Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt finally caved in to mounting pressure from community activists, celebrities and local Black leaders and granted last-minute clemency to convicted murderer Julius Jones. Stitt commuted Jones’ death sentence just hours before the accused was scheduled to die for a 1999 murder he says he did not commit.
Jones was convicted in the 1999 murder of Paul Howell during a carjacking, and a jury chose the death penalty as punishment at a 2002 trial. Jones has been on death row for nearly 20 years.
Supporters including reality TV star Kim Kardashian pleaded with Stitt to grant clemency. Millions signed a petition in support of Jones after ABC TV in 2018 aired a documentary about his case, USA Today reported. When news came of the clemency, Black America celebrated outside the prison.
“So emotional. Those people made this happen; especially the kids walking out of school. We owe them an enormous debt,” MU Classicist @MiamiOHClassics tweeted.
On Nov. 17, students at multiple metro school districts in Oklahoma City walked out of the classroom in solidarity with Jones, NBC affiliate KFOR reported.
“I am grateful the governor has stayed the execution of Julius Jones, however after reading his (Governor’s) statement, it is obvious there is a lot of work ahead until Jones is a free man,” tweeted @akscrapper @akscrapper777.
Jones’ sentence will be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to an executive order filed Nov. 18.
Jones had been scheduled to die at 4 p.m. CT at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Clemency was granted at 12:45 p.m. CT, CNN reported.
The Republican governor said in a Twitter statement that he made the decision after “prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case.”
On Nov. 1, Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board had recommended Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole in a 3-1 vote. However, the governor commuted Jones’ sentence on the condition that he “shall not be eligible to apply for or be considered for a commutation, pardon, or parole for the remainder of his life,” the order stated.
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Jones’ attorney Amanda Bass said in a statement that the governor’s decision was an “important step towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man.”
But she added that Jones’ family and supporters had hoped he might get parole one day.
“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,” Bass said, “we are grateful that the Governor has prevented an irreparable mistake.”
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