A newlywed accused of pushing her husband to his death in Glacier National Park remained on house arrest Friday, despite efforts from prosecutors to return her to jail, while her lawyer said the fatal fall was an accident.
“I’m suggesting to your honor that this was an accident,” Michael Donahoe told U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy during a hearing the prosecution requested in hopes of revoking Jordan Linn Graham’s release.
Prosecutors, Donahoe said, are intentionally misrepresenting the events that took place on a Glacier Park trail to incite national media attention and win public favor. “And it’s not right.”
On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch ordered the 22-year-old Graham be released from jail and placed on house arrest pending trial. She is neither a flight nor a safety risk, he wrote in his nine-page decision.
On Friday, Molloy upheld Lynch’s decision and the conditions placed on Graham’s release, which include a stipulation that she undergo a mental health evaluation.
Graham faces a charge of second-degree murder after she allegedly pushed her husband of eight days, 25-year-old Cody Lee Johnson, off a cliff in Glacier Park during an argument.
Prosecutors want Graham to remain behind bars until the case is tried.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean maintained Friday that Graham is a risk to herself and the community, and asked Molloy to reweigh the seriousness of the crime and the weight of the evidence.
“If this was an accident, why didn’t she report it right away?” McLean argued.
In an interview July 16, Graham admitted pushing her husband from behind, causing him to fall face first off a cliff on The Loop trail.
During the same interview, she told law enforcement officers that she had made several false statements regarding Johnson’s disappearance, according to an affidavit filed in support of the prosecution’s case.
Her behavior brings into question what else she would do to cover up her alleged crime if released, McLean said.
“She is clearly capable of murder, if the allegations in the complaint are true,” he said.
Prosecutors also are worried about Graham’s mental health, McLean said, referring to text messages sent before Johnson’s disappearance, in which Graham told a friend she might as well kill herself. “Those types of feelings can only be magnified now.”
But Donahoe described a much different set of events on the night of July 7. And he said audio recordings of the same interview that largely formed the affidavit show Graham’s actions came in self-defense.
The interview in question took place in two parts, with Graham’s responses strung together as one in the court filing, Donahoe said.
The Kalispell couple did argue that night, and Johnson pinned Graham down on the bed at one point. He didn’t abuse her, Donahoe said, but he “controlled her movement.”
Johnson had never behaved toward Graham like that before, Donahoe said.
The argument continued as the couple later hiked in The Loop area of the Glacier Park, not far from Going-to-the-Sun Road.
According to the affidavit, Johnson grabbed Graham’s arm. Graham removed his hand and then pushed him from behind, sending him to his death over the cliff.
But the push was not a separate motion, Donahoe contended.
“This is all one motion, this grabbing, this pushing,” he said, accusing prosecutors of overcharging Graham and of using media to win over the court of public opinion.
“And it’s not right,” he said.
Donahoe admitted that Graham did partake in some deception.
“But they were post-event mistakes,” he said, not indications of malice and premeditation.
Graham will remain on house arrest in Kalispell pending trial. Conditions of her release stipulate she must submit to radio frequency monitoring and remain at her home in Kalispell, other than for religious services, medical treatment, attorney visits, court appearances and court-ordered obligations.
Lynch also ordered Graham to undergo a mental health evaluation, complete any recommended treatment and take any medications prescribed.