Defense wants feds to turn over Aquash undergarment for testing

By Carson Walker
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) 2-08

A man charged with killing American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash 32 years ago wants federal prosecutors to turn over evidence from the body for DNA testing.

A Denver man is already serving a life sentence in the case.

John Graham was extradited from British Columbia in December, four years after he was charged with killing Aquash, a fellow AIM member from Nova Scotia, around Dec. 12, 1975, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Graham pleaded not guilty in federal court in Rapid City to first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled to start June 17 in Rapid City.

Graham’s lawyer, John Murphy, asked a federal judge to make the government reveal the location of and make available to a defense expert for testing Aquash’s underwear and a sanitary napkin taken at the first autopsy.

A rancher found the unidentified body Feb. 24, 1976, north of Wanblee. The local coroner, Dr. W.O. Brown, ruled she died of exposure to the cold.

Brown found evidence of acid phosphate in her vagina, from which he concluded she had sex shortly before her death, Murphy wrote in his memorandum filed with the request.

Brown turned over the evidence to the FBI after the autopsy, Murphy wrote.

The FBI then used an identification procedure common at the time that involved cutting off the hands, which was done and weeks later identified the body as Aquash.

The remains were exhumed from an Oglala grave and a second autopsy by Minneapolis pathologist Garry Peterson revealed she had been shot in the back of the head with a .38-caliber handgun. He ruled the death a homicide.

Brown, now deceased, then wrote that he “inadvertently overlooked” the bullet, although Peterson said a nurse at the first autopsy remembered seeing blood flowing from the head wound.

The peculiar circumstances compounded allegations that federal agents were involved in the slaying, which they have denied. They have said AIM leaders order the killing.

Murphy wrote in the court document that Graham notified prosecutors Feb. 7 he wanted the underpants and sanitary napkin tested and asked whether the items had ever been checked for DNA.

Prosecutors have not responded, he wrote.

“Mr. Graham needs to have these items preserved and tested in order to fully investigate the facts of his case. DNA testing on these items may lead to the production of material evidence that assists Mr. Graham in his defense by implicating others in the crime alleged, corroborating other witnesses’ version of events that implicate uncharged third parties in this crime, and by attacking the credibility and consistency of the government’s theory of prosecution,” Murphy wrote.

Murphy was unavailable for comment. U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley is not allowed to discuss pending court cases.

Another man charged with killing Aquash, Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud, was convicted in 2004 and given a mandatory life prison sentence. He is from Pine Ridge but had been living in Denver.

In an earlier court filing, Murphy asked the judge to require prosecutors to turn over all of Looking Cloud’s statements so Graham can spot inconsistencies, some of which were made under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

“The government’s only alleged witness to the crime, Mr. Looking Cloud, is an accomplice who has been sentenced to life and who has a motive to fabricate,” he wrote.

At Looking Cloud’s trial, witnesses said he, Graham and another AIM member, Theda Clark, drove Aquash from Denver and that Graham shot Aquash in the Badlands as she begged for her life.

Clark has not been charged. She lives in a nursing home in western Nebraska and has refused to talk about the case.

Graham, a Yukon native also known as John Boy Patton, denies killing Aquash, though he acknowledged being in the car with her from Denver to the site where she was killed.

 

 

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