Julius Jones: Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt grants last-minute clemency to prisoner

Julius Jones was supposed to be executed for the 1999 fatal shooting of businessman Paul Howell


                            Julius Jones: Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt grants last-minute clemency to prisoner
Oklahoma Gov Kevin Stitt granted clemency to inmate Julius Jones at the last minute (Wikimedia, @GovStitt/Twitter)
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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma Gov Kevin Stitt granted clemency to inmate Julius Jones, commuting his death sentence on November 18, Thursday, just hours before he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. Jones was supposed to be executed for the 1999 fatal shooting of Paul Howell, a businessman from an Oklahoma City suburb. According to an executive order filed on November 18, the inmate's sentence will be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Jones was supposed to be executed at 4 pm at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. When he and his attorneys were having their final visit, they found out about the clemency at 1245 pm CT. For the last two weeks, Jones had been holding cell outside the execution chamber. He was reportedly given what was then considered his last meal on Wednesday evening, November 17.

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An order, however, has made it clear that Jones' sentence is being commuted with the condition that he "shall not be eligible to apply for or be considered for a commutation, pardon, or parole for the remainder of his life. Amanda Bass, Jones' attorney, said that the governor's decision an "important step towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man."

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Bass said that the family and supporters of Jones had hoped that he would be granted parole one day. "While we had hoped the Governor would adopt the Board's recommendation in full by commuting Julius's sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius's innocence," Bass said, "we are grateful that the Governor has prevented an irreparable mistake."

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Jones, 41, has now served almost 20 years on death row with numerous questions being raised about his guilt. Jones has maintained that he is not guilty of the crime. Howell was shot to death in the driveway of his parents’ home in Edmond, Oklahoma, on July 28, 1999, and his daughter claimed that she saw Jones shoot her father in the head. There were claims of innocence and controversy surrounding Jones' trial. The inmate and his defense team have argued that he was at home when the murder took place. They have also claimed that his co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, is the real murderer.

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A number of celebrities pleaded for Jones' clemency, including reality star Kim Kardashian, who had been lobbying Stitt to follow Parole Board's recommendation and grant clemency to Jones. Besides Kardashian, NBA players including Russell Westbrook, Trae Young and Blake Griffin had also urged officials to commute the sentence. Jones' family and supporters had been pressuring Stitt to commute his sentence to life in prison.

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As Jones was granted clemency, Howell's family remains convinced that he killed the businessman. "We know Governor Stitt had a difficult decision to make," the family said in a statement. "We take comfort that his decision affirmed the guilt of Julius Jones and that he shall not be eligible to apply for, or be considered for, a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life." "Julius Jones forever changed our lives and the lives of (Paul Howell's) family and friends," the statement said.

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