Newlywed appeals 30-year sentence for Glacier Park murder

2014-04-11T07:21:00Z 2014-11-10T13:57:06Z Newlywed appeals 30-year sentence for Glacier Park murderMissoulian The Billings Gazette
April 11, 2014 7:21 am  • 

MISSOULA — The Kalispell bride who pleaded guilty to pushing her husband off a cliff in Glacier National Park eight days after their wedding filed a last-minute appeal of her 30-year, no-parole federal prison sentence.

Thursday marked Jordan Linn Graham’s deadline to file the appeal in U.S. District Court.

Graham’s attorneys, Michael Donahoe and Andrew Nelson, argued in the appeal that District Judge Donald Molloy failed to resolve the issue of premeditation that prosecutors brought forth in their sentencing arguments.

Graham was originally charged with both first- and second-degree murder, but accepted a plea agreement near the end of her December trial. Prosecutors agreed to drop the first-degree murder charge, and she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

In order to gain a first-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must prove the act was premeditated. A second-degree murder charge doesn’t include premeditation. In their appeal, Graham’s attorneys argue that Molloy didn’t actually dismiss the first-degree murder charge when he sentenced Graham and that prosecutors breached the plea agreement when they suggested premeditation in their sentencing recommendations.

Prior to the March 27 sentencing, federal prosecutors Kris McLean and Zeno Baucus sought 50 years to life in prison for the 22-year-old woman. Her attorneys argued for a significantly lesser sentence of 10 years followed by supervised release.

Graham killed her husband, Cody Johnson, on July 7 during a heated argument about their young marriage. She said he grabbed her arm and she withdrew his hand, but then pushed him to his death off a 300-foot cliff in Glacier National Park.

Graham then drove home to Kalispell in her husband’s car. She eventually led a group of friends and family to his body on July 11, but concocted a story, alleging Johnson had driven off with friends from Washington on July 7 and didn’t return home that night.

After intentionally misleading law enforcement for nine days, she confessed to Johnson’s murder on July 16.

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