TERRE HAUTE, Ind.–Lezmond Mitchell, the only Native American on death row, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, at the federal prison in Terre Haute. But, he likely will not be the last person to be executed there, says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Dunham believes that more executions are likely because they are being used to make a political point.
LISTEN: Robert Dunham talks about the execution of Lezmond Mitchell.
“The prisoners who were selected weren’t selected for execution because of any compelling federal interest,” he said. “Some of the supporters of the president have been trying to argue that his opponents favor the rights of murderers, child murderers, police murderers, more so than the rights of families of victims.”
Dunham said that though the executions may be legal (and there are arguments against the legality), he believes the motivations aren’t righteous.
“Their entire approach and all of their arguments suggest that they’re doing this as kind of a vanity set of executions, because the president wants them, not because there is any national necessity,” he said.
Dunham also argued that the executions need not be carried out during the pandemic, and that if they are legal and right, they can be carried out after the pandemic is over.
“When you’re dealing with matters of life and death, you want to make sure that you’re following the law scrupulously,” said Dunham. “You want to make sure that you’re not putting the public or anybody else in danger when you’re trying to carry out the law.”
Dunham said the Death Penalty Information Center does not take a stand for or against capital punishment, but does have issues with the way the federal government is handling the current batch of executions.
Mitchell, if executed, would be the fourth person to be put to death by the federal government this summer, after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.