Federal Government Sets Execution Date for Lezmond Mitchell

Here is “Justice Department sets execution date for only Native American on death row.”

Here is the most recent opinion in his case, where two Ninth Circuit judges questioned his sentence.

Below is a statement from counsel for Mr. Mitchell. Deputy Federal Public Defenders Jonathan Aminoff and Celeste Bacchi:
“With the enactment of the Federal Death Penalty Act, Congress made a commitment to the Native American peoples that no Native American would be subjected to the death penalty for a crime committed against a fellow Native American on Native American land unless the tribe consented. In what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals referred to as a “betrayal of a promise made to the Navajo Nation,” the Department of Justice exploited a legal loophole and sought the death penalty against Mr. Mitchell for the federal crime of carjacking over the objection of the Navajo Nation, the victims’ family, and the local United States Attorney’s Office. The federal government’s announcement that it now plans to execute Lezmond Mitchell demonstrates the ultimate disrespect for the Navajo Nation’s values and sovereignty.
The Government’s contravention of tribal autonomy did not end with the decision to pursue a death sentence against Mr. Mitchell. In addition to the charging decision, the Government committed misconduct in the course of this prosecution by confining Mr. Mitchell in a tribal jail where they continually interrogated him over the course of 25 days without providing him an attorney. Furthermore, the Government systematically excluded Navajos from serving on Mr. Mitchell’s jury, resulting in a jury composed of 11 white people and only one Navajo. Unfortunately, we have been barred from investigating concerns of juror bias amongst Mr. Mitchell’s jury. Under these circumstances, allowing Mr. Mitchell’s execution to go forward would be a grave injustice and an unprecedented affront to tribal sovereignty, and it should not be permitted to proceed. We will continue to pursue all available avenues of relief for Mr. Mitchell from his unconstitutional convictions and death sentence.”


-Deputy Federal Public Defenders Jonathan Aminoff and Celeste Bacchi, attorneys for Lezmond Mitchell

-July 29, 2020

Ninth Circuit Again Rejects Lezmond Mitchell Challenges to Death Penalty, but Two Judges Question the Punishment

Here is the opinion in Mitchell v. United States.

Judge Christen noted that this is the first intra-tribal carjacking crime to result in death:

I join the majority’s considered opinion in full, but write separately because the lengthy history of this case may make it easy to lose track of the fact that Mitchell did not receive the death penalty for his murder convictions. Mitchell was sentenced to death because, in the course of committing their atrocious crimes, he and his accomplice also committed a carjacking. In my view, it is worth pausing to consider why Mitchell faces the prospect of being the first person to be executed by the federal government for an intra-Indian crime, committed in Indian country, by virtue of a conviction for carjacking resulting in death.

Concurring Judge Hurwitz called on the AG to reconsider this matter:

I write separately to stress a point aptly made earlier in the long history of this case by Judge Reinhardt. See Mitchell v. United States, 790 F.3d 881, 894–97 (9th Cir. 2015) (Reinhardt, J., dissenting in part). The heinous crimes that gave rise to this case occurred entirely within the territory of the sovereign Navajo Nation. The defendant is a Navajo, as were the victims. The Navajo Nation has, from the outset of this case, opposed imposition of the death penalty on the defendant, as have members of the victims’ family

Supplemental Briefs in Murphy Case

Available on the Carpenter v. Murphy background page, but also here:

petitioner_s supplemental brief

united states supplemental brief

respondent_s supplemental brief

supplemental brief of amicus curiae muscogee creek nation





Federal Court Holds that Navajo Nation Police Officers without Special Law Enforcement Commissions are Not Federal Officers under 18 U.S.C. § 1114

Here are the relevant materials in United States v. Cleveland (D.N.M.):

1 Criminal Complaint

72 Motion to Dismiss

94 US Response to 72

104 Reply in Support of 72

114 DCT Order Granting 72

Background Materials in Sharp v. Murphy (formerly Carpenter v. Murphy & Royal v. Murphy)

Tenth Circuit opinion:


Order Denying En Banc Petition [amended panel opinion]

Here are the merits briefs:

Joint Appendix

2018 09 24 US divided argument motion

2018 09 26 MCN Motion for Oral Argument

Petitioner’s Briefs

Petitioner’s Brief

United States Brief in Support of Petitioner

States Amicus Brief in Support of Petitioner

Environmental Federation of Oklahoma Amicus Brief

International Municipal Lawyers Association Amicus Brief

Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association Amicus Brief

Oklahoma Sheriffs_ Association Amicus Brief

Reply Brief

petitioner_s supplemental brief

united states supplemental brief

Respondent’s Briefs

Respondent’s Brief

Cherokee and Scholars Brief

Choctaw and Chickasaw and State Officials Amicus Brief

Former US Attorneys’ Amicus Brief

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Amicus Brief

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center Amicus Brief

NCAI Amicus Brief

respondent_s supplemental brief

supplemental brief of amicus curiae muscogee creek nation

Cert stage briefs:

Cert Petition


US Amicus Brief Royal v. Murphy

No. 17-1107 Murphy Reply — Final

Environmental Federation Of Oklahoma Inc Amicus Brief

OIPA Amicus Brief

Tenth Circuit en banc stage materials:

2017 09 21 petition for rehearing

2017 10 10 u.s. amicus in support of petition

appellant’s resp to en banc pet

muscogee (creek) nation amicus brief in opposition to en banc pet

amicus mtn ok oil and gas et al

motion by ok independent petroleum assn to file amicus brief

ok municipal league mtn to file amicus

united keetoowah band amicus resp to en banc pet

Tenth Circuit panel stage materials:

Appellant’s Brief Murphy v Royal

MCN & Seminole Nation Amicus Curiae Murphy v Royal



Appellant’s Reply Brief



Order Granting Oral Argument


Tenth Circuit Issues Slightly Modified Opinion in Murphy v. Royal, Denies En Banc Petition

Here is the order with the corrected opinion, and an opinion concurring in the denial of en banc review from Judge Tymkovich:

Order Denying En Banc Petition

En banc petition stage materials here.

Panel materials here.