An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  - Gandhi

Governor Grants Clemency to Julius Jones

By Equal Justice Initiative – 11-18-21

Hours before the State of Oklahoma was scheduled to execute Julius Jones today, Gov. Kevin Stitt granted clemency to Mr. Jones and commuted his death sentence to life in prison without parole.

The Oklahoma Board of Pardon and Parole recommended that Mr. Jones’s death sentence be commuted to life in prison with parole on September 13, after board members expressed doubts about his guilt in a 1999 shooting.

“I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubt, and put simply, I have doubts in this case,” board Chairman Adam Luck said. “I cannot ignore those doubts, especially when the stakes are life and death.”

In its first-ever commutation hearing in a death penalty case, the board voted 3-1 in favor of the commutation recommendation after Scott Williams recused himself because of a professional relationship with Mr. Jones’s attorney. The three votes came from Mr. Luck, Kelly Doyle, and Larry Morris.

Ms. Doyle said she had doubts about the case against Mr. Jones and believed it was “not in the best interest of the state” to execute him, The Frontier reported. She also pointed to the “excessive nature” of the death penalty for someone who was a teenager at the time, given “what we know now about brain science and brain development.”

The decision came after a four-hour hearing that included testimony from the victim’s family, an Oklahoma County prosecutor, and advocates for Mr. Jones.

One week after the board issued its decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set a November 18 execution date for Mr. Jones. Gov. Stitt did not act on the board’s recommendation, saying it should be addressed in a clemency hearing. 

The board held a three-hour-long clemency hearing on November 1 and voted again to recommend that the governor should grant clemency and commute Mr. Jones’s death sentence.

Julius Jones, now 41, was just 19 when Paul Howell, a white insurance executive, was fatally shot in Edmond, Oklahoma, an affluent suburb north of Oklahoma City.

Mr. Jones, a Black man, has long maintained his innocence, alleging that he was framed by the actual killer, who testified that Mr. Jones was the shooter and, Mr. Jones said in his commutation application, planted incriminating evidence in his home.

The only eyewitness description of the shooter did not match Mr. Jones’s appearance at the time of the crime—it matched codefendant Chris Jordan, the State’s key witness against Mr. Jones. And in recent years, four people have come forward to support that Jordan framed Julius Jones and bragged that he made a deal with prosecutors to get out of prison after only 15 years, the Black Wall Street Times reports.

For every nine people who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, one person has been identified as innocent. – Bryan Stevenson, Letter of support for Julius Jones

Racial discrimination affected Mr. Jones’s trial in troubling ways, EJI director Bryan Stevenson wrote in a letter of support to the board and the governor. In a case with a Black defendant and a white victim, the prosecutors struck all qualified African Americans from the jury pool, except for one. One seated juror who was tasked with deciding Mr. Jones’s culpability and fate told another seated juror, “They should just take the n—r out and shoot him behind the jail.”

After Mr. Jones’s case was featured in an ABC documentary in 2018, millions of people signed a petition in support of Mr. Jones and a number of high-profile supporters joined the effort to get his sentence commuted.

To read the original article, click here.


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