/ Modified oct 9, 2019 11:34 a.m.

Execution of Navajo man put on hold

Attorneys asked for the stay to investigate potential racial bias by the jury that heard the case.

A federal appeals court has stayed the execution of a Navajo man convicted of the murder of two fellow tribal members. He was scheduled to be put to death Dec. 11.

Lezmond Mitchell's attorneys asked for the stay to investigate potential racial bias by the jury that heard his case. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals put it on hold in a split decision Friday.

The Justice Department announced in July that it would resume executing prisoners on death row after almost two decades.

"In the last calendar year, two more states abolished the death penalty citing racial bias as the main reason why capital punishment is wrongfully applied and carried out," said Gregory Joseph, a spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "Consistently public opinion polls indicate the death penalty has fallen out of favor with the American people increasingly viewed as unfair, arbitrary and a relic of the past."

Mitchell was convicted of murder during a carjacking on the Navajo Nation in 2001. Both the tribe and the victim's family have said they do not want Mitchell to be executed.

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.
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