A week after a parole board recommended the reduction of Julius Darius Jones’ sentence, Oklahoma set the date for his execution.
His execution is among seven others set by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday. These would be the first death sentences to be carried out by the state after the capital punishment’s seven-year suspension due to a series of careless executions.
November 18 is the execution date Jones. Last week, in a 3-1 vote, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended that his sentence be reduced to life imprisonment. However, the commutation is up to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt.
In a statement to Newsweek, Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, who directs the Justice for Julius campaign, said, “the court’s setting of an execution date underscores the stakes and the urgency involved with Julius Jones’ commutation application.”
“After a thorough review and a multiple hour hearing, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3 to 1 to commute Julius’s sentence to life. We urge Governor Stitt to review the application promptly and bring long-averted justice to this very tragic situation by accepting the recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.”
Amanda Bass, Jones’ attorney, added that the parole board’s vote is an acknowledgment that Oklahoma “is at risk of executing an innocent man.”
According to Bass, “the request is now on Governor Stitt’s desk. Given the setting of a November 18 execution date, it is our hope the Governor adopts the Board’s recommendation and commutes Julius’s death sentence. Oklahoma must not allow an innocent man to be executed.”
41-year-old Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1999 killing of businessman Paul Howell.
However, he has always insisted on his innocence, alleging that the actual killer, a friend who was also convicted for Howell’s murder reduced sentence after his testimony against Jones.
The evidence against Jones is overwhelming, according to state prosecutors and they had urged the parole board to refuse the request for his commutation. However, Jones and his supporters have argued that he was failed by his trial attorneys and that his trial and sentencing were tainted with racial discrimination.
“I am not the only young Black male whose public defenders were overmatched, whose juries were biased, who was chewed up and spit out by a system that packs our prisons with people who look just like me,” he wrote in a letter to the parole board.
In recent years, Jones’ case has caught the attention of many people nationwide. A petition calling for clemency has accumulated more than six million signatures of support.
A documentary series called The Last Defense produced by actress Viola Davis also explored this case and was aired on ABC in 2018.
Other celebrities have also shown support to Jones including Kim Kardashian West and James Corden, who featured Jones’ story in a recent The Late Late Show episode.
The schedules for the other executions are John David Marion on October 28; Bigler Stouffer on December 9; Wade Greely Lay on January 6; Donald Anthony Grant on January 27; Gilbert Ray Postelle on February 17; and James Allen Coddington on March 10.
John O’Connor, Oklahoma’s attorney general, asked the court to set the execution dates after last month’s federal judge ruling that six of the inmates could no longer take part in a legal challenge to the state’s execution protocols. A seventh did not challenge the protocols.