AP

Oklahoma panel recommends governor spare Julius Jones’ life

Nov 1, 2021, 10:42 AM | Updated: 9:32 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board on Monday recommended that Gov. Kevin Stitt spare the life of Julius Jones, a man who has been on death row while proclaiming his innocence for more than two decades in the 1999 killing of a suburban Oklahoma City businessman.

The board recommended in 3-1 votes that Stitt grant Jones clemency and commute his sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole after hearing from Jones, 41, who testified via video link from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Several members of the panel agreed they had doubts about the evidence that led to Jones’ conviction. One board member, Scott Williams, recused himself from the vote because of an existing friendship with an attorney who has advocated for Jones.

“I continue to believe there is still doubt in this case,” said board member Kelly Doyle.

The lone vote against clemency came from Richard Smothermon, a former prosecutor, who said he believed Jones was not being truthful in his testimony.

“To believe in Mr. Jones’ theory of the case, you have to disbelieve every other piece of evidence in the case,” including testimony from law enforcement officers, independent witnesses and physical evidence, Smothermon said.

Jones’ fate now rests with Stitt, who must decide whether to let Jones be executed or commute his sentence.

“Governor Stitt is aware of the Pardon and Parole Board’s vote today,” Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison said in a statement. “Our office will not offer further comment until the governor has made a final decision.”

Stitt’s predecessor, fellow Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, rejected three separate recommendations for clemency for people on death row. The last time a governor granted clemency to someone on death row was in 2010, by Democrat Brad Henry.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has set a Nov. 18 execution date for Jones. The state resumed lethal injections last week after a six-year hiatus, putting a man to death for the 1998 stabbing death of a prison cafeteria worker.

Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in the 1999 shooting death of Paul Howell during a carjacking in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond.

He admitted to the board on Monday that he began shoplifting clothes, jewelry and electronics, but denied that he ever committed any violent acts. He also denied committing a separate carjacking to which he pleaded guilty, saying he made the plea on the advice of his attorney.

“Yes, I made mistakes in my youth, but I did not kill Mr. Paul Howell,” Jones told the panel.

Jones also testified that he was at home with his parents and siblings on the evening when Howell was killed, but prosecutors said Jones himself previously told his trial lawyers that wasn’t true.

“Jones repeatedly and unequivocally told his attorneys that his parents were mistaken and that he was not at home the night of the murder,” said Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Crabb.

Crabb said Jones is a recognized member of the Bloods gang and that he has continued to commit criminal acts while in prison, including possessing contraband and using other inmate’s pin numbers to make telephone calls. She also said Jones has had so much money deposited into his inmate account in the last couple of years that he has sent $18,000 to family and friends.

Jones’ case drew 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 television star Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, have urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life.

Jones alleges he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant who was a key prosecution witness. But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and former state Attorney General Mike Hunter have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming.

Jones also maintains his trial was contaminated by a racist juror, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected that claim.

Trial transcripts show witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and placed him with Howell’s stolen vehicle. Investigators also found the murder weapon and a bandanna with Jones’ DNA in an attic space above his bedroom. Jones said in his commutation filing that the gun and bandanna were planted there by the actual killer.

But Jones’ attorney, Amanda Bass, said his criminal trial was corrupted by the use of junk forensic science, jailhouse informants and a plea deal for the co-defendant who testified against him.

“In these ways and more, the criminal justice system failed Mr. Howell,” Bass said. “It also failed Julius by condemning him to death for something he did not do.”

Paul Howell’s sister, Megan Tobey, testified before the board that she distinctly remembers seeing Jones shoot her brother in front of his two young daughters.

“He is the same person today as he was 22 years ago. He’s still getting into trouble. He’s still in a gang. He’s still lying. And he still feels no shame, guilt or remorse for his action,” Tobey said. “We need Julius Jones to be held responsible.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Kamala Harris speaking at podium...

Associated Press

Harris has support of enough Democratic delegates to become party’s presidential nominee

Vice President Kamala Harris won the backing of more than two-thirds of the Democratic delegates she needs to become her party's nominee and set a fundraising record Monday, as top Democrats rallied to her in their bid to defeat Republican Donald Trump.

3 days ago

Global technology outage causes chaos on Friday morning...

Associated Press

Faulty software update causes havoc worldwide for airlines, hospitals and governments

A global technology outage grounded flights, knocked banks and hospital systems offline and media outlets off air on Friday morning.

6 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives during the second day of th...

Associated Press

Donald Trump celebrated by former rivals at Republican National Convention

Former president Donald Trump was celebrated at the Republican National Convention by former rivals, including Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

8 days ago

FILE - Members of the Henderson Fire Department load Deb Billet, 66, into an ambulance before trans...

Associated Press

Things to know about heat deaths as a dangerously hot summer shapes up in the western US

A dangerously hot summer is shaping up in the U.S. West, with heat suspected in dozens of recent deaths.

12 days ago

FILE - Dr. Ruth Westheimer participates in the "Ask Dr. Ruth" panel during the Hulu presentation at...

Associated Press

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, has died

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, media star and best-selling author, has died.

12 days ago

Biden proposes rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat...

Associated Press

Biden proposes new rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat

President Joe Biden on Tuesday proposed a new rule to address excessive heat in the workplace, warning — as tens of millions of people in the U.S. are under heat advisories — that high temperatures are the country's leading weather-related killer.

22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

Oklahoma panel recommends governor spare Julius Jones’ life