With the execution of Julius Jones just one day away, his fate lies in the hands of Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to grant clemency to the death row inmate who says he is innocent.
Jones is scheduled to be executed at 4 p.m. CT, according to Josh Ward, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 November 1 to recommend granting clemency to Jones on November 1. The same board also recommended commuting his sentence in September.
Stitt has not said whether he will accept it.
Jones’ supporters have gathered near the governor’s mansion in Oklahoma City over the past few nights, and some even set up tents outside overnight, CNN affiliate KOCO reported.
At a news conference Wednesday evening, Jones’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, described her son’s scheduled execution as a lynching.
“If you think Julius is guilty, give him a fair trial. Do it over again, do it right!” Davis-Jones said as the crowd erupted in applause. “If my child is executed tomorrow or any day, it should be without a doubt. Not even a little bit of doubt.”
Cece Jones-Davis, director for the Justice for Julius campaign, said it was cruel for Stitt to put the family through this waiting period. She said Stitt’s office yesterday told community pastors he was taking the decision seriously and was “in deep prayer.”
“This governor has nothing to pray about, he has a decision to make,” Jones-Davis said. “Governor, you still have a chance, you still have time. You have time Gov. Stitt to get this right.”
CNN has reached out to Gov. Stitt’s office and has not heard back.
Wednesday’s news conference follows years of protest against Jones’ death sentence. Jones has been on death row for nearly 20 years after he was sentenced for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, who was shot in a carjacking as he pulled into his parents’ driveway with his adult sister and two daughters. Jones, his attorneys and advocates say he is innocent.
More than 6 million people have signed a Justice for Julius petition against Jones’ execution. The clemency petition says he’s been on death row because of “fundamental breakdowns in the system tasked with deciding” his guilt, including ineffective and inexperienced defense attorneys, racial bias among his jury and alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
The case has garnered much attention, in part due to the 2018 ABC documentary series “The Last Defense,” which spotlighted it. Celebrities have also joined in the effort in urging Gov. Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence.
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian — who has long advocated against Jones’ death sentence — actors Kerry Washington and Mandy Patinkin, professional athletes including Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and others, have been using their voice in calling for the governor to spare Jones.
“Please take action. Share #JuliusJones story and tweet at @GovStitt to ask him to release this innocent man,” Washington tweeted.
Support for Jones has also gone international, with representatives from the European Union writing letters to the Oklahoma governor.
“We respectfully urge you to exercise all powers vested in your office to grant clemency to Mr. Julius Jones,” wrote Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Ambassador to the US.
Relatives of the victim, Paul Howell, however, remain convinced of Jones’ guilt. Because Jones’ case has received so much publicity and support, the family has set up its own Justice for Paul Howell website.
“For the past twenty-one years, both the state and federal judicial system have been involved in scrutinizing this case,” the website says. “The courts have heard multiple appeals in multiple forms and at multiple levels from Julius Jones. They have found no claim which necessitated the granting of relief.”
It is now up to Stitt whether Jones is put to death or gets clemency. If the latter, Jones’ sentence will be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
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