By Amir Vera, Raja Razek and Theresa Waldrop | CNN
With the execution of Julius Jones just one day away, his fate rests in the hands of Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to pardon the death row inmate who says he is innocent.
Jones is scheduled to be executed at 16:00 CT, according to Josh Ward, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1. November 1st to recommend giving Jones a pardon on November 1st. The same board also recommended reversing his September verdict.
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 have even pitched tents outside overnight, CNN-affiliated KOCO reported.
At a news conference Wednesday night, Jones’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, described her son’s planned execution as a lynching.
“If you think Julius is guilty, give him a fair trial. Do it again, do it right!” said Davis-Jones as the audience erupted in applause. “If my child is executed tomorrow or another day, it should be without a doubt. Not even a little bit of doubt. “
Cece Jones-Davis, director of the Justice for the Julius campaign, said it was cruel for Stitt to put the family through this waiting period. She said Stitt’s office yesterday told local pastors that he took the decision seriously and was “in deep prayer.”
“This governor has nothing to ask for, he has a decision to make,” Jones-Davis said. “Governor, you still have a chance, you still have time. You have time Governor Stitt to get this right.”
CNN has approached Governor Stitt’s office and has not heard back.
Wednesday’s press conference follows years of protest against Jones’ death sentence. Jones has been on death row for nearly 20 years after being convicted of the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, who was shot in a car crash as he drove into his parents’ driveway with his adult sister and two daughters. Jones, his lawyers and attorneys say he is innocent.
More than 6 million people have signed a Justice for Julius petition against Jones’ execution. The pardon claim says he has been on the verge of death 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 prosecution.
The case has received a lot of attention, in part because of the ABC documentary series “The Last Defense” from 2018, which focused on it. Celebrities have also joined the effort to urge Governor Stitt to reverse Jones’ verdict.
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian – who has long advocated against Jones’ death sentence – actors Kerry Washington and Mandy Patinkin, professional athletes including Cleveland Brown’s quarterback Baker Mayfield and others, have used their voice to urge the governor to spare Jones.
“Please act. Share the #JuliusJones story and tweet on @GovStitt to ask him to release this innocent man,” Washington tweeted.
Support for Jones has also become international, with EU representatives writing letters to Oklahoma’s governor.
“We respectfully urge you to exercise all the powers vested in your office to grant mercy to Mr Julius Jones,” wrote Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Ambassador to the United States.
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 their own Justice for Paul Howell website.
“For the past twenty-one years, both the state and the federal justice system have been involved in investigating this case,” the website says. “The courts have heard several appeals in several forms and at several levels from Julius Jones. They have not found any claim which made it necessary to grant relief.”
It is now up to Stitt whether Jones is executed or pardoned. If the latter, Jones’ sentence will be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.