8th Circuit hears Indian status appeal in Aquash case
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Wednesday in the case of a man who is accused of murdering American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.

John Graham is from the Southern Tutchone First Nation in Canada. Since he isn't a member of a federally-recognized U.S. tribe, he says he can't be tried in federal court for the December 1975 murder of Aquash.

A federal judge agreed and dismissed the indictment because it didn't lay out Graham's "Indian" status. The U.S. Attorney's Office in South Dakota appealed that decision and filed a second indictment that links Graham to another defendant, Richard Marshall, who is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Based on the oral argument, the 8th Circuit judges appeared to disagree with U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley's interpretation of federal criminal laws affecting Indian Country. They said Graham's "Indian" status was not specified in the first indictment against him.

At least one judge was concerned that the first indictment did not specify Aquash's status as an "Indian" either. She was Mi'kmaq from Canada.

Although the second indictment is not before the court, the judges appeared to be concerned about it and whether Graham can be indicted in federal court for aiding and abetting other Indians.

If the federal court lacks jurisdiction, Graham's attorney said his client can be charge in state court for Aquash's murder.

You can download an MP3 of the oral argument here.

In related news, a federal judge refused to release Marshall from jail before the May 12 murder trial.

Get the Story:
1975 AIM slaying gets St. Louis appeal hearing (AP 4/16)
Defendant in AIM slaying will stay in jail pending trial (The Rapid City Journal 4/14)

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