Julius Jones’ commutation hearing rescheduled to September to allow for enhanced process

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Julius Jones’ commutation hearing has been rescheduled to September 13, after originally being scheduled for June.

“It’s a little bit longer. It’s three months away instead of next month,” Jimmy Lawson, Julius Jones’ best friend, told KFOR on Thursday. “The positive side is that we will still get our chance to have a hearing.”

Jones was granted a commutation hearing following a 3-1 vote by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board back in March.

Now, months later, his June hearing was rescheduled to September 13 at 10 a.m.

In a statement sent to News 4, Pardon and Parole Board Executive Director Tom Bates said the following:

“The second stage commutation hearing for Julius Jones will be on the September 13th docket. It was set in September to allow new administrative rules to go into effect concerning enhanced second stage hearings in cases that the Pardon and Parole Board determines warrant more time to hear from advocates for the offender as well as victims and trial officials. Our current rules only allow relatively short periods of time for these hearings.”

In July of 1999, Edmond businessman Paul Howell was shot and killed in the driveway of his parents’ Edmond home. Investigators say the alleged suspect took off in Howell’s Suburban after killing the businessman.

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Paul Howell

At the time of the crime, Julius Jones was a 19-year-old honor student on a scholarship at the University of Oklahoma.

Jones was arrested and was put on trial for the murder.

Jones never took the stand and he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death.

His 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.

The Jones family has always maintained Julius’ 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 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.”

In January of 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court announced 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,” Baich told KFOR.

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Julius Jones

In recent months, Jones’ case has gained national attention with many people calling on state leaders to intervene.

However, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says they have the right man behind bars.

“Julius Jones murdered Paul Howell in cold blood in front of his sister and daughters,” Hunter said. “No celebrity imploration or profusion of misinformation will change that.”

Hunter says one of the key factors in the case was a red bandana that was found wrapped around the murder weapon in Jones’ home.

In 2018, the bandana was tested for DNA evidence after Jones’ defense attorneys claimed the evidence would prove that Jones was being framed.

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However, the results of the DNA profile showed the probability of the DNA belonging to someone other than Jones was one in 110 million African Americans.

Hunter released this statement following the pardon and parole board’s vote:

“With the exception of Judge Allen McCall, I am disappointed in the members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. The three members who voted in favor of moving Jones to stage two did not apply objective standards to the law or the evidence. I encourage those members to go back and look at the 33-page protest letter and 849-page appendix we submitted last Monday, which completely invalidates every claim that Julius Jones is innocent. My office will continue to stand on the irrefutable facts of this case and with the family of Paul Howell by opposing Jones’ request for relief from the Pardon and Parole Board.”

Oklahoma County D.A. David Prater also released a statement:

“My heart breaks for the family of Paul Howell today. My thoughts and prayers are with them as they continue to deal with unimaginable pain.”

“We trust that in September, the truth will come to light, that the pardon and parole board members will see Julius Jones for who he actually is, know that he’s not a killer, and commute his sentence to time served,” CeCe Jones Davis, with the Justice for Julius campaign, said.

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