18 September 2021 :
Another step forward for Julius Jones.
A death row inmate whose case has raised a lot of attention.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has voted to recommend that Governor Kevin Stitt commute the death sentence imposed on Julius Jones by an Oklahoma County jury in 1999 to a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
After a three-hour hearing on September 13, 2021 that featured testimony from prosecutors, defense attorneys, and family members of murder victim Paul Howell, the board voted 3-1 in favor of commutation, with one member, Scott Williams, recusing himself to avoid any appearance of a conflict arising out of a professional relationship with one of Jones’ lawyers in an unrelated matter. The Board’s recommendation for commutation now goes to Governor Kevin Stitt for a final decision.
In announcing his vote, Board Chairman Adam Luck, who was appointed by Governor Stitt, said “I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubts. And put simply, I have doubts about this case.” Board member Kelly Doyle said that recent developments in brain science persuaded her that the death penalty was excessive because Jones was only 19 at the time of the murder, adding that she also harbored doubts about Jones’ guilt.
Reverend Cece Jones-Davis, who has spearheaded advocacy around Jones’ case and is the Campaign Director of the Justice for Julius Campaign, issued a statement to the Religion News Service saying “Today, God won.” Jones-Davis praised the board members for their votes. “They saw the merits of the case as they are, were moved by compassion, and did the right thing. I am beyond grateful to them,” she said.
In a statement issued after the hearing, Governor Stitt’s office said: “The governor takes his role in this process seriously and will carefully consider the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation as he does in all cases. We will not have any further comment until the governor has made a decision.”
Jones’ case has made national headlines and inspired a movement of supporters urging his release.