OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In a 3-1 vote on Monday morning, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for high-profile death row inmate Julius Jones with a recommendation that his sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
“I am not the person responsible for taking Mr. Howell’s life,” death row inmate Julius Jones told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Monday.
That’s the first time we’ve heard from Jones over the past 20 years while he’s been on death row. He was convicted of killing Paul Howell in an Edmond driveway in 1999.
“I was not present during this robbery and I did not know that anyone had been killed until the day after Mr. Howell was murdered,” Jones said.
Jones spoke to the pardon and parole board on Monday. He made a final plea for his life, asking for clemency.
“I first met Chris Jordan during my junior year at John Marshall. Chris was rough around the edges,” Jones said.
Christopher Jordan was Jones’ alleged accomplice.
On Monday, Jones told the board that the two became friends because Jones was helping Jordan study for the ACT. He talked about how his childhood best friend, Jimmy Lawson, warned him about hanging out with Jordan.
“Despite my best friend’s warnings and my better judgement, Chris was someone I wanted to help,” Jones said.
Jones and his attorneys believe Jordan was the shooter and that he planted the gun and red bandana that the shooter was wearing in Jones’ closet where it was found by police.
“It was stupid of me and naïve of me not to go to the police with what I knew, but I was scared,” Jones said.
Questions about Jones alibi that night were finally answered in his own words during his testimony Monday. Jones said he was home with his parents until after the murder.
“Chris picked me up between 11-11:30 that night,” said Jones. “He told me he got into it with some guys and shot at them.”
However, attorneys with Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor’s office and the Howell family still insist Jones is the killer, pointing to DNA evidence found on the bandana.
DNA on the bandana was tested in 2018 and the results of the DNA profile show the probability of the DNA belonging to someone other than Jones is one in 110 million African Americans.
“There were also at least three other male DNA profiles on the bandanna, but that DNA was too degraded to compare to other known DNA profiles,” Dale Baich, one of Jones’ federal public defenders, told News 4 last year.
During Monday’s hearing, attorneys with the AG’s office also brought up an old transcript with one of Jones’ attorneys back in 1999 who said Jones told him he was not home with his parents on the night of the murder.
Megan Tobey, Howell’s sister who witnessed the shooting, once again talked about the length of hair under a cap worn by the shooter. She said she did not notice corn rows like the ones Jordan had at the time.
“There is no way corn rolls could have been under the hat that the shooter was wearing,” said Tobey. “Sociopaths are delusional. They believe whatever they say is the truth. If this doesn’t describe Julius, I don’t know what does.”
Ultimately, the pardon and parole board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency, with a suggestion of life with the possibility of parole.
“We feel confident that Governor Stitt sees past the Jones propaganda, understands protecting the public and sees who Julius Jones really is,” Brian Howell, Paul Howell’s brother, said on Monday afternoon.
“In order to believe any of Julius Jones’ stance of innocence, you have to basically ignore every fact and every single amount of physical evidence and every testimony and every witness presented by the state,” said Brian Howell. “The facts have been, are, and always will be overwhelming pointing toward his guilt.”
The final decision is now in Governor Stitt’s hands. He can approve the board’s recommendation, change it, or deny clemency all together. If he denies clemency, Jones would be executed on November 18th.
“We’re still in this nightmare, this rollercoaster of emotions. It’s still hell. It’s a nightmare that we have not woken up from yet,” Antoinette Jones, Jones’ sister, said.
As for Howell’s family, they say they are still concerned about the possibility of him being released.
“I am scared to death if he gets out,” said Megan Tobey. “He isn’t innocent. He isn’t a good person. He is a murderer, a liar, a thief, a sociopath, a gang member. It just keeps going on and on and he will do this again.”
On Monday afternoon, Communications Director for Governor Stitt, Carly Atchison, said, “Governor Stitt is aware of the Pardon and Parole Board’s vote today. Our office will not offer further comment until the Governor has made a final decision.”