The bride, 22-year-old Jordan Graham, struck a deal with
prosecutors in December and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
in the high-profile July 7 death of her husband of eight days, Cody
Johnson. She is due to be sentenced next week.
The agreement with prosecutors, which came just as closing arguments
in her federal murder trial were set to begin, involved the dropping
of a first-degree murder count that could have carried a mandatory
Prosecutors said that Graham deliberately shoved Johnson, 25, off a
rock ledge during a marital dispute while hiking a steep trail at
Glacier and then lied to investigators and tried to cover up the
After striking the plea deal, Graham admitted her guilt to U.S.
District Judge Donald Molloy, who presided over her trial in
Missoula, Montana. She told the judge that her husband had grabbed
her hand during the argument and that she "just pushed his hand off
and just pushed away."
While a second-degree murder conviction may be punishable by life in
prison, it can also result in a lesser sentence of about 20 years
behind bars, with possible adjustments for accepting responsibility
and other factors.
Federal prosecutors said in a sentencing recommendation filed on
Tuesday that a prison term of 24 to 30 years for the second-degree
murder count would be insufficient for Graham, whom they described
as "extremely dangerous, predatory and an unrepentant murderer."
They argued that the seriousness of Graham's crime, her lack of
remorse and the chance she might commit another violent crime
warranted a life sentence or no less than 50 years in jail.
[to top of second column]
"The defendant, despite offering no remorse, has left a mother
childless, upended a community and shown no respect for the law
during this entire process," wrote Michael Cotter, U.S. Attorney for
Michael Donahoe, Graham's federal defender, is seeking a 10-year
sentence. He said the former nanny had no criminal record before the
"tragic event," was unlikely to commit another crime and regretted
she had not come forward sooner with the truth.
"She is worthy of punishment and the shame that will no doubt
accompany her for the remainder of her life," Donahoe wrote in legal
filings. "Defendant has confided to the undersigned that a day does
not go by that she doesn't think of her husband and what might have
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho;
editing by Cynthia
Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)
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