OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In recent months, celebrities, religious leaders, and professional athletes have spoken out in support of an Oklahoma death row inmate.
On Monday afternoon, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter held a news conference to address the Julius Jones case.
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.
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, 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,” Dale Baich, one of Jones’ federal defense attorneys, told News 4.
In recent months, Jones’ case has gained national attention with many people calling on state leaders to intervene.
On Monday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said he felt it was important to bring to light some of the facts of the case, saying there is an orchestrated effort to get Jones off of death row.
“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.”
He says the information from the trial transcript disproves the claims made by his supporters.
“Julius Jones had his day in court,” Hunter said.
Hunter says one of the key factors in the case was a red bandanna that was found wrapped around the murder weapon in Jones’ home.
In 2018, the bandanna was tested for DNA evidence after Jones’ defense attorneys claimed the evidence would prove that Jones was being framed.
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 says in regards to the racial comment that was allegedly made by a juror is not what it seems. He says bias claim by a juror was thoroughly investigated
During the trial, Hunter says the juror says she heard a ‘provocative comment’ made by another juror. However, she said she had only heard part of the comment and wasn’t sure if it was about Jones.
At the time, the juror did not tell the judge that a racial remark was made.
Hunter also said there were some disparities about Jones’ alibi for the evening of the murder.
Dale Baich, the lead federal defense attorney for Jones, released the following statement:
“We stand by what we’ve argued in court, what we’ve presented to the Pardon and Parole Board. We are hopeful that we will have an opportunity to present the case to the board so that it could decide whether he got a fair trial.”
Hunter said he spoke with the victim’s family, who said that they felt that no one was advocating on their behalf.
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