Julius Jones’ death penalty case, which has caught the attention of people across the country, including many celebrities, was recommended for commutation by the Oklahoma Pardons and Parole Board on Monday . It is now up to Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to change Jones’ sentence to something other than death.
“I believe there should be no doubt in the death penalty cases, and to put it simply, I have doubts in this case,” said Chairman of the Board, Adam Luck. “I can’t ignore these doubts, especially when the stakes are life or death.”
The board voted 3-1, with a fifth member recusing himself, in favor of switching Jones.
“I don’t have a lot of words, just thank God,” Julius Jones’ younger sister Antoinette Jones said, moments after the board’s decision as she and her family walked to their church to pray.
Carly Atchison, spokesperson for Stitt, said the governor “takes his role seriously in this process and will carefully consider the recommendation of the Pardons and Parole Board as he does in all cases.”
Jones, who is black, has been on death row for almost two decades in the murder of Paul Howell, a white insurance executive, who was shot dead in his parents’ driveway while he, his sister and his two young daughters were returning from getting ice cream one evening in July 1999. Howell was also run over as the assailant fled the scene.
Throughout the trial and for the two decades since the murder, Jones maintained his innocence. His supporters said the case was marred by prosecutorial misconduct and racism, and that new evidence supports his claims of innocence.
“I submit that the facts presented in the trial court made it clear that Mr. Jones was a continuing threat to society,” said Sandra Howell-Elliott, an Oklahoma County assistant prosecutor who tried the case. in 2000.
Jones’ case has found support among celebrities, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian, talk show host James Corden, and professional athletes Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin. He also helped galvanize criminal justice advocates in Oklahoma.