A sheet has recommended that Julius Jones’s condemnation successful a 1999 execution beryllium commuted. His case, which has prompted nationalist demonstrations and personage advocacy, is present connected the governor’s desk.
Sept. 16, 2021, 8:02 a.m. ET
A antheral connected decease enactment successful Oklahoma could beryllium 1 measurement person to being released from situation aft the state’s pardon and parole committee recommended this week that his condemnation beryllium commuted, sending the lawsuit to the governor’s desk.
The man, Julius Jones, was convicted of first-degree execution and sentenced to decease successful 2002. He was accused of sidesplitting Paul Howell, who was successful a car successful the driveway of his parents’ location erstwhile helium was carjacked and fatally changeable successful 1999.
Mr. Jones, 41, a erstwhile precocious schoolhouse hoops subordinate from Oklahoma City, was 19 astatine the clip of the killing, which helium says helium did not commit. Mr. Howell, a businessman from the suburb of Edmond, was 45.
The parole board’s proposal — to commute Mr. Jones’s decease condemnation to beingness successful prison, with the anticipation of parole — is simply a important measurement successful a lawsuit that has captured attraction crossed the United States, prompting nationalist demonstrations, personage advocacy and debates implicit superior punishment successful a authorities wherever officials had to temporarily halt executions aft a drawstring of botched procedures.
Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, could inactive contradict the parole board’s proposal to commute Mr. Jones’s sentence. If helium approves it, Mr. Jones would go eligible for parole.
“I’m grateful to the pardon and parole committee for seeing the quality successful my member Julius Darius Jones,” his sister, Antoinette Jones, said astatine a rally aft the committee announced its determination connected Monday.
Mr. Jones, a Black antheral who has present spent astir fractional of his beingness successful prison, has agelong maintained his innocence. “I did not termination Mr. Howell,” helium wrote successful a missive to the parole committee successful April, aft helium had exhausted his appeals. “I did not enactment successful immoderate mode successful his murder; and the archetypal clip I saw him was connected tv erstwhile his decease was reported.”
But relatives of Mr. Howell, a achromatic antheral whose sister and 2 daughters witnessed his killing, person pushed backmost against those claims and said that the continuing efforts to exonerate Mr. Jones person caused them pain.
“We are devastated by the determination reached contiguous by the pardon and parole board,” his member Brian Howell said astatine a quality league connected Monday. “Our household continues to beryllium victimized by Julius Jones and his lies.”
Mr. Jones and his supporters person argued that his defence lawyers failed him during his proceedings — for instance, by neglecting to question household members who person said that helium was having meal with them astatine the clip of Mr. Howell’s sidesplitting — and that prosecutors relied excessively overmuch connected the grounds of Christopher Jordan, a co-defendant who said that helium had seen Mr. Jones perpetrate the crime.
Mr. Jordan, who was besides convicted of murdering Mr. Howell but served a reduced condemnation and was released successful 2014, could not beryllium reached for remark this week. People who were incarcerated alongside Mr. Jordan have said that helium confessed to framing Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jones’s supporters person besides argued that racism played a relation successful his proceedings and sentencing. African Americans marque up a disproportionate fig of decease enactment prisoners successful Oklahoma and successful the United States, and research has shown that radical convicted of execution are overmuch much apt to beryllium executed if the idiosyncratic who was killed was white.
Mr. Howell’s household and David Prater, the territory lawyer for Oklahoma County, who opposes the commutation of Mr. Jones’s sentence, person argued that Mr. Jones is guilty, citing Mr. Howell’s relatives who witnessed the execution and a DNA trial that linked Mr. Jones to a reddish bandanna that was recovered wrapped astir the execution weapon.
The constabulary recovered the weapon and the bandanna successful Mr. Jones’s family’s home. Mr. Jones’s lawyers person said that Mr. Jordan, who visited the location aft the killing, could person planted the limb there.
In caller years, Mr. Jones’s lawsuit has been a absorption of respective high-profile media projects — including a 2018 documentary series produced by Viola Davis, a podcast episode past twelvemonth featuring Kim Kardashian West and a caller occurrence of The Late Late Show with James Corden — arsenic good arsenic several public demonstrations.
That attraction has go a constituent of contention for members of Mr. Howell’s family, who person said that their grief has been ignored.
At a quality league aft the ballot connected Monday, Mr. Prater said that the pardon and parole committee members were biased against the decease punishment oregon had links to campaigns successful enactment of Mr. Jones, including 1 subordinate who recused himself from the sheet soon earlier the vote.
“Justice has been subverted by celebrity, wealth and politics,” Mr. Prater added.
Brian Howell said that Mr. Jones had advocates extracurricular Oklahoma, pointing to a nonprofit enactment successful Los Angeles that has supported the run to escaped him. “We don’t person a Represent Justice, which is simply a California 510c(3), connected our side,” helium said. “But we bash person the truth.”
Daniel Forkkio, the main enforcement of Represent Justice, said successful an emailed connection that the enactment had helped to amplify the enactment of the Jones household and others who had petitioned authorities officials connected behalf of Mr. Jones.
“The Oklahoma County territory attorney’s bureau has waged a precise aggravated and nationalist run to execute Julius Jones for implicit 20 years, funded by taxpayers,” helium added, “including galore taxpayers who bash not judge Julius got a just proceedings and who deliberation the authorities is seeking to execute an guiltless man.”
Cece Jones-Davis, who directs an Oklahoma-based run called Justice for Julius Jones, said that galore radical from Mr. Jones’s assemblage had been warring his execution, and that the quality media attraction had accrued those efforts. On Monday, she was extracurricular the parole committee proceeding successful Oklahoma City with a assemblage of demonstrators, awaiting the result.
“When the ballot came through, it was precise surreal,” she said. “I had a ringing successful my ears. I couldn’t adjacent judge what was happening.”
It was telling, she added, that truthful overmuch extracurricular attraction was needed to propulsion the lawsuit onto the governor’s desk.
“It truly is simply a shame to maine that it has taken millions of people, literally, to prevention 1 Black man’s beingness successful America,” she said. “It is simply a shame to maine that a full full authorities tin hide a antheral live for 22 years, fastener the doorway and propulsion distant the cardinal portion helium waits to beryllium executed.”
Ms. Jones-Davis said that the combat against his execution was not over, since the board’s proposal had not been approved by the governor. Mr. Stitt has nary clip bounds to marque a determination connected Mr. Jones’s case.
“The politician takes his relation successful this process earnestly and volition cautiously see the pardon and parole board’s proposal arsenic helium does successful each cases,” a spokesperson for the politician said successful an email. “We volition not person immoderate further remark until the politician has made a decision.”
Susan Beachy contributed research.