Pardon & Parole Board Votes To Recommend Commutation Of Death Row Inmate Julius Jones' Sentence


Monday, September 13th 2021, 12:37 pm
By: Caleb Califano, Colby Thelen


OKLAHOMA CITY -

The Pardon & Parole Board has voted to recommend commuting death row inmate Julius Jones' sentence to life in prison. The motion will now go to Gov. Stitt.

Original Story

Death row inmate Julius Jones faces the second phase of his commutation hearing Monday morning. Jones was convicted in the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman, Paul Howell. 

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Julius Jones version of what happened the night Howell was murdered has never been tested in a courtroom and should quote "scrutinized closely." 

Prater is expected to argue that Jones' application for commutation contains false evidence, and that Jones was found to have illicit drugs in his system in April, two things the state believes should immediately disqualify Jones. 

The state's case highlights Jones' criminal history, connecting him to a violent list of crimes prior to Howell's murder. 

The district attorney is also questioning the credibility of inmates like Roderick Wesley who said Jones co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, admitted guilt. 

On Monday’s hearing, Prater says in part quote: 

" ...If the Board objectively considers the truth, they will quickly vote to deny the killer's commutation request." 

Prater also said no matter what the board decides Monday, he will continue to fight for Paul Howell, his family and all innocent citizens of Oklahoma, even if that means going to the Governor. 

Meanwhile, Prater is asking for the recusal of Pardon and Parole board member Scott Williams, who Prater claims has ties to a known Jones supporter. 

The state supreme court rejected Prater's request to remove two other board members on Friday. 

Prater and the state will have 30 minutes to argue their case Monday morning starting at 9:30, followed by 30 minutes for Jones’ team. 

Jones' Defense Team Argues Legitimacy Of Original Trial

Supporters of death row inmate Julius Jones plan to rally prior to phase two of his commutation hearing on Monday, Jones was convicted of murder, in the 1999 killing of Edmond man, Paul Howell. 

Those who argue for his innocence said his case was marred with racism, ineffective public defense, and conflicting statements. 

The team fighting for his commutation submitted dozens of items to the Pardon and Parole Board. The documents, pictures and videos span nearly 2 decades. 

Sworn affidavits from Jones’ family members claim their testimony could have corroborated his alibi for that night in 1999; however, they said they were not asked to testify at his trial. 

Some court filings also call into question whether Jones' original defense team had the knowledge and experience to properly defend a death row case. 

The most talked about piece of evidence among Jones’ supporters was a video interview with an Arkansas inmate, Roderick Wesley. 

Wesley shared a cell with Jones’ co-defendant in the case, Christopher Jordan. Wesley claims in the interview that Jordan admitted to being the killer and Jones took the fall.  

The state argues Wesley has a history of lying and fraudulent behavior; however, it led to many examining the evidence further. 

Earlier this year, Connie Ellison, a woman who claims she was dating Howell at the time of his murder, said she initially supported Jones' conviction and sentencing, but now believes he may be innocent. 

“I finally had to come forward and say this is wrong,” Ellison said in a March interview. “I have a lot of doubt about his guilt. How can we execute somebody if there's not 100 percent certainty that he is the murderer?" 

According to the District Attorney, Howell’s family says the two were not dating and Ellison does not speak for the family. 

The defense team also submitted more than 40 letters of support for Jones. Some of them were written by athletes like Baker Mayfield and Russell Westbrook. Others were signed by congressmen and legal advocacy groups. 

The parole board will make a formal recommendation to Governor Kevin Stitt who will make the final decision on Jones’ fate.