Friday, September 07, 2007

9th Circuit OK's Death Penalty Despite Navajo Religious Opposition To It

In United States v. Mitchell, (9th Cir., Sept. 5, 207), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim that the Federal Death Penalty Act violates the First Amendment and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The court held that despite the Navajo tribe's religious objections to capital punishment, the FDPA can be applied to a member of the tribe since the statute is a neutral law of general applicability. The court also rejected the claim by defendant Lezmond Mitchell that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was violated by exclusion from his jury of individuals whose traditional Navajo views on the death penalty would substantially impair the performance of their duties. The case involved the appeal of a death sentence imposed for the brutal killing of two other members of the Navajo tribe in a carjacking that took placeon the Najavo reservation.