KALISPELL, Montana — A Montana woman has appealed her murder conviction for killing her husband of eight days by pushing him off a cliff in Glacier National Park.
Attorneys for Jordan Graham argued in the appeal filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that prosecutors distorted evidence to convince jurors that Graham planned to kill Cody Lee Johnson on July 7, 2013.
Public defender Michael Donahoe also said the government changed its version of events several times throughout the case.
Graham, of Kalispell, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, which doesn't involve premeditation, just before closing arguments at her trial. A judge rejected her motion to withdraw her guilty plea after she argued the government's recommended sentence of 50 years to life was an attempt to punish her for first-degree murder.
The defense argued that Graham's actions were "extremely reckless but unintentional" and suggested a 10-year sentence was appropriate.
Graham was sentenced to 30 years and five months in prison on March 27.
The appeal, filed Oct. 17, requests the conviction be reversed and Graham be tried for manslaughter. Federal prosecutors have 30 days to file a response.
Graham began having doubts about her marriage to Johnson soon after the wedding, according to court testimony.
Graham said she wanted to talk to Johnson about her doubts but wasn't sure how he would react. She said they climbed down a treacherous slope in the park and spoke on a narrow ledge, hundreds of feet above a ravine.
They argued, and at one point, she said, Johnson grabbed her by the arm, and she thought he was going to pull her.
She said she got angry, brushed his hand away and pushed him, with one hand on his arm and one on his back.
"I wasn't thinking about where we were. ... I just pushed," Graham said in pleading guilty.
Prosecutors argued Graham's motives were much more sinister and that she repeatedly lied to investigators in an attempt to cover up the crime after Johnson was reported missing.
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