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Published December 07, 2010, 07:53 AM

Man testifies at SD trial he saw AIM activist shot

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A man who is serving a life sentence for his role in the 1975 death of an American Indian Movement activist testified Monday that he stood nearby and watched another man shoot her.

By: NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A man who is serving a life sentence for his role in the 1975 death of an American Indian Movement activist testified Monday that he stood nearby and watched another man shoot her.

Arlo Looking Cloud testified against John Graham, saying he watched as Graham shot Annie Mae Aquash on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation and left her to die. Prosecutors believe Graham, Looking Cloud and a third AIM activist, Theda Clark, kidnapped and killed Aquash because AIM leaders thought she was a government spy. Aquash's death has long been synonymous with AIM and its often-violent struggles with federal agents during the 1970s.

Clark also appeared in court but told a judge she would exercise her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. Clark has never been charged in Aquash's death.

Looking Cloud, who was convicted of murder in 2004, testified that he, Graham and Clark kidnapped Aquash from Denver and took her to Rapid City. He said he heard Graham and Aquash having sex in the bedroom of a Rapid City apartment. Prosecutors have alleged that Graham raped Aquash.

Looking Cloud said the four then drove toward Pine Ridge. He said the group eventually stopped on a dark highway in the reservation, where Graham took Aquash out of Clark's Ford Pinto.

"I sat in the car and Theda told me, 'Go with him,'" Looking Cloud said as jurors watched and took notes. "I proceeded to follow him."

When prosecutor Rod Oswald asked what happened next, Looking Cloud replied: "I (see) him standing with Anna Mae, and then I see him shooting her."

Graham's attorney, John Murphy, raised questions about Looking Cloud's criminal background and motivation for testifying. Murphy suggested he had embellished his story to get his life sentence reduced.

Murphy said Looking Cloud had previously described Graham and Aquash as friends and said the sex allegation was "something you started talking about in 2008."

He said Looking Cloud did not include several details about the murder weapon and where the four stopped on Pine Ridge until a few years ago. "It hadn't become part of the storyline," Murphy said.

Looking Cloud agreed that he had left out details before, but repeatedly said he was trying to tell the truth now.

Murphy was expected to continue questioning Looking Cloud Tuesday morning.

Also Monday, South Dakota Judge John Delaney determined that Clark was competent to testify, but Clark told lead prosecutor Marty Jackley she would not take the stand, even if she was offered immunity.

Under questioning from Delaney before the judge issued his ruling, Clark suggested she had once taken part in AIM. She said she is now in her 80s and living in a Nebraska nursing home.

Another witness testified Monday that she and Aquash heard AIM activist Leonard Peltier admit to killing two FBI agents in June 1975. Peltier was convicted in 1977 of shooting the agents and is serving a life sentence. He has maintained his innocence, saying the FBI framed him. The agency denies that claim.

Darlene "Kamook" Ecoffey told jurors Peltier talked about the shooting in the fall of 1975, a few months before Aquash disappeared.

"He held his hand like this," Ecoffey said, making a gesture resembling a gun with her hand. "And he said, 'That (expletive) was begging for his life, but I shot him anyway.'"

Delaney originally ruled Ecoffey couldn't testify about Peltier's comment because it was hearsay, but he reversed his decision Monday morning.

Also testifying Monday was Richard Marshall, who was found not guilty in April of supplying the .32-caliber pistol used to kill Aquash. Marshall said he didn't give Graham a gun, as prosecutors once alleged, or keep weapons in his house. He denied having a private conversation with Clark, Graham and Looking Cloud in a bedroom of his home, despite what his former wife, Cleo Gates, testified Friday.

"It's been so long ago," Marshall said.

Marshall did not testify at his own trial and did not want to testify at Graham's, even though prosecutors offered him full immunity. Delaney said Marshall couldn't invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if immunity was offered.

Aquash, a member of the Mi'kmaq tribe of Nova Scotia, was 30 when she died. Her death came about two years after she participated in AIM's 71-day occupation of the South Dakota reservation town of Wounded Knee.

Graham, a 55-year-old Southern Tutchone Indian from Canada, faces first- and second-degree murder charges and could receive life in prison if convicted.

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