U.S. attorneys continue to push for life sentence in Graham case


U.S. Attorneys continue to push for life sentence in Graham case

MISSOULA, Mont. - Federal prosecutors continue to push for a life sentence for a Kalispell newlywed who pleaded guilty to pushing her husband off a cliff.

Now Jordan Linn Graham's attorneys are firing back, saying a life sentence is too harsh.

Graham's husband, Cody Lee Johnson, 25, was reported missing last July. His body was found several days later at the bottom of a cliff in a Glacier National Park.

Graham faced first- and second-degree murder charges for Johnson's death. After four days of trial in December, Graham pleaded guilty to second degree murder.

She's scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. Both sides have already weighed in with their recommendations -- 50 years to life from the U.S. Government, and 10 years from Graham.

For Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeno Baucus and Kris McLean, 10 years isn't nearly enough.

"The defendant's sentencing memorandum asks this court to overlook the defendant's brutal murder of Cody Johnson and instead provide her with a slap on the wrist for her second degree murder conviction," they wrote.

But the majority of their 23-page response was spent making a case for their own sentencing recommendation.

Graham's federal defenders Michael Donahoe and Andrew Nelson believe a life sentence is unreasonable. They accuse the U.S. attorneys of using first-degree murder 'buzzwords,' like "premeditated," in their recommendation.

They say since Graham pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, if she was to be sentenced as if she was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, she should be allowed to withdraw her guilty plea.

"By offering a plea agreement for 2nd degree and agreeing to dismiss the 1st degree charge with prejudice the government promised that it was putting the issue of premeditation to rest," they wrote.

The final say will come from Judge Donald Molloy during Thursday's sentencing hearing.  

When Graham changed her plea in December, Molloy made sure she knew what she was doing and reminded her just because she pleaded guilty didn't mean she'd get off easy.

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