A Kalispell newlywed accused of pushing her husband to his death in Glacier National Park pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder during a brief hearing Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court.
In an indictment returned late Thursday, a Missoula grand jury also charged 22-year-old Jordan Linn Graham with second-degree murder and with making false statements to park rangers.
She entered not guilty pleas on all three charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch.
During Friday’s hearing, Graham told the judge she understood the charges against her. She spoke clearly and without emotion, standing alongside federal public defender Michael Donahoe as he entered not guilty pleas on her behalf.
Outside the Russell Smith Courthouse in Missoula, Graham arrived for the hearing in a white Cadillac that pulled up to the door, allowing her hurry inside. Afterward, she got back into the car from a side door on East Broadway.
She appeared stoic throughout the appearance, during which she was accompanied by her mother and stepfather.
Graham remains free on her own recognizance and under house arrest.
During Friday’s hearing, Deputy U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said the prosecution feels Graham should be in custody, but will respect the court’s earlier decision.
She will remain under arrest at her mother’s home in Kalispell and under radio frequency monitoring pending trial, as she has been since being released on her own recognizance Sept. 12.
Unless she receives written preapproval, Graham can only leave her home for religious services; medical, substance abuse or mental health treatment; attorney visists; court appearances; and court-ordered obligations. She also is to avoid contact with others who are alleged victims, potential witnesses and/or co-defendants.
Lynch earlier ordered Graham to undergo a mental health evaluation, then to complete any recommended treatment and take any medications as prescribed.
A preliminary conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, in federal court.
On Sept. 9, Graham was arrested on allegations of murder in the July 7 disappearance of her husband, 25-year-old Cody Lee Johnson.
The couple had been married eight days when they allegedly argued while walking on The Loop trail in Glacier Park. Graham had expressed doubts about their marriage to a friend and planned to tell her husband that night, according to an affidavit filed by federal prosecutors.
During the course of the argument, Johnson allegedly grabbed Graham’s arm.
“After removing Johnson’s hand from her arm, Graham stated she could have just walked away, but due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back, and as a result, he fell face first off the cliff,” the affidavit said.
Johnson was reported missing by his uncle, and Graham later told authorities she had seen him get into a vehicle with out-of-state license plates the night of July 7. He often went on drives up Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road with his “car buddies,” some of whom were from Washington state, she said.
Then, on the night of July 11, Graham told a park ranger she had found Johnson’s body at the bottom of a cliff on The Loop trail.
The ranger “commented to Graham he thought it was unusual that she had found the body,” court papers said. “Graham replied, ‘It was a place he wanted to see before he died,’ and, ‘He would come up here with friends to drive fast when his friends were visiting from out of state.’ ”
Donahoe said during a previous court hearing that his client’s actions came in self-defense and that the affidavit, which provided probable cause to initially arrest Graham, is misleading and the charges overstated.
The first-degree murder charge carries a penalty of mandatory life imprisonment, while the second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in jail. Both charges also carry a $250,000 fine and five years supervised release.
At trial, jurors could convict Graham of either murder charge, but not both, or could find her not guilty of both.