Professor Christensen’s essay responds to the execution of Lezmond Mitchell, the only American Indian on federal death row. The execution was carried out on August 26, 2020 over the objection of both members of the victims’ family and the Navajo Nation. This Essay takes the clear position that because the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 requires tribal consent to seek the death penalty for murder, or felony murder predicted on robbery or kidnapping, that tribal consent should also have been required before the United States sought the death penalty in a carjacking case. The interpretation by the Ninth Circuit and the decision by the Executive to proceed with the execution undermine tribal sovereignty and are contrary to both congressional intent and statutory interpretation.
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