Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board refuting new claims by Julius Jones’ attorney

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Correction: The story has been updated to reflect the correct time KFOR received the statement from the Pardon and Parole Board.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Just hours after Julius Jones’ attorney publicly claimed an Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board investigator recommended the Oklahoma attorney general commute Jones’ sentence and take the death penalty off the table, the parole board is refuting the claims.

KFOR obtained the refutation email from the board Friday.

The high-profile story of the Jones case started in the summer of 1999 between Jones’s freshman and sophomore years at the University of Oklahoma. Jones was 19-years-old when he was arrested in the murder of Paul Howell, an Edmond businessman. Howell was shot to death in front of his sister and two daughters as he pulled into the driveway of his Edmond home.

In a public release on Friday at about 5:00 p.m. Jones’ legal team said they submitted a document to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals objecting to the Attorney General John O’Connor’s request for an execution date of Oct. 28.

Jones’ defense team, in the documents, state that scheduling an execution date is inappropriate because, “Mr. Jones has federal remedies remaining in the lethal injection litigation,” “a commutation hearing is scheduled on Mr. Jones’s request for relief from his conviction and death sentence,” and “the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Investigator’s recommendation that Mr. Jones’s death sentence be commuted.”

In the public release, Jones’ legal team said the parole board investigator “recommends commuting Jones’ sentence and taking the death penalty off the table” and that her two “non-death commutation recommendations” to the board were “Commute to Life Without Parole” and “Commute to Life.”

At about 10:30 p.m. KFOR obtained an email from General Counsel for the Pardon and Parole Board Kyle Counts to Jone’s federal attorney Dale Baich refuting what was said about the parole board investigator in the release. It said the following:

“I reviewed your filed objection and need to clarify the meaning of the section of the Pardon and Parole Board’s investigative report titled “15. INVESTIGATOR RECOMMENDATION”.

The PPB’s investigators do not make recommendations to the Board on whether or not they should recommend a commutation to the Governor. Due to the high volume of commutation hearings held since 2019, the Board asked staff to include options for reduced sentences that are within range for the offense(s) being considered. Those options are included in the “Investigator Recommendation” section due to software limitations preventing staff from creating a new field specifically for that information. The Board knows the purpose of those options and they are included in the investigative reports for all commutations.

The PPB’s investigator was not making a recommendation to the Board on how they should vote on Julius Jones’ commutation. She was merely providing the options of ‘Life Without Parole’ or ‘Life’ as potential reduced sentences, as is the practice for all commutation considerations at a Stage II hearing.”

At 11:30 p.m., Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater sent KFOR the following:

“The complete misrepresentation of the investigator’s report is just the latest example of the killer’s and his supporters’ lies. The killer’s attorneys have had the report for months and were completely aware of what the sentencing language meant.

Every word of their assertions, intended to manipulate the public and the Pardon and Parole Board are outright lies. The killer’s lies are a desperate attempt to avoid accountability for his cowardly and brutal murder of Paul Howell in front of his two young daughters.”

Jones’ commutation hearing is currently set for September 13th at 9 am.

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