Native American Rights Fund Lawyer Joel Williams on Tribal Sovereignty and the U.S. Death Penalty

In the September 2020 episode of Discussions With DPIC, Native American Rights Fund senior staff attorney Joel Williams joins Death Penalty Information Center executive director Robert Dunham for a conversation about tribal sovereignty, the death penalty, and the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

Williams, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, explains how 2020 has been a landmark year on the question of tribal sovereignty and the death penalty. He and Dunham discuss the impact of McGirt’s affirmance of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s sovereignty over lands within the historical borders of the Creek Reservation, including the voiding of the death sentence imposed in Oklahoma’s state courts on Creek citizen Patrick Dwayne Murphy. Williams then discusses the federal government’s “very troubling” disregard of native sovereignty less than a month later in scheduling and carrying out the execution of Navajo citizen Lezmond Mitchell, the only Native American on federal death row, over the opposition of the Navajo government and tribal leaders across the country.