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DEFENSE WANTS INFORMANT DETAILS IN TRIAL OF MAN ACCUSED OF MURDER

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By Carson Walker
RAPID CITY — A man charged with a decades-old murder wants the U.S. government to disclose details of payments to informants and the name of one who said the shooting victim was alive only days before her body was discovered.

John Graham's first-degree murder trial starts Oct. 6 in Rapid City federal court for the slaying of fellow Canadian Anna Mae Pictou Aquash on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Both were members of the American Indian Movement, as was Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud, who was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to a mandatory life prison term for his role.

Witnesses at his trial said he, Graham and another AIM member, Theda Clark, drove Aquash from Denver and that Graham shot Aquash in the Badlands as she begged for her life.

Graham's lawyer, John Murphy, has filed a motion to make prosecutors provide the following:

• Details of FBI payments to informants Serle Chapman and Darlene "Kamook" Nichols;

• The dates of two letters Chapman wrote to prosecutors in which he asks payment for his services as an informant;

• An unredacted copy (no blackouts) of a Feb. 18, 1976, report by FBI Special Agent David Price that states an unnamed informant saw Aquash alive Feb. 12, 1976, in Allen, S.D., and described what she was wearing and driving. A rancher found her unidentified body Feb. 24, 1976, north of Wanblee. Prosecutors have said they believe she was killed there two months earlier — about Dec. 12, 1975.

Murphy wrote in his memorandum that the information is needed in order to properly defend Graham and determine if it would clear him of wrongdoing.

Graham has several times been refused details on payments to Chapman and Nichols, who have likely been government informants since at least 2000, the lawyer wrote. Nichols provided testimony for the prosecution at Looking Cloud's trial.

On July 28, the government told Murphy the FBI made "expense reimbursements" of $69,066 to Chapman and $49,083 to Nichols but did not include other details, Murphy wrote.

"Thus, Mr. Graham has no information setting forth what alleged expenses were reimbursed, whether those alleged expenses were legitimate, or the dates that payments were made to the informants," he wrote.

Murphy wrote the government also gave Graham a copy of a letter from Chapman's wife asking for $70,000 for his services and help in getting work visas and a follow-up letter from Chapman reiterating his wife's note, but the dates are redacted.

"The documents are not complete without a date," Murphy wrote. "The dates are likely to correspond with payments made to the informant and the release of information from Chapman to the FBI."

Finally, Murphy wrote the government did turn over Price's report indicating an informant saw Aquash alive less than two weeks before her body was found, but the informant's identity was omitted.

"The government and FBI should not be able to hide the name of a witness who says (he or she) saw Aquash alive months after she was allegedly killed," he wrote.

Prosecutors now will respond to the motion and the judge will rule if the government must disclose the information.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol has ruled on another matter.

In response to a prosecution motion to require Graham to give an alibi before the trial, Piersol wrote that if the defense plans to call witnesses, those names must be given to government lawyers.

But if Graham has documents or plans to testify about his whereabouts at the trial, he does not have to disclose that, the judge wrote.

—Associated Press/SST

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