crimesider

John Graham to Stand Trial for 1975 Murder of American Indian Movement Activist Annie Mae Aquash

In this Dec. 7, 2007, file photo John Graham arrives at the federal courthouse in Rapid City, S.D. (AP Photo/Carson Walker, File)
John Graham to Stand Trial for 1975 Murder of American Indian Movement Activist Annie Mae Aquash
In this Dec. 7, 2007, file photo John Graham arrives at the federal courthouse in Rapid City, S.D. (AP Photo/Carson Walker, File)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (CBS/AP) Jury selection continued Tuesday in the murder trial of John Graham, the man accused of killing an American Indian Movement activist who was shot in the head and left to die on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation 35 years ago.

Graham, a Southern Tutchone Indian from Canada and former AIM member, is set to stand trial in a South Dakota court this week for the killing of Annie Mae Aquash.

Aquash's death, which occurred 35 years ago next month, immediately became synonymous with the AIM and violent conflicts between it and federal authorities in the 1970s. Prosecutors allege Graham, 55, was one of three AIM activists who kidnapped and killed Aquash because AIM leaders thought she was a government spy. AIM leaders have repeatedly denied personal involvement in Aquash's death.

Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted in 2004 in connection with Aquash's murder and has claimed that Graham pulled the trigger. Thelma Rios pleaded guilty this month to being an accessory to the victim's kidnapping and received a suspended prison sentence. Both Looking Cloud and Rios could be called on to testify during the trial.

Graham's attorney, John Murphy, tested potential jurors Monday about whether they knew anyone involved in the decades-old case or had read anything about it. Attorneys excused several people who said they had already made opinions regarding the case.

Graham, who has maintained his innocence in the killing, was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia and fought extradition for four years before being sent to South Dakota in December 2007.

Federal charges against Graham were repeatedly dismissed because prosecutors failed to prove they had the right to charge him, as Graham and Aquash are both from Canadian tribes. State prosecutors charged Graham with three counts of felony murder late last year.

One of Aquash's daughters, Denise Maloney Pictou, hopes the trial will help bring justice to her family.

"This is not about sending as many people as we can to prison," she told the Associated Press in a phone interview. "It's about finding the truth and exposing it and taking responsibility."

Opening statements are expected to begin Wednesday and the trial will likely last 2-and-a-half weeks.