OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The family behind a high-profile case that has gained national attention is speaking out following a commutation hearing for a convicted killer.
“When we pulled up in the driveway and stopped, my dad had kind of cracked the door open. I looked over. I was sitting right behind him, right behind my dad. I was in the backseat right behind the driver’s seat, and I looked over and saw Julius Jones walking up to the car,” Rachel Howell, Paul’s daughter, told KFOR. “It happened so fast, but I saw him walking up, and I remember waving, because I’m a child. I don’t know what’s about to happen. I just remember kind of waving, and he literally shot my dad in the head and did not say a word. He did not say a word. He shot my dad, and I watched my dad’s head go like that. That is the vision that I have every night is my dad’s head falling to the right.”
Investigators say the murderer took off in Howell’s Suburban.
Jones was ultimately arrested and indicted for Howell’s murder. He did not take the stand during the trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2002.
Since his conviction, there has been a national movement proclaiming his innocence.
Jones’ supporters say he was failed by his defense team, which they say never brought up his alibi on the night of the murder.
However, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater says Jones’ supporters have “disseminated misinformation and lies regarding the trial and evidence” in the case.
Jones and his family maintain that he is innocent.
“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 his 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.”
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 in favor of commuting Jones’ death sentence.
The board voted in favor of commuting Jones’ sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole, with several members of the board citing doubts in the case.
Officials stressed that this is only a recommendation, and that the case will now head to Gov. Stitt’s office for further consideration.
Two weeks after the commutation hearing, the Howell family has responded to the vote and is calling on the governor to act.
“The Howell family is extremely disappointed, disillusioned and saddened by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of convicted murderer Julius Jones,” a statement from the family read.
The Howell family says they feel that the board had their minds made up before the hearing, and they don’t feel the board is capable of presiding over an impartial clemency hearing.
“Julius Jones… a gang member, a pathological liar, a criminal with a violent track record, a sociopath…. is unquestionably and without doubt guilty of the murder of Paul Howell. For the Board to make a recommendation that even remotely suggests that Julius Jones is innocent, or that allows for… or even considers… his early release from prison and places him back on the street is unfathomable, and endangers the safety of the Howell family and all Oklahomans.
We respectfully request that the Pardon and Parole Board enact some new rules like they did two days prior to commutation hearing, and allow the State of Oklahoma to cross examine Julius Jones at the clemency hearing. Said new rule can go into effect two days prior to the clemency hearing on October 24, 2021. Julius Jones has had multiple opportunities in the past to testify… during the guilt/innocence stage of his trial, during the sentencing stage of the trial, and at the three day evidentiary hearing regarding alibi. It is patently unfair at this point to allow Julius Jones’ words to go unchallenged in a situation free from the rules of evidence or cross-examination. We do not feel as though the Pardon and Parole Board possesses sufficient knowledge of the case to ask Julius Jones the necessary questions, nor do we trust them to view his statements with the skepticism they deserve in light of his criminal history, his numerous lies, and his obvious motive to lie again. If Jones is telling the truth, he will have no objection to this request.
The Board’s ruling in our case has set a precedent whereby each and every inmate incarcerated in the State of Oklahoma can now apply for commutation, commit multiple misconducts, re-litigate their case regardless of the scrutiny their case has already received on appellate review, be free from fact checking, and be held to a new burden of proof… that of beyond any doubt. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has eviscerated the need for juries and the appellate process in Oklahoma. The legal community in Oklahoma is already taking note. One legal commentator stated, ‘It absolutely sets a new precedent,’ and ‘I think it’s an affront to everyone in the State,’ and ‘this parole board I think had made up their mind way before they got to the hearing.’
We ask that Governor Kevin Stitt thoroughly review the facts and truth of this case, that he meet with the family of Paul Howell, that he ignore the reckless and biased recommendation of the Pardon and Parole Board, that he trust the decision of the courts and jurors, that he uphold the rule of law, that he protect the people of Oklahoma, and that he hold Julius Jones accountable for his crime.”Howell Family statement
The Howell family is asking Oklahomans to write Gov. Stitt and express their thoughts and comments with the heading “Jones, Julius Doc#270147.”