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Trial begins in Kalispell newlywed case

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:23:01 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 10 2013 12:00:59 AM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

On Monday, the trial of 22-year-old Jordan Graham began in a Missoula federal courtroom. Graham, a Kalispell woman, is accused of intentionally pushing her husband of just eight days over a cliff at Glacier National Park in July.

Prosecutors say her husband, Cody Johnson, died of blunt force trauma.

Prosecutors say Graham then lied to authorities, friends and family members, saying Johnson had disappeared on a joyride with out-of-town friends.

Graham has pleaded not guilty to first-degree and second-degree murder and making a false statement to authorities.

During opening arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean pulled up a photo of Cody Johnson, alive and well, and later pulled up a photo of his body lying face down in water at Glacier National Park.

McLean told the jury that the prosecution will work to show Graham’s state of mind before and after the alleged murder.

The opening statement for the defense came from Graham’s federal public defender Andy Nelson. He said that Graham finally talked to Johnson about doubts about their relationship and marriage, but the conversation ended with a tragic accident.

Nelson said Johnson grabbed Graham during an argument, and Graham pushed Johnson to get his hand off her.

Nelson said Graham lied to authorities because she was scared no one would let her explain what happened, and scared she would be arrested on the spot.

Prosecutors then called two witnesses to the stand. The first witness was Johnson’s friend Jennifer Toren. Toren broke down crying when she described Johnson as a generous, kind man.

She testified that Graham rarely hung out with her and Johnson’s other friends, and she asked Graham if she didn’t like her. Graham responded, according to texts, that it wasn’t that, but rather she was shy and wasn’t friends with a lot of girls.

Graham’s church friend Kimberly Martinez was later called to the stand. Prosecutors pulled up text messages between her and Graham. Jurors were shown texts from Graham before the wedding explaining that she was getting nervous, and after the wedding saying she was rethinking everything, and was sad. In the texts, Martinez urged Graham to talk to Johnson, and Graham said that Johnson had a temper.

Martinez is expected to continue her testimony Tuesday.

Federal judge Donald Molloy says he wants this trial fast-tracked, and hopes the jury will be able to begin deliberations by Friday. Earlier today, the judge questioned each juror to see what they knew of this case.