OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Chants calling for the release of Julius Jones quickly turned to cheers at the Oklahoma State Capitol Thursday afternoon when advocates found out his life would be spared by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Lawmakers who were in the building, including Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, say they knew the decision had come out by the sound that came from the second-floor rotunda just after noon.
“We heard the crowd and I couldn’t even believe it,” Rosecrants said. “I’m a bit in shock to be honest with you…[I heard] constant cheering; I mean, it was like [it] rose to the heavens.”
Although he was happy about the news, he now questions the governor’s timing, wondering why he made the decision in the final hours.
“I don’t understand it,” he said. “If you’re gonna do this – your pardon and parole board said this was a good idea, this is what we recommend clemency – why wait?”
Other lawmakers, including Rep. Jason Lowe, had been attending rallies and events with the Jones family throughout this year. He says the announcement caused an emotional moment for himself and others.
“It has been definitely a roller coaster,” he said. “I am grateful that governor Stitt has given Julius a second opportunity and I would like to publicly thank the governor.”
Republican lawmakers have also expressed their approval of the governor’s decision. Just last week, a group of five Republicans called on the governor to grant Julius Jones clemency.
Hours after Thursday’s decision, the national group Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty released a statement of their own thanking the governor for his decision.
But there are others who are not showing that same gratitude, including Oklahoma State NAACP President Anthony Douglas.
“I’m not pleased with our governor,” Douglas said during a Thursday press conference following the announcement. “Our governor preyed on the lives of the Jones family…you sent a signal out that you don’t care about the African Americans in the state of Oklahoma. You don’t care about our vote, but our vote matters.”
Douglas had more strong words for the governor.
“It’s time for you to go,” he said. “We’re gonna use the force of the NAACP to vote you out.”