Death row inmate gets widespread support from Oklahoma faith community

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - Local members of the Oklahoma faith community are announcing their support for a death row inmate who they believe was wrongly convicted of murder.

"The faith community is in full support of this young man, and we believe sincerely he should be given an opportunity because we don't believe he committed the crime,” Senior Pastor at Fairview Missionary Baptist Church John A. Reed said.

Julius Jones was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the early 2000s for the murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell.

Jones has maintained his innocence, and a 2018 docuseries shows what many believe was a lack of evidence and an unfair trial.

"I think he's innocent. I think he's maintained his innocence all of these years. He’s maintained the same story and has witnesses to support him,” Shannon Fleck, Executive Director for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, said.

Now, the community, including faith leaders, is hoping to put pressure on the governor with this petition.

The Julius Jones Coalition partnered with Change.org for “National Julius Jones Petition Day,” and they want 150,000 by the end of Wednesday.

Pastor John A. Reed is hoping for the same.

"There's no way in the world a person should be put to death when there's so much considerable doubt,” Reed said.

The Change.org petition comes after Jones's attorneys filed a commutation petition with the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in October.

Attorney Dale Baich says, "Questionable evidence and shady testimony was used to convict Julius, and his trial was infected with racism."

Now, they're waiting for the parole board to get their petition on the calendar.

Former Pardon and Parole Board member Kris Steele was on the board for two years. He said there's a three-step review once a commutation petition is heard.

"The Pardon and Parole Board will review the information in the file, the facts in the application, and determine whether or not to move it forward for an actual in-person hearing and interview," Steele said.

From there, the board can recommend reducing the person's sentence, or even recommend immediate release.

"Once a favorable recommendation is made by the pardon and parole board, it's ultimately up to the governor to make a final decision," Steele said.

Last year, DNA found on evidence was retested and tested positive for Jones. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said in a statement then that there is "disseminated misinformation and lies regarding the trial and evidence in the case. We have never been afraid of the truth."

Faith leaders are hoping Jones gets another chance before it's too late.

"That we get a stay of execution, that we are not killing a potentially innocent man," Fleck said.

“I stand with Oklahoma City community leaders and advocates nationwide in calling on our Governor to consider Julius Jones’ petition for clemency. Ending Julius’s life when there is so much uncertainty in his case would be an injustice, and we cannot answer one injustice with another. During the holiday season, I hope that we can appeal to our better angels for a more humane, just resolution to this case," said Rep. Kendra Horn.

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On Wednesday, Jones' spiritual advisor released a statement to News 4 from Jones. It read:

"I appreciate all the support, the prayers, the empathy in people's hearts. I'm still trying to take it all in. Grateful that people are trying to restore me to my family. Some days when it gets hard, it gets me through to know people care."

The petition can be found here.

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