OKLAHOMA CITY – A national organization is asking Governor Mary Fallin to take a closer look at the case against a man on death row.
When he was just 19-years-old, Julius Jones was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, an Edmond businessman who was gunned down in cold blood in his parent’s driveway.
He had just pulled up to the house with his sister and two young children. The other three were able to run into the house before the gunman took off in Howell’s suburban.
The red bandana and the gun used in the crime were both found in the Jones’ home when police searched it back in 1999. Julius’ supporters contend one of his friends, who was convicted of being an accomplice, stashed it there – not Julius.
Julius Jones was a 19-year-old honor student on a scholarship at the University of Oklahoma at the time of the murder. He was arrested for the crime, convicted and sentenced to die.
Since the crime, Jones and his family have maintained his innocence.
“But, it isn’t fair for him to be in jail for something he didn’t do,” said Julius’ dad, Anthony Jones.
After spending several years on Oklahoma’s death row, Jones’ case catapulted into the spotlight after being featured on a three-part documentary series. ‘The Last Defense’ highlighted possible missteps by law enforcement and the judicial system during Jones’ conviction.
“This is what we have been hoping for all this time, for hope, prayer, to get a chance, you know, to be heard,” Anthony Jones, Julius’ father, told News 4 in July.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said it was looking into racial bias by certain members of the original jury.
Now, the Congressional Black Caucus is asking Gov. Fallin to review Jones' case and that possible biases that may have played a role in his conviction.
"In November 2017, Mr. Jones' current legal team discovered new evidence that at least one juror harbored racial prejudice that influenced his vote to convict and sentence Mr. Jones to death. One juror reported telling the judge about another juror who said the trial was a waste of time and 'they should just take the [n-word] out and shoot him behind the jail.'
The United States Supreme Court has made unequivocally clear that our criminal justice system cannot tolerate such blatant examples of racial prejudice on the part of even a single juror. In this way and many others, Mr. Jones' rights under the state and federal constitutions appear to have been violated. On July 24, 2018, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to consider this newly discovered claim of the juror using the racial slur. There is also a petition pending before the United States Supreme Court regarding the unfair application of the death penalty on the basis of race," the letter read.
The caucus asks Fallin to "take a close and careful look at [Julius Jones'] case, and use your authority to correct this wrongful conviction. Justice requires it."