OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has set the date for Julius Jones’ commutation hearing.
Jones’ legal team confirmed to KFOR that his commutation hearing has been set for 10 a.m. on Sept. 13.
The Pardon and Parole Bard voted 3-1 in March to move Jones, a death row inmate, into stage two of the commutation process, granting him a hearing.
Jones was convicted of shooting and killing Edmond businessman Paul Howell in Howell’s driveway in July 1999.
He has been on death row for the last two decades. However, Jones has maintained that he is innocent of the murder. He became the focus of a nationwide campaign to commute his sentence.
Julius Jones’ family and supporters walked four blocks to Pardon and Parole Board offices in February to deliver 20 boxes filled with a petition containing 6 million signatures calling for Jones’ release from prison.
Jones was a 19-year-old University of Oklahoma student when Howell was killed.
He was arrested and put on trial for the murder. Jones never took the stand and he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death.
Jones’ supporters said his original defense team failed him, never even bringing up his alibi for the night of the murder.
However, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said those defending Jones have “disseminated misinformation and lies regarding the trial and evidence” in the case.
Prater was sharply opposed to the Pardon and Parole Board granting Jones a commutation hearing.
Jones and his family have always maintained his innocence.
“As God is my witness, I was not involved in any way in the crimes that led to Howell being shot and killed,” Jones said in a previous clemency report. “I have spent the past 20 years on death row for a crime I did not commit, did not witness and was not at.”
The U.S. Supreme Court announced in January of 2019 that it would not get involved in the case when Jones’ attorney argued that people of color in Oklahoma are more likely to be sentenced to death when the victim in the case is white.
Weeks later, his attorneys filed a new appeal asking the court to consider evidence against a specific juror.
That juror is accused of using a racial slur when referring to Jones during the trial, and reportedly told another member of the jury that someone should shoot Jones ‘behind the jail.’
Defense attorneys say the judge in the case knew about the conversation, but didn’t remove the juror from the trial.
However, the Supreme Court still denied Jones’ petition for a judicial review.
“The U.S. Supreme Court twice declined to look at the issues in Julius’ case, issues related to racism,” Dale Baich, one of Jones’ federal defense attorneys, told KFOR.
Support for Jones spread across the nation, with citizens from throughout the country calling for his release in recent years. Celebrities such as football star Baker Mayfield and Kim Kardashian have also spoken out in support of Jones, calling for state leaders to intervene and for his sentence to be commuted.