Lezmond Mitchell, 38, of the Navajo Nation tribe, was executed at an Indiana prison Wednesday. Before he was put to death, he said, “no, I’m, good,” when asked if he had any last words.
Mitchell was the only Native American on Federal Death Row. Before he was executed, leaders from the Navajo Nation and the attorney for Mitchell tried in vain to stop it, arguing that "Navajo cultural teachings stress the sanctity of life and instruct against the taking of human life for vengeance."
Mitchell was convicted of murdering a 9-year-old girl and her grandmother in 2001.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer appealed to President Donald Trump in a July 31 letter to commute Mitchell's sentence from death to life in prison without the possibility of release, writing that "this request honors our religious and traditional beliefs, the Navajo Nation’s long-standing position on the death penalty for Native Americans, and our respect for the decision of the victim’s family."
Mitchell, 38, the only Native American person on death row, is scheduled to be executed via lethal injection at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, the fourth inmate to be put to death after the Justice Department resumed executions for the first time since 2003, the Associated Press reported.
Mitchell was convicted of killing Alyce Slim, 63, and her 9-year-old granddaughter, Tiffany Lee, who were both members of the Navajo Nation. Nez and Lizer wrote in their letter to Trump that the victims' families are also opposed to Mitchell's execution because of their Navajo spiritual and cultural beliefs.
On Tuesday night, the Supreme Court rejected Mitchell's attorney's motion to halt his execution, and a federal district court also declined to delay it until the president had time to consider the Navajo Nation's clemency request, CNN reported.
"Use of the death penalty against Native Americans raises issues of racial discrimination, tribal sovereignty, and the limits of state and federal jurisdiction," according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Since 1976, 16 Native Americans have been executed by a total of eight states, according to the center, and "as of January 2020, 27 individuals identified as Native American were on death rows across the country."