Oklahoma City (KFOR) – Former death row inmate Julius Jones joined his supporters by phone Thursday morning to protest House Bill 3903, which would prevent the Pardon and Parole Bill from recommending the commutation or clemency of a convicted individual to the governor.

“I’m a clear case of an innocent person falling through the cracks of our judicial system,” said Jones in a phone call to KFOR. “I thought the state was about preserving life, all life.”   

Jones was convicted of the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell. Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted Julius Jones’ death sentence to life in prison without parole on Nov. 18, just hours before Jones was scheduled to be executed.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 on Sept. 13 in favor of recommending commutation for Jones. 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 clemency hearing was held on Nov. 2, and the Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency for Jones.

Jones’ supporters and friends pleading his case Thursday said the controversial proposal may have been retaliation against his sentence being commuted.

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Julius Jones

Opponents of the bill say it leaves limited options for inmates who maintain their innocence.

“I think his [case for] innocence should be heard and it shouldn’t be up to a legislative bill that’s just targeted at him,” said Brandon Kirkpatrick, a friend and supporter of Jones.

“It takes power away from the Pardon and Parole Board,” added House Representative Kevin McDugle, while calling for more death penalty reform.

“They [the board] made a decision on Julius Jones that certain agencies didn’t agree with and so that’s why this law is now trying to work its way through the process,” he added. McDugle represents State House District 12, which includes Coweta, Wagoner, Porter and Okay.

The bill’s author, Rep. John Pfeiffer (R – D-38), did not appear on camera, but released the following statement to KFOR:

“Because it is a politically-appointed executive board and not a court of law, the Pardon and Parole Board does not provide the high jurisprudence standards of due process and equal protection that the accused and victims each deserve. Despite recent inaccurate insinuations otherwise, the Pardon and Parole Board was never designed to decide innocence, guilt or whether cases were properly handled.”

REP. JOHN PFEIFFER

The bill goes up for a House vote near the end of the month. Its opponents said Thursday they are gathering as much support as they can to help vote down the bill, but hope to refocus towards a bigger picture.

“This is not just about one person anymore,” said Jones. “This is about equality and inequity in our society.”