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Both the prosecutors and the defense team filed motions this week regarding the upcoming sentencing of Jordan Linn Graham. Jordan pleaded guilty in December 2013 to second-degree murder, after pushing her husband, Cody Johnson, off a cliff. You can read more about the case HERE.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors say they are seeking a term of life in prison for the Montana newlywed. They claim the seriousness of the crime, the need to protect the public, and the unique characteristics of the crime call for a longer sentence than a typical second-degree murder conviction. Among the reasons for requesting life imprisonment:
- Jordan used her minor brother to help conceal the murder, encouraging him to lie about who discovered Cody’s body.
- Jordan engaged in a “multi-level campaign” to lie to friends and family about her involvement in Cody’s disappearance.
- The circumstances surrounding Cody’s death closely resemble conduct that is often associated with a first degree murder conviction.
- Jordan mentally prepared herself for Cody’s murder.
- Jordan “somehow removed” Cody’s wedding ring from his finger before pushing him.
- Jordan’s story about Cody having given her his car keys while they were in the middle of an argument on the cliff is “an affront to common sense.” Jordan had pre-planned to use his car to flee the scene.
- Although it wasn’t proven, inference can be drawn from trial that Jordan may have blindfolded Cody before pushing him.
- Jordan’s “utter lack of remorse” and post-event conduct after pushing Cody demonstrates “an astounding lack of concern for her husband’s well-being.”
- Jordan’s calculating behavior before, during, and after Cody’s death “provides no guarantees” that she will not commit another heinous crime if she is ever released.
- The fact that she is young (22) should caution against a lenient sentence.
In their memorandum, the defense argues against the Prosecution’s assertions and asks the Court to sentence Jordan to 120 months imprisonment and 5 years of supervised release. Among their reasons for the lighter sentence:
- There is no proof that Jordan “likely” “thwarted” the prosecution in this case.
- Jordan’s false statements didn’t hinder the investigation because investigators knew that Jordan wasn’t telling the whole story, which they testified to at trial.
- Jordan’s fabrication of the email from “Tony” is the “emerging cry of defendant’s conscience.”
- Within Jordan’s initial false stories were pieces of truth that she would ultimately reveal.
- There’s no evidence that the plea deal initially offered by the Prosecution before trial is the same as the plea deal Jordan accepted towards the end of her trial, so she should not be held accountable for “not resolving the case by guilty plea sooner than she did.”
- Just because Jordan admitted that she had acted with extreme recklessness does not mean she would have been convicted by the jury of first degree murder.
- There is no indication that Jordan’s younger brother’s text message to investigators about who found Cody’s body “impacted the investigation in any way.”
- When Jordan and her younger brother claimed that park rangers had found Cody’s body, it was not false, but “imprecise,” since she herself did not go down the ravine to physically recover his body.
- Jordan’s guilty plea conclusively establishes that she committed an extremely reckless but nevertheless unintentional act.
- There is no evidence that Jordan kidnapped or forced Cody to go to the Park that night.
- If Jordan was a cold-blooded killer, she would have left Cody’s body at the bottom of the ravine, and he likely never would have been found.
- Jordan has no criminal history and does not use drugs.
- Jordan told her attorney that not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of her husband and what might have been.
- Jordan is “profoundly sorry” that she did not come forward with the truth sooner.
- Jordan assures the Court that she will take advantage of any prison programs available to her.
Also brought up by the Defense is the fact that they don’t believe any restitution is warranted to the victim or the victim’s estate.
A series of emotional letters written by people who knew Jordan were also submitted by both the Defense and the Prosecution.
The Defense submitted letters from Jordan’s family friends and relatives, who say that she was a “sweet quiet woman,” a “faithful Church goer” and was “happy about getting married.”
Her brother describes her as a “compassionate” person and someone who is “remorseful for her crimes.”
Jordan’s mother says she “truly cares about others” and if she is shown leniency, she could get a college education and become a better and useful member of society.
The letters the Prosecution submitted paint an entirely different picture.
Jordan’s former best friend and bridesmaid says Jordan was “deceitful throughout their three-year friendship,” and that she “continues to lie” about what happened to Cody. She said that many of their friends have nightmares about Jordan.
Another former family friend said she now sleeps with the light on. She says Jordan was always a “quiet instigator” who drove wedges between people and intentionally ruined relationships. She claims Jordan wrongly accused several men of rape and abuse, and that her actions became increasingly erratic as she and Cody became engaged. She says Jordan’s behavior escalated to premeditated murder.
The Missoulian has posted the motions and letters in their entirety.
UPDATE: 3/26/14 7:34 AM
Jordan Graham has now filed a motion, asking a judge to withdraw her guilty plea.
Jordan claims that when she agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder, prosecutors agreed to drop the first degree murder charge, however, their sentencing motion filed last week asks the judge to sentence her as though she had pleaded guilty to first degree murder.
Her attorneys say in the motion that she can no longer be sentenced fairly, since prosecutors have asked for an increase in sentence due to premeditation, which “contaminates” the sentencing process.
If the judge grants her request, there will be another trial, and since she didn’t accept the plea until the end of her last trial, Cody’s family would have to sit through everything all over again.
You can read the motion HERE.
UPDATE: 3/27/14 8:04 AM
Prosecutors have responded to Jordan’s motion to withdraw her guilty plea.
In a motion of their own, prosecutors said they “agreed to dismiss the first-degree murder charge but did not agree to ignore other evidence offered at trial in recommending a sentence of 50 years to life.”
They pointed out that when Jordan told the judge she wanted to plead guilty, the judge told her that she may face a life sentence in federal prison.
UPDATE: 3/28/14 7:33 AM
Jordan Graham’s motion to withdraw her guilty plea was denied yesterday, and the judge sentenced her to 30 years in prison for Cody’s murder.
Jordan spoke at the sentencing and said she thinks of Cody every day and that if he was still alive they would soon be celebrating their one-year anniversary, with possibly a baby on the way.
Cody’s family also spoke to the Court and asked for her to be sentenced to life in prison.
Jordan will likely be more than 50 years old when she’s released.
– Prosecutors want life sentence for newlywed’s murder
– Newlywed asks to withdraw guilty plea in husband’s murder
– Prosecutors oppose killer’s bid to back out of her guilty plea
– Johnson’s family reacts to Graham’s sentencing