Monday, December 13, 2010

Justice Hangs A Vacancy Sign: : Guilty Verdict in Aquash Murder Trial

Dec. 13, 2010 Infoshop News

by antoinette nora claypoole

" the dream of the living predator arrives. out of the blues...a man calls to justice, justice lies.” --John Trudell, from “Out of the Blues”

Dec. 12, 2010. An old song found on youtube. Over and over. Playing on the Macbook while I wait for a jury in South Dakota to return to the courtroom with a verdict. On the murder of Anne Mae Pictou Aquash (1945-1975/6). John Trudell, former “chairperson” of the American Indian Movement (AIM), was Annie Mae’s friend: he and her lover Dennis Banks, were all an unrelenting, dynamic force to reckon with back then. Their legacy defies time. The lyrics of “out of the blues” infinity, haunting. The words suit events in Indian Country today. As much as they did 30 years ago. When they were written. “A man calls to justice, justice lies”.

On Dec. 10, 2010, after nearly a decade of fighting a murder indictment scripted by the FBI, John Graham, a Canadian First Nations Man and young footsoldier for the (AIM) , was found guilty of murdering his friend Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. He faces mandatory life in prison. The State of South Dakota claimed Graham killed her 35 years ago, to date, on/around Dec. 12, 1975. And the jury agreed. But there was no real evidence, just a myriad of change like the weather stories. And the atmosphere in Indian Country is deeply divided. By the verdict, the murder and the claims to truth everyone seems to own. Someone said to me just yesterday. Discompassionately. “Well it’s a cold case. What do you expect.” I replied. Defiantly. “There is nothing but heat in this case. Always has been.”

The efforts by the FBI to blame AIM via John Graham have been going on for over 20 years. Maybe longer. Nothing cold about that. Nearly since the time in Feb. 1976 when Annie Mae’s body was found, buried as “Jane Doe”. The first autopsy NOT disclosing cause of death as bullet to the head, rather “exposure” and closing the case. Only after family/friends insisted on exhuming her body was it found to be Annie Mae, and that she was shot, brutally. At that point. The FBI and Federal/State Prosecutors moved in on AIM, claiming they killed their own. Moving around the country like an old Buffalo Bill side show, from one old AIM member to another, the Feds have flaunted a “drawer of seal indictments ready to hand out” (Robert Mandell, Feb. 2004) to any lookey loo who challenges their rant. For years. The brutal truth is Annie Mae had discovered who had infiltrated AIM. And she was killed because of it. From the onset the Feds “had” to protect their own. Just like they did and still do. In the high profile Leonard Peltier case.

Like Peltier, Graham was extradited from Canada on faulty “facts”. And though not as International in stature as Peltier, John Graham has a huge support network up North, in Canada. His close friend and long time supporter, Maureen Bourke, was understandably angry at the jury’s verdict. She pours out her heart: “I had a glimmer yesterday when the jury asked for clarification. Very briefly, did I believe, that John could come home.” Her belief in Justice, magical, painful, quashed.

The jury had deliberated 12 hours on the case, much longer than happened in the trial of another man, Arlo Looking Cloud, found guilty of Annie Mae’s murder back in 2004. But the Graham Defense rested suddenly without calling one witness—a surprise to many and a sign to some that the Jury, in the end, had no chance to counter the hours of stories they heard against Graham. From one to another, like a cast of folks auditioning for an old Redford flick, Graham was depicted as kidnapping and killing his friend. No physical evidence was provided in the trial. Only vague, variant stories told by “witnesses” who for the most part saw nothing. Marshall, who earlier this year was acquitted for his role in the Aquash murder. Did not want to take the stand. But was offered immunity. And thus had to. He said “no I never gave them a gun”. And then said “yes. They came to my house”. The stories are threads of a ragged map. With destination marked in a red X. Provided by the Prosecutors. The script predictable. Then. There are “witnesses” who may have taken the road trip just to claim their 15 minutes of “fame”. That includes a woman named Candy Hamilton who chimed in again, just like she did at the Looking Cloud dog and pony show. That she was “Annie Mae’s good friend” and Graham intended to kill her. And. Hamilton conveniently never explained why she didn’t save Annie Mae’s life. If she knew what was going to happen “ at the hands of John Graham”. Hamilton’s testimony, like others, never mentions the stark, brutal fact: if they knew Annie Mae was going to be killed by Graham, why didn’t someone stop him? Why wasn’t Annie Mae protected? But that is assuming Graham was guilty. His innocence would explain a lot.

Graham claims he did not kill Annie Mae. Quite clearly Graham admitted via a 2004 interview which found me in FBI stew. He admitted that he DID pick up Annie Mae in Denver, just as the Prosecution claims. BUT Graham says he went to “Troy Lyn’s” house to get Annie Mae because she asked him for protection. She wanted to get out of a place she believed was swarming with Fed informants. Graham says he took her to a safe house in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. A house of her choosing. And never saw her again. Prosecutor Oswald said in the Graham trial, the alibi is “just plain stupid”. But apparently he himself never had to find a place to run, a place to hide.

Graham’s innocence would explain a lot about the shreds of shrapnel which live inside those of us. Who have been inside this quest for resolve. For so long.

Graham’s version of what happened in Dec. 1975 runs deep inside of me. It becomes a haunting. Perpetual freaky. Apparitions based on an interview I can’t forget. I did. With an Aquash family member, back in the early 90’s. I found a relative of Nogeeshik Aquash, Annie’s Mae’s husband. This was long before Graham, public indictments, Indian newspaper timelines and Fed trials had emerged. The “ Aquash Man” I’ll call him, was one of the few who would talk with me about Annie Mae back then.

I asked my simple, standard interview questions: “can you tell me a good Annie Mae Story? Something about her you remember. And when was the last time you saw her” Aquash man was happy to oblige. “Last time I saw my auntie was “Christmas, 1975. It was great to see her...she was always good to be around.” When the timeline and indictments came down. I was haunted by the remembering of this Christmas Story. He claimed to have been with Annie Mae two weeks AFTER Graham is said to have shot her.

Graham’s claim to innocence also explains something else.

The FBI reports from Jan. 1976 which explain seeing Annie Mae in Oklahoma. They even describe what she was wearing. Those documents were explained to me by Robert Robideau, before he passed: “ It was an FBI error antoinette. The Feds got the reports mixed up with ‘another Annie Mae’ who was running around Indian Country then”.

With the verdict of Guilty some are still asking: Was Graham the killer??? And I am still asking. What about people who saw her alive after the supposed shooting? All we have. Is Looking Cloud. So. Did he really stand by and watch, as he testified in his changes like the weather story of it all? The story that in the end, convicted his friend John Graham.

Barry Bachrach, Looking Cloud’s lawyer, and former lawyer for Leonard Peltier says “ Yes. Justice was served.” But he agrees with me that are still looming acts to follow this one. Bachrach explains: “Mr. Graham knows what he did and he knows the truth. Others know what they did. In one sense, you are correct that justice has not been fully served because there were so many people involved...”.

Who are these people? Are they the AIM informants who Annie Mae had discovered while she was in jail in the Northwest, right before she “went missing”???

This guilty verdict creates more quakes in Indian Country as people know how much power Big Brother has. To control “reality”. Indians have always known what the “Great White Father” does. Monica Charles old AIM activist who knew Annie Mae, continues, like so much of Indian Country, to try to make sense of the events surrounding her death. Charles, in her statement regarding the Arlo Looking Cloud testimony that sealed Graham’s fate says it straight: “ Did his lawyer ever ask Arlo about the torture he suffered at the hands of the Amerikan Just Us system? I still believe in Arlo's innocence as I believe in John's innocence. Arlo is in my prayers every day. I saw the FBI in their paramilitary uniforms packing rifles, bullying, bullying, bullying. They dragged People out of their cars and interrogated them without a lawyer present.”

This. Then. From my book about Annie Mae. After 20 years of covering this story. It still plays: “I try to explain. Blame game’s not my thing. The mystery of Annie Mae’s death, who pulled the trigger matters as much as who set the execution in motion. Addicted to power, people want eyes for eyes, like that’s some kind of anecdote to fear. But like freaked out kids once stuck on a short circuit tilt-a-whirl you are frantic to forget and I say you got no choice. Remembering helps you decide. Which ride you’ll go on next...”

The old Trudell song is still playing. “In the dream of the living, predator arrives, out of the blues”. And Graham supporter Maureen Bourke insists: “I am so angry, we are angry, and we are not going away. There will be an appeal”. Like the old music, the old legends and Wild West sideshows, none of this is going away. Anytime soon. Annie Mae’s family may have imagined resolve with this conviction. Yet. It seems an unlikely promise. As Graham has family too. And the people who set this brutal mess in motion. Are still walking free.

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