Julius Jones

Julius Jones is scheduled to be executed on November 18, 2021. (Photo: Oklahoma Department of Corrections)

With 'Powerful Evidence' of His Innocence, Advocates Demand Clemency for Julius Jones Ahead of Thursday Execution

A lethal injection is scheduled despite the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board having recommended commutation two separate times.

Noting that Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board has twice recommended clemency for condemned inmate Julius Jones, calls from millions of people around the world and across the political spectrum--including from capital punishment supporters--for Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute Jones' death sentence have crescendoed ahead of Thursday's scheduled execution.

"Gov. Stitt needs to be a moral leader for his state and stop this execution."

"There is significant evidence that Julius Jones is innocent," tweeted anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean. "That's why the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended commutation two separate times. Gov. Stitt needs to be a moral leader for his state and stop this execution."

Forty-one-year-old Jones, who is Black, was sentenced to death in 2002 after being convicted by a nearly all-white jury--one of whose members said that "they should just take the nigger out and shoot him behind the jail"--for the murder of businessman Paul Scott Howell.

However, on September 13, the state pardons board--a majority of whose members were appointed by the Republican governor--voted 3-1 to recommend Stitt commute Jones' death sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

"Personally, I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubts. And put simply, I have doubts about this case," board chairman Adam Luck, a Stitt appointee, said at the time.

On November 1, the board for a second time voted to recommend clemency for Jones, who addressed the panel.

"I want to be clear about two things," he said. "First, I feel for the Howell family and for the tragic loss of Mr. Paul Howell, who I've heard was a caring and all-around good person and father. Second, I am not the person responsible for taking Mr. Howell's life."

"I was not involved in the planning of this robbery," Jones added. "I was not present during this robbery. And I did not know anyone had been killed until the day after Mr. Howell was murdered."

There is compelling evidence of Jones' innocence. According to the Innocence Project:

  • Julius Jones was at home having dinner with his parents and sister at the time of the murder; however, his legal team failed to present his alibi at his original trial. His trial attorneys did not call Mr. Jones or his family members to the stand.
  • Jones did not match the description of the person who committed the crime, which was provided by a sole eyewitness.
  • Christopher Jordan, the state's star witness against Jones, was given a plea deal in exchange for testifying that Jones was the shooter. Jordan served 15 years in prison and is free today.
  • Three people incarcerated with Jordan at different times have said in sworn affidavits that he told each of them he committed the murder and framed Jones. None of the three men have met Jones and they do not know one another. None of them have been offered a shorter sentence or incentive in exchange for disclosing Jordan's confessions.

The Independent reports more than six million people have signed a petition urging Stitt to spare Jones' life. Intellectuals, celebrities, and athletes including W. Kamau Bell, Kim Kardashian West, and Russell Westbrook have joined religious and political figures and institutions across the U.S. and around the globe, including the European Union, in calling for a commutation.

Jones' supporters on Wednesday held a vigil outside Stitt's office as high school students across the Oklahoma City metro area walked out of their classrooms in solidarity with the condemned man.

Even death penalty supporters are arguing for clemency.

"I believe there is enough doubt to stay the execution," tweeted Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union and former director of political affairs in the George W. Bush White House. "Even GOP legislators are starting to agree."

Indeed, five Republican Oklahoma state lawmakers last week urged Stitt to commute Jones' sentence, with one, Rep. Gary Mize of Guthrie, writing that "we can't move forward with an execution under these circumstances in good conscience."

According to research from the National Academy of Sciences, at least 4.1% of people sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) says there have been at least 185 people exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death since U.S. executions resumed in 1977 after a Supreme Court-mandated hiatus on the grounds that capital punishment violated the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

There have been 1,538 U.S. executions since 1977, including 113 in Oklahoma--second only to Texas' 573--according to DPIC, with 2,504 death row inmates currently awaiting their fate across the nation. Forty-four of these condemned prisoners are in Oklahoma.

Last month, Oklahoma executed John Marion Grant, who convulsed dozens of times and vomited after being administered a three-drug lethal injection.

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