohngraham_info →Dominion Stories

Pennington County Court, Rapid City, SD

John Graham, 1980, La Ronge, Saskatchewan

On December 10 a South Dakota jury found John Graham guilty of felony murder in the death of American Indian Movement (AIM) member Anna Mae Aquash. John Graham, a Tuchone native originally from the Yukon, continues to maintain his innocence. Aquash was murdered in the 1970s in an execution-style killing in South Dakota. Graham has said that she was his friend and comrade.

In 2004, Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted of murder for aiding in the murder of Aquash. He received a life sentence with a chance of parole in 2013. Earlier this year, Richard Marshall was acquitted on the charge of supplying the gun that killed Aquash. Looking Cloud testified against both Marshall and Graham at trial. Thelma Rios plead guilty in November of this year to charges of aiding and abetting, for which she received five years of probation and no jail time.

At trial, the state alleged that John Graham took Aquash from Denver against her will and ultimately killed her in the hills of South Dakota. The government claimed the motive for the murder was that AIM believed Aquash to be an informant who had knowledge of sensitive information.

The jury acquitted Graham of premeditated murder: the first-degree charge. Nevertheless, the lesser charge of second degree felony murder* carries a sentence of life in prison.

Aquash was a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia and was well-known as a skilled organizer and warrior with AIM. In 1975, she said she had been targeted and threatened with death by the FBI. Her body was found on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in February 1976. The original autopsy report, made by an FBI-contracted coroner, stated her cause of death as “exposure” and made no record of the bloody bullet-wound in the back of her head. The FBI removed her hands for purposes of identification in Washington as they claimed the body was unidentifiable. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) buried Aquash as a Jane Doe.

When the hands were identified as those of Anna Mae Aquash, AIM attorneys requested a second autopsy by an independent coroner. The new coroner Gary Peterson, testified at Graham’s trial that he had indeed noticed the entrance wound and an object (the bullet) lodged in her head through a cursory examination.

The time from 1973-1976 on Pine Ridge is referred to by many as “the reign of terror.” A paramilitary squad known as the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs), operated on Pine Ridge and were organized by the BIA. The GOONs were notorious for targeting traditional Lakotas and AIM members by shooting up homes, running people off roads and outright murder. According to former GOON, Duane Brewer, the group was given ammunition and intelligence by the FBI themselves.

On March 11 1976, before the results of Anna Mae’s second autopsy were known, an article entitled “FBI denies AIM implication that Aquash was informant” appeared in the Rapid City Journal, despite the fact that AIM never publicly made any such allegation. Already the FBI had begun to redirect blame away from themselves and spin a story to target AIM and discredit indigenous resistance.

“If you start with the premise that we are just as inclined to break the law as to honour it…then no case we put together has any credibility,” said FBI Special Agent John Sennett during the 2001 FBI campaign against clemency for imprisoned AIM member Leonard Peltier.

In the South Dakota courtroom this month, the audience was directed not to exhibit any symbols of support or disagreement at any time during session. Judge Jack Delaney also said that reactive facial expressions would be grounds for removal from court for the duration of trial.

Said trial was riddled with inconsistencies. Witnesses contradicted one another, stating that Aquash’s hands were tied in front, behind or not at all when she was “kidnapped” from a house in Denver.

The murder having taken place 35 years ago, many contradictions in testimony were explained away as a problem of degraded memory. The entire case rested on verbal testimony without a shred of material evidence.

Witness Darlene Ecoffey (previously Kamook Banks), wife of Robert Ecoffey (the lead investigator of Aquash’s murder and superintendent of the BIA on Pine Ridge), and ex-wife of AIM leader Dennis Banks, had worked with the FBI for at least a decade. She is known to have worn a wire and interviewed various AIM supporters. As in the Looking Cloud trial, Ecoffey again testified that Leonard Peltier told Anna Mae and herself that he had executed the two FBI agents in the 1975 “shoot-out at Oglala.” Leonard Peltier is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for the death of the two FBI agents. He has always maintained his innocence despite his parole being contingent on an admission of guilt.

“Kamook’s testimony was like being stabbed in the heart while simultaneously being told your sister just died,” said Leonard Peltier about Ecoffey’s similar testimony at Looking Cloud’s 2004 trial. “Of all the fabrications that the government has used to keep me imprisoned, this one hurt so deeply.”

Witness Angie Janis said she was at the house in Denver when Anna Mae was “kidnapped.” Janis works as a secretary at the Pine Ridge BIA. Her boss is Robert Ecoffey, bringing into question her motives for testifying. Darlene Ecoffey admitted that she had been paid over $40,000 by the FBI for her work as an informant. Testimony was also heard from FBI and BIA agents including the notorious FBI agent William Wood.

The defense rested its case on December 7 without calling a single witness. Twice, defense lawyer John Murphy asked Judge Jack Delaney to dismiss the charges against Graham, arguing that prosecutors had not proven enough of their case. Delaney disagreed and denied the motion.

So why is John Graham being targeted and why do many believe that he is innocent?

Anna Mae Aquash, Leonard Peltier and John Graham all consistently refused to falsely testify on behalf of the State. In return, Anna Mae was threatened with her life by the FBI. In an affidavit, Leonard Peltier said he was offered his freedom in exchange for false testimony against John Graham. Graham himself said that agents visited him four times in the Yukon, trying to get him to sign false statements implicating AIM leadership in the death of Anna Mae. When Graham refused the FBI said that he would face the charges instead.

“(The FBI) offered me my freedom and money if I’d testify the way they wanted,” said Aquash when she was arrested in 1975. ” I have those two choices now. I chose my kind of freedom, not their kind, even if I have to die.”

John Graham also chose this kind of freedom, for which he now faces life in prison.

It has been suggested that prosecutors may proceed to charge some former AIM leaders with ordering the Aquash murder.

This trial has brought no real resolution. If anything the truth shown here is that state still aims to disrupt resistance movements and those who dare to struggle are at odds with the goals of the state. Although the imprisonment of John Graham is a tragedy, his refusal to frame others is also an inspiration to those who continue to resist the destruction of the land and native ways of life.

In Graham’s own words, “I am a warrior. I was a warrior when I first went to South Dakota and I’ll be a warrior this time when I have to go to South Dakota.” (from his 2007 extradition from Vancouver to South Dakota)

Graham’s defense team is still working on his behalf. His sentencing is scheduled for January 24, 2011.


* In felony murder cases, the prosecution does not have to prove that the accused actually killed anyone, instead the accused is found criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of a felony. In this case the felony is the kidnapping charge. For instance, if two people are robbing a bank and one of them is killed by police, the getaway driver can then be convicted of felony murder.

Article references:

Johanna Brand, The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash: References the article “FBI denies AIM implication that Aquash was informant” from March 11, 1976

Michael A. de Yoanna, Passing over Peltier (pt. 2): FBI Agent John Sennett quotation

Kevin McKiernan interview of Duane Brewer, quoted by Ward Churchill


Embedded Links:





Jury Convicts John Graham: Land Defender Faces Life in Prison December 11, 2010

Filed under: Legal — ourfreedom @ 4:52 am

Jury Convicts John Graham: Land Defender Faces Life in Prison

by freejohngraham_info

John Graham, Harriet Nahanee and other supporters at John Grahams’ extradition hearing in Vancouver, BC.

Friday afternoon, a South Dakota jury found John Graham guilty of murder in the second degree. John Graham has been found guilty of felony murder in the kidnapping of Anna Mae Aquash, his friend and comrade in the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Anna Mae Aquash was murdered in the 1970′s, in an execution style killing in South Dakota.

The jury acquitted Graham of premeditated murder, the first-degree charge. But even the lesser charge of second degree murder carries a sentence of life in prison.

Earlier today, a jury foreman told the Judge that they could not come to a unanimous verdict on one of the charges. Around an hour later, the jury had reached it’s verdicts.

In felony murder cases, the prosecution does not have to prove that the accused actually killed anyone, instead the accused is found criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of a felony. In this case the felony is the kidnapping charge. For instance, if two people are robbing a bank and one of them is killed, the getaway driver can then be convicted of felony murder.

On Wednesday, John Murphy, lawyer for the defense, let the defense rest without calling a single witness. According to the Associated Press,“Murphy then asked Judge John Delaney to dismiss the charges, arguing that prosecutors hadn’t proven enough of their case beyond Looking Cloud’s statements.

Delaney disagreed and denied the motion. Murphy asked again for a dismissal Wednesday after resting his case, but Delaney said he would not change his ruling.”

Anna Mae Aquash was an indigenous warrior who fought for the land and people. She fought for the survival of native ways of life by teaching in AIM Native American Survival Schools and taking part in numerous armed land occupations.

According to this weeks’ testimony of witness, Candy Hamilton, Anna Mae feared for her life due to threats from the FBI. Hamilton stated in court that, “I don’t know that (FBI Agent David Price) pulled the trigger, but I think he could make it happen.”

Anna Mae once said, “I am not a citizen of the United States or a ward of the Federal Government, neither am I a ward of the Canadian government. I have a right to continue my cycle in this Universe undisturbed.”

As Anna Mae did not recognize the authority of the United States, or any colonial government, the persecution of John Graham in her name in contradiction to her own ideas. Reliance on the courts reinforces the legitimacy of the United States justice system, a system which has legalized the displacement and destruction of indigenous people across this land.

Justice, for Anna Mae, could not take place within the courts, for, in her own words, “Jails are not a solution to problems.”

John Graham is currently being held in Pennington County Jail in Rapid City. He is awaiting sentencing. After sentencing, it is expected he will be transferred to a state penitentiary.


Witnesses Testify in Graham Trial, Judge Decides Marshall Must Too December 8, 2010

Filed under: Legal — ourfreedom @ 1:06 pm

Witnesses Testify in Graham Trial, Judge Decides Marshall Must Too

Trial of John Graham: Rapid Reports (Dec. 01)

by Free John Graham_info

Witnesses Testify in Graham Trial,  Judge Decides Marshall Must Too

Rapid Reports (Dec. 01)


Witnesses Testify in Graham Trial,  Judge Decides Marshall Must Too

RAPID CITY —  Judge Jack Delaney has ruled that Richard Marshall must testify. The ruling came at 9:30am this morning. Dana Hanna, attorney for Richard Marshall, argued that the prosecution is only calling Marshall to the stand so that they may later charge him with perjury. Perjury is a parole violation and as Marshall is on life time parole he would be incarcerated until the time of trial. If found guilty, this would be Marshall’s third strike, committing him to life in prison.

Hanna argued that the perjury charge was the State’s “contingency plan all along.”

Judge Jack Delaney said that to prove the case the state likely needs Marshall’s testimony and that he does not have to perjure himself by taking the stand. Hanna says that Marshall will take the stand and tell the truth, but that his understanding of the facts conflicts with the government’s view.

Opening statements were given at 10:00am by both Marty Jackley, prosecuting attorney, and John Murphy, attorney for John Graham.

The afternoon session opened with witness testimony from Roger Amiotte, a rancher who found the body of Anna Mae. John Munis (FBI agent 1968-1996), William Wood (FBI agent 1966-1997), Nathan Merrick (BIA 1971-1994) and Raymond Charles Handboy also testified today.

The testimony of all witnesses ran fairly similar to what they stated in the Arlo Looking Cloud Trial of 2004, with some additions and variance. This time, Raymond Handboy said that he did hear Anna Mae Aquash express fear of the police or FBI.

Marty Jackley told the jury that AIM ordered Anna Mae murdered because they believed her to be an informant. Anna Mae was never a government informant and the State admits this. In fact, when she would not give the FBI the information they wanted, she told friends that FBI Agent David Price had threatened her with her life.

In the 1970’s, a real informant was discovered within AIM, his name was Douglas Durham. When his role as informant was uncovered he was not murdered, instead he was made to give a press conference detailing his relationship with the FBI.

Murphy’s line of questioning with former FBI Agent William Wood established that American Indian Movement lawyers and the FBI were simultaneously trying to exhume the unidentified body of Anna Mae Aquash in early March, 1976. Murphy also questioned Wood, and later, Nathan Merrick about a suspicious phone call about a possible hit and rum victim in the time before and at a similar location to where the body of Anna Mae was found on February 24th, 1976.

Court resumes tomorrow at 8:30 am.

To receive email updates during the next few weeks of trial contact: freejohngraham_info@riseup.net

For background on the case see:
Trial of John Graham: Reports From Rapid (Nov. 30)/5303


Trial of John Graham: Reports From Rapid (Nov. 30)

Filed under: Legal — ourfreedom @ 1:03 pm

Trial of John Graham: Reports From Rapid (Nov. 30)


by Free John Graham_info

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RAPID CITY — Today, the jury selection process wrapped up for the trial of Tuchone native, John Graham. In court, Graham appeared calm, alert and in good spirits.
Contrary to some news articles, the final decision has not yet been made as to whether or not former AIM member Richard Marshall will be required to testify during the trial of John Graham.

Richard Marshall had been charged with providing the gun which killed Anna Mae Aquash. He was acquitted in a jury trial earlier this year. Marshall has said he would exercise his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

The hearing regarding Marshall’s testimony is scheduled for 8:30am tomorrow. Judge Jack Delaney said in court today he would make the ruling then. Opening statements are to begin at 9:30am. The first witness is expected to testify during the afternoon session.
To receive email updates during the next few weeks of trial contact: freejohngraham_info@riseup.net

For background see:
Trial of John Graham: Reports From Rapid (Nov. 30)/5303


Trial of John Graham Native Land Defender Begins December 1, 2010

Filed under: Legal — ourfreedom @ 8:12 pm

Trial of John Graham Native Land Defender Begins

Reports from Rapid, RAPID CITY, SD (Nov. 29)

by Free John Graham_info

Trial of John Graham Native Land Defender Begins

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.

To receive email updates during the next few weeks of trial contact:


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.

Complete article with background on case


Vancouver Benefit for John Graham

Filed under: Events — ourfreedom @ 8:06 pm

About 50 people attended a Vancouver benefit event for John Graham and his family on November 26. Traditional indigenous food was served, slides were shown, speeches were made by family and friends, raffle prizes were given away, money was raised and people were in good spirits.