Oklahoma governor commutes Julius Jones’ demise sentence hours earlier than deliberate execution

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday commuted the sentence of death-row inmate Julius Jones to life in jail with out the potential for parole amid protests and a last-minute courtroom attraction that argued the state’s execution course of amounted to “merciless and strange punishment.”

Stitt’s announcement got here after Jones’ supporters staged days of protests upfront of his scheduled execution, which was to happen at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday on the State Penitentiary in McAlester. Jones, 41, has maintained his innocence for greater than twenty years within the 1999 slaying of Paul Howell, a businessman within the prosperous Oklahoma Metropolis suburb of Edmond.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing supplies offered by all sides of this case, I’ve decided to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment with out the potential for parole,” Stitt stated in a press release.

Moments after the announcement from the governor’s workplace, Jones’ sister, Antoinette Jones, thanked the governor, God and Jesus. “I need to thank everybody for persevering with to inform Julius’s story,” she informed NBC Information. “Thanks to the world.”  

Attorneys for Jones filed a movement Thursday in search of an injunction to halt his demise primarily based on “essential new proof” from the Oct. 28 execution of inmate John Grant, who vomited and convulsed repeatedly earlier than being declared useless. The movement argued Grant’s execution gives “compelling proof” that the execution course of in Oklahoma and the usage of midazolam, a controversial drug, “pose a critical and substantial danger of struggling and ache to prisoners.”

Julius Jones.Oklahoma Division of Corrections through AP

On Wednesday, college students at excessive colleges throughout Oklahoma Metropolis walked out of their lessons. Prayer vigils had been held on the state Capitol, and barricades had been erected outdoors the governor’s mansion. Celebrities pleaded his case on Twitter and different social media.

“1000’s of individuals throughout Oklahoma, the nation, and the world have known as on the Governor to forestall Oklahoma from executing an harmless man,” Jones’ legal professional, Amanda Bass, stated in a press release Thursday, including: “Our hope is that the Governor will make sure that this execution doesn’t go ahead given the various issues in regards to the execution course of and Mr. Jones’s case.”

Jones’ mom, Madeline-Davis-Jones, spoke to a bunch of about 300 individuals who gathered on Wednesday on the Capitol outdoors of Stitt’s workplace, chanted and sang hymns.

“I don’t need to go to a lynching,” Davis-Jones stated, her voice rising with emotion. “… Why would I need to see somebody dangle? We ought to be by means of with that. Would you like your child, your baby to be hanged?”

Jones maintains he was framed by the precise killer, a highschool buddy and co-defendant who testified towards him and was launched from jail after 15 years.

State and county prosecutors have stated the proof towards Jones is overwhelming. Trial transcripts present witnesses recognized Jones because the shooter and positioned him with Howell’s stolen automobile. Investigators additionally discovered the homicide weapon wrapped in a bandana with Jones’ DNA in an attic area above his bed room. Jones claims the homicide weapon was positioned there by the precise killer, who visited Jones’ home after Howell was shot.

The state’s Pardon and Parole Board twice voted 3-1 to suggest Stitt grant clemency to Jones and commute his sentence to life in jail.

“I imagine in demise penalty circumstances there ought to be little question, and put merely, I’ve doubts on this case,” Chairman Adam Luck stated in September following the board’s vote.

Paul Howell’s sister, Megan Tobey, testified earlier than the board that she distinctly remembers seeing Jones shoot her brother in entrance of his two younger daughters.

“He is similar individual in the present day as he was 22 years in the past. He’s nonetheless entering into hassle. He’s nonetheless in a gang. He’s nonetheless mendacity. And he nonetheless feels no disgrace, guilt or regret for his motion,” Tobey stated. “We’d like Julius Jones to be held accountable.”

Oklahoma ended a six-year moratorium on executions — introduced on by issues over its deadly injection strategies — final month with Grant’s demise.

Grant was the primary individual in Oklahoma to be executed since a collection of flawed deadly injections in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. Richard Glossip was simply hours away from being executed in September 2015 when jail officers realized that they had acquired the unsuitable deadly drug. It was later realized the identical unsuitable drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups adopted a botched execution in April 2014 wherein inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney earlier than dying 43 minutes into his deadly injection — and after the state’s prisons chief ordered executioners to cease.

In a separate vote on Wednesday, the pardon and parole board voted 3-2 to grant clemency to a different demise row inmate, Bigler Stouffer, citing issues with the state’s deadly injection protocols. Stouffer is scheduled to die on Dec. 9.