The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has twice recommended Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison, most recently in a 3-1 vote on November 1. The ruling was a boon to Jones’ many supporters, but the Republican governor has yet to make a decision with just hours to go before Jones’ death sentence is due to be carried out.
Jones, who is Black, was sentenced to death after being convicted of the 1999 murder of Paul Howell during a carjacking. But Jones insists he’s innocent, and he, his attorneys and advocates have a raised a number of issues with his case.
According to his clemency petition, Jones and his attorneys say he’s spent nearly two decades on death row for a crime he did not commit due to “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.
Celebs and millions of others support his claims
Howell was killed in a carjacking the night of July 28, 1999, when he, his adult sister and daughters pulled into his parents’ driveway, according to court documents. Howell’s sister, the documents say, described the shooter as a Black man who she said was wearing jeans, a white T-shirt, a black cap and a red bandana over his face.
Jones, 19 at the time, was arrested a few days later after authorities found the murder weapon wrapped in a red bandana inside his family’s home. Jones was tried alongside a codefendant who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a robbery, per online court records. The codefendant testified against Jones, who was convicted and sentenced to death.
The victim’s family still thinks he’s guilty
Howell’s family, however, rejects Jones’ claims of innocence, and public support for Jones is painful for them, his daughter told CNN in a statement. Howell’s family and the state Attorney General’s Office have disputed the evidence cited by Jones and his supporters.
“Overall, this has been extremely tough on our family,” Rachel Howell said, “as we have continued to be re-victimized by Julius Jones when we have done absolutely nothing wrong.”
The past two decades have also been hard for Jones’ family, his mother said, calling them a “waking nightmare.”
“I know what it is like to have a loved one ripped away from you and to constantly relive that loss. I hope and pray they find healing and peace,” Madeline Davis-Jones said.
CNN’s Amir Vera contributed to this report.