Legal Experts Explain Why Graham Made Plea Agreement - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Legal Experts Explain Why Graham Made Plea Agreement

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MISSOULA -

A judge told Jordan Linn Graham he thought there was a good chance the jury would convict her. ABC FOX Montana's Ashley Sanchez found out why lawyers might have agreed to the last minute deal.

A trial, less than a week long, ends with what could be Graham's last look at freedom, as an unmarked car pulls into the Missoula County Detention Center just hours after Graham's lawyers agreed to a plea agreement.

Cynthia Ford, a professor at the UM School of Law said both sides of the case probably thought a plea agreement was their best option.

"What you get with a plea agreement, even late in the game is certainty," Ford said.

After closing arguments this afternoon, Graham changed the game, by pleading guilty to the second degree murder of her husband Cody Lee Johnson, giving up her right up to an acquittal. That's a possibility of no punishment at all.

"They might have felt strong about their case, but not strong enough, and there's a chance the jury could have found her guilty of first degree murder," Ford said.

Ford believes the defense and prosecutors didn't think their case was 100% strong enough to go forward with the critical last step of the trial, putting Graham's fate in the hands of a jury.

"They're not positive how the jury will view it so you're rolling the dice every time the jury goes into that back room to deliberate," Ford said.

The day started with the prosecution resting and less than two hours of defense attorneys presenting witnesses, including Grahams mother. Many of the witnesses including Graham's grandmother, Linda Rickford, testified Graham was happy at her wedding and remorseful at her husband's funeral. Just a few short hours later Graham went on to shock onlookers by agreeing to a deal with U.S. District Attorneys for second degree murder if the first degree murder and making a false statement charges against her were dropped. Why the agreement so late in the game? Ford said this is not uncommon.

"Until you see it play out. You can't totally access the likely hood of verdict in your favor or not, and that's why pleas are met at the end of a trial," Ford said.

Johnson's family released a statement following the trial saying they were satisfied with the ruling. Graham will now be kept at the Missoula County Detention Center until her March 27 trial. Second degree murder carries a sentence of between 38 years and life in prison.

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