Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Prosecutors accused a newlywed Montana bride of blindfolding her husband before pushing him off a cliff, adding a new wrinkle to an already bizarre murder investigation.
Jordan Graham has been charged with the first-degree murder of Cory Johnson, her husband of one week, who died on July 7 after falling over a cliff at Glacier National Park. Defense attorneys say Johnson grabbed Graham's arm, and when she yanked it from her grasp, she shoved him away, accidentally sending tumbling.
The prosecution theorized a "piece of cloth found on a shoal in the river" near Johnson's body proves the government's case for premeditated murder.
But Michael Donahoe, Graham's defense attorney, said the prosecution had kept the existence of the cloth from him until October 25, three weeks after the evidence was sent to an FBI lab and 10 weeks after it was collected at the crime scene. But that timing, Donahoe said, "would suggest the blindfold theory was not put to the grand jury at all," and he therefore requested a delay of the trial, which is set to begin December 9.
"If, as is stated in the complaint affidavit, Jordan and Cody (Johnson) were arguing intensely on the ledge, it hardly seems plausible that the argument would cease abruptly so Jordan could apply a blindfold," Donahoe's brief supporting a motion to dismiss the case said. "Frankly at this point the defense has no idea of how the government intends to try this case before the petite jury and likewise has grave doubt about what was put before the grand jury."
Donahue also accused the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office of misconduct, alleging a prosecutor inappropriately touched Graham during in interrogation and that significant portions of the interrogation were not recorded, despite the proper equipment being present. He also said the prosecutors twisted Graham's words to make her seem guilty.
"The whole recorded part of the interrogation was an epic effort by (the interrogator) to isolate key words that would at a minimum support a voluntary manslaughter theory; with enough room for the argument that Jordan could have walked away, which might even support a theory of depraved heart for first- or second-degree murder," the court brief states. "At best this synopsis is a decontextualized, exaggerated interpretation that was intended to distort and contradict what Jordan actually reported."
Graham, who has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree murder and making false statements, did not report the July 7 incident that killed Johnson. Instead, she initially told police Johnson had gone off with friends, and on July 11 led a hike to a park called "The Loop," where Johnson's body was found.
On July 16, Graham admitted to lying about the circumstances of Johnson's fall, but claimed it was an accident.
U.S. District Court Judge Donald Malloy has given attorneys until Thursday to file briefs in advance of a hearing Friday.