– First published August 4, 2020, Navajo-Hopi News –
by Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press
The only Native American on federal death row is scheduled to be executed in late August, the U.S. government announced July 29.
Lezmond Mitchell, who is Navajo, had been among the first of a handful of inmates set to be put to death after the Trump administration restored federal executions after an informal, 17-year moratorium.
“The federal government’s announcement that it now plans to execute Lezmond Mitchell demonstrates the ultimate disrespect for the Navajo Nation’s values and sovereignty,” his attorneys, Jonathan Aminoff and Celeste Bacchi said in a statement on July 29.
Mitchell and an accomplice abducted Alyce Slim, 63, and her granddaughter in October 2001 with plans to use Slim’s vehicle in a robbery. Prosecutors said the two fatally stabbed Slim and slit the girl’s throat. Their beheaded, mutilated bodies were found in a shallow grave on the Navajo Nation.
Mitchell’s attorneys have said he had no history of violence and wasn’t the primary aggressor. They said they’ll continue to pursue avenues for relief from the convictions and death sentence.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr noted on July 29 that courts repeatedly have ruled against Mitchell.
If the execution moves forward, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Carl Slater said it would send a message that the federal government has no problem using loopholes to infringe on the tribe’s sovereignty.
“This completely conflicts with our values,” he said. “The government has an obligation to express our values and reflect them. That’s not just to our citizens, that’s to other sovereigns that have these relationships.”