Vancouver, British Columbia (AP)
A British Columbia judge recommended Feb. 21 that a Canadian man should be extradited to the United States to stand trial on charges that he killed another member of the American Indian Movement in South Dakota 29 years ago.
John Graham is wanted for first-degree murder for the killing of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash on the Pine Ridge Reservation in late 1975. Her body was found Feb. 24, 1976. She had been shot in the head.
Graham remained composed as Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett read the order Feb. 21.
“I’m very disappointed,” Graham told reporters outside court as supporters chanted and drummed behind him. “I’m not surprised. Our new extradition laws don’t give us powers to go up against the U.S.”
One of Aquash’s daughters, Denise Pictou Maloney of Halifax, Nova Scotia, praised the court for focusing on the facts.
“So John Boy’s going stateside,” she said in a telephone interview. “For us it’s the most important thing. It lets us know that the Canadian government puts value in my mother’s life and confirms that her life mattered and this belongs in a court of law.”
“This decision presents him an opportunity to tell about his knowledge and his involvement in my mother’s murder.”
Graham’s lawyer, Terry La Liberte, said the ruling will be appealed. The case could continue into next year due to the levels of appeal available, he said.
The Canadian justice minister must sign a removal order before Graham can be sent to the United States.
Justice Bennett said evidence on Graham’s alleged involvement and some evidence confirming his identity were enough to warrant the order.
“There is sufficient evidence... to commit John Graham for extradition to the United States to face the charge in the murder of Anna Mae Aquash,” she said.
The order will be made official March 2, when Graham may be taken into custody.
U.S. prosecutors have said AIM leaders ordered Aquash’s killing because they suspected she was a government informant.
AIM leaders have denied that assertion.
Another man, Arlo Looking Cloud, was convicted a year ago in the slaying. He has admitted he helped drive Aquash from Denver to Rapid City, S.D., and eventually to the place where he and others said Graham shot her.
In their final submissions during January, Graham’s lawyers said he should not be extradited because the man in court is not the man wanted in South Dakota.
But Bennett said there was sufficient evidence “on the aspect of identity.”