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This Man Will Die Tonight Against a Government's Wishes - Page 2

The Navajo Nation has been opposed to the death penalty for Lezmond Mitchell from the start
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2020 9:50 AM CDT
Updated Aug 26, 2020 9:55 AM CDT

  • Issues with the case: In an op-ed for the New York Times, Carl Slater, a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, writes that the case "offends tribal sovereignty for other reasons. After his arrest, the government abused the tribal court system" to hold Mitchell "in a tribal jail for 25 days, without access to a lawyer, while the FBI continually interrogated him." He didn't get a lawyer until the FBI said it had secured a confession from him—one it didn't tape-record. "In fact, in his only recorded statement, Mr. Mitchell denied having a direct role in the capital offenses. Were Mr. Mitchell a non-Indian, the federal government would not have been permitted to use these purported confessions against him," Slater writes.
  • Halting the execution: The Supreme Court was on Sunday asked by Mitchell's lawyers to stop the execution; they denied the request Tuesday night. CNN reports the federal district court in Washington, DC, also denied Mitchell's request until after the petition for clemency he filed with President Trump in late July could be considered. CNN's take: "With Mitchell's execution scheduled for 6pm ET Wednesday, it is unlikely his clemency request will be granted at this late stage."
  • Letter to Trump: Navajo Nation leaders have sent Trump more than one requesting Mitchell's sentence be commuted. An excerpt: "Our justice system is based on life—Iina—that is sacred and must be protected. We therefore condemn murder and abhor the crimes committed in this case. But our belief system requires us to seek harmony and restore not only the victim, but also to restore the broken relations between families and communities so we all may heal."
  • In favor of death: The AP reports that among the Navajo people, the desire to see Mitchell's life spared is far from unanimous. Tiffany Lee's father, Daniel Lee, said in an interview that he believes in the idea of "an eye for an eye" and wants to see Mitchell executed. He further said Navajo leaders don't speak for him: "I speak for myself and for my daughter."
  • A deep dive: For more on the case, read this piece by the Intercept. It includes the recollections of John Fontes, the vocational director of the Rough Rock Community School in Chinle, Ariz., where Mitchell had graduated as valedictorian the year prior to the murders—despite an upbringing filled with abuse and addiction. Fontes managed to get in two six-hour visits with Mitchell this month.
  • Numbers: The AP notes that if Mitchell is executed tonight, 2020 will have seen more federal inmates executed than in the prior 56 years combined. There are currently 58 men and one woman on federal death row.
(Read more death penalty stories.)

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