OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commuted the death sentence to convicted inmate Julius Jones on Thursday, the day of his planned execution. Jones has pleaded not guilty to the death of more than two decades in the 1999 assassination of a Oklahoma City businessman.
Stitt changed Jones’ death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was scheduled for execution Thursday.
The state’s pardon and probation board recommended in a 3-1 vote on Nov. 1 that Stitt change Jones ‘sentence to life in prison, with several panel members agreeing they were in doubt about the evidence leading to Jones’ conviction.
Jones, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1999 after Edmond businessman Paul Howell was killed during a car crash.
Jones’ case garnered widespread attention after it was profiled in “The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary produced by actress Viola Davis that aired on ABC in 2018. Since then, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, i.a. NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young have called on Stitt to reverse Jones’ death sentence and spare his life.
Jones claims he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant, who was a key witness against him. But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and former state Attorney General Mike Hunter have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming.
Information from the trial shows that witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and placed him in Howell’s stolen vehicle. Investigators also found the murder weapon wrapped in a bandana with Jones’ DNA in an attic above his bedroom. Jones claimed in his commuting archive that the gun and bandana were planted there by the actual killer who had been inside Jones’ house after the killing.
Howell’s sister, Megan Tobey, and two young daughters were in Howell’s SUV when the car was hijacked in his parents’ driveway in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond. Tobey testified before the board that she clearly remembers seeing Jones shoot her brother.
“He is the same person today as he was 22 years ago. He’s still getting in trouble. He’s still in a gang. He’s still lying. And he still feels no shame, guilt or remorse for his actions, “Tobey said.” We need Julius Jones to be held accountable. “
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