Judge won’t dismiss murder charge against bride

Nov 15, 2013, 10:51 PM

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) – A federal judge on Friday rejected a Montana woman’s request to dismiss her murder indictment for pushing her new husband off a cliff during an argument in Glacier National Park.

Jordan Graham testified earlier in the hearing that she instinctively pushed Cody Johnson away when he grabbed her arm, causing the July 7 fall. She also alleged that an FBI agent improperly interviewed her and made her uncomfortable by touching her knee.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy rejected Graham’s motion to dismiss the indictment or at least the first-degree murder charge. The judge dismissed another motion by prosecutors who sought a delay in the Dec. 9 trial while they awaited the results of DNA tests on a piece of cloth found near Johnson’s body.

Graham, 22, and Johnson, 25, had been married for eight days when they argued over her doubts about the marriage, prosecutors said. The couple took the argument to Glacier National Park, where Johnson at one point grabbed Graham, and Graham removed his arm and pushed him in the back and off a steep cliff, according to the criminal complaint.

She is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and making a false statement to authorities.

Graham has pleaded not guilty, and said she was only attempting to remove Johnson’s arm _ not push him off the cliff.

She repeated the claim on the stand Friday that she was acting instinctively. She also said she felt uncomfortable in a July 16 interview with FBI Agent Stacey Smiedala during which she dropped her previous claims that Johnson had driven off with friends.

Graham attorney Michael Donahoe alleges in court filings that Smiedala interrogated Graham alone and unrecorded for nearly 1 1/2 hours so that he could “shape” her statement to get Graham to admit she acted not instinctively, but in the “heat of passion,” required to file manslaughter charges.

During that time, Smiedala made her uncomfortable by sitting very close and touching her knee for extended periods of time, Graham testified.

A shorter statement of Graham’s version of events was then recorded and the agent “told me that I was in the clear, that I wouldn’t be seeing him again, and that I was free to go,” she said.

Her recorded statements were later distorted in the criminal complaint, Donahoe alleged.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno Baucus in court filings said Graham participated voluntarily, and that FBI agents conducted the interview and filed the complaint properly.

Molloy ordered prosecutors to review Smiedala’s employment records and disclose privately to the judge any evidence about his capacity for truthfulness, any disciplinary records or complaints and any special interrogation training he received.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Judge won’t dismiss murder charge against bride