Policy

With Mitchell Death, Trump Admin Oversees Most Executions Since Eisenhower

Killer of nine-year-old and grandmother executed Wednesday

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons on Wednesday evening carried out the execution of convicted murderer Lezmond Mitchell, meaning President Donald Trump's administration has now conducted the most federal executions since Dwight Eisenhower's terms in office.

Mitchell was put to death just after 6 p.m. at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., according to the Department of Justice. His execution comes nearly two decades after he brutally murdered and dismembered 63-year-old Alyce Slim and her nine-year-old granddaughter, and follows myriad appeals, all of which were denied.

"Nearly 19 years after Lezmond Mitchell brutally ended the lives of two people, destroying the lives of many others, justice finally has been served," DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

Mitchell's execution was witnessed by several members of Slim's family, who have publicly supported his capital punishment, according to DOJ. Asked whether he had any last words for family members just before his death, Mitchell responded, "No, I'm good."

Mitchell's execution is the fourth in just two months, part of Trump and Attorney General William Barr's effort to restart the federal machinery of death. Unlike the executions conducted in July, Mitchell's was not forestalled by last-minute legal maneuvering. It did occur over the objection of Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation, of which Mitchell was a member.

The past two months have seen more federal executions than have been conducted cumulatively since 1963, a period of time which encompasses the entire history of the death penalty after its temporary judicial abolition between 1972 and 1976. Since the 1963 death of kidnapper Victor Feguer, the only other federal executions were overseen by President George W. Bush, who carried out three death sentences, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh's. Eisenhower oversaw nine executions, including Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

The Trump administration has moved aggressively on the death penalty, undoing legal roadblocks erected during the Obama era by changing the drug protocol the BOP uses to carry out lethal injection. A fifth execution is scheduled for Friday; that will leave 56 people still on federal death row.

Barr and Trump have also sought to expand that population. Last August, in the wake of the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, Trump called for the use of the death penalty for certain hate crimes; earlier this month, Barr announced that he will pursue another death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after the first was overturned by a federal appeals court.

These late-in-term executions are in character for Trump, who has been a prominent supporter of capital punishment for decades. But they may also be part of a broader campaign goal of appearing tougher on crime than opponent Joe Biden, who supports death penalty abolition and has remained publicly mum on whether or not he would seek to execute Tsarnaev.