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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.

Go deeper

Dec 1, 2021 - Health

Pentagon denies Oklahoma National Guard request for exemption from vaccine mandate

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the federal government's vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: The Army National Guard must be fully vaccinated by the end of next June while the Air National Guard faces a Dec. 2 deadline. Those who fail to comply will be barred from drills and other duties, and won't be paid even when they're under state control.

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Abrams’ campaign manager rules out 2024 run if she wins governor's race

Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

In her first major interview since the official announcement, Stacey Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo quashed speculation that the Georgia Democrat would interrupt a theoretical gubernatorial term to run for president in 2024.

Why it matters: Abrams' name has come up repeatedly as a top 2024 Democratic contender given President Joe Biden's age and Vice President Kamala Harris's low favorability rating.