Opening Statement by Defense Counsel Attorney Timothy Rensch in the
Trial of Arlo Looking Cloud
February, 2004

THE COURT: Counsel.

MR. RENSCH: Thank you, Your Honor. Arlo Looking

Cloud didn't kill anybody. Arlo Looking Cloud the evidence in

this case will show didn't help kill Mrs. Pictou-Aquash. Arlo

Looking Cloud today, this year, is a fifty year old man. In

1975 he was a 22 year old young adult. He was born in South

Dakota, he lived on the reservation for a period of time, he

lived in Denver for a period of time, and he spent his young

adult years in Sante Fe at an art school. You will find that

this is a case of fate. You will find through the evidence in

this case that what Arlo Looking Cloud became embroiled in was

simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You see in

December of 1975 Arlo lived in a place near the projects down

in Denver. He lived with a woman by the name of Charlotte

Zephier. He had a job selling art, making paintings, things

of that nature. He had a little boy. Up to that point in his

life he had had some problems with alcohol and with drugs, but

he was doing well. And this weekend in early December of 1975

his path would change. You see, the woman who lived with him,

Charlotte Zephier, was going on a trip that weekend, she was

going to Nebraska and taking his son to Nebraska to visit some

relatives. And what does Arlo do, the 22 year old young man

that he is, he goes out on the town. He goes out on the town

with a friend who was named Joe Morgan, and he goes drinking

with this other young adult down in the streets of Denver,

down in the bars of Denver, down in the haunts of Denver, and

he drinks all night. And he comes home to his empty house,

his woman is not there, his live-in girlfriend is not there

with their child, and he sleeps off his hangover. And he

sleeps all day. He sleeps all day, and he wakes up in the

afternoon with a splitting headache, and little did he know

his path was going to change. You see he gets out of his bed

and he puts his clothes on and he decides to go downtown again

and try to find his friend Joe Morgan, and that's what changed

his fate. When he dressed that evening, little did he know

that Joe Morgan wouldn't be over at Yellow Wood's house. Troy

Lynn was a friend of Arlo's, Troy Lynn was a friend of many

people. Troy Lynn lived close to Arlo, so when he walked over

to his house that night in late December, his intent was not

to kill somebody or help premeditate the end of a human being,

his intent was to go down drinking that day because he had a

hangover, he appeared on the steps and knocked on the door to

see if his friend Joe Morgan is there and Troy Lynn doesn't

answer. Theda Clark is there. Theda Clark is a fifty'ish

Indian woman at this point in her life who owns a bar in

Colorado, Arlo had known her from before. He had driven for

her from time to time, she would give him some drinks, let him

drink in her bar, things of this nature. Theda on this night

says to young Arlo, hey, we want you to drive up to Rapid City

for us. Arlo doesn't really want to drive up to Rapid City

for her. You will find evidence in this case that Theda

Clark, well, she was older, she was pushy, and when she asked

Arlo to drive to Rapid City, Arlo said okay, I will do it.

His friend Joe Morgan wasn't there, and he was would just

drive to Rapid City for Theda. As he steps in to the house of

Yellow Wood's they don't really let him go many places in the

house, they shoo him right down to the basement. And as he is

walking down those basement steps little does he know he is

about to meet two people that will change his fate for ever.

As he is walking down those steps he doesn't know what is

about to occur because no one has ever asked him or said

anything was going to happen there, or asked him to come over

there for any specific purpose, and as he is walking down

those steps he sees an individual he had never met before by

the name of John Graham. The evidence in this case will show

that John Graham was known also as John Boy Patton and was a

friend of Theda Clark's. There was a young woman laying on

the couch under a blanket and they don't introduce her to

Arlo. Arlo meets John Graham, also known as John Boy, they

converse, don't talk really about much, and suddenly this John

Graham is talking about a rope, and Theda is talking about a

rope, and John Graham takes this young woman off of the couch,

has her get up, and ties her hands behind her back. Arlo

Looking Cloud doesn't know if they are together, doesn't know

what their relationship is, doesn't really know what is going

on, but he knows enough not to ask questions and not to talk

to them about it. Well, John Boy leads this young woman, who

turns out to be Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, up these steps on this

night in December of 1975. Arlo through the years has made

statements about this, and you will find in this case that for

thirty years approximately Arlo has been, well, not a

productive member of society, he's lived on the streets, he

has been drunk, he has used drugs, he has abused his body, and

he has done many things, I think that the evidence will bear

out, that affect his memory and his ability to recall events

and his ability to communicate about events, but that night

this 22 year old boy who was there walked up those stairs and

yes, he thought something was amiss, and he didn't do anything

to stop it. And as they go out into the car this poor lady is

put into the back of the car and Arlo drives. And he doesn't

make any excuses about driving. But he thought that they were

just going to Rapid City. Theda mentioned something about

this girl talking too much. Nothing about we are going to

take her to Rapid and she is going to be interrogated, nothing

about we are going to take her to Rapid and she is going to be

killed, nothing about please help us kill this woman in

furtherance of the movement. So they drove all night to Rapid

City. Arlo drives some of the time, he sleeps some of the

time. There isn't much conversation in this car on the way

up, and Arlo knows something isn't fitting right here, but he

is not asking questions, and Theda and John Boy act as though

they know what is going on, act as though they heard something

about what might happen, but they don't talk to Arlo about it.

They get to Rapid City in the early morning hours and they

drive to an apartment that is up by the Mall out by the

highway, Knollwood Heights. This apartment is rented by a

woman that we find out later is named Thelma Rios. At the

time Arlo did not know whose apartment it was, they get in to

the apartment, there is no furniture in the apartment, someone

is either moving in or moving out of the apartment. John

Graham sleeps in a room with Ms. Pictou-Aquash, Arlo sleeps on

the floor, there is no furniture in there, they sleep for a

period of time. Theda Clark, the fifty'ish Indian woman who

asked Arlo to drive up there in the first place does not stay

in this apartment, and they just sleep there. Arlo wakes up

at some point in the day, we don't know just exactly what time

of the day, and he takes the car down to put gas in it. And

as Arlo is at the gas station he runs in to a person that he

knew from living on the reservation by the name of Tony Red

Cloud. And this Tony Red Cloud asks Arlo to come over to his

house. Arlo goes over to his house, spends some time with

him, eats with him, don't know whether they drink or not, but

they spend a period of time together. Arlo goes back to the

Knollwood Heights apartment, and Theda and John Boy are mad at

him because he is gone with the car. As he gets back they say

we have to go to the reservation. And everybody gets in the

car, they drive down to the reservation, Arlo drives for a

period of time, doesn't drive all the way, remembers stopping,

remembers sleeping a period of time, remembers switching

drivers, ultimately ends up out in front of a house in Rosebud

near the hospital. And at this time he is with Anna Mae, he

is with Ms. Pictou-Aquash, and John Boy Patton and Theda Clark

go in to this house, they don't tell Arlo what they are going

in for, Arlo doesn't know what they are going in for. At this

point he doesn't remember Ms. Pictou-Aquash saying anything

about begging to be let go at that point. I guess the

evidence will have to bear itself out on that. But

none-the-less there's never been any discussion about anybody

killing anybody up to that point in time. Up to this point in

time they stopped several places in Rapid City, stopped on the

side of the road and places to get gas and things like that.

And John Boy and Theda come out of this house and Arlo is

thinking, well, maybe I can finally get back to Denver. They

come out, they get in this Pinto, they drive toward Kadoka.

Arlo doesn't know what they are driving toward Kadoka for. He

is wanting to go back to Denver, he is not driving the car,

Theda is driving the car. John Boy is there, and they act as

though they know what is going to happen, but nobody talks

about it. The car pulls on that lonely highway going north

toward Kadoka, straight up on the map to Kadoka, and Theda

Clark pulls a U-turn and goes back and forth several times and

stops on the side of the road. As she stops on the side of

the road there is no conversation about what is going to

occur. As she stops on the side of the road John Boy Patton

gets out of that car, John Boy Patton who is bigger than Arlo,

John Boy Patton tells Ms. Pictou-Aquash to get out of the car

and begins leading her off in to the ditch. At this point it

is either John Boy or Theda say to Arlo come on, get out here.

Arlo gets out of that car, he does not know what is going to

happen, he starts to walk up there, he doesn't march her up to

the side of the cliff, he doesn't grab her arm. He doesn't

help take her to the cliff. He is following along not knowing

what is going to happen, and he is thinking they are going to

let her go way out here. Then he hears her start to pray, and

in his mind he starts to think we are going to pray. Bam, at

that point John Boy Patton pulls out a gun and shoots this

woman in the back of the head. Arlo reels from it, Arlo did

not know that was going to happen. Arlo has never met this

man before. She falls over this cliff, the white shale cliff

of the Bad Lands, she falls 25 feet down into the bottom of

this ravine. The photo you see here was taken years later,

but in the pictures you see in the evidence in this case it is

white shale, it is clear, free of vegetation. And Arlo

standing there on this edge of this ravine, and John Boy

Patton turns around and he looks at him and he has a gun, and

what does this young 22 year old man think of? What does he

do? He doesn't know what is about to happen. He says to

Graham give me the gun. Graham reaches out, hands him the

gun. And Arlo fires the gun over the ravine until the gun is

empty, and he did it because he was afraid this man who just

put a bullet in this woman's head would do the same to him.

And he hands the gun back to him, relieved that the gun is

empty. As he hands the gun back, they walk back to the

vehicle. They get in the vehicle. They start going back to

Denver. They stop at a bridge and John Boy Patton, John

Graham wants to bury the pistol. Arlo wants to help bury the

pistol, because if John Graham doesn't have a pistol, then no

one else will get shot. They go down below the bridge and

Arlo helps dig that hole and they bury that pistol, and they

drive to Denver. When they get to Denver Arlo Looking Cloud

falls off the face of the earth as it relates to the American

Indian Movement. When they get to Denver he stays away from

the American Indian Movement. While he lived close to Troy

Lynn, and we will see her, and she is a friend of his and had

been a friend of his prior to that time, and while he may see

Theda from time to time because they live in the same town, he

stays away from the American Indian Movement. You will hear

evidence in this case that on the other hand, Mr. Graham, John

Boy Patton had a meteoric rise in the American Indian

Movement, and you will hear evidence in this case he was sun

dancing with the National AIM president, and you will hear

evidence in this case that he actually, well, he stayed with

the Movement. The story doesn't end there. The story doesn't

end there. The story also picks up in 1994. In 1994 when

Arlo Looking Cloud sits down with the FBI, sits down with the

BIA, sits down with a lawyer, and tells them what happened,

and at the end of this long interview when Arlo Looking Cloud

told the authorities how John Graham executed Anna Mae, Arlo

is released just to go right back out on the streets and be a

street person. You will hear evidence again that the

following year, the following year in the summer of 1995 this

man, Arlo, five foot six and a hundred fifty pounds is

approached again by the authorities, and they asked to take

him out to the scene near Kadoka and to the various places

that he traveled in this ever changing day of fate, and this

crossroads of his life, this December, 1975 that changed his

existence for ever. And what does Arlo Looking Cloud do, he

goes with them and he explains to them just exactly how John

Graham executed this woman that Arlo had never met before. At

the close of this case I will be asking you to decide the main

issue in this case. Which is whether or not the government

can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Arlo Looking Cloud

aided and abetted a murder and had the intent for somebody to

die. I will ask you, too, to look at his words and understand

that a young man who was merely present at something so

horrible as a murder is not responsible in the way the shooter

is. Thank you. document index