MCALESTER, Okla. (KFOR) – “Peaceful. Just been thanking God continually without ceasing,” Antoinette Jones said. “This is all due to God.”
At the time of this interview Thursday afternoon, the man who was convicted of murder and just three hours from execution may not even know himself that his sentence had just been commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“Does Julius know?”
“I don’t know if he knows right now, but he’s going to know soon.”
Forty-one year old Julius Jones had been on death row since 2002. He has never admitted guilt, and his family has always maintained his innocence. His sister, Antoinette Jones, was awaiting the scheduled execution of her brother.
“We were just trying to get Antoinette in a quiet place, not around so many people,” Cece Jones-Davis said. “We were just sitting at a table talking, and that’s when we got the news.”
Antoinette then called her mother.
“She was just like, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ We told her over the phone,” Antoinette said.
Just moments after the announcement, they are still in shock.
“You can’t come from the basement to all the way up here so quickly,” Jones-Davis said.
“It’s still sinking in.”
“Yeah. It’s still sinking in but we could not be more grateful,” she said.
Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision came down to the wire as not only the millions of people waited, and the Jones family agonized over that looming four o’clock hour, but so was the family of Paul Howell.
Stitt contacted the Howell family just before his announcement. The Howell family responded to that decision with the following statement:
“We know Governor Stitt had a difficult decision to make. We take comfort that his decision affirmed the guilt of Julius Jones and that he shall not be eligible to apply for, or be considered for, a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life. We would like to thank the countless people in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement agencies across the state for their tireless efforts and unwavering support for the last 22 years. Julius Jones forever changed our lives and the lives of his family and friends.”THE HOWELL FAMILY
“He’s an innocent man, doesn’t deserve another day in prison, but to know that he is going to live, where there is life there is always hope,” Jones-Davis said. “This is really about the power of people – everyday, normal people. People have said that this is a celebrity driven movement. No, it’s not. Oklahomans did this at the end of the day.”
“You fought hard.”
“Yes. And we don’t stop here,” Antoinette said. “We still have to get him out.”