SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

Waiting to die: Lezmond Mitchell

News 10's Sarah Lehman served as a media witness to Lezmond Mitchell's federal execution.

Posted: Aug 26, 2020 10:52 PM
Updated: Aug 27, 2020 10:13 AM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind, (WTHI) -- Lezmond Mitchell was executed by lethal injection on August, 26th. Mitchell was the only Native American on death row. He was pronounced dead at 6:29 p.m.

This was the fourth federal execution to take place in Terre Haute this year. Mitchell has been on death row for more than a decade. He was found guilty in May of 2003 of numerous offenses. Including first degree murder, felony murder, and carjacking resulting in murder.

This undated family photo provided by Auska Mitchell shows Lezmond Mitchell, who is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., for the 2001 killing of Alyce Slim and her granddaughter. The Nav

A jury convicted Mitchell of killing 63-year-old Alyce Slim and her 9-year-old granddaughter Tiffany. In September of 2003, he was sentenced to death.

I served as a media witness to Mitchell's execution. Mitchell's execution was set for 6 pm eastern standard time. I showed up at the federal prison's media center just before 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. That's where, like in executions past, my temperature was checked and I was asked if I had any COVID-19 symptoms.

LINK | LEZMOND MITCHELL BECOMES THE FOURTH FEDERAL INMATE EXECUTED IN TERRE HAUTE THIS SUMMER

By 5 p.m. all 7 journalists filed into two white vans to be taken to the United States Penitentiary. That's where we were screened by security. Similar to airport security, we put our belongings in gray totes that were sent through an x-ray scanner. While we went through a metal detector and full-body scan. Everyone was wearing a facemask the entire time.

After I passed through security I went back into a different white van and was driven toward the death chambers. At this point, it was a little after 5 p.m.

With the building just insight, both vans stopped and were put into park. I sat in the back of the van watching cars drive into the prison and watched the shadows change as the sun started to set. I watched the hands on my watch as it ticked closer to 6 p.m. thinking the execution would not happen on time.

Then, just after 6 p.m. media witnesses were filed into the building.

The building is divided into rooms. Seven media witnesses, including myself, with four prison employees, were in one room. The family of Mitchell's victims were in another room. One more room sat empty because there were no witnesses for the inmate.

One minute barely passed before the blinds in front of me were drawn up and in a green-tiled room, strapped to a gurney with a blue sheet pulled up to his neck laid Mitchell. The only other people in the room with him were two federal employees.

In his last moments, he was asked if he wanted to say any final words. Mitchell simply responded, "No, I'm good." After that, a second man picked up a phone on the wall. He asked if there were any impediments to the execution. When it was reported there was nothing to stop the execution, the lethal injection was started at around 6:05.

At this time Mitchell's fingers twitched and lightly grabbed the gurney arms he was strapped to. It took only a few seconds for the poison to be pushed into his veins and for witnesses to start seeing those effects.

The next thing I noticed was his breathing. What started out as very deep breaths changed to rapid shallow ones. His breath then started to come farther apart until he stopped breathing altogether.

I saw his fingers twitch one last time and then the tips of his fingers turned blue.

The room fell silent and everyone kept an eye on the clock waiting for the time of death to be announced.

A man with a stethoscope came into the room. Checked his pulse and heartbeat, gave a slight nod to one of the men in the room.

"Death has occurred" one man announced over the speaker at 6:29 p.m. it was followed by"That concludes the execution of inmate Mitchell" 

The blinds in the green room were lowered and I was quickly shuffled back into the white vans. In all. I was in the death chambers for less than 30 minutes.

Mitchell never lifted his head to look at or for anyone. I never saw his face. Strapped to the gurney, he stared at the ceiling tiles the entire time.

After the execution, Daniel Lee, the father of the 9-year-old who Mitchell killed and Lee's attorney gave a statement to the press.

Lee's attorney read his statement. As we could hear sniffles and see Lee wiping his eyes through the entire thing. 

It said: 

"I have waited nineteen years to get justice for my daughter, Tiffany. I will never get Tiffany back, but I hope this will bring some closure.

It is through my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that I am here to witness this today. I have received messages of prayer from across the country. To those who have been praying for me during this process, thank you.

I would like to thank those who investigated her murder, prosecuted this case, and ensured that justice was done.

This includes:

  • the Navajo Nation Police Department,
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and
  • the United States Attorney's Office

I am grateful for the work of the US Attorney's Office of the last few weeks, days, and hours leading up to this moment.

I would also like to thank:

  • Attorney General William Bar, and
  • President Donald Trump

for their pursuit of justice for Tiffany. Had it not been for the Trump administration, I do not think I would have ever received justice or a sense of finality.

I request that you respect my privacy during this difficult time and allow me the opportunity to try to move forward."

We also received a statement from Mitchell's attorneys. 

It read: 

“Today, the federal government added another chapter to its long history of injustices against Native American people. 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.

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 the 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.

“Mr. Mitchell’s execution came after the Supreme Court refused to allow him to interview his jurors – 11 white people and a single Navajo – about whether racial bias influenced their decision. Yet we have little doubt that it did because, in their zealous pursuit of a death sentence for Mr. Mitchell, the federal prosecutors made arguments laced with anti-Indian stereotypes.

“We have been honored to meet and work with members of the Navajo Nation and many other Native American people who sought to halt Lezmond Mitchell’s execution. We hope that the future will bring greater respect for the sovereignty of Indian nations and for the traditions of their people.”

Terre Haute
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 27°
Robinson
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 26°
Indianapolis/Eagle Creek
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 25°
Paris
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 25°
Mattoon/Charleston
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 24°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 27°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 27°
Cloudy, Cold, Wednesday Snow
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1104763

Reported Deaths: 20744
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4460359268
DuPage710701173
Will59914891
Lake54851924
Kane47289710
Winnebago26813416
Madison25429480
St. Clair23107451
McHenry22290260
Champaign15937106
Peoria15535252
Sangamon14956245
McLean13590173
Tazewell12346253
Rock Island12229308
Kankakee11733187
Kendall1003981
LaSalle9807250
Macon9005182
Vermilion7806117
DeKalb769995
Adams7564129
Williamson6373119
Boone566580
Whiteside5441175
Clinton518886
Coles480486
Ogle471973
Knox4712147
Grundy454154
Effingham436571
Jackson431670
Henry412078
Marion4093113
Macoupin402997
Franklin394671
Livingston381170
Randolph380274
Monroe369571
Stephenson364677
Jefferson3570105
Woodford335470
Morgan332393
Logan317959
Montgomery316654
Lee314576
Christian306279
Bureau305985
Fayette296853
Perry279662
Iroquois263058
Fulton262650
Jersey230961
Lawrence220730
McDonough220051
Saline209254
Douglas205734
Union204032
Shelby202435
Crawford183635
Cass179531
Bond178524
Pike160648
Warren160444
Richland157546
Hancock155635
Wayne154843
Clark153234
Jo Daviess152725
Washington149826
Edgar149452
Carroll147633
Moultrie141828
White141333
Ford140851
Clay134040
Greene128443
Johnson125715
Wabash121915
Mason119841
Piatt119718
De Witt119228
Mercer119130
Cumberland111827
Massac107133
Jasper106115
Menard92310
Hamilton73217
Marshall70915
Schuyler65017
Brown62611
Pulaski6253
Stark50120
Edwards4789
Henderson46816
Calhoun4504
Scott4081
Alexander4067
Gallatin3974
Putnam3592
Hardin3128
Pope2583
Unassigned1110
Out of IL340

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 613228

Reported Deaths: 9728
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion846851338
Lake45676687
Allen32980552
Hamilton29649315
St. Joseph27531382
Elkhart24478345
Vanderburgh19610250
Tippecanoe18108141
Johnson15191295
Porter14944169
Hendricks14485250
Madison11044222
Clark10811144
Vigo10795181
Monroe9458113
Delaware9170134
LaPorte9145164
Howard8292144
Kosciusko810183
Warrick680299
Hancock6782104
Bartholomew6640100
Floyd6507110
Wayne6177162
Grant6027116
Dubois558680
Boone556468
Morgan548695
Henry511464
Marshall506984
Cass486964
Dearborn486545
Noble475659
Jackson427747
Shelby420781
Lawrence393780
Clinton375044
Gibson374459
Harrison353045
DeKalb349864
Montgomery347654
Knox336239
Miami324544
Steuben315046
Whitley311126
Wabash305851
Adams302836
Ripley300546
Putnam298950
Huntington294860
Jasper291734
White275143
Daviess271774
Jefferson266238
Decatur249583
Fayette248648
Greene242262
Posey241028
Wells236951
LaGrange230062
Scott226839
Clay224332
Randolph215248
Jennings200636
Sullivan193533
Spencer193022
Washington188023
Fountain184927
Starke176444
Jay168623
Owen167637
Fulton164830
Orange160935
Carroll159715
Rush156318
Perry155929
Vermillion149734
Franklin149333
Tipton133133
Parke13088
Pike118526
Blackford111822
Pulaski97837
Newton92021
Brown88335
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin74913
Warren6857
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4977
Unassigned0376