The only Native American on federal death row was executed on Wednesday night for murdering two women in 2001, according to the Department of Justice. Lezmond Mitchell had no last words before he was executed in front of witnesses that included members of the surviving family of his victims, simply responding, “No, I’m good.”
He was pronounced dead at 6:29 p.m., less than a half an hour after he was injected with the lethal drug pentobarbital.
Mitchell was found guilty in 2003 of multiple charges, including the gruesome murders of 63-year-old Alyce Slim and her nine-year-old granddaughter Tiffany Lee.
Slim was stabbed 33 times by Mitchell and his accomplice, after she gave the pair a ride in October 2001. The pair later slit the child’s throat twice and crushed her head with rocks, before dismembering the victims and burning their clothes. Mitchell later directed law enforcement to their bodies after confessing to the heinous killings.
In a statement released shortly after the execution, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, “Nearly 19 years after Lezmond Mitchell brutally ended the lives of two people, destroying the lives of many others, justice finally has been served.”
Tiffany’s father, Daniel Lee, attended the execution, and minutes later stood tearfully next to a lawyer who read a statement to reporters on his behalf.
“I have waited 19 years to get justice for my daughter, Tiffany,” Lee’s statement said. “But I hope this will bring some closure.”
Mitchell’s execution is the fourth to take place this summer, and there are three more scheduled to take place in the next month. Like the three men who were put to death before him, Mitchell had exhausted all possible appeals in an attempt to halt his execution.
That effort came down to the wire on Wednesday when the Supreme Court denied a last ditch attempt to delay his execution, declining to review whether or not the jurors at Mitchell’s trial in Arizona should have been interviewed for potential bias against Native Americans.
Mitchell and his victims were members of the Navajo Nation, and while Lee’s family supported his death sentence, tribal leaders from across the country strongly opposed his execution and called on the president to commute his sentence.
“Today, the federal government added another chapter to its long history of injustices against Native American people,” said Jonathan Aminoff and Celeste Bacchi, attorneys for Mitchell. “Over the steadfast objection of the Navajo Nation, and despite urgent pleas for clemency from Navajo leaders and many other Native American tribes, organizations, and citizens, the Trump Administration executed Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo man, for a crime against other Navajo people committed on Navajo land.”
The decision to restart enforcing these sentences came after a 17-year freeze on the federal death penalty. Attorney General William Barr announced the decision last year, saying in a statement at the time, “The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
“Had it not been for the Trump administration,” Lee’s statement said, “I do not think I would have ever received justice or a sense of finality.”