Nov 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Oklahoma governor commutes death sentence of Julius Jones

Picture of a prison with a sign that reads "Oklahoma State Penitentiary"

Photo: Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) has granted clemency to Julius Jones, who was set to be executed later Thursday for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell.

Driving the news: Stitt was facing pressure from Jones' family and supporters who argue he is innocent. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board earlier this month recommended clemency. Stitt on Thursday commuted Jones' sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

  • Stitt said in a statement he made the decision "after prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case."

Catch-up quick: Jones was a 19-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma when he was convicted in the death of Howell, who was killed in a carjacking.

  • He has maintained his innocence for over two decades, saying he was framed by the actual shooter, who was an acquaintance, per NBC News.
  • State prosecutors argued the evidence against Jones is overwhelming, AP reported. Witnesses identified Jones as responsible for Howell's slaying.
  • The murder weapon was found wrapped in a bandana believed to have been worn by the shooter in an attic space above Jones' bedroom, per AP. The bandana had his DNA. Jones said the weapon was placed there by the actual shooter, who went to his House after killing Howell.

The case gained prominence in recent years, with the Innocence Project, activists and several celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West, Kerry Washington and Stephen Curry, among others, calling for Stitt to commute Jones' sentence.

  • In recommending clemency, some members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board said they had questions about the evidence that led to his conviction, AP reported.

Between the lines: Oklahoma last month ended a six-year moratorium on executions, brought by concerns over the state's use of lethal injection.

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