TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The only Native American man on federal death row was executed by lethal injection at 6:29 p.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Lezmond Charles Mitchell, convicted in the 2001 murders of a woman and her granddaughter in Arizona, made no final comment when asked by a Bureau of Prisons official about a last statement.
“No, I’m good,” the 38-year-old Mitchell said quietly.
A catheter inserted into a vein in his arm delivered a fatal dose of pentobarbital to stop his heart. The execution began at 6:03 p.m. and was concluded at 6:29 p.m.
Inside the execution room with Mitchell were individuals identified as a U.S. Marshal and a senior Bureau of Prisons official.
Witnesses were admitted to designated and separate areas a few minutes prior to the execution. The U.S. Marshal made a final telephone call to check for a last-minute stay.
“Are there any impediments to proceeding,” the Marshal asked into a black telephone on the wall of the execution chamber. He soon said, “There are no impediments.”
Mitchell lay flat strapped to a table with his arms extended. He was mostly covered by a sheet with his right hand and lower left arm exposed. The top of his head was barely visible.
Witnesses could see Mitchell's breathing appear to become labored at 6:07 p.m. as his abdomen pulsed noticibly. The labored breathing continued until 6:09 p.m. before slowing and stopping.
A person with a stethoscope entered the chamber and appeared to listen across Mitchell's chest for a heartbeat. Death was declared at 6:29 p.m. Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos confirmed death at 6:29 p.m.
The father of 9-year-old victim Tiffany Lee gave a brief statement through his attorney following the execution.
“I have waited 19 years to get justice for my daughter Tiffany. I will never get Tiffany back, but I hope that this will bring some closure,” said Daniel Lee, who stood by tearfully as attorney Colleen Clase read the statement.
Lee expressed his thanks to “those who investigated her murder, prosecuted this case, and ensured that justice was done.” He included thanks to the Navajo Nation Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Lee also thanked Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump.
“Had it not been for the Trump administration, I do not think I would have ever received justice or a sense of finality,” Lee said.
Mitchell, who was 20 at the time of the crimes, was found guilty on multiple charges including first-degree murder, felony murder and carjacking resulting in death.
Mitchell and an accomplice were convicted of killing 9-year-old Tiffany Lee and her grandmother, 63-year-old Alyce Slim, in 2001. Slim had offered Mitchell and another teenager a lift in her pickup truck as they hitchhiked on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. Slim was stabbed 33 times. The child's throat was slashed twice and her head was bashed with 20-pound stones. Both bodies were then mutilated.
The Navajo government had asked Trump to commute Mitchell’s sentence on grounds his execution would violate Navajo culture and sovereignty.
Mitchell's attorneys – Jonathan Aminoff and Celeste Bacchi – called the execution another chapter in the U.S government's “long history of injustices against Native American people.”
“Mr. Mitchell’s execution represents a gross insult to the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation, whose leaders had personally called on the President to commute his sentence to life without possibility of release. The very fact that he faced execution despite the tribe’s opposition to a death sentence for him reflected the government’s disdain for tribal sovereignty,” their statement said.
Another execution is scheduled this week at the federal prison, which houses Death Row and theonly federal execution chamber.
Keith DeWayne Nelson, 45, is scheduled for a 4 p.m. execution Friday. Nelson was convicted in the 1999 kidnapping of a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her home.
Mitchell's execution was the fourth this summer following a 17-year hiatus on executions.
Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was executed by lethal injection July 14. Wesley Ira Purkey, 68, died by lethal injection July 15. Dustin Lee Honken, 52, died by lethal injection July 17. The victims of all three men included children.
Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.