Activists and loved ones are seeking justice for Julius Jones, a 40-year-old Black man from Oklahoma who faces the possibility of being executed in October after being convicted of murder and spending half his life in prison.
Jones was 19 years old when he was convicted of murder in the death of 45-year-old businessman Paul Howell. Since then, the 40-year-old has continued to maintain his innocence. Still, Oklahoma’s Attorney General recently requested an Oct. 28 execution date for Jones, The Washington Post reported.
“Julius Jones is an innocent man who has been on death row in Oklahoma for over 20 years. At 19 years old, he was convicted of a murder he did not commit,” activist Tamika Mallory said in a Facebook post on Thursday. “The Oklahoma Attorney General requested that Julius Jones be given an execution date of October 28 despite the state’s troubling history with botched executions, a scheduled commutation hearing and his maintained innocence.”
Oklahoma, which is known for heavily relying on incarceration and death sentences, has been forced to reevaluate its approach in recent years. The killing of George Floyd, which inspired a nationwide focus on systematic racism, also prompted Oklahoma to move closer to prison reform, The Post reported.
But Jones’ supporters are still fighting desperately to save the man who is widely regarded as innocent. Connie Ellison, who was dating Howell at the time of his death, is among those advocating for Jones.
“I just can’t be silent anymore,” Ellison told the Post. “This is a guy whose guilt is questionable to me and they’re wanting to execute him.”
If the advocates succeed in their effort, Jones would be the fifth person since 1973 to be granted clemency from Oklahoma’s death row.
“Clemency is rarely granted, but it’s granted in extraordinary cases,” said Robert Dunham, who directs the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. “But if you can say anything about Julius Jones’s case, it is that it’s extraordinary.”
Jones’ lawyers have claimed that his trial was tainted by racial bias and inconclusive evidence. The lawyers say their client was framed by Christopher Jordan, a high school acquaintance who the attorneys claim as the shooter.
According to The U.S. Sun, Howell was shot in his car less than 20 miles away from Jones’ home. Three suspects interviewed by police pinned Jones and Jordan as the alleged carjacking murderers.
Jordan was told that he would serve 30 years in exchange for his testimony. But he walked free after serving half of that time. Jones, who remains locked up at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, filed for clemency in October 2019.
“As God is my witness, I was not involved in any way in the crimes that led to Paul Howell being shot and killed,” his clemency report stated. “I have spent the past 20 years on death row for a crime I did not commit, did not witness and was not at.”