Final push for Julius Jones as execution nears

Mid-South

OKLAHOMA CITY (NewsNation Now) — A convicted murderer who is set to be executed Thursday is pleading for his life.

Julius Jones, 41, has maintained his innocence for two decades after being convicted in the 1999 shooting death of Oklahoma City businessman Paul Howell during a carjacking. Prosecutors say Howell was returning home from getting ice cream with his daughters when he was killed. Jones has long maintained his innocence, claiming he was eating dinner with his family at the time of the crime.

Jones claims he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and co-defendant who testified against Jones and was released from prison after 15 years.

Last week, the state’s Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend Gov. Stitt grant clemency to Jones and commute his sentence to life in prison. Stitt now has less than 12 hours to make a decision.

“We are optimistic and hopeful that [Gov. Stitt will grant clemency]. There’s so much reasonable doubt that evidence is pointing away from Julius,” his sister, Antoinette Jones, said on “Banfield”.

State and county prosecutors have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming. Trial transcripts show witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and placed him with Howell’s stolen vehicle. Investigators also found the murder weapon and a bandanna with Jones’ DNA in an attic space above his bedroom. Jones claims the murder weapon was placed there by the actual killer, who visited Jones’ house after Howell was shot.

Jones’ case was profiled in “The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary produced by actress Viola Davis that aired on ABC in 2018. Since then, Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, have urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life.

 “This is the cold machinery of the Death Penalty in America,” Kardashian West said in part on Twitter earlier this week. “My heart breaks for Julius and so many others who have suffered from such tragic miscarriage of justice.”

But the victim’s daughter said to consider the vicious crime and her dad’s violent murder, celebrity tweets or not.

“I would like to ask for them as if you’re ever going to advocate for something like this, a capital murder case, look at both sides,” Rachel Howell said to local news outlet KOCO last month.

Oklahoma ended a six-year moratorium on executions — brought on by concerns over its methods — last month. 

NewsNation affiliate KFOR and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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