Lawyers in 1975 Aquash slaying spar over DNA evidence

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

The defense lawyer for a Canadian man charged with killing Anna Mae Pictou Aquash 32 years ago wants a federal judge to allow DNA testing in hopes it points to someone other than his client, according to court documents.

John Graham is charged with killing Aquash, a fellow American Indian Movement member, around Dec. 12, 1975, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

His federal trial on first-degree murder is scheduled to start June 17 in Rapid City.

Graham’s lawyer, John Murphy, has filed court documents asking a judge to make the government reveal the location of and make available for testing Aquash’s underwear and a sanitary napkin said to be taken at the first autopsy.

In their response, federal prosecutors Marty Jackley and Bob Mandel wrote the government never had possession of the pad, nor were investigators obligated to keep it.

“There was not a scientific basis for the pathologist to retain that for DNA evidence at the time the autopsy was performed in 1976,” they wrote.

The panties were kept and tested after Aquash’s body was found but showed no signs of blood or semen, the prosecutors wrote.

They want to test the underwear again for DNA material and compare it to samples from Graham. Then defense experts could do their own testing – but only to determine Graham’s guilt, Jackley and Mandel wrote.

Murphy responded that if DNA other than Graham’s is present, the defense should be allowed to compare the samples to databases and determine if someone else had a role in Aquash’s death.

Murphy also wrote that the government should be ordered to do “a comprehensive search of all files, records and evidence storage facilities” to make sure the sanitary napkin doesn’t exist.

“During its investigation of this matter, witnesses have told the government that third parties – not John Graham – raped and murdered Ms. Aquash,” Murphy wrote, referring to no one specifically.

The allegation of rape previously came up at the 2004 trial of the other man charged with killing Aquash, Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud, who was convicted and sentenced to a mandatory life prison term.

At that sentencing hearing, Mandel said if any DNA were available, it would be relevant to the case against Graham, not Looking Cloud.

Any DNA found “would ultimately be beneficial to the United States in further prosecution that might take place in this matter regarding the co-defendant,” he said, referring to Graham.

In 2004, Looking Cloud’s lawyer was ultimately denied a request to have Aquash’s body tested for DNA evidence before the family took her body to her native Nova Scotia for reburial.

“It might be another story if I knew that there was at least some probability that DNA material could be collected,” U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol said in denying the request.

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.

Murphy was unavailable for comment. U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley said he would not comment regarding evidentiary matters in front of the judge.

 



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