South Dakota Defense rests quickly in reservation slaying trial AIM activist was killed in 1975

By Nomaan Merchant

Associated Press

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) -- The defense for the man accused of shooting an American Indian Movement activist more than three decades ago rested its case on Wednesday without calling any witnesses.

John Graham is charged with shooting Annie Mae Aquash and leaving her to die on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation in late 1975. The case has become synonymous with AIM's often-violent clashes with federal agents during the 1970s.

After the prosecution rested its case Tuesday afternoon, Graham's attorney, John Murphy, was expected to begin calling witnesses. But Murphy announced Wednesday that the defense rested. He declined to comment when asked outside the courtroom why he didn't call any witnesses.

Closing arguments in Graham's trial are scheduled for Thursday morning, and the jury will likely begin deliberating Thursday afternoon.

Prosecution witnesses testified over five days that Graham and two other AIM activists, Arlo Looking Cloud and Theda Clark, kidnapped and killed Aquash because they believed she was a government informant. Looking Cloud, who is serving a life sentence for his role in Aquash's death, told jurors this week that he saw Graham shoot her.

Murphy then asked Judge John Delaney to dismiss the charges, arguing that prosecutors hadn't proven enough of their case beyond Looking Cloud's statements.

Delaney disagreed and denied the motion. Murphy asked again for a dismissal Wednesday after resting his case, but Delaney said he would not change his ruling.

Throughout the prosecution's case, Murphy questioned the reliability of several witnesses, particularly Looking Cloud, the only witness who said he saw Graham shoot Aquash.

Murphy contended Looking Cloud had changed his story in hopes of getting a more lenient prison sentence. He pointed to Looking Cloud's criminal record, which includes several convictions for lying to authorities, and differences between his current testimony and past statements.

Prosecutors did not call a number of expected witnesses, including Serle Chapman, a British writer who interviewed Graham and later cooperated with the FBI, and Thelma Rios, who pleaded guilty last month in connection with Aquash's kidnapping.

Graham, a 55-year-old Southern Tutchone Indian from Canada, could receive life in prison if convicted.

Published: Thu, Dec 9, 2010

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