Editor’s Notes: The victim’s family has an updated response to the Governor’s announcement.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Gov. Kevin Stitt announced that he will not decide on whether to commute Julius Jones’ sentence, which the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended he do, until after a clemency hearing on Jones’ case is completed.
Stitt issued the following statement on Tuesday evening:
“I am not accepting the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of Julius Jones because a clemency hearing, not a commutation hearing, is the appropriate venue for our state to consider death row cases.
Clemency hearings are more intensive and thorough than a commutation hearing and include the option for the inmate to speak publicly before the Pardon and Parole Board as well as the victim’s family and attorneys from both sides.
The precedent in Oklahoma is for death row inmates to receive the clemency hearings to which they are entitled prior to their execution date.”GOV. KEVIN STITT
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 in favor of commuting Jones’ death sentence, earlier this month.
The clemency hearing is scheduled for October 26th.
Jones was sentenced to death in 2002 for the July 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, who was shot to death outside his parents’ Edmond home.
The Howell Family released a statement on the Governor’s announcement:
“Our family is encouraged by both Governor Stitt’s decision to reject the commutation recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and by Attorney General O’Connor’s decision to move forward and request an execution date for Julius Jones…which was set by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for November 18,2021. This will finally allow for Jones’s entitled Clemency hearing to proceed.
However, our family also realizes that the Clemency hearing for Julius Jones will be held before the same Pardon and Parole Board members that irresponsibly and recklessly recommended his commutation. We can only hope that this time they will follow the established rules without bias and represent our family and the people of Oklahoma with impartiality…but honestly, we do not expect a different outcome from the board.
The guilt of Julius Jones for the murder of Paul Howell remains overwhelming and undeniable, and all the lies and misinformation spread by his supporters will never change that Truth. We have faith that Governor Stitt will thoroughly review the facts of this case, accept the conclusions of the courts and jurors, and finally hold Julius Jones accountable for his crimes.”The Family of Paul Howell
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.
The Howell family responded to the commutation hearing’s vote by calling upon Stitt to meet with them.
“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 recent 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