Saved at the last by the lethal injection. A few hours before Julius Jones’s execution, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commuted his sentence: he will have to spend the rest of his days behind bars, unable to get out on parole (a kind of parole). The decision was greeted with a shout of joy by the dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of the politician’s office, the only one capable of changing the fate of the condemned man.
Jones’s case has attracted national interest, with many celebrities – including Kim Kardashian and several NBA players – pushing for Jones to be spared the death penalty. Shortly before the governor’s ruling, the 41-year-old African-American’s lawyers had filed an emergency motion to block the execution, also considering the “overwhelming evidence” of the suffering caused by the cocktail of lethal injection drugs. The reference is to the execution of John Marion Grant, which took place last month in Oklahoma, when the inmate convulsed and vomited repeatedly before he died.
“I didn’t kill him”
Jones has always pleaded innocent after being convicted of the 1999 murder of Paul Howell. The victim’s car was near his parents’ house when he was shot dead. Jones was then 19 and has never admitted he was guilty. “I did not kill Howell. I did not participate in his murder in any way. The first time I saw him was when they announced his death on television,” Jones wrote in April.
The victim’s family members (his sister and daughters allegedly witnessed the murder) have always rejected Jones’s declaration of innocence and expressed their opposition to the efforts to get him pardoned. “We continue to be victims of Julius Jones and his lies.”
Those who support Jones believe that the African American was not adequately defended when he was tried. It would have been ignored that his family had claimed that the boy was at the table with them for dinner at the time of the murder. Moreover – it is the heaviest accusation – the proceedings against Jonessa would have been marred by racism.