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UPDATE: Jordan Graham Pleads Guilty to Second-Degree Murder
Graham changed her plea moments before closing arguments were set to begin
Surrounded by media, Jordan Graham leaves the Missoula federal courthouse earlier this week. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon
MISSOULA – Shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday morning, Jordan Graham walked into federal court alone. Four-and-half hours later, she was led out in handcuffs by U.S. marshals. Graham, 22, of Kalispell, shocked the courtroom on the fourth day of her murder trial when she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder shortly before closing arguments were set to begin.

Graham could face life in prison for murdering her husband of eight days, Cody Johnson, by pushing him off a cliff in Glacier National Park on July 7. Sentencing is scheduled for March 27, 2014. Graham initially faced charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and making false statements to authorities.

“I was there on the ledge with Cody, there was a heated argument and I had no regard for our surroundings and I pushed,” Graham said after changing her plea.

Johnson was reported missing on July 8 and in the days that followed Graham concocted an elaborate story that the 25-year-old had gone off with friends and not returned. Graham found Johnson's body near the Loop along the Going-to-the-Sun Road on July 11.

Early Thursday morning, the prosecutors rested their case and handed the floor over to the defense, which spent the next two hours disputing the U.S. government's case that Graham had planned to murder Johnson on the night of July 7. Lindell Rutledge, Graham's mother, and Linda Record, her grandmother, both took the stand early in the day to convey a different image of the woman accused of murder. Previously, friends of Johnson had testified that Graham was texting during her late husband's funeral, but close family members disagreed with that story. Her grandmother said Graham did not have a phone with her.

“She seemed very, very upset,” Record said. “She put her head on my shoulder and let me hold her.”

Also on Thursday, Graham's attorney Andy Nelson showed the court video of Graham and Johnson's wedding day in June. In the video, the new couple shared their first dance to a song that Graham had commissioned for the occasion. The video of the couple brought many in the courtroom to tears, including Graham herself, who had previously showed little emotion during the trial. Just after 11 a.m., the defense rested its case and the court took a recess before closing arguments.

But an hour later, Graham came before Federal Judge Donald Molloy to change her plea from not guilty to guilty of second-degree murder. The judge was obviously surprised and spent nearly 45 minutes grilling the young woman on whether she understood what she was doing.

“Do you think you understand what you are doing here?” he asked. “In the next 15 minutes you may be committing yourself to prison for the balance of your life.”

Graham said she understood what could happen next. Molloy then asked Graham to tell the truth about what happened on the night Johnson died. Graham told the court that she and Johnson were having an argument as they hiked off trail near the Loop.

“I was telling him that I wasn't happy (about our marriage),” she said.

At one point, Johnson grabbed Graham's arm. Graham thought he was going to shove her and she brushed his hand away and then pushed Johnson in the back over the cliff with both hands. After that she ran back to their car and drove home to Kalispell. Molloy asked why Graham had lied to friends, family members and authorities in the days following Johnson's death.

“I was scared and I didn't know what to do,” she said.

As Graham told her story, the stunned courtroom sat in silence. Graham's mother put her head on Steve Rutledge's shoulder and silently wept. Graham’s voice cracked as she formally changed her plea.

“Guilty,” she said softly,” guilty.”

Molloy accepted Graham's change of plea and then let the jury back into the courtroom to thank them and release them of their duty. Shortly after 1 p.m., two U.S. marshals walked up behind Graham, put her in handcuffs and led her out of the room.

Johnson's family quickly left the courthouse. As they departed Johnson's aunt, Celeste Watson, said, “The family is very thankful for the outcome. It's been emotional.”
On 12-13-13, Charles Feney commented....
The Pushy Bride The honeymoon didn’t turn out as planned Seems the groom was a bit undermanned ‘Cause out on the trail He proved a bit frail When she pushed him from a cliff to hard land! Cops said the bride showed no remorse To…
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