Oklahoma City, Ok. – After spending more than half his life in prison for a crime he says he did not commit, 41-year-old Julius Jones is set to be executed by the state of Oklahoma on Thursday.
As time dwindles down, all eyes are on Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to decide whether or not to grant Jones clemency.
Jones has been on death row for 19 years for a 1999 murder he says he had no part in. He was convicted to death at the age of 19 for the shooting of Paul Howell during a carjacking. According to prosecutors, Howell was returning homes from getting ice cream with his daughters when he was killed. Jones has long maintained his innocence, saying he was eating dinner with his family at the time of the crime.
Jones claims he was framed by his then-friend and co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, who allegedly actually shot Mr. Howell. Jordan testified against Jones and was released from prison after 15 years.
Jones is scheduled for death by lethal injection on Thursday, making him only the second inmate to be executed since Oklahoma ended a six-year moratorium on using the deadly injection after a series of botched executions.
Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency for Jones on Nov. 1. The recommendation to commute Jones’ death sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole now goes to Gov. Stitt for final consideration.
Jones’ supporters have been visiting Gov. Stitt’s office in the days leading up to the execution in an attempt to secure a meeting to discuss a stay of execution.
Facts about the case:
- Julius Jones was at home having dinner with his parents and sister at the time of the murder; however, his legal team failed to present his alibi at his original trial. His trial attorneys did not call Mr. Jones or his family members to the stand.
- Mr. Jones did not match the description of the person who committed the crime, which was provided by a sole eyewitness. The person who killed Mr. Howell was described as having 1-2 inches of hair, but Mr. Jones had a shaved head.
- 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.
- Three people incarcerated with Mr. Jordan at different times have said in sworn affidavits that Mr. Jordan told each of them that he committed the murder and framed Mr. Jones. None of these three men have met Mr. Jones and they do not know one another. And none of them have been offered a shorter sentence or incentive in exchange for disclosing Mr. Jordan’s confessions.
- Mr. Howell, a white man, was killed in a predominantly white neighborhood. Immediately, then District Attorney Bob Macy characterized the crime as an act of violence committed by Black men, fueled by drugs. This narrative was perpetuated by media coverage.
- The officer who arrested Mr. Jones called him the n-word and dared him to run, then implied he would shoot him if he did.
- Eleven out of the 12 jurors at Mr. Jones’ trial were white, and one juror referred to Mr. Jones by the n-word, and suggested that he be taken out behind the courthouse and shot.
- One-third of District Attorney Macy’s death penalty convictions have been overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct. Many of those whose convictions were vacated are Black people. To date, 10 people sentenced to death in murder cases in Oklahoma have been exonerated.
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Learn more about his case on this special edition of 20/20.