Julius Jones had his death sentence commuted by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt at the literal last minute as Jones was set to be executed a few hours before he stepped in.
Jones was set to die by lethal injection on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, CNN reports, after being convicted in the 1999 shooting death of affluent businessman Paul Howell in Edmond, Oklahoma. Stitt, however, capitulated to enormous international pressure to spare Jones’ life.
After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.https://t.co/fLsnYnxInw
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) November 18, 2021
Jones, 41, who has been on death row for the past 20 years, had always maintained his innocence. His case became a cause célèbre when he was featured on the quake-producing ABC show “The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary produced by Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis that outlined the problematic evidence used to convict Jones.
The floodgates of support then were blasted completely open when high-profile celebrities took up Jones’ cause and even visited him in prison, including the likes of Kim Kardashian West, NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young and NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield.
This is the cold machinery of the Death Penalty in America. In just over two weeks, an innocent man could be put to death. My heart breaks for Julius and so many others who have suffered from such tragic miscarriage of justice.
— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) November 16, 2021
Jones has always maintained he was at home in Oklahoma City having dinner and playing board games at the time of the murder, according to The Justice Project. Prosecutors tell a radically different story and said that Howell’s sister was an eyewitness to the murder of her husband.
Chris Jordan, who was also the co-defendant in this case, allegedly admitted to at least three cellmates that he was the one to kill Howell, not Jones. However, prosecutors argued that those cellmates were not credible witnesses, the Associated Press reported.