Graham asks high court to hear AIM slaying case 8-07

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – The Canadian man fighting extradition to South Dakota for the 1975 slaying of an American Indian Movement activist wants his country’s Supreme Court to hear his case.

John Graham, a Yukon native, was taken into custody in June after a British Columbia judge denied his appeal of an order that he be sent to the United States to stand trial.

Graham had been under house arrest since he was charged in December 2003 with first-degree murder in the killing Anna Mae Pictou Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in late 1975. Her body was found Feb. 24, 1976. The Nova Scotia native had been shot in the head.

Aquash’s murder came amid a series of clashes in the mid-1970s between federal agents and members of the American Indian Movement. Aquash, a member of Mi’kmaq Tribe of Canada, was among Indian militants who occupied Wounded Knee, S.D., for 71 days in 1973.

Prosecutors have said AIM leaders ordered Aquash’s killing because they suspected she was a government informant. AIM leaders have denied that assertion.

The other man charged with killing Aquash, Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud, received a mandatory life sentence in 2004 after a federal jury in Rapid City convicted him of first-degree murder committed in the perpetration of a kidnapping. A federal appeals court upheld the conviction.

Witnesses at Looking Cloud’s trial testified that Graham shot Aquash, whose family exhumed her body in 2004 from her grave in Oglala and reburied it in Nova Scotia.

Graham has said he’s innocent, but the Canadian judge who issued the written ruling in June disagreed.

Graham filed an application seeking leave to appeal the court’s order that he be extradited.

He has until Sept. 25 to submit written arguments and documents showing he should be allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, said Deborah Strachan, a prosecuting attorney acting for the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the United States.

The government then has 30 days to respond. A panel of three Canadian Supreme Court judges will then decide whether Graham will be allowed to appeal, which usually takes about three months.

If the panel denies Graham’s request to appeal, he could be extradited as early next year. If Graham is allowed to appeal to Canada’s Supreme Court, the case would likely continue for another year, Strachan said.