Appeals court dismisses charge in Aquash case
A Canadian man can't be charged for a crime in Indian Country because federal prosecutors didn't show he was "Indian," the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

John Graham was indicted for the December 1975 murder of American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He said he can't be charged under federal law because he is not a member of a federally recognized tribe.

The 8th Circuit agreed. In a unanimous decision, the court said the Indian Major Crimes Act only covers "Indians in Indian Country" and the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Dakota did not explain how Graham, though he is Native from Canada, meets the definition.

"This court concludes that the indictments are deficient because Graham’s Indian status is an essential element" of the law, the decision stated.

The court also said Graham can't be charged for aiding and abetting other Indians who are accused of murdering Aquash, who was Mi'kmaq from Canada. "The counts in both indictments failed to allege Graham’s Indian status, which cannot be cured by an application of aider-and-abettor liability," the decision stated.

Get the Story:
Dismissal of key charge upheld in 1975 AIM case (AP 7/28)

8th Circuit Decision:
US v. Graham (July 28, 2009)

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