Oklahoma Governor Commutes Sentence for Julius Jones

Julius Jones, a 41-year-old man who was sentenced to death row in the connection with the 1999 murder of an Oaklahoma business man, Paul Howell. For more than 20 years Jones has maintained his innocence, however, he was scheduled to be executed on Thursday at the State Penitentiary even though the state Pardon and Parole Board has recommended his sentence be commuted to life in prison. 

Ahead of his scheduled execution Thursday morning, several Oklahoma City high schools held walk-outs in support of Jones and protestors gathered outside the state capitol and the governor’s mansion. 

Jones’ case has attracted attention across the world, sparking a massive campaign to stop his execution through protests and support from celebrities and politicians. According to AP News, “earlier Thursday, Jones’ attorneys had filed a last-minute emergency request seeking a temporary stop to his execution, saying Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedures post a “serious and substantial risk of severe suffering and pain to prisoners” and citing last month’s execution in which John Marion Grant convulsed and vomited as he was being put to death.”

Just hours before Jones was to be executed Governor Sitt agreed to commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General released a statement: “The Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General respects the statutory authority of the Governor to make this decision. I know Governor Stitt is making what he believes is the right decision. I appreciate the Governor’s condition that Mr. Jones never be released from prison. However, we are greatly disappointed that after 22 years, four appeals, including the review of 13 appellate Judges, the work of the investigators, prosecutors, jurors, and the trial Judge have been set aside. A thorough review of the evidence confirms Julius Jones’ guilt in this case and that the death penalty was warranted. Our office will continue to work for justice and for the safety of all Oklahomans, including families like Paul Howell’s. We recognize that the pain of losing a loved one never ends, and our hearts and prayers are with the Howell family.”

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