Montana bride has no grounds to appeal murder conviction: prosecutors

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 29, 2015 12:12 AM

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Wednesday said a Montana bride who admitted pushing her new husband off a cliff at Glacier National Park has no grounds to appeal her murder conviction after lying to officials and using trickery in a bid to conceal her crime.

Jordan Graham pleaded guilty in December 2013 to second-degree murder in the July 7 death of Cody Johnson, 25, her husband of eight days in a case that garnered international headlines.

The former nanny was sentenced last March to 30 years in prison by a U.S. judge after he rejected her request to withdraw the guilty plea that came as part of a deal with prosecutors that saw them dismiss a first-degree murder charge.

Graham last October appealed her conviction, arguing prosecutors engaged in misconduct by publicly labeling her a sociopath, distorted facts and acted in a vindictive manner toward her.

Prosecutors argued in legal documents filed on Wednesday that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reject Graham's attempts to overturn her conviction and sentence since her claims of prosecutorial vindictiveness "are based on the kind of supposition that will not sustain a valid motion."

Prosecutors also contended that Graham not only killed her husband in cold blood, but she later lied about it to investigators and even created a fake email in attempt to cover up the crime.

The email authorities say Graham sent three days after she had killed her husband, but before his body was found, alleged to be from someone named "Tony," who said Johnson was gone and the search for him should stop.

Early in the investigation, Graham told police that her husband had vanished the evening of July 7, 2013, after going for a ride with friends from Washington state, prosecutors said.

Graham initially pleaded not guilty to indictments on first- and second-degree murder, saying she unintentionally shoved her husband off a cliff during a martial dispute that broke out while the couple was hiking a steep trail.

She pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder in an agreement with prosecutors that came just before closing arguments in her trial.

Prosecutors disputed Graham's claim that the plea deal required them to recommend less prison time than the life sentence they sought and the 30 years the judge ultimately handed down.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Curtis Skinner, Robert Birsel)