Death Penalty

The Trump Administration Executes Its Fourth Federal Prisoner in Two Months

A new modern record for putting inmates to death

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Today, after entreaties to both the Supreme Court and President Donald Trump to intervene failed, Lezmond Mitchell, 38, was put to death at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, via lethal injection. He was pronounced dead by the Bureau of Prisons at 6:29 p.m.

Mitchell's execution is the fourth by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Attorney General William Barr, coming just a month after three men were executed over the course of a single week. Those three men were the first to be executed by the federal government in 17 years. With Mitchell's execution, the Trump administration has the distinction of putting to death more federal inmates than any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Mitchell was convicted of carjacking and murdering Alyce Slim, 63, and her granddaughter, Tiffany Lee, 9, in Arizona in 2001 when he was just 20. His underage accomplice was sentenced to life in prison. Mitchell, however, was sentenced to death.

Mitchell was a member of the Navajo Nation, as were the victims, and the murders took place on Navajo land. The leaders of the tribe have been objecting to Mitchell's execution and do not support the death penalty. Leaders argued that putting Mitchell to death violated the tribe's sovereignty. Under federal law, the DOJ is supposed to defer to the tribe's wishes whether to pursue the death penalty, but in Mitchell's case, they used an exception with the carjacking charges to get around the law's wording.

But some family members of the victims did not agree with the Navajo position. Donel Lee, brother of Tiffany, told an Associated Press reporter after the execution, "I thank President Trump and A.G. Barr for supporting my father and I on the execution. No thanks to the Navajo Nation president. … But now I'm at peace with it and justice is served." According to the A.P., when asked if Mitchell had any final words, he simply said, "No, I'm good."

At the same time that the DOJ is relaunching executions, we're seeing examples of the potential for the criminal justice system to go awry and harm innocent people, depriving them of their liberty and potentially their lives, in part due to overzealous prosecution. Today, in Florida, DNA evidence revealed that a man incarcerated for 37 years is innocent of a 1983 rape and murder in the Tampa area.

Robert Duboise was convicted partly on the strength of bite-mark evidence from a forensic dentist who matched marks on the victim's face with Duboise's teeth. The accuracy of this type of forensics science has long since been shown to be completely unreliable.

At one point Duboise was sentenced to death, but fortunately, it was later reduced by a judge to life in prison. This gave the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerate people who have been wrongly convicted, a chance to work with the case and gave Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren's office a chance to find new DNA evidence in a stored rape kit. The evidence exonerated Duboise, and he may be freed as early as Thursday.

There's very little about Lezmond's case that compares directly to Duboise's. However, when the federal government executes a prisoner on the same day that another person who had been on death row is exonerated, it really is worth asking what we actually gain from executing prisoners, when we know full well that one potential consequence is that the government will knowingly be putting to death people who are innocent.

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  1. He won’t be missed.

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  2. Good. Long time coming.

    Worth two articles from Shackford, for some reason.

    1. Here’s to hoping that Shackfoird, Boehm, and all the other crypto leftists follow the NBA’s lead and declare themselves on strike.

      1. I truly don’t get it. You have an FBI senior counsel admit to lying on an application to wiretap the Presidential Campaign of the opposing party, after three plus years of carrying on about a grand foreign conspiracy involving same, and Reason can barely be bothered to cover the story.

        Run of the mill carjack and double murder, notable because it’s the Feds getting to kill the guy, and Shackford writes two articles/posts complaining about it.

        Maybe they should go on strike? Not like many of us read their dribble anyway.

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  3. A new modern record for putting inmates to death

    Meh. Mark it with an asterisk. The 162-game schedule is an abomination.

  4. Another meeting of Libertarians For Government Killing is convened.

    Why do clingers claim that government is inept, misguided, untrustworthy, and too powerful — until the government wants to kill some (a black guy, ideally), at which point clingers consider the government well-meaning, reliable, infallible and righteous?

    Other than conservatives being faux libertarians and bigots, I mean.

    1. Why do self righteous lefties assume government is the source of all wonder and goodness until the cops kill a black guy (while ignoring the white people they kill).

      BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE HYPOCRITES DUMBASS.

      1. Specifically Kirkland.

  5. Mitchell was a member of the Navajo Nation, as were the victims, and the murders took place on Navajo land. The leaders of the tribe have been objecting to Mitchell’s execution and do not support the death penalty. Leaders argued that putting Mitchell to death violated the tribe’s sovereignty. Under federal law, the Justice Department is supposed to defer to the tribe’s wishes whether to pursue the death penalty, but in Mitchell’s case, they used an exception with the carjacking charges to get around the law’s wording.

    In other words, only certain federal crimes committed on tribal land require the DOJ to deferring to the tribe’s wishes. The Department of Justice instead prosecuted him for other federal crimes which did not require them to defer to the tribe’s wishes.

    1. “That is…outstanding lawyering!”

      Remember, if you screw up the procedure, you can do everything else right, and still lose.

      1. “Defer’ to the Navajo nation’s desire that the guy be incarcerated for life in a Federal lockup…

        Because, sovereignty…

        1. I’d like for the land to be conveyed to the various Tribes in fee simple, and have their residents join the United States as citizens. It’d be a lot more honest than what we’re currently doing.

          1. Yep. Trust land has proven an unmitigated disaster. But a wonderful opportunity for graft and abuse by the politically connected.

  6. Yep. Should have just released him to murder again.

    The D.C. government does this all the time with people charged with homicide.

    1. Not true. Sometimes, they have to complete an anger management class. https://www.theblaze.com/op-ed/horowitz-teen-accused-killing-anger-management-no-prison

      (Yeah, it’s Frederick, MD, not DC. Close enough.)

  7. Really, isn’t it more like the Bush administration?

  8. He hopefully deserved it, but the US federal government shouldn’t be in charge of killing people.
    After seeing all the FBI’s shenanigans and so many dishonest federal prosecutors, I can’t imagine why Americans allow it.

    1. It doesn’t require much competence at all to kill a man. No reason you can’t leave the federal government in charge of it. A judge and jury evaluate the facts and reach a conclusion that leads to the sentence. If you have a problem with that process then by all means say so. Personally I don’t really give a shit if the guy who kills a murdering psychopath and removes him from society is a good shot or a bad one.

    2. “He hopefully deserved it, but the US federal government shouldn’t be in charge of killing people…”

      They’ve proven themselves incompetent, but we are to trust them to make life and death decisions…
      Nope.

  9. Yeah, if I hadn’t heard so much (eg, at Reason) about the system catching the wrong guys, I’d be more enthusiastic about the death penalty. This is one of those things where I wish I could simply pluck a prefabricated opinion right off the shelf in my Team’s opinion store. But darned if I know what to think.

    1. The Innocence Project (bad name) has given many prosecutors an equally bad name, enough for me to oppose the government’s legal ability to kill.

      1. The legal ability to kill is the sin qua non of government.

        1. Yes, but we limit it to our favor.

          1. Right up until we don’t.

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  12. I come to the end of this pair of articles with two conclusions

    1: We should abolish the death penalty. It’s pointless, extremely convoluted, and as

    2: Our government spent the entire Obama administration spending ungodly amounts on legal battles all to not do their job. 4 people in the entirety of the Trump administration and 0 during Obama?

    Your most likely cause of death on death row is old age. That’s absurd. Appeals to make sure all the i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed, and no stone left unturned are definitely necessary. However, I don’t think that I’m unreasonable saying that it shouldn’t take over a decade to make that determination. At that point, you aren’t even trying to do your job.

  13. The federal death penalty was very rarely imposed until Joe Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill which greatly expanded it beyond its original intent such as murders committed during kidnapping and bank robberies. This is another example of where the feds find creative ways to get involved if they don’t like the state, or in this case, Navajo Nation’s position,

    1. Trump still has a ways to go before he surpasses FDRs record as executioner in chief.

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  15. OK, Scott, how about if we send everybody on death row over to your house? Or is that kind of how ‘reason’ likes illegal immigrants so long as they’re only cutting the grass in your neighborhood, but go back to the barrio every night?

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  17. Never give the government the power of legal execution.

    1. What about the power to dictate the terms of health insurance policies? Should we give it that? Which of the two powers is a legitimate, core function of government?

  18. Any chance we could see a video of the murderer dying? We need to execute hundreds more quickly.

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