Oklahoma City (AP) – Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended Monday that Governor Kevin Stitt spare the life of Julius Jones, a man who has been declaring his innocence for more than two decades in a 1999 suburban murder. is on death row. Oklahoma City businessman.
The board, in a 3-1 vote, recommended that Stitt grant clemency to Jones and commute his sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole following the trial of Jones, 41, who served as a video link from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAllister. Testified through Several members of the panel agreed that they had doubts about the evidence that led to the conviction of Jones. One board member, Scott Williams, recused himself from the vote due to an existing friendship with a lawyer who has advocated for Jones.
“I believe there are still doubts in this matter,” said board member Kelly Doyle.
The only vote against the clemency came from Richard Smotherman, a former prosecutor, who said he believed Jones was not being truthful in his testimony.
“To believe the theory of Mr Jones’ case, you have to disbelieve every other evidence in the case,” Smotherman said, including testimony from law enforcement officers, independent witnesses and physical evidence.
Jones’ fate now rests with Stitt, who must decide whether to hang Jones or commute his sentence.
“Governor Stitt is aware of the pardon and parole board’s vote today,” Stitt’s spokeswoman, Carly Atchison, said in a statement. “Our office will not provide further comment until the governor makes a final decision.”
Stitt’s predecessor, fellow Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, rejected three separate recommendations for clemency for people on the death row. The last time a governor pardoned someone on the death penalty was in 2010 by Democrat Brad Henry.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has set November 18 as the date of execution. for Jones. The state resumed lethal injections last week after a gap of six years, leading to the death of one person For stabbing to death an employee of a prison cafeteria in 1998.
Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by shooting Paul Howell during a carjacking in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond in 1999.
She admitted to the board on Monday that she had started shopping for clothing, jewelry and electronics, but denied that she had ever committed any violent act. He also denied having committed a separate carjacking, to which he pleaded guilty, saying he had filed the plea on the advice of his lawyer.
“Yes, I made mistakes in my youth, but I didn’t kill Mr. Paul Howell,” Jones told the panel.
Jones also testified that he was at home with his parents and siblings that evening, but prosecutors said Jones himself had previously told lawyers for his trial that this was not true.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Crabb said, “Jones repeatedly and explicitly told his lawyers that his parents were at fault and that he was not at home on the night of the murder.”
Crabb said Jones is a recognized member of the Bloods gang and has continued to commit criminal acts while in prison, including placing contraband and making telephone calls using other inmate’s PIN numbers. She also said that Jones has accumulated so much money in her prisoner account over the years that she has sent $18,000 to family and friends.
Jones’ case gained attention after being profiled in “The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary produced by actress Viola Davis, aired on ABC in 2018. Since then, reality television star Kim Kardashian West And athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trey Young, have urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life.
Jones alleges that she was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant who was a key prosecution witness. But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and former state Attorney General Mike Hunter have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming.
Jones also says that his lawsuit was corrupted by a racist juror, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed that claim.
Trial transcripts show that witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and placed him with Howell’s stolen vehicle. Investigators also found a murder weapon and a bandana containing Jones’ DNA. In an attic space above your bedroom. Jones said in his commutation filing that the gun and bandana were planted there by the actual killer.
But Jones’ attorney, Amanda Bass, said his criminal trial had been corrupted by his use of junk forensic science, jailhouse informants, and a plea deal to co-defend the testimony against him.
“In these ways and more, the criminal justice system failed Mr. Howell,” Bass said. “It also failed to condemn Julius to death for something he did not do.”
Paul Howell’s sister Megan Toby testified before the board that she vividly remembers that Jones shot her brother in front of their two young daughters.
“He is still the same person he was 22 years ago. He’s still in trouble. He is still in a gang. He’s still lying. And he still feels no shame, guilt, or remorse for his actions,” Toby said. “We must hold Julius Jones accountable.”