Crime and Courts

Nov 11, 2013 6:13 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News

Defense attorneys ask court to drop murder charge against Kalispell bride

MISSOULA - The defense attorneys for a Kalispell bride who is accused of pushing her newlywed husband off a Glacier National Park cliff are asking a federal judge to dismiss a murder charge - accusing the government of "distorting" her original story.

Jordan Graham is accused of First Degree Murder and lying to authorities after her husband's body was found at the bottom of a cliff on The Loop Trail last July. She's scheduled to go to trial next month.

New documents filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula show that Graham's defense attorneys are leveling charges of "misconduct" by prosecutors, saying they lost evidence, violated Graham's rights and haven't been clear about details supporting claims that she planned the murder.

The defense team is criticizing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kalispell Police department for the way they interviewed Graham on July 16. That interview came about a week after she was with family and friends when Johnson's body was found at the foot of the cliff.

Attorneys say Kalispell Police acted in "bad faith" by asking Graham to the station - and then putting her in a room with a FBI investigator. They contend the KPD detective then left the room so the FBI could interview Graham without recording her.

The defense attorneys say it was during that initial interview Graham first changed her story Johnson had disappeared when being picked up in a "dark car," to the account of their argument on the cliff and Johnson's fall.

"Gone forever is Jordan's first time, spontaneous, unrehearsed version of the events on the ledge, as well as her explanation of why she felt she had to lie about what happened," the attorneys wrote in the 48-page brief.

"According to Jordan she tried to convey to the agent that the events on the ledge were a terrible accident, followed by a fear and a panic that no one would ever believe her side," the document continues.

However, the attorneys say that "unvarnished account" is lost forever and can't be recreated accurately in front of a jury. Instead, only subsequent interviews were recorded.

Of particular note in the new filing, is the defense revelation prosecutors are reportedly waiting on DNA test results from a cloth that was found on a shoal in the river near where Johnson's body was found.

Graham's attorneys say they were told in an Oct. 25 conference call prosecutors say their claim of premeditation may be proved "because the government now believes Jordan placed a blindfold on Cody before pushing him off the ledge."

The defense attorneys argue if the couple were "arguing intensely on the ledge it hardly seems plausible that the argument would cease abruptly so Jordan could apply a blindfold."

They want to know if the "blindfold theory" was given to the grand jury and why it wasn't mentioned in the original charging documents. They argue if prosecutors want to base their case on that point they'll need more time to prepare for trial.

The government hadn't filed a response to the defense motions as of Monday afternoon. The next scheduled hearing is to review evidence in the case is Friday. The deadline for any plea agreement to be worked out in the case remains Nov. 27.


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