OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board on Monday recommended Gov. Kevin Stitt spare the life of death row inmate Julius Jones, whose murder conviction for the 1999 killing of an Edmond businessman has drawn national attention.
The board recommended in 3-1 votes that Stitt commute Jones’ sentence to life in prison and that Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Several members of the panel agreed they had doubts about the evidence that led to Jones’ conviction. One member of the board, Scott Williams, recused himself from the vote because of an existing friendship with an attorney who has advocated for Jones.
Stitt must now decide whether to grant clemency or commute Jones’ sentence to life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has set a Nov. 18 execution date for Jones.
Jones, 41, who has maintained his innocence, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for the 1999 shooting death of Paul Howell during a carjacking.
Jones’ case drew widespread attention after it was profiled in “The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary produced by actress Viola Davis that aired on ABC in 2018. Since then, reality television star 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.
Jones alleges he was framed by the actual killer, a high-school friend and former co-defendant who was a key witness against him. But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and the state’s former attorney general, Mike Hunter, have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming.
Trial transcripts show that 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 said in his commutation filing that the gun and bandanna were planted there by the actual killer.