Father of 9-year-old: ‘I have waited 19 years to get justice for my daughter’
After nearly 19 years, justice has been served for the family of Alyce Slim and Tiffany Lee.
Lezmond Mitchell, 38, a Navajo who was sentenced to death for their brutal murders, died by lethal injection at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Wednesday evening.
Daniel Lee, the father of Tiffany Lee, a retired Navajo Nation Police officer who was shot in the leg during the 1989 riot, issued a statement following Mitchell’s execution.
“I have waited 19 years to get justice for my daughter, Tiffany,” Lee said. “I will never get Tiffany back, but I hope that this will bring some closure.”
Lee thanked his former employer, the Navajo Nation Police, and President Donald Trump.
“Had it not been for the Trump administration, I do not think I would have ever received justice or a sense of finality,” he said.
Mitchell was pronounced dead at 6:29 p.m. (EST).
The Rough Rock High School graduate and Johnny Orsinger were convicted for the 2001 murders of Slim and her granddaughter. In 2003, Mitchell was given a death sentence, while Orsinger, 16 at the time, was given a life sentence.
Attorneys for Mitchell said in a statement following the execution that the federal government showed contempt for the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty and etched another stain “to its long history of injustices against Native American people.”
Mitchell’s execution came after the Supreme Court rejected his motion to allow him to interview the jurors to determine whether racism influenced their decision to sentence him to death.
His attorneys argued that the jury, consisting of 11 Anglos and one Navajo, racially disparaged him during the trial. They said the federal prosecutors also denigrated Mitchell in their arguments, which, they said, was “laced with anti-Indian stereotypes.”
“We will never know for sure whether anti-Native American bias influenced the jury’s decision,” his attorneys said.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Carl R. Slater said on Tuesday the Navajo Nation needed to “rearm” itself to protect its sovereignty and establish the “appropriate respect” so that state and federal governments do not overstep the tribe’s sovereignty and stance against capital punishment again.
“The Nation stood up for its sovereignty and its people,” Slater said on Wednesday. “We demonstrated that we will not cower and debase the sovereign rights endowed to us by our ancestors and the Diyin Dine’e.”
President Jonathan Nez said the victims’ family could now pursue healing.
“We offer a prayer for strength and comfort for the Slim family for the loss of two precious lives, their grandmother and granddaughter,” Nez said. “To carry this loss for the past 19 years is difficult and we trust they can now turn to healing their family.”
Nez said the federal government couldn’t understand why the tribe appealed for a commutation, rather than the death sentence, which went against the tribe’s traditional beliefs and customs and a judicial system based on “hozho’ and k’e.”
“Federal officials may not understand our family connections and our strength in keeping harmony,” Nez said. “What we demand is respect for our people, for our tribal nation, and we will not be pushed aside any longer.”
For Tiffany’s father, Daniel Lee said his faith and prayers from across the country will now help him seek closure.
“To those who have been praying for me during this process, thank you,” he said.