Posted on November 18, 2021

Okla. Governor Grants Clemency to Julius Jones

Jaclyn Diaz and Rachel Treisman, NPR, November 18, 2021

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has commuted the death sentence of Julius Jones, after mounting public pressure and just hours before he was set to be executed.

Julius Jones

Julius Jones

Stitt reduced Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, intervening before his scheduled lethal injection but falling short of the state parole board’s recommendation.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt announced.

Jones, 41, was sentenced to death for the 1999 shooting death of Paul Howell in Edmond, Okla. Jones has always maintained his innocence. {snip}

Paul Howell

Paul Howell

Questions over Jones’ role in Howell’s murder led the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to recommend this month that his death sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Stitt’s Thursday order states that Oklahoma law does not permit the parole board to recommend that a death sentence be commuted to life with the possibility of parole, citing a specific article in the state constitution.


His silence over the intervening weeks prompted last-minute appeals from family members, activists and celebrities.

Major names like reality star Kim Kardashian West, who has become a criminal justice advocate, and Baker Mayfield, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, called for justice in Jones’ case.

“This is the cold machinery of the Death Penalty in America. In just over two weeks, an innocent man could be put to death,” Kardashian West tweeted. “My heart breaks for Julius and so many others who have suffered from such tragic miscarriage of justice.”

Students from several area schools took part in a walkout on Wednesday to protest Jones’ impending execution. The Oklahoma City Public Schools told The New York Times that more than 1,800 students across 13 schools participated in the demonstration.

Oklahoma uses lethal injection to conduct executions. If Jones’ execution had gone ahead, it would have been just the second in Oklahoma since 2015, when the state paused the practice after it was found to be using an incorrect mix of drugs in the process. Oklahoma executed John Marion Grant in October and has several more executions planned for the coming months.

Questions around Jones’ co-defendant’s story

On the night of July 28, 1999, Jones says he was with his family at his parents’ Oklahoma City house having dinner and playing board games. That’s according to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit focused on exonerating the wrongly convicted. Prosecutors have said Jones told a different story after his arrest.

But around the same time that evening, less than 20 miles away, Paul Howell was pulling up to his own parents’ house. Moments later, he was shot and killed — the victim of a carjacking. Howell’s sister was an eyewitness to the crime.

Howell’s family testified before the parole board and said they are convinced of Jones’ guilt. They say they feel revictimized by the publicity the case has received, according to KOSU.