Yukoner John Graham was convicted of second-degree murder in a South Dakota court Friday.
Graham, a member of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, was facing a first-degree murder conviction.
But the jury only found Graham guilty of the lesser charge, according to a report on the John Graham Defense Committee’s website.
Graham is awaiting a sentencing hearing, but South Dakota law states second-degree murder carry a sentence of life in prison, says the report.
Graham was extradited from Canada in 2007 for charges related to the murder of Annie Mae Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota in 1976.
The Canadian court approved the extradition on the basis that Graham would be charged for federal offenses.
The US-Canada extradition treaty only permits people be taken across the border for federal crimes.
But once Graham crossed into the US, the prosecutors dropped the federal charges and enforced state laws.
During Graham’s American trial, the prosecution relied on statements from Arlo Looking Cloud, who is serving a prison sentence for his involvement in Aquash’s death, according to the defense committee’s report.
Graham, Looking Cloud and Aquash were all members in the American Indian Movement, a group of aboriginal activists with a history of violent clashes with US federal officials.
Graham’s lawyer, John Murphy, argued the prosecution didn’t prove anything beyond Looking Cloud’s statements, says the report.
He asked the judge, Judge John Delaney, to dismiss the charges, but was denied.
Graham is staying in the Pennington County Jail in Rapid City, South Dakota, until he’s sentenced.
Murphy could not be reached for comment by press time.
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