Oklahoma Department of Adjustments by AP
The clock is ticking.
Family members, activists and celebrities hope their last-minute pleas to the Oklahoma governor could save the lives of Julius Jones, a man executed on Thursday the 16th local time.
Jones, 41, was sentenced to death for the shooting death of Paul Howell in Edmond, Oclav in 1999. Jones has always maintained his innocence. Lawyers fighting for his freedom say the case leading to his conviction was seriously flawed.
Questions about Jones’ role in Howell’s murder led the Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board to recommend earlier this month that his death sentence be changed to life in prison with the possibility of probation, according to KOSU. But Governor Kevin Stitt did not act on the recommendation.
If he decides to intervene, Stitt could go with the probation commission’s recommendation to commute Jones’ sentence. He could also postpone the execution to take more time to review the case or allow the execution to continue as planned.
Important names like reality star Kim Kardashian West, who has become a criminal justice activist, and Baker Mayfield, a receiver for the Cleveland Browns, is demanding justice in Jones’ case.
“This is the cold machinery of the Death Penalty in America. In a little over two weeks, an innocent man could be killed,” Kardashian West tweeted. “My heart is broken because of Julius and so many others who have suffered because of such a tragic failure of justice.”
Students from several area schools took part in a walk on Wednesday to protest Jones’ impending execution. The Oklahoma City Public Schools said The New York Times that more than 1,800 students through 13 schools participated in the demonstration.
Oklahoma uses lethal injection to make executions. If Jones ’execution continues, it would be only the second in Oklahoma since 2015, when the state paused the practice after it was found to be using the wrong mix of drugs in the process. Oklahoma executed John Marion Grant in October and has several more executions scheduled for the coming months.
Questions about Jones’ co-defendant’s story
On the night of July 28, 1999, Jones says he was with his family at his parents’ house in Oklahoma City having dinner and playing board games. That is, according to the Innocent Project, a nonprofit focus on acquitting wrongdoers. Prosecutors said Jones told a different story after his arrest.
But around the same time that evening, less than 20 miles away, Paul Howell had been drawn to his own parents ’house. Moments later, he was shot and killed – the victim of a car crash. Howell’s sister he was witness of the crime.
Sue Ogrocki / AP
Howell’s family testified before the parole board and said they are convinced of Jones’ guilt. They say they feel victimized by the publicity the case has received, according to KOSU.
Lawyers for Jones argue that there are serious problems with the case.
Chris Jordan, the co-defendant in this case, and during Jones’ shooting friend, allegedly confessed to at least three cellmates that he was the one to kill Howell – not Jones.
Prosecutors say those cellmates are not credible, according to The Associated Press.
Jordan spent the night at Jones’ home after Howell’s murder, according to reports. When he was questioned by police, Jordan told police the gun was in Jones’ parent’s home. Jordan testified against Jones and received a plea agreement. He was released from prison after serving 15 years behind bars.
Innocence Project points to racial bias in the Jones case
The officer who arrested Jones reportedly called him the N-word, encouraged him to run and then implied that he would be shot if he did. Jones repeated that story in his retelling of the case to OUDaily.
At trial, 11 of the 12 jurors were white.
Research by Francis Flanagan, an associate professor in the department of economics at Wake Forest University, has shown that the racial composition of a jury can influence the outcome of the case.
Flanagan told NPR recently that data shows that juries with more Black jurors are much more likely to acquit criminal defendants across the board (both white defendants and Black defendants). White men on a jury are more likely to convict black defendants and less likely to convict white defendants, he said.
One juror reportedly referred to Jones by the N-word and suggested he be brought out behind the courthouse and shot, the Innocent Project says.
There are also questions about the record of district attorney Bob Macy, who handled Jones ’case, reports indicate.
One-third of Macy’s death sentences have been overturned for prosecuting misconduct, the Innocent Project says. Many of those whose convictions have been vacated are Black.
Last month, the U.S. Conservative Union released a letter to Stitt about the case, showing questions about Macy’s reputation.
“Together, we believe that doubt about Jones ‘responsibility for the capital crime is not insignificant. Indeed, that’s why the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Probation has recommended changing Jones’ death sentence despite troubled pressure tactics being led by District Attorney David Prater. them rubber sealing the execution, “the letter said. “In such circumstances, commuting Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment would be appropriate. Public safety would be maintained, while the chances of unfair execution would be eliminated.”
Big names called on the governor to act
Sue Ogrocki / AP
More than 6.5 million people signed a petition supporting Jones.
Locally, Justice for Julius, an organization founded by local supporter Cece Jones-Davis, has been working for years to gather attention to Jones’ case. Activists continued a protest in the Oklahoma state capitol to call Stitt to grant leniency in Jones case.
As Jones ’execution approaches, the volume of people demanding that Jones’ punishment be commuted has grown louder.
Mayfield of the NFL, a former quarterback from Oklahoma University, spoke with reporters about the case Wednesday.
“I’ve been trying to get the facts stated and the truth to be told for a while, but it’s hard to think about. Tried and tried,” Mayfield said. “It’s a shame it’s gotten this far. We’re 24 hours away. So, it’s hard. You know, hopefully, God can step in, and deal with it right and do the things he needs to do.”
Advocacy for Jones has even become global. Stavros Lambrinidis, a representative of the European Union, wrote in a letter to Stitt: “We respectfully urge you to exercise all the powers given to your office to give gentleness to Mr. Julius Jones.”