An all-White jury in Rapid City, South Dakota, took less than two hours on April 22 to return a not-guilty verdict in the trial of former American Indian Movement (AIM) member Richard Marshall (of the Lakota Nation) in connection to the murder of fellow AIM member Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) claimed Marshall supplied the gun used to kill Aquash.
Aquash was a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia and a skilled organizer and warrior with AIM who was targeted and threatened with death by the FBI. When her body was found on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota in February of 1976, the FBI tried to cover-up her identity and true cause of death by having her buried as an unknown “Jane Doe” who had supposedly died of exposure, despite an obvious bullet hole wound to her head. A second autopsy requested by family members revealed the murder. At the time, an FBI-supported death squad made up mostly of reservation police officers had killed some 60 members of AIM and traditional Lakota people on Pine Ridge. Other death squad murders had also been passed-off as death by exposure by the FBI’s pathologist and were not investigated.
As Aquash’s murder was exposed, the FBI told the media that AIM might have killed her because they suspected she was an informant. This was despite the fact that AIM never harmed confirmed FBI informants such as Douglass Durham, who had been AIM’s head of security. One Pine Ridge cop and death squad member, Duane Brewer, even admitted in an interview that his fellow cop and death squad member, Paul Herman, may have killed Aquash. Herman had killed a teenage Lakota girl, Sandra Wounded Foot, in the same way, shooting her in the head and dumping her body in a remote part of the reservation.
Instead of being charged with murder, Herman was charged with voluntary manslaughter and only sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing Wounded Foot. Herman was one of the cops on the scene when Aquash’s body was found.
The FBI’s case against Richard Marshall faltered at trial when their star witness, Arlo Looking Cloud of Pine Ridge, who was convicted in 2004 of aiding in the murder of Aquash, repeatedly contradicted his prior statements to law enforcement officers and those made by other people during his 2004 trial. He also admitted to repeatedly lying to law enforcement, as well as years of drug and alcohol abuse. Additionally, government offers of reduced jail time for testifying against AIM members were revealed. The jury also did not believe the testimony of two paid FBI informants, journalist Serle Chapman and former AIM member Darlene Ecoffey (formerly Kamook Banks or Darlene Nichols), who had obvious financial motivation to lie about others. Nichols has been married for several years now to the primary investigator of the case, cop and former death squad member Robert Ecoffey.
Vancouver resident John Graham, a Southern Tutchone Nation member originally from the Yukon, is facing trial in July over the Aquash murder. He was formerly Richard Marshall’s co-accused but had his case separated and moved to South Dakota State court because the US federal government was shown by his lawyer to not have jurisdiction over him regarding a crime allegedly committed on the reservation. Graham’s new co-accused is fellow former AIM member, Thelma Rios, and the trial is scheduled to start July 6.
Arlo Looking Cloud has been expected to be the government’s star witness against Graham as well, but his total lack of credibility as further shown in Marshall’s trial brings into question how effectively the FBI will be able to use him from now on. A tape recorded conversation released to Graham’s defense also revealed that when asked who he should blame for the murder, Looking Cloud was explicitly told by Nichols to point the finger at Graham, further illustrating the FBI’s frame-up attempt.
The validity of Graham’s extradition from Vancouver to a South Dakota prison was recently called into question by his lawyer when a government document was newly revealed advising prosecutors that in this case they did not have federal jurisdiction, which they willfully ignored and concealed from the defense.
Graham’s family and legal defense campaign are in desperate need of funds to pay Graham’s lawyer and the expenses of witnesses to travel to South Dakota.
For more information see the following websites:
To write to John in prison:
Pennington County Jail
307 St. Joseph Street
Rapid City, SD 57701