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Julius Jones' death sentence commuted hours before scheduled execution

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt heeded the state parole board's recommendation of commuting Jones' sentence to life in prison.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted Julius Jones' death sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on Thursday, just hours before Jones was scheduled to be executed.

Jones, a 41-year-old Black man, was convicted of a murder he and others say he didn't commit. Activists, alleging deep flaws in Jones' trial, had urged Stitt, a Republican, to stop the execution.

In a statement, Stitt said Jones' sentence was being commuted “on the condition that he shall never again be eligible to apply for, be considered for, or receive any additional commutation, pardon, or parole.”

Jones was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of Oklahoma businessman Paul Howell. Jones, who has always maintained his innocence, and his supporters say new evidence shows he was wrongfully convicted.

Specifically, they point to Jones’ defense attorneys’ neglecting to question family members during the trial who claimed they were eating dinner with Jones at the time of the murder. What’s more, prosecutors relied too heavily on testimony from a co-defendant who was given a lighter sentence for his involvement in the same murder, according to Jones.

Supporters of Julius Jones march to the offices of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Feb. 25 in Oklahoma City, where they presented a petition with over 6.2 million signatures calling for Jones' death sentence to be commuted. Sue Ogrocki / AP

“This is not about hatred. This is about the truth,” Jones said during his clemency hearing this month. “And the truth is that I did not shoot that man.”

Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended that Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison on two separate occasions — once in September and again this month. 

“I continue to believe there is still doubt in this case,” board member Kelly Doyle said after the second vote. 

On Tuesday’s episode of “The ReidOut,” Jones’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, told Joy that Julius still has faith in the justice system. 

“He’s just trusting and believing in the system and in the Lord,” she said, “just believing that the truth will set him free.”

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