Julius Jones’ death sentence in 1999 Oklahoma murder should be commuted, panel finds

Julius Jones’ death sentence, which has attracted the attention of people across the country, including many celebrities, was offered a pardon by the Oklahoma Board of Amnesty and Amnesty on Monday. Now, should Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt change his sentence to something other than the death penalty.

“I believe in death cases there is no doubt, and to put it simply, I do in this case,” said Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board President Adam Luck. “I can’t ignore those doubts, especially when it’s a matter of life and death.”

The board voted 3 to 1, with the fifth member reusing himself, in favor of Jones’ swap.

Antoinette Jones, sister of Julius Jones, said, shortly after the board’s decision when she and her family went to church to pray.

Carly Atchison, a spokeswoman for Stitt, said he “takes his role in this process seriously and will carefully consider the Board’s offer of parole and parole as he does under all circumstances.”

Jones, who is black, has been serving a death sentence for nearly two decades, following the murder of Paul Howell, a white insurance executive who was shot in his parents’ driveway when he, his sister his daughter and two young daughters were returning from eating ice cream one night in July 1999. Howell also ran when the perpetrator fled the scene.

“I was there when my brother was murdered,” his sister Megan Howell Tobey told the Oklahoma Board of Amnesty and Amnesty during Monday’s hearing. “I certainly know that Julius Jones murdered my brother.”

Julius Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1999 shooting death of businessman Paul Howell.Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP . file

Jones, who was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma at the time of the murder, maintained his innocence. He and his legal team said in legal filings that Jones’ high school acquaintance, Christopher Jordan, was responsible for the crime. They said the next evening, when Jordan stayed at Jones’s house for the night, he planted the gun in the crawl space in Jones’ bedroom, along with the red bandanna that witnesses said the killer was wearing.

Jordan denied this, telling the court he was driving with Jones the night of the murder but did not shoot Howell. Jordan received a life sentence for murder after admitting to the role in the murder but was released after 15 years. He could not be reached immediately for comment on Monday.

In his request for a swap hearing, Jones said he was at home having dinner with his parents the night Howell was killed. But at his 2000 trial, his lawyers did not call any witnesses on his behalf, and he stated that although he was willing to take a stand, his lawyers had prevent him from doing so.

“While I wished that I would go to the police with what I knew, I was afraid to get involved,” Jones wrote in his request for conversion. “I, like other black young men in my neighborhood, fear the police and I don’t trust them.”

Sandra Howell-Elliott, an Oklahoma assistant district attorney who heard the case in 2000, defended Jones’ conviction during Monday’s hearing. “I argue that the facts presented in the trial have clearly indicated that Mr Jones is an ongoing threat to society,” she said.

In recent years, Jones’ case has received widespread public support, both locally and from celebrities such as reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who visited Jones on the day of his death. Oklahoma prison in 2020 after learning about his case from an ABC documentary. Last week, “The Late Late Show” host James Corden released a video detailing what he described as Jones’ “unfair trial” and “overwhelming evidence of incompetence.” his crime.”

The Howell family disagreed, pointing out that many times the conviction was upheld on appeal. To them, the renewed focus on Jones’ conviction was unfounded and hurtful, they said.

“It’s one thing to go through things like this, especially as a child. It’s a different thing when you grow up and try to move on and all of this comes back in what feels like punching you in the gut,” said Rachel Howell, Paul Howell’s daughter and witness to his murder. him, told Pardon and Pardon Boards on Monday. . “There was a lot of evidence, and the court made their decision. But over the last couple of years, it seems like all this has just been blown up.”

Jones’ attorneys have noted that 11 of the 12 jurors in his trial were white, and the attorneys argued that one of those juries should be dropped after a juror. Another officer reported to the court that he said “they should give [Jones] in a box and put him on the ground after this is over for what he did. In 2018, the juror who reported the case also told Jones’ public defenders that the other juror used a racial slur when referring to Jones during the trial. , court documents show.

Jones’ attorneys and supporters say his case is an example of procedural misconduct in the office of Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, who was in office at the time. ; Macy’s has since died, and the district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday. A study by Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project found that Macy’s prosecuted more death row cases than any other district attorney in the country, nearly half of which were overturned, and three defendants were exonerated. sin.

The report found that many people were overturned by the courts on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, and some were charged with Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who was arrested by the FBI and The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office found dozens of cases of falsification. Gilchrist denied any wrongdoing, and she was never charged.

In 2017, a bipartisan group of state leaders, academics, attorneys, and criminal justice advocates concluded that there were not only serious shortcomings in the way criminal cases were investigated and litigated. death penalty cases in the state, which “cannot be denied that innocent people have been sentenced to death in Oklahoma”.

Jones’ case prompted growing calls in Oklahoma to look into racial inequities in the state’s justice system, which for decades has had one of the highest per capita incarceration rates. most in the United States.

A 2017 study by the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology found that black defendants in Oklahoma accused of murdering white victims were more than twice as likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants. accused of the same crime.

“I think we’re at a place where people get tired of what we’re seeing and want something different,” Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, said, is not involved, who is helping lead Justice for Julius Jones, a local initiative advocates and advocates want to see his beliefs overturned. “Think we’re living in an era where people are more cultured,” she said, pointing to nationwide discussions about the justice system since the death of George Floyd.

Both the Oklahoma District Attorney’s office and the Oklahoma attorney general pressed for Jones’ execution to proceed.

Last week, Oklahoma District Attorney David Prater asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reuse two State Parole and Parole Board members from Jones’ pardon hearing, arguing that the work improved their previous criminal justice practices render them incapable of fairness in this regard. The court denied that request. A fifth member of the Amnesty and Amnesty Panel reused himself from Monday’s hearing because he knew one of the people who testified.

Jones is among about half a dozen men executed in Oklahoma that State Attorney General John O’Connor is seeking to execute after more than five years of moratoriums following a string of fatal injection mistakes. including the execution of Clayton Lockett. and a mixture of drugs prevented the execution of Richard Glossip. Despite the ban, Oklahoma still ranks 3rd for most executions by state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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