Julius Jones Death Sentence Commuted Hours Before Execution
The death sentence of inmate Julius Jones was commuted on Thursday, just hours before his planned execution. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commuted 41-year-old Jones’ sentence reducing it to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If the Governor had not done so, Jones would have been executed at 4pm today. A crowd outside the Oklahoma Capitol cheered and clapped when the news broke.
Jones has adamantly proclaimed he is innocent in the 1999 murder of a businessman, for over twenty years. Jones was convicted of the first degree murder of Paul Howell during a carjacking. Recently several celebrity athletes began using social media to advocate for mercy for Jones.
The movement has included NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young and this morning Coach Steve Kerr and Baker Mayfield urged for Jones to be granted mercy.
This morning, Jones’ attorneys filed an emergency request to stop to his execution, saying Oklahoma’s lethal injection causes “severe suffering and pain to prisoners.”
The state’s Parole Board recommended that Stitt commute Jones’s sentence citing doubts about some of the evidence.
Jones’ case was profiled in “The Last Defense,” a documentary produced by Viola Davis that aired in 2018.
Jones claims he never killed Howell and was framed by his co-defendant, a high school friend who he says was the actual killer and became a key witness against him. But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and the state’s former attorney general, Mike Hunter, as well as Howell’s sister Megan Tobey claim Jones was the killer. Tobey was present during the murder and claims she saw Jones shoot her brother.
Investigators found a bandana with Jones’s DNA wrapped around the murder weapon in an attic above his bedroom. Jones claims the gun was planted there by the real killer, who had been inside his house shortly after the killing.