Julius Jones, a Black man who was set to be executed by the state of Oklahoma for a crime which he has stated he did not commit, was given clemency hours before his sentence was to be carried out by the governor.
As public pressure mounted for a stay in Jones’ execution within the past few weeks with Kim Kardashian among many joining in, Governor Kevin Stitt announced the decision in a statement via Twitter: “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.”
Governor Stitt went on to declare that Jones is now considered ineligible to apply for any further commutation of his sentence, nor seek pardon or parole. This follows a decision made on November 1st by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board which recommended that Jones, 41, receive the commutation of his sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole by a vote of 3 to 1. The reversal came hours before Jones was set to be executed at 4 P.M. CST. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in Macalester. Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Conner released a statement, saying: “I appreciate the Governor’s condition that Mr. Jones never be released from prison. However, we are greatly disappointed that after 22 years, four appeals, including the review of 13 appellate Judges, the work of the investigators, prosecutors, jurors, and the trial Judge have been set aside.”
Jones was charged with the murder of Paul Howell, who died after being shot during a carjacking on July 28th, 1999. He was sentenced to death after a co-defendant testified against him. The case was marred by the discovery of conflicting evidence ruling Jones out as the one who committed the crime, and the claim of racial bias as one juror in the case stated that they heard another juror use the N-word in reference to Jones. Jones’ attorney, Amanda Bass addressed Gov. Stitt’s decision in a statement: “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.”