Denying Indigenous Sovereignty: The Execution of Lezmond Mitchell

(Source) On August 26th, 2020, the United States government executed Lezmond Mitchell, the only Native American on federal death row, continuing the Trump administration’s aggressive reinstatement of federal executions after a seventeen-year delay. Mr. Mitchell was pronounced dead at 6:29 PM. Mr. Mitchell’s execution was the 1523rd execution in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 and the fourth federal execution in 2020. Two days later, the federal government executed Keith Nelson, who was pronounced dead on August 28th at 4:32 PM. With the federal death toll at five people, the federal government has carried out more executions in the past two months than in the preceding fifty-seven years. They plan to carry out two more by the end of September.  There are many problems with the way the federal government has been going about killing the people on its death row, and Mr. Mitchell’s case is no exception: as with the other people whom the federal government has executed, the global pandemic is still raging, and several of the victims’ loved ones opposed Mr. Mitchell’s death sentence. Further, there were real concerns about Mr. Mitchell’s culpability compared to that of his co-defendant, who did not [read more]

The Machinery of Death: The Federal Death Penalty’s Reinstatement is Arbitrary, Capricious, Illegal, and Cruel

(Source)   Introduction In the early hours of July 14th, 2020, while most people were asleep or just starting their days, the Federal Government executed Daniel Lee Lewis, jumpstarting the return of federal executions. The federal government executed Mr. Lee despite myriad procedural and legal deficiencies. Mr. Lee was executed without a new warrant allowing the execution to occur on July 14th. His warrant listed July 13, 2020 as the execution date. Mr. Lee was strapped to the gurney for over four hours as last-minute legal issues were resolved but was pronounced dead less than an hour after his final legal issue was resolved. The loved ones of the victims publicly opposed his execution and were disregarded in their efforts to witness the execution without compromising their health in the midst of a global pandemic.  In many regards, Mr. Lee was a typical capital defendant. Prior to his conviction, his life was riddled with trauma, mental illness, and interactions with the juvenile detention centers. There was widespread consensus that his co-defendant was more culpable and Mr. Lee maintained his innocence in the murders through his last words. His trial had sentencing problems and concerns about ineffective assistance of counsel. When [read more]

Forcing Treatment to Force Execution

In 1986, the Supreme Court officially barred carrying out a death sentence on an inmate who had gone insane on death row—a rule that has long been part of the common law. Modern treatments are effective at eliminating many symptoms of insanity. So should we allow states to forcibly medicate inmates in order to execute them? [read more]