Denver Newsroom, Aug 19, 2020 / 02:00 am
Catholics are speaking out on behalf of a Native American man on federal death row, who is set to be executed this month. The man’s tribe, the Navajo Nation, objects to the death sentence and has asked President Donald Trump to commute the sentence to life in prison.
Lezmond Mitchell, 38, and a co-defendant, both of whom are Navajo, killed a Navajo woman and her 9-year-old granddaughter on a Navajo reservation in 2001, NPR reports. Mitchell is scheduled to die in Terre Haute, Indiana on Aug. 26.
Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico is leading a virtual prayer vigil on the afternoon of Aug. 26 ahead of Mitchell’s scheduled execution.
The idea of the prayer vigil, Wall told CNA, is to pray for Mitchell's conversion, for healing for the victims' family, and for conversion of the hearts of the executioners.
Mitchell is currently the only Native American on federal death row. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal earlier this year.
Mitchell’s attorneys argue that no Native American can be subjected to the death penalty for a crime committed against a fellow Native American on Native American land without the tribe’s consent. The Navajo Nation is a sovereign entity that extends into three states - New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.
Most tribal leaders object to the death penalty, and both the Navajo Nation and Mitchell’s victims’ family have objected to Mitchell’s execution.
Federal prosecutors sought the death penalty for Mitchell for the lesser charge of carjacking, which is a federal offense. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has strongly criticized the federal government’s decision, saying that in addition to violating Navajo beliefs, Mitchell’s execution would undermine tribal sovereignty.