OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla (KFOR) – One year after Governor Kevin Stitt spared the life of Julius Jones by commuting his death sentence to life without parole for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, his friends and supporters gathered together to reflect at the Oklahoma History Center.

Julius Jones remains incarcerated in Oklahoma without the possibility of parole, despite maintaining his innocence and being recommended for commutation for a sentence with the possibility of parole by the Oklahoma Pardon & Parole Board.

The group that gathered said much has happened in the year since that commutation, and while the day was “bittersweet”, many woke up grateful that Jones was still alive.

Stitt’s commutation of Jones’ death sentence came after several years of turmoil over Jones’ 2002 murder conviction, and he was set to be executed on November 18, 2021.

“The darkness had made so many believe that we couldn’t stop the execution of Julius Jones. But guess what? We did. We did and we did it together,” said social justice leader and featured speaker for the evening, Tamika D. Mallory.

Oklahoma has executed a total of 199 men and three women between 1915 and 2022 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, and an execution is scheduled nearly every month over the next two years after a moratorium that ended in October 2021, according to state statistics.

“Julius wanted us to have this prayer vigil so that he could say thank you, but I haven’t heard from him, so I don’t have any words from him [yet],” said his sister Antoinette.

“He still has a passion to help within the community. He still has the passion to care for others. And so that’s what we’re here to do, care for others, help others, help the community,”

“We woke up this morning extremely grateful that Julius is alive and extremely reflective around all that people did for him last this time last year and how not just the Oklahoma community, but the whole world really leaned in and for him. [We] are so grateful for that,” said the Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, who helped found the Justice for Julius Jones movement.

According to The Innocence Project, ten people sentenced to death in murder cases in Oklahoma have been exonerated.

“Life has had to start anew for someone who has come off death row, that does not happen every day in this country, let alone the state. And I think I think he has had to figure out what this all means for him [but] we’re behind him one hundred percent and we’re supporting him one hundred percent because he has a destiny and a hope,” she added.

Read more about the case here.