Wednesday, March 26, 2014
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana woman who was to be sentenced Thursday for pushing her new husband to his death in Glacier National Park wants to withdraw her guilty plea to a second-degree murder charge, her lawyer said Tuesday.
Jordan Linn Graham wants the change because prosecutors are still recommending life in prison, even though second-degree murder would normally carry a lesser sentence, defense attorney Michael Donahoe said in a motion.
Graham's attorneys have argued the "extremely reckless but unintentional act" warranted 10 years in prison.
Donahoe said the request for a life sentence shows prosecutors' offer to dismiss the first-degree murder charge was an "empty promise" and a way to avoid a possible verdict of manslaughter, a less serious offense than first- or second-degree murder.
The plea agreement was reached in December after the trial testimony was complete but before closing arguments were held.
Graham, of Kalispell, was charged with killing Cody Johnson on July 7, eight days after the two married.
Johnson's body was found at the bottom of the cliff three days after he was reported missing by a friend and co-worker. Graham said at her trial that she was having second thoughts about being married so young and they went to the park to talk about it.
They argued heatedly at the edge of a steep cliff. Johnson grabbed her, she became angry and she "just pushed" without thinking about where they were, Graham said then.
She didn't tell anybody what had happened, instead making up a story that Johnson had gone for a "joyride" with friends from Washington state.
That story unraveled when the versions she told to friends, relatives and authorities didn't match.