RAPID CITY, South Dakota (AP) – A former suspect in the murder of an American Indian activist testified Dec. 6 at the trial of the man accused of shooting her, saying he doesn't remember much about the night prosecutors claim the woman came to his home.
Richard Marshall was found not guilty in April of supplying the .32-caliber pistol used to kill Annie Mae Aquash in late 1975. A judge required Marshall to speak at the trial of John Graham, who's accused of using the gun to kill Aquash.
Her death has long been synonymous with the American Indian Movement and its often-violent struggles with federal agents during the 1970s. Observers had said Marshall's testimony could offer new insight into how and why Aquash died, but he offered few answers Dec. 6.
When lead prosecutor Marty Jackley asked Marshall if he remembered a group of people, including Aquash, visiting his home late one night in December 1975, he said he couldn't. He also noted it was a long time ago.
Prosecutors believe Graham and two other AIM activists, Theda Clark and Arlo Looking Cloud, stopped at Marshall's home on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation with Aquash shortly before Graham shot her and left her to die.
Marshall testified he didn't give Graham a gun or keep weapons in his house. He said he didn't remember Looking Cloud, Graham or Aquash, and he denied having a private conversation with Clark, Graham and Looking Cloud in a bedroom of his home, as his former wife, Cleo Gates, testified Friday.
“It's been so long ago,” Marshall said.
He did not testify at his own trial and did not want to testify at Graham's, even though prosecutors offered him full immunity. His attorney, Dana Hanna, argued last week that Marshall should be allowed to exercise his constitutional right not to incriminate himself, but South Dakota Judge John Delaney said Marshall couldn't invoke that right if immunity was offered.
Jackley, the state attorney general, later asked Marshall whether he remembered an interview with British writer Serle Chapman – a likely government witness later this week – in which Marshall talked about that night. Marshall said he couldn't.
After prompting from Jackley, Marshall acknowledged he remembered Clark asking him to let Aquash stay in his home, but that he refused.
“I told her, nobody was going to stay there,” he said.
Graham's attorney, John Murphy, asked Marshall whether he had any discussions with Graham, Looking Cloud or Clark about hurting Aquash.
“No discussion,” Marshall replied.
Earlier Dec. 6, another witness testified that she and Aquash heard another AIM activist, Leonard Peltier, admit to killing two FBI agents in June 1975. Peltier was convicted in 1977 of shooting the agents and is serving a life sentence.
Darlene “Kamook” Ecoffey told jurors that Peltier talked about the incident in the fall of 1975, a few months before Aquash disappeared.
“He held his hand like this,” Ecoffey said, making a gesture resembling a gun with her hand. “And he said, 'That (expletive) was begging for his life, but I shot him anyway.”'
Prosecutors believe Graham, Looking Cloud and Clark killed Aquash because AIM leaders thought she was a government informant.
Delaney originally ruled Ecoffey couldn't testify about Peltier's comment because it was hearsay, but he reversed his decision Dec. 6 morning.
Aquash, a member of the Mi'kmaq tribe of Nova Scotia, was 30 when she died. Her death came about two years after she participated in AIM's 71-day occupation of the South Dakota reservation town of Wounded Knee.
Graham faces first- and second-degree murder charges and could receive life in prison if convicted.