Julius Jones, whose death sentence was changed Thursday just hours before he was scheduled to be executed for the murder of Paul Howell (1999), has long claimed he did not commit the crime. Instead, he said, Christopher Jordan is responsible. Jordan, a co-defendant during the trial, testified against Jones for a plea deal that gave him a lesser sentence.
In early November, Jones appeared before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to make his case for leniency. According to local NBC affiliate KFOR TV, he told the board, “I’m not the person responsible for taking Mr. Howell’s life.”
He continued, “I was not present during this robbery, and I did not know that anyone was killed until the day after Mr. Howell was murdered.”
Jones and his lawyer said they believe Jordan was the person who killed Howell in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1999. During the trial, Jordan was alleged to be Jones’ accomplice.
Jones and his attorney told the pardon and parole board that Jordan had planted the gun and the red gang member Howell’s gun was carrying in Jones’ closet, where it was found by police.
“Chris took me between 11-11: 30 that night,” Jones told the board. “He told me he went into it with some guys and shot them.”
Lawyers at Oklahoma’s attorney general’s office and the Howell family still believe Jones is guilty. They show DNA evidence from the gangster who tied the garment to Jones. However, the pardon and parole board voted 3-1 to recommend leniency for Jones, which Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt gave Thursday. Jones’ sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jordan was the state’s key witness against Jones in the murder trial. His agreement with the prosecution gave him a 30-year sentence for his testimony, but he was released after about half of that time, according to Oklahoma Department of Corrections archives.
Jones’ mild petition also cited statements from three different people who were imprisoned with Jordan. All three men said Jordan in particular confessed to them that he had killed Howell and tricked Jones.
Jordan later kept a low profile. But in September his lawyer published a statement to ABC News regarding the Jones case.
“Chris Jordan maintains his position that his role in the death of Paul Howell was as an accomplice of Julius Jones,” said attorney Billy Bock’s statement. “Mr Jordan has testified truthfully in Mr Jones’ jury trial and denies’ confessing ‘to anyone.”