Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Public Policy & Law

First Advisor

Glenn W. Falk


Using Lezmond Mitchell’s case as an example, this thesis will explore the ways in which the federal government should redefine tribal sovereignty to expand Native jurisdiction over the death penalty. For centuries, the U.S. has undermined the cultural beliefs and authority of tribal governments by legally and illegally executing Native Americans. Most recently, the Trump administration executed Lezmond Mitchell, completely disregarding the Navajo Nation’s opposition to the death penalty. According to federal law, the government must receive tribal consent to seek out a death sentence against a Native defendant who is accused of committing an intra-tribal crime in Indian country. My investigation will prove the Trump administration found a loophole in federal law to garner public support and push a “tough on crime” agenda. To remedy this affront to Native jurisdiction, I analyze how each branch of the federal government defines tribal sovereignty and in what ways it compares to state sovereignty. All three branches have interpreted tribal authority differently over the years to either expand or restrict Native governance. This thesis concludes that Native jurisdiction over the death penalty should be strengthened, and that legislation should be adopted to ensure territory-based tribal sovereignty.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Law.

Included in

Criminal Law Commons