Lone Native American on federal death row requests execution halted until clemency decided


    The only Native American prisoner on federal Death Row has asked a judge to halt his execution until his clemency petition is answered by President Trump and the Department of Justice.

    The Justice Department scheduled the execution of Lezmond Mitchell, a member of the Navajo Nation, earlier this summer for Wednesday, Aug. 26, which Mitchell petitioned immediately. The government resumed executions of federal prisoners this summer after a 17-year pause.

    Mitchell’s attorneys have asked both the Supreme Court and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to halt the execution.

    If his petition fails, Mitchell, who is being held at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind., will be the first Native American executed by the federal government for a crime committed on a Native American reservation.

    Mitchell, 38, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and carjacking resulting in death after he and his co-defendant, Johnny Orsinger, stole 63-year-old woman Alyce Slim’s car and stabbed her dozens of times and forced her 9-year-old granddaughter to sit next to the body while the duo drove away before slitting her throat and dropping rocks on her head until she died, too, in 2001. They later used the car to rob a trading post on the Navajo Nation.

    Orsinger, who was a teenager at the time, was not eligible for the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison.

    Under federal law, Native American tribes, including the Navajo Nation, can decide whether members are given the death penalty if convicted of certain crimes, like murder. Even though the crimes occurred on the Navajo Nation’s land, carjacking resulting in death is not one of the crimes that is part of the agreement.

    In 2015, after his appeal of verdict failed, a federal judge said that Mitchell, who was 20 at the time of the crime, had been given the death penalty through a legal loophole and, while horrible, his crime was “was hardly one of national import or of particular federal interest other than the fact that it involved the Navajo Nation.”

    Mitchell’s previous petitions for clemency from the Trump administration have been denied, but tribal leaders have asked that he be spared on the bases of the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty.

    Mitchell’s attorneys have argued that the federal government has never executed a Native American for a crime committed on tribal land over the tribe’s objections.

    A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told Mitchell’s attorneys there was no guarantee his clemency petition would be determined before his execution date.

    SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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