MISSOULA — The attorney representing a Kalispell newlywed accused of killing her husband by pushing him off a cliff at Glacier National Park says the death was an accident.
Michael Donahoe also told U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on Friday that 22-year-old Jordan Linn Graham was acting in self-defense.
Authorities say Graham has admitted to shoving 25-year-old Cody Lee Johnson off a cliff the night of July 7 during an argument. She was charged Monday with second-degree murder.
On Thursday she was released from jail on her own recognizance after U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch ruled Graham didn’t pose a flight risk because of her strong community ties and didn’t appear to be a danger to others. Prosecutors sought to reverse that decision with the hearing on Friday.
But Molloy upheld Graham’s release, ruling that restrictions addressed concerns that she posed a risk to the community or herself.
“I’m suggesting to your honor that this was an accident,” Donahoe told Molloy during the hearing, the Missoulian reported. He also said prosecutors misrepresented events to incite national media attention and win public favor.
“And it’s not right,” he said.
Donahoe also contends that Graham’s pushing of Johnson was part of her action to free herself after being grabbed by the arm.
“This is all one motion, this grabbing, this pushing,” he said.
Prosecutors say Graham confessed to pushing Johnson from the cliff near the popular Loop Trail during an argument, just hours after telling a friend she was having doubts about her 8-day-old marriage.
Johnson was reported missing July 8 when he failed to show up for work. Graham originally told investigators that he sent her a text message the night of his death that said he was going for a drive with a friend from out of town.
Graham admitted to authorities in a second interview that she had lied, according to an affidavit filed with the charges. She told them she and Johnson had an argument, were upset and decided to go to the Loop Trail.
Their argument intensified on the trail and at one point, she turned to walk away, but Johnson grabbed her arm, according to the affidavit.
She turned around, removed his hand from her arm and “due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back, and as a result, he fell face first off the cliff,” the affidavit says.
“If this was an accident, why didn’t she report it right away?” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean on Friday. “She is clearly capable of murder, if the allegations in the complaint are true.”
Donahoe said Graham did engage in some deception, but that didn’t indicate malice or premeditation.
“They were post-event mistakes,” he said.
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