The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday really helpful that the dying sentence be commuted for Julius Jones, whose case has attracted the eye of other people around the nation, together with a number of celebrities. The case now is going to Gov. Kevin Stitt to make a decision whether or not to modify Jones’ sentence to lifestyles in jail.
“I consider in dying penalty circumstances there must be definitely, and put merely, I’ve doubts on this case,” mentioned the board’s chairman, Adam Good fortune. “I will not forget about the ones doubts, particularly when the stakes are lifestyles and dying.”
The board voted three to one, with a 5th member recusing himself, in choose of Jones’ commutation.
“I don’t have a large number of phrase. I’m simply thanking God,” mentioned Jones’ more youthful sister, Antoinette Jones, moments after the board’s determination as she and her circle of relatives headed to church.
Carly Atchison, a spokeswoman for Stitt, mentioned the governor “takes his position on this procedure severely and can sparsely imagine the Pardon and Parole Board’s advice as he does in all circumstances.”
Jones, who’s Black, has been on dying row for almost twenty years for the homicide of Paul Howell, a white insurance coverage govt, who used to be shot in his oldsters’ driveway as he, his sister and his two younger daughters had been getting back from getting ice cream on a July evening in 1999. Howell used to be additionally run over because the shooter fled the scene.
“I used to be there when my brother used to be murdered,” his sister Megan Howell Tobey advised the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board right through Monday’s commutation listening to. “I do know past a doubt that Julius Jones murdered my brother.”
Jones, who used to be a freshman on the College of Oklahoma on the time of the killing, has maintained his innocence. He and his felony workforce have mentioned in felony filings that Jones’ highschool acquaintance, Christopher Jordan, used to be chargeable for the crime. They are saying the next night time, when Jordan stayed the evening at Jones’ area, he planted the gun in Jones’ bed room move slowly area, together with the purple bandana witnesses mentioned the assassin used to be dressed in.
Jordan has denied this, announcing in court docket that he drove the automobile with Jones the evening of the homicide however didn’t shoot Howell. Jordan won a lifestyles sentence on a homicide rate after admitting to his position within the killing however used to be launched after 15 years. He may just no longer in an instant be reached for touch upon Monday.
In his request for a commutation listening to, Jones mentioned that he used to be at house having dinner together with his oldsters the evening Howell used to be killed. However at his 2000 trial, his legal professionals didn’t name any witnesses on his behalf, and he claims that in spite of his willingness to take the stand, his legal professionals discouraged him from doing so.
“Whilst I want that I’d long past to the police with what I knew, I used to be scared to become involved,” Jones wrote in his commutation request. “I used to be, like different younger black males in my community, scared of the police, and I didn’t agree with them.”
Sandra Howell-Elliott, an Oklahoma County assistant district legal professional who attempted the case in 2000, defended Jones’ conviction at Monday’s listening to. “I argue that the info introduced within the trial court docket obviously indicated that Mr. Jones used to be a seamless danger to society,” she mentioned.
In recent times, Jones’ case has galvanized in style public improve, each in the community and from celebrities like truth TV celebrity Kim Kardashian, who visited Jones on Oklahoma’s dying row in 2020 after finding out about his case from an ABC documentary. Remaining week, CBS’ “The Overdue Overdue Display” host James Corden launched a video detailing what he described as Jones’ “unjust trial” and the “overwhelming proof of his innocence.”
The Howell circle of relatives disagrees, pointing to the a couple of instances the conviction has been upheld on enchantment. For them, the renewed consideration on Jones’ conviction is unwarranted and annoying, they mentioned.
“It’s something to head via one thing like this, particularly as a kid. It’s any other factor whilst you develop up and check out to transport on and this all comes working again in what feels adore it’s punching you within the intestine,” Rachel Howell, Paul Howell’s daughter and a witness to his homicide, advised the Pardon and Parole Board Monday. “The overpowering quantity of proof is there, and the courts made their selections. However over the previous few years, it kind of feels like this has simply all blown up.”
Jones’ legal professionals have famous that 11 of the 12 jurors in his trial had been white, and the legal professionals argue that a kind of jurors must were got rid of after any other juror reported to the court docket that he mentioned “they must put him [Jones] in a field and put him within the flooring after that is in every single place for what he’s finished.” In 2018, the juror who reported the incident additionally advised Jones’ public defenders that the opposite juror used a racial slur when regarding Jones right through the trial, court docket paperwork display.
Jones’ legal professionals and supporters say that his case is an instance of prosecutorial misconduct within the place of business of the Oklahoma County district legal professional on the time, Bob Macy; Macy died in 2011 and the district legal professional’s place of business didn’t reply to a request for touch upon Monday. A find out about by way of Harvard’s Honest Punishment Challenge discovered that Macy prosecuted extra dying penalty circumstances than every other district legal professional within the nation, just about part of which have been overturned, and 3 defendants had been exonerated.
The file discovered that courts cited prosecutorial misconduct in a lot of Macy’s circumstances, and several other had been tied to disgraced Oklahoma Town police forensics chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who the FBI and the Oklahoma Legal professional Common’s Administrative center discovered falsified dozens of circumstances. Gilchrist denied any wrongdoing, and he or she used to be by no means charged.
In 2017, a bipartisan crew of state leaders, teachers, legal professionals and prison justice advocates concluded that no longer simplest had been there critical shortcomings in the way in which dying penalty circumstances are investigated and litigated within the state, however that “it’s simple that blameless other people were sentenced to dying in Oklahoma.”
Jones’ case has fueled rising calls in Oklahoma to inspect racial inequities within the state’s justice machine, which has for many years had probably the most absolute best charges of incarceration in keeping with capita in the USA.
A 2017 find out about by way of the Magazine of Legal Legislation and Criminology discovered that defendants of colour in Oklahoma accused of killing white sufferers are greater than two times as more likely to obtain the dying penalty, in comparison to white defendants accused of the similar crime.
“I believe we’re in a spot the place individuals are bored with what we’re seeing and need one thing other,” mentioned the Rev. Cece Jones-Davis (no relation to Julius Jones), who helps lead Justice for Julius Jones, an area initiative of advocates and supporters who wish to see his conviction overturned. “I believe we’re dwelling in a time the place individuals are extra culturally engaged,” she mentioned, pointing to the national discussions at the justice machine because the dying of George Floyd.
Each the Oklahoma County District Legal professional’s place of business and the Oklahoma legal professional common have pressed laborious for Jones’s execution to transport ahead.
Remaining week, Oklahoma County District Legal professional David Prater requested the state Splendid Court docket to recuse two of the state’s Pardon and Parole Board contributors from Jones’ commutation listening to, claiming that their earlier prison justice reform paintings makes them incapable of impartiality within the subject. The court docket denied that request. The Pardon and Parole Board member who recused himself did so as a result of he knew probably the most individuals who testified.
Jones is amongst about part a dozen males on Oklahoma’s dying row whom state Legal professional Common John O’Connor is looking for to execute after a greater than five-year moratorium on executions. The moratorium got here after a string of missteps in administering deadly injections, together with the botched execution of Clayton Lockett and a drug mix-up that halted the execution of Richard Glossip. In spite of the moratorium, Oklahoma nonetheless ranks No. three for many executions by way of state, in accordance the Demise Penalty Data Heart.