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Chet Brokaw, Associated Press, Published May 31 2012

SD court upholds conviction in 1975 AIM slaying

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a Canadian man's murder conviction and life sentence in the 1975 slaying of a fellow American Indian Movement activist, ruling that the state had jurisdiction to prosecute him.

John Graham was convicted in December 2010 of taking part in the killing of Annie Mae Aquash. Prosecutors said Graham and two other AIM activists, Arlo Looking Cloud and Theda Clark, killed Aquash because they suspected she was a government informant.

Graham, a member of a tribe in Canada's Yukon Territory, argued that the government should not have been allowed to move his case from federal to state court after his extradition to the U.S.

However, the state's highest court ruled unanimously that the state had jurisdiction to prosecute Graham and that prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to convict him.

Aquash's body was found in a remote area in southwest South Dakota in February 1976. Federal agents investigated the case for years but didn't bring an indictment until March 2003, when Denver police arrested Looking Cloud.

Looking Cloud was convicted in federal court of first-degree murder in 2004 and sentenced to life in prison. A federal judge signed an order in August reducing Looking Cloud's sentence to 20 years.

Clark, who was never charged, died in October.

Graham was arrested in December 2003 in Vancouver, British Columbia, on federal charges in Aquash's killing. Two courts ruled that the U.S. government lacked jurisdiction to try Graham because he is not an American Indian. The case was eventually moved to state court.

Graham was acquitted of premeditated murder, but was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.