In 1999, at 19-years-old, Julius Jones was sentenced to death and has now been in prison for over half his life. After new evidence and public outcry, a judge commuted his execution, which was scheduled for Thursday.
New and compelling evidence suggests he didn’t commit the crime, according to advocacy organization Innocence Project.
Over 6.5 million people signed a petition to support Jones, while celebrities and public figures like T.D. Jakes, Bernice King, Alicia Keys, and Kim Kardashian expressed their support to stop the execution.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt stopped the execution, however he recommended that Jones remain in prison for life without the possibility of parole, against the recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, the Innocence Project reported.
Jones was sent to prison after a white man, Paul Howell, was killed in Edmond, Oklahoma. The Innocence Project notes that racial bias was evident in the case from the beginning, with “then District Attorney Bob Macy characteriz[ing] the crime as an act of violence committed by Black men, fueled by drugs. This narrative was perpetuated by media coverage.”
The advocacy group presented several points about the case to demand justice for Jones, including that he was having dinner with his family at the time of the killing, and Jones’ legal team failed to present his alibi at the original trial. Further, his attorneys did not call him or his family members to the stand. In addition, Jones did not match the description of the person who committed the crime.
There is also evidence that Jones was framed. According to the Innocence Project:
A man named Christopher Jordan matched the eyewitness’ hair description, but claimed only to have been the “getaway driver” and not the shooter at trial. He was the State’s star witness against Mr. Jones. In exchange for testifying that Mr. Jones was the shooter, Mr. Jordan was given a plea deal for his alleged role as the “getaway driver.” He served 15 years in prison and, today, he is free.
Though Jones is safe from execution, advocates are calling on the 41-year-old to be given the possibility of parole.