A convicted killer who has maintained his innocence in the 1999 slaying of a central Oklahoma businessman saw the state’s Pardon and Parole Board vote to commute his death sentence Monday.
Oklahoma station KOCO reports that Julius Jones is now waiting to see if Gov. Kevin Stitt will follow the board’s 3-1 recommendation and follow suit. Athletes Baker Mayfield and Blake Griffin as well as reality star Kim Kardashian had championed Jones’ cause.
There had been prior wrangling over which members on the board might recuse themselves based on potential bias with regards to their positions on criminal justice reform and subsequent nonprofit work. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Friday not to remove anyone, though one board member stepped aside Monday, citing “an abundance of caution.”
Jones’ case had garnered national attention from media and advocate groups including the Innocence Project, which argues there remained a lot of questions about the carjacking that left Paul Howell dead when Jones, now 41, was still a teenager. That organization alleged potential racial bias in Jones’ arrest and trial. The victim, as well as 11 of the 12 jurors in the case, were white. Jones is Black. He was reportedly eating dinner with his family when the killing occurred.
Oklahoma’s attorney general had requested an Oct. 28 execution date.