Justice Delayed for Murdered Mi'kmaq Woman
Annie Mae Pictou Aquash 32-year-old
murder trial delayed

Mi'kmaq Maliseet Nation News

John Graham's extradition to the United States to face a trial for the 1975 murder of Annie Mae Pictou Aquash has been delayed once again. It is now going on 32 years since Annie Mae Pictou Aquash was murdered, five years since indictments were handed down, four years since John Boy Graham was placed under arrest and now an appeal hearing set for January 29, 2007 is delayed until May 17, 2007.

On March 20, 2003 the United States Attorney General issued a warrant for the arrest of John Graham, alias John Boy Patton. It took almost two years after Graham's arrest in Dec 2003 for the Canadian justice system to determine that there was enough evidence to extradite Graham to the US to face the murder charges. In February 2005 the B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett made the decision to extradite him. Immediately following the decision, Graham's lawyer announced that he would prepare a constitutional challenge against the Canadian Extradition Act. This resulted in further delays in Graham's extradition.

Graham's lawyer was to present an appeal on the decision to extradite him to the US at a hearing scheduled for Jan. 29, 2007 in Vancouver, BC. On January 5, Graham's lawyer Greg DelBigio requested more time to prepare a factum outlining the appeal. Federal prosecutor Jeff Johnston agreed to the adjournment of the case until May 17 as long as Graham's present bail conditions are tightened. Furthermore, the Crown requested that Graham's bail be revoked if the factum is not filed by Feb. 28, 2007. B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Kenneth Mackenzie agreed to the Crown's request.

The journey for justice started with Annie Mae's sister's back in 1976 just after her body was discovered by a farmer on his land in Wanblee, South Dakota. With the support from a human rights group and the Mi'kmaq leadership Hubba (Mary) Lafford and Becky Julian began their quest for justice for their youngest sister Annie Mae - but to no avail. It seemed that her unsolved murder was not on the list of priorities for the US or Canadian justice system For many years after that Hubba Lafford and Becky Julian continued to inquire about their sister's unsolved murder and with very little response from the justice system.

Annie Mae's daughters, Denise and Deborah were young girls at the time of their mother's death. However, after having children of their own, they were empowered to join their aunties and together endeavoured to seek justice for their mother once and for all. Armed with persistence, determination and a great circle of support, the four women moved forward together as one voice for their mother and sister. They found key individuals who had been working on their mother's case for years. The determination of these women inspired those responsible to push the envelope and turn up the heat on their investigations. It paid off. New information provided to the family in 1995 helped them to convince authorities to reopen the investigation.

In March of 2003, warrants for the arrest of two men were issued by the US Attorney General Office. Arlo Looking Cloud of Denver, Colorado and John Graham (alias John Boy Patton) of Hay River near Whitehorse, BC were charged with the murder of Annie Mae Pictou Aquash. Within seven days, Arlo Looking Cloud was arrested in Denver. Colorado. In February 2004 he was tried in US courts and sentenced to life in prison for being an accomplice to the murder. A recorded video tape of Arlo Looking Cloud making a statement to investigators was played during his trial in which he said, John Graham shot Annie Mae in the back of the head. Meanwhile, John Graham who was widely known to be living in Vancouver at the time the warrant was issued in March 2003, was not arrested until December 1, 2003, nine months after Looking Cloud's arrest. By early January 2004, Graham was released and out on bail with minimal restrictions, awaiting extradition.

Throughout the entire four year judicial process since his arrest, the supporters for John Graham have raised concerns that he will not receive a fair trial in the US. The Canadian judicial process has worked in John Graham's favour, based on the numerous delays, extensions, and opportunities for Graham to exercise his human rights in Canada over the past four years. If there are US or Canadian laws in place that protect an accused killer, then the defendant John Graham is almost the epitome of how the system works well. In this case, an alleged Canadian murderer who allegedly shot a Canadian Native woman in another jurisdiction, fled back to his own country and has almost lived peacefully ever after. Certainly in Canada, John Graham has benefited from all the fruits of justice and due process that the victim, Annie Mae Pictou-Aquash fought for and lost her life over.

It is [sic] suffice to say that the system appears, after 32 years, to have been less than fair to Annie Mae and her family. Will there be justice for the victim and the victim's family? Throughout the 32 years their lives have been on hold as they wait to begin their own healing process once justice has been served. There are many other victims in this tragedy. Not to be forgotten are the lives of many witnesses who were and still are courageous enough to come forward to speak the truth. There is also the evidence and testimony of investigators, journalists and those within the American Indian Movement whose conscience has moved them to denounce the smoke and mirrors that have hidden the truth for so long. They have had their own lives put on hold waiting to testify against Graham.

The news of the delay for Annie Mae's family did little to help them welcome in the New Year. After all, this New Year marks the 32nd year since her murder - a thirty two year journey for justice. It has been a very lengthy, stressful journey for justice filled with years of pain and frustration for Annie Mae's family. Yet, in spite of the many hurdles and disappointments along the way, the family patiently awaits the day when they will learn in a court of law why the mother of two young children was shot execution style in the back of the head and left to die in the bitter, cold, desolate badlands of South Dakota. They will not find peace of mind until they have been given an opportunity to hear the story of Annie Mae's last few days of her life and her untimely, cruel death. The question they want answered is "Why"? Until they learn the truth they will not give up on their journey for justice. They are confident that the day of reckoning will come.

See also:

Indigenous Women for Justice

Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash and Ray Robinson Jr. Justice Fund

One of the first AIM people to suspect that Douglass Durham was some sort of government agent was Anna Mae Pictou Aquash...

Anna Mae Archive

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