OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Although Baker Mayfield left Oklahoma several years ago for a career in the NFL, he is now showing his support for an inmate on Oklahoma’s death row.
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.
Now, professional athletes with ties to Oklahoma are letting their voices be heard.
NBA star Blake Griffin tells ESPN that he actually met Jones when Jones was a member of Tommy Griffin’s varsity basketball team at John Marshall High School.
After Jones was arrested, Griffin’s father signed up as a character witness for Jones, but never testified during trial.
“I don’t pretend to know the ins and the outs of the justice system,” Blake Griffin said. “I just know the story, and I know that it’d be a true tragedy and shame for another innocent person to not only be jailed, but put to death.”
Recently, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Trey Young, and Baker Mayfield sent letters, encouraging the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to commute Jones’ sentence.
In his letter to the board and Gov. Kevin Stitt, Mayfield says that he believes Jones has been wrongly convicted of murder.
“Based on my personal review, the errors and shortcomings in Julius’ trial have been well-documented and are too numerous to be listed in this letter. The inconsistent (and unchallenged) testimony of Julius’ co-defendant, the obviously inexperienced and unmotivated defense team, and the eye-witness description of a shooter that clearly did not match Julius are by themselves enough to cast doubt on his guilt,” he wrote.