Graham gets 30-year sentence after emotional testimony
Updated On: Mar 28 2014 02:00:20 PM MDT
Judge Donald Molloy handed down a 30-year prison sentence for Jordan Graham. The hearing lasted about four hours Thursday, in U.S. District Court in Missoula.
Graham apologized to Cody Lee Johnson's family during her brief statement to the court. She pushed Johnson off a cliff in Glacier National Park last July.
Graham turned to Johnson's mother, Sherry Johnson, during her testimony and said, “I don't expect you to forgive me, but I hope some time in the future you will see it in your heart to forgive me."
She added that if she could, "I would let Cody know how much I love him and would tell him every day."
Sherry Johnson got her turn at the stand too. She and other family members all pleaded with Molloy to sentence Graham to life in prison.
"Today and every day I have a broken heart," Johnson said.
Johnson's brother, Cody's uncle, Tim Manning testified as well, saying, "I believe Jordan should rot in prison and never be released."
Molloy spent a good portion of the hearing explaining his decision and how he reached it. He cited several other cases he researched, but admitted this case was difficult.
“Trying to balance what's the right thing to do is not an easy task or a welcome task," Molloy said.
He eventually handed down a 365-month sentence, followed by 5 years of supervised release. In addition she's responsible for nearly $17,000 in restitution -- the money will go to the National Park Service to cover the costs of retrieving Johnson's body from the bottom of the cliff.
The newlywed pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last December, just four days into her trial for the death of Johnson.
The couple had been married just eight days when Graham pushed Johnson off a cliff in Glacier National Park.
Graham testified she was unhappy in her marriage and she and Johnson went to the park to talk about their relationship. She told the court the two started arguing, Johnson grabbed her arm, so she pushed his hand off and proceeded to push him with both hands. Graham said she was scared, so she didn't ask for help and instead ran to the car and drove home.
Johnson was reported missing shortly after. Four days later Graham led a search a party of friends and family back to the park where she reported finding his body.
In October, a grand jury handed down an indictment and Graham was charged with first and second-degree murder and a third charge for lying to authorities.
The case went to trial last December, and shortly before the jury was going to hear closing arguments Graham accepted a plea agreement. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for the other charges being dropped.
Earlier this week Graham's defense filed a motion asking Molloy to let her withdraw her plea. That motion was denied.