Navajo man loses latest bid to delay federal execution

A judge has rejected a bid from the only Native American on death row to push back his execution date

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The only Native American on federal death row lost a bid Thursday to push back his execution date.

Unless Lezmond Mitchell gets relief from another court or is granted clemency, he will be put to death on Aug. 26 at the federal prison in Indiana where he is being held.

Mitchell's attorneys sought a delay from the U.S. District Court in Arizona where he was sentenced in the 2001 slayings of a 63-year-old fellow Navajo tribal member and her 9-year-old granddaughter. They argued the execution must be performed under Arizona law.

Judge David Campbell said the attorneys didn't identify any procedures in Arizona statutes or criminal rules that conflict with the federal protocol when it comes to how Mitchell, who is 38, would die.

“The court therefore concludes that the government's planned method of execution is not inconsistent with the salient provisions of Arizona law,” Campbell wrote.

The Justice Department didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Mitchell's attorneys filed a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. That court granted him a reprieve from execution last year as he sought to interview jurors in his case about potential racial bias. The court ultimately ruled against him and declined to maintain a stay of execution. It's expected to expire next week.

Mitchell's attorneys plan to take that case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also filed a petition for clemency, backed by the Navajo Nation and the tribe's longstanding opposition to putting its citizens to death.