OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The family and supporters of high-profile Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones gave impassioned speeches inside the State Capitol on the eve of Jones’ scheduled execution, calling upon Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute the death sentence.
Jones’ supporters have been a constant presence at the capitol this week, waiting for word from Stitt on whether the scheduled execution of Jones for the murder of Paul Howell will be commuted or maintained.
“Monday, you know, I was denied, and I know denied is not delayed, but today I had high expectation to hug my son. I saw him but I’ve been seeing him through a glass. A lot of people think I get to hug him. I don’t get to hug him,” said Madeline Davis-Jones, Julius Jones’ mother, as she spoke with scores of people who gathered at the Capitol Building to demand “Justice for Julius.”
The family went inside the Capitol Building on Monday to hand-delivered a letter to Stitt’s office. They also made two formal requests to speak with the governor in person. Stitt’s Chief of Communications, Charlie Hannema, told the family that Stitt would consider the letter, but could not meet with them.
Davis-Jones said in her remarks to the crowd that her son is not a murderer.
“And he’s not this monster that people have portrayed him to be. Because you’re here, my strength comes from you all, from the people of Oklahoma,” Davis-Jones said.
Antoinette Jones, Jones’ sister, spoke to the crowd after her mother, saying she had just gotten off the phone with her brother.
“He said all of this is God, everybody coming together. He says he thanks y’all for letting God move you to come together,” said Antoinette Jones. “He says he loves each and every one of you. He says God has spoken, it is time. He said it’s time, it is time to correct an injustice.”
Julius Jones was sentenced to death in 2002 for the July 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, who was gunned down in front of his two young daughters and sister outside his parents’ home.
Prosecutors said Jones, who was 19 at the time, and his close friend, Christopher Jordan, followed the Howell family from a Braum’s, planning to carjack them and steal Howell’s Suburban.
Jones pleaded not guilty and has since maintained that he is innocent. His many supporters across the state and nation say he was failed by his defense team.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Jones’ supporters are disseminating lies.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended commutation for Jones with a 3-1 vote on Sept. 13. However, Stitt announced two weeks later that he would not accept the Board’s recommendation for commutation, saying “a clemency hearing, not a commutation hearing, is the appropriate venue for our state to consider death row cases.”
The Pardon and Parole Board held a clemency hearing on Nov. 2 and voted 3-1 to recommend clemency for Jones.
Howell’s sister, Megan Howell, and his daughter, Rachel Howell, spoke with KFOR in September. They recalled the night of the murder. They said they believe Jones committed the murder and has continuously lied since.
KFOR reached out to the Howell family on Wednesday, asking if they wanted to provide a statement as Oklahoma and much of the nation awaits Stitt’s decision. They sent a brief response, saying they’re focusing on being with each other and are not releasing a statement at this time.
The Rev. Keith Jossell, Julius Jones’ spiritual advisor, spoke at the capitol Wednesday and said a grave injustice is being committed against Julius Jones and his family.
“How can it be he is on death watch, lights on him, can’t go to the bathroom without two guards watching him? And how can it be that his family, who has not hugged him for 20 years, and they still have to watch him behind a wall? Something is wrong, Oklahoma, with the Department of Corrections,” Jossell said.
Jossell said Julius Jones has broken down emotionally while speaking with him.
“As Julius had tears running down his eye, he had the question, ‘Why would they do this to me? I wasn’t there! I wasn’t there!'” Jossell said.
He then compared the State of Oklahoma’s treatment of Jones to the Tulsa Race Massacre and the lynching of African Americans.
“I have a message to all of those folks outside the state of Oklahoma: If you’re a business thinking to relocate, look at what we do to people,” Jossell said. “If you are a family and you think this might be a good Bible Belt, look at what we do to people in Oklahoma.”
Cece Jones-Davis, a “Justice for Julius” activist, was the final speaker. She referenced reports that Stitt is in deep prayer as he considers what decision to make on Jones’ fate.
“This governor has nothing to pray about it. This governor has a decision to make. He has a decision to make. Life and death is laid before him,” Jones-Davis said. “God has already spoken, Oklahoma; the fact that you see all these people in this building, God has spoken. God is using everyday, ordinary people to accomplish His will on Earth.”