Life or Death: The Julius Jones Clemency Explained

by Solomon Sephus

Julius Jones is off death row after an exhausting week of protests, appeals and pleas from a bipartisan group of supporters. His life was spared just hours before his execution was scheduled to begin.

Jones has been on Oklahoma’s death row for nineteen years. He was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, a businessman from Edmond.  Jones has always maintained he had nothing to do with the murder. His case was bolstered by the confession of another person who claimed Jones was innocent and admitted to the murder.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for Jones after hearing from his supporters and the Howell family. Board members supporting clemency said they had too many doubts about his conviction. The recommendation was for Jones’ sentence to be changed to life in prison with the possibility of parole. That left the decision as to whether or not Jones would be executed to Governor Kevin Stitt.

On the morning of November 18, the day of Jones’ scheduled execution, a group of supporters gathered at the Oklahoma capitol building to advocate for clemency. The governor had not yet made a statement about his decision to grant clemency or if he would allow the execution to proceed.

As the supporters were waiting for the governor’s decision, Madeline Davis-Jones, Julius’ mother, and Rev. Keith Jossell, Jones’ spiritual adviser, held a press conference. Davis-Jones said she had not been allowed to speak with the governor since the parole board made its recommendation. 

“I had high expectations to hug my son. I saw him, but I’ve been seeing him through a glass. A lot of people think I get to hug him, but I don’t get to hug him. And he’s not this monster that people portray him to be,” Davis-Jones said. 

“No matter what happens in the next few hours, God is watching. He is watching and he is taking precise notes,” Jossell said. 

Support for clemency was bolstered by a group of conservative lawmakers who support the death penalty, but were concerned about Jones’ conviction.  Their calls for clemency were joined by celebrities such as Russell Westbrook, Baker Mayfield and Kim Kardashian. 

Four hours before the execution was scheduled to begin, Governor Stitt announced he was granting clemency for Julius Jones. However instead of life with the possibility of parole, the governor’s executive order called for Jones to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

While taking away the chance of parole was not what most of Jones’ supporters wanted, it was a substantial move that is rarely taken by an Oklahoma governor. Jones’ supporters have promised they will continue to fight for him and they remain hopeful to find a way to one day get Jones released from prison.

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