Supporters call for mercy on death row inmate Julius Jones

Hundreds of students have left schools and activists demonstrated outside the governor’s office on Wednesday in a final attempt to persu...


Hundreds of students have left schools and activists demonstrated outside the governor’s office on Wednesday in a final attempt to persuade Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to grant clemency to a death row inmate due to be executed Thursday.

The detainee, Julius Jones, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in 2002. He was charged with killing Paul Howell, who was in a car in the driveway of his parents’ house when he was hijacked from his car and shot dead in 1999.

Mr Jones, 41, a former Oklahoma City high school basketball player, was 19 at the time of the murder, which he says he did not commit. Mr. Howell, a businessman from the suburb of Edmond, was 45 years old.

In September and again this month, the State Pardons and Parole Board recommended that Mr. Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole, a milestone in a case that has garnered national attention, said Cece Jones-Davis, who heads an Oklahoma-based campaign called Justice for Jules.

But Mr Jones, his family and supporters are still waiting to see whether Mr Stitt, a Republican, will accept or reject the council’s recommendation, Ms Jones-Davis said. Mr Jones is to be executed by lethal injection on Thursday at 4 p.m.

“We hope and believe and have confidence that the governor will always do the right thing,” Jones-Davis said on Wednesday. “But we are on time.”

Oklahoma City Public Schools have estimated that more than 1,800 students in 13 schools participated in walkouts in support of Mr Jones on Wednesday. The district said it “supports the rights of our students to assemble peacefully and their freedom of expression.”

At State House, dozens of Mr. Jones’ supporters prayed, sang and chanted “Free Julius Jones”. Mr Jones’ mother Madeline Davis-Jones told the crowd her son was innocent.

“If my child is executed tomorrow, or any day, it should definitely be”, she said. “There should be no doubt about it. Not even a little doubt.

A spokeswoman for Mr Stitt said in an email: “We will not have any comment until the governor has made a decision.”

If executed, Mr. Jones would be the second person to be put to death by the state of Oklahoma since John Marion Grant, who was convicted of the murder of a prison cafeteria worker in 1998, was executed on October 28.

Mr Grant, 60, was the first state inmate to die by lethal injection since 2015, when Oklahoma halted executions after using the wrong drugs in one case and allowing a prisoner to regain consciousness In another.

Mr. Grant vomited while shaking for several minutes during the execution, which journalists who witnessed executions described as extremely rare in their experience. But state prison officials said a day after Mr Grant’s execution that they did not plan to make any changes state lethal injection protocols.

“I agree that inmate Grant’s regurgitation was not pleasant to watch,” Scott Crow, director of the Oklahoma prison system, said in a virtual press conference Oct. 29. “But I don’t think it was inhumane.”

Credit…Oklahoma Department of Corrections, via Associated Press

Mr. Jones, a black man who has spent about half his life in prison, has long claimed his innocence.

“I did not kill Mr. Howell,” he wrote in a letter to the parole board in April, after exhausting his remedies. “I did not participate in any way in his assassination; and the first time I saw him was on TV when he was reported dead.

But relatives of Mr Howell, a white man whose sister and two daughters witnessed his murder, have dismissed the claims and said efforts to grant clemency to Mr Jones have been hurt them.

“Our family continues to be the victim of Julius Jones and his lies,” Mr. Howell’s brother Brian Howell told a press conference in September.

Mr Jones and his supporters have argued his defense attorneys let him down during his trial – for example, failing to interview family members who said he was having dinner with them at the time of the murder of Mr. Howell – and that prosecutors relied too heavily on the testimony of a co-accused who said he saw Mr. Jones commit the crime.

Supporters of Mr Jones have also argued that racism played a role in his trial and conviction. African Americans make up a disproportionate number of death row inmates in Oklahoma and the United States, and studies have shown that those convicted of murder are much more likely to be executed if the person who was killed was white.

Mr Jones’ appeal for clemency has received support from prominent figures in sport, politics and entertainment.

Last month, Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, and Timothy Head, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, wrote a letter to Mr. Stitt urging him to commute Mr Jones’ sentence.

“We believe that the doubt over Jones’ responsibility for capital crime is not insignificant,” wrote Mr. Schlapp and Mr. Head.

Wednesday, Baker Mayfield, a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, who won the Heisman Trophy as a player for the University of Oklahoma football team, also expressed hope that Mr. Jones would not be executed.

“We are at 24 hours”, he said. told reporters. “So it’s hard. You know, I hope God can step in and handle it right and do the things that He has to do.

Mr. Jones’ case was presented in a 2018 documentary series produced by Viola Davis, a podcast episode last year with Kim Kardashian West and a recent episode of “The Late Late Show With James Corden.

“Julius, his family and everyone on his team are still hopeful that Stitt will do the right thing,” Ms. Kardashian West said. wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Jacey Fortin contributed reporting.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Supporters call for mercy on death row inmate Julius Jones
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