Death Penalty

Will Oklahoma's Governor Stop the Execution of a Man Many Think May Be Innocent?

The state’s pardon board vote to recommend clemency for Julius Jones. He’s scheduled to be put to death on Thursday.


A lot of people want Oklahoma's governor to stop state officials from executing Julius Jones on Thursday.

Jones, 41, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing businessman Paul Howell during a 1999 carjacking in Edmond, Oklahoma. Jones has insisted all along that he is innocent and wasn't at the scene of the crime. He and his defense attorneys point the finger at co-defendant Christopher Jordan, who got a deal from prosecutors in exchange for testifying against Jones. Jordan has served 15 years in prison and is free now.

A petition has more than 6.4 million signatures asking for mercy. Celebrity and criminal justice reform advocate Kim Kardashian spent time with Jones and his mom and is supporting his cause. On November 11, five Republican Oklahoma lawmakers called on fellow Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to grant Jones clemency. The lawmakers' request comes on the heels of a 3–1 recommendation on November 1 from Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board supporting clemency for Jones. Many officials are clearly uncertain of Jones' guilt and think executing him at this point is a bad idea.

"The last thing the state should be doing is taking the life of someone who may be innocent," said Oklahoma state Rep. Gary Mize (R–Edmond) in a prepared statement. "There is too much doubt here, especially given that Julius Jones' codefendant has confessed to being the real murderer. We can't move forward with an execution under these circumstances in good conscience. I hope and pray Gov. Stitt accepts the recommendation of his Parole Board."

Stitt has not yet announced his decision, and the "Justice for Julius" campaign is urging folks to call Stitt's office and request clemency on Jones' behalf.

Stitt has overseen the return to executions in Oklahoma after a six-year moratorium prompted by concerns that the drug the state is using, midazolam, is causing painful reactions in prisoners while they die. At the first execution since the moratorium ended, John Marion Grant vomited and went into convulsions as he was dying.

Jones, like Grant, had sued (along with many other Oklahoma death row inmates) to try to stop this drug protocol, arguing that the dangers of midazolam violated their constitutional right to avoid "cruel and unusual punishment." Both Jones' and Grant's lawsuits were tossed because neither proposed any alternate methods for their executions.

Jones' separate lawsuit with four other inmates challenging Oklahoma's execution drug cocktail was rejected Friday by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Based on previous rejections, it seems unlikely that there are enough votes on the Supreme Court to consider intervention. So that just leaves hopes that Stitt, like this small group of Republican lawmakers and like the state's Pardon and Parole Board, has doubts about Jones' guilt.