Julius Jones, Innocent Black Man on Death Row, Granted Stay of Execution Thursday – Gets Life Without Possibility of Parole

A rally in support of Julius Jones, a death row prisoner who maintains his innocence in a 1999 killing, was held in September in Oklahoma City during his commutation hearing.  Credit…Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman, via Associated Press

By Casey Rawlings

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Julius Jones has a mounting group of supporters who gathered nearly seven million signatures on his behalf and took his case in front of the parole board.

But despite the parole board twice recommending his death sentence be revised to life without the possibility of parole, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt did not amend his sentence until Thursday, hours before Jones was scheduled to die.

Gov. Stitt announced his decision on Twitter, saying he came to the decision after “prayerful consideration.” Many advocates, although happy Jones has been spared from state-sanctioned murder, argue life without parole is too punitive, and allows no opportunity for restorative justice for Jones and his family.

Julius Jones was a 19-year-old university student at the University of Oklahoma when he was targeted as the prime suspect in the killing of Paul Howell, a white businessman.

According to Jones, on the night Howell was murdered, he was at his parents’ house playing board games with his siblings and eating dinner.

He described, “I mean that’s it. I had no idea anybody had been shot or killed.” Jones was passionate about school and basketball at the time, and was on the verge of acquiring a basketball scholarship, according to the university.

Howell was shot 20 miles away from Jones while he was in his car. His sister described the shooter as a “Black man wearing a stocking cap with half an inch of hair hanging out.” Three suspects interviewed by local police pinned Jones and a high school basketball teammate, Chris.

Despite a lack of evidence to directly connect Jones with the murder, according to Jones’ supporters, he was convicted.

Jones knew Chris because they played basketball together, and Jones helped him take the ACT test. Jones described, “I didn’t know that Chris was robbing people or had plans to do that—I wasn’t involved with that and didn’t do any kind of stuff like that with them.”

Chris was the state’s key witness against Jones.

Dale Baich, Jones’ attorney explained “we have serious concerns by the way the evidence was collected, handled, and stored.” Baich remarked that Jones was targeted and painted as a “self-proclaimed car thug and a gang member.”

After providing this information, Chris walked free after serving half of his time, as opposed to the agreed-upon 30 years.

In 2002, Jones was convicted of murder and sentenced to death at just 22 years old. He has since spent 23 hours a day in solitary confinement while people on the outside fight on behalf of his innocence.

Jones says he is able to advocate for his innocence while still respecting the Howell family and the gravity of the event because he was raised in love.

He described, “I empathize with those little girls because they lost their father, as my children have lost their father. I’m a human being who has had to think about this every day, and I just empathize with their loss because it hurts, man—not to be able to have people that you can touch and hold dear to you.

“If people took the time to know me, they would know that I’ve always been this way—even as a kid and a teenager who was stealing stuff.. Check my whole track record. Not what’s embellished about me, not a microcosm of it—but my whole track record,” he said.

He advocated on behalf of his inherent non-violence, stating, “I’ve never been violent. Yeah, I’ve broken the law, but I’ve never been violent. In 20-plus years of prison and jail, I’ve never been violent.”

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  1. Keith Olson

    Julius Jones, Innocent Black Man on Death Row, Granted Stay of Execution Thursday – Gets Life Without Possibility of Parole

    Innocent?  How does the writer know?

    Despite a lack of evidence to directly connect Jones with the murder, according to Jones’ supporters, he was convicted.

    Ummm, actually there was, the murder weapon found at his house wrapped in a red bandanna with his DNA on it with a one in 110 million chance that it wasn’t his DNA.

    Jones was convicted in 2002 of murdering Edmond resident Paul Howell during a carjacking. At the 1999 trial, an eyewitness testified that the shooter was wearing a red bandanna. Authorities who searched Jones’ parents’ home found the murder weapon wrapped in a red bandanna in the attic space above the ceiling in his closet.
    In 2018, at the request of the defense counsel, the state agreed to test the DNA on the bandanna. The bandanna was sent to a lab chosen by the defense. The conclusive results of the DNA profile on the red bandanna show the probability of the DNA belonging to someone other than Jones is one in 110 million African Americans.

    Here’s a video that spells out the case against Julius Jones very well:



    1. David Greenwald

      Three people have come forward and said that another man has admitted to doing the killing: https://mcusercontent.com/7b7ae9b9127a38fcf02b3236f/files/188d2e4e-12d9-4876-962d-0d440cec2292/2020.07.21_Letter_from_Roderick_Wesley_to_Dale_and_Amanda.01.pdf

      In the letter to Jones’ legal team, Wesley wrote that Jordan said “my co-defendant is on death row behind a murder I committed.” In a video call with Jones’ attorneys, Wesley said Jordan was apologetic when delivering his confession, but said he was not “going to jump out there and give himself up to the wolves.”

      1. David Greenwald

        In addition there are actually questions about the DNA test. The DNA testing results were very limited, with a “complex mixture that contained profiles of 3 or more individuals.” The results of the saliva test were negative. The AG portrays it as a definitive match and it’s not. Moreover the fact that the saliva test was negative is pretty telling given it’s a bandana.

        Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. “The person who killed Mr. Howell was described as having 1-2 inches of hair, but Mr. Jones had a shaved head,” for example.

      1. Bill Marshall

        And, if an innocent non-Black (non- POC?) person (any gender) is sentenced to death, it is no injustice.  Got it.

        Silly me… I thought punishment for an innocent person was “injustice”… silly me… my bad… thank you for pointing out it is all about “race”…

        1. David Greenwald

          From the National Exoneration Registry: “African Americans are only 13% of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated. They constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations (as of October 2016), and
          the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and
          convicted of crimes in 15 large-scale police scandals and later cleared in “group

      2. Bill Marshall

        I now get your point, about “this particular story” (I added “this particular”… you wrote “The story”…) is about ‘race’ (?)… both comments can be deleted… no problem…

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