The Navajo Nation has sent a clemency petition to President Trump that once again reaffirms the Navajo Nation's opposition to the death penalty for Lezmond Mitchell and requests that Mitchell's sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.
The petition from Navajo President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer, dated July 31, 2020, states:
This request [for clemency] 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.
. . .
On a number of occasions, since 2002, the Navajo Nation Attorneys General, the Navajo Nation Council Standing Committee, and the Navajo Nation Chief Justice informed the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona of the Navajo Nation's opposition to the death penalty in Mr. Mitchell's case citing Navajo cultural teachings that stress the sanctity of life and instruct against the taking of human life for vengeance. This respect for life was weighed against the heinous crimes committed by Mr. Mitchell that resulted in the death of a grandmother and her granddaughter. Most important, we understand the daughter and mother of both victims attested and strongly opposed the death penalty in Mr. Mitchell's case and specifically requested the U.S. Attorney's Office not to seek it. The Navajo Nation and the family of the victims have not changed their position; the Navajo Nation has not opted-in for the death penalty and we strongly hold to our cultural, traditional, and religious beliefs that life is sacred.
The petition further states that the U.S. Department of Justice's decision to seek the death penalty for Mitchell “marginalized” the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation, and it requests that the United States work with the Navajo Nation on this issue to “bring our working relationship back into alignment.”
President Nez was reportedly scheduled to appear before the U.S. Pardon Attorney on August 11, 2020 to advocate on Mitchell's behalf.
A description of the background of this case is available here.
Partner Mark H. Donatelli is a member of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project. He and other members of the firm have defended death penalty cases since 1980 and have been assisting the attorneys representing Mitchell since 2008.