by David M. Greenwald
Oklahoma City – At the last possible moment, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted the sentence of Julius Jones to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Thursday.
“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said.
Jones was scheduled to be executed on Thursday afternoon.
According to the Governor, “Article 6, Section 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution gives the Governor power to grant commutations “upon such conditions and with such restricts and limitations as the Governor may deem proper.”
Pursuant to that provision, “the Governor has ordered that Jones shall not be eligible to apply for or be considered for a commutation, pardon, or parole for the remainder of his life.”
“Governor Stitt took an important step today towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man,” Amanda Bass, attorney for Julius Jones said on Thursday. “While we had hoped the Governor would adopt the Board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’s innocence, we are grateful that the Governor has prevented an irreparable mistake.”
Celebrities, Others Protest Julius Jones Execution, Set for Thursday – Governor Contemplates
By Alexander Ramirez
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Thursday late afternoon (CT) here marks the execution time for Julius, and it looks as though Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt may allow it to happen, despite the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voting 3-1 earlier this month to commute Jones’ sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
In light of these events, Sister Helen Prejean of the Ministry Against the Death Penalty has decided to make a statement on the matter, noting, “This is not God’s will. This is evil.
“Killing a man whom many believe to be innocent and who, not once but twice, has been recommended for clemency by Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board is evil,” she added.
Other than what some say was 10,000 people contacting Governor Stitt, according to the Justice for Julius website, there is also a petition with more than six million petitioners, including many celebrities from Kim Kardashian to actors Mandy Patinkin and Kerry Washington to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
At a news conference Wednesday evening, Jones’ mother described her son’s scheduled execution as a lynching.
“If you think Julius is guilty, give him a fair trial. Do it over again, do it right,” Cece Davis-Jones said as the crowd erupted in applause. “If my child is executed tomorrow or any day, it should be without a doubt. Not even a little bit of doubt.”
Jones has been on death row for nearly 20 years in connection with the 1999 murder of Paul Howell. Jones says he’s innocent, as do his family, attorneys and supporters.
Jones, 19, was arrested after authorities found the murder weapon wrapped in a bandana at his family’s home. But evidence suggests it may have been planted by a co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a robbery.
Jordan testified against Jones, who was convicted and sentenced to death.
The effectiveness of the people contacting the governor and the petitioners are yet to be seen since, unless they are residents of Oklahoma, these people have virtually no available “votes” for the governor and, thus, are virtually invisible to him, Prejean argued.
“Evidently, they, not qualified to vote for the Governor, don’t fit into his expedient political calculus. Like Julius’s Mama and family, they are rendered invisible, their moral entreaties apparently unheard.”
Prejean said five other human beings are also lined up to die on Oklahoma’s death row, positing that Governor Stitt can be imitating former President Trump’s killing spree to assure constituents that he has taken a “tough on crime” approach.
Although not much can be said about the other people on Oklahoma’s death row, according to the Justice for Julius website once again, Julius’ trial was rife with racial prejudice and the presence of “compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted.”
Other than that, the website also added the presence of inadequate defense counsel and prosecutorial misconduct.