Julius Jones: A Matter of Justice and Mercy in Oklahoma

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To the Governor of Oklahoma, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, the District Attorney of Oklahoma County, and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board:

We are writing as citizens from Oklahoma and across the country, deeply concerned about the egregious unfairness in the case of death row prisoner Julius Jones, including compelling evidence that he may have been wrongfully convicted and that racial bias infected his case.

Mr. Jones, who is African American, has spent almost twenty years on death row for the murder of Paul Howell, a white businessman of Edmond, Oklahoma.  The ABC documentary, “The Last Defense,” co-produced by Academy Award winner Viola Davis, has sparked widespread interest and concern from citizens throughout our state and nation.  After viewing the documentary and / or learning about the case, it is our strong conviction that Mr. Jones’ case must be re-opened immediately and that clemency is warranted. 

 At the time of the crime for which he was convicted, Mr. Jones was a 19-year-old student athlete with a promising future, attending the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship. It is clear that Mr. Jones lacked an adequate defense, and that explicit racial bias played a significant role in the process from the beginning.

 The compelling evidence in Mr. Jones’ case includes: 

·      Several eyewitnesses place Mr. Jones at his parents’ home at the time of the murder. This is miles away from the crime scene, but the jury never heard Mr. Jones’ alibi witnesses when they found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

·      Mr. Jones’ co-defendant matches the only eyewitness description of the shooter based on the length of his hair while Julius’ hair was too short to match the eyewitness’ description.

 ·      Mr. Jones’ co-defendant admitted to being involved in the crime and is now free after testifying against Julius. He was heard bragging that he “set Julius up.” Mr. Jones has maintained his innocence for almost 20 years and faces a death sentence.

·      Newly-discovered evidence – never considered by any court - shows that at least one juror harbored racial prejudice that influenced his vote to convict and sentence Mr. Jones to death. One juror reported telling the judge about another juror who said the trial was a waste of time and “they should just take the n***** out and shoot him behind the jail.” The juror who made this comment was never removed from the jury.

 ·      Key pieces of evidence, including a red bandana, have not rendered conclusive evidence.

 We do not believe the State has fulfilled its burden of proving Mr. Jones’ guilt, and therefore, respectfully request that you use your power and position to correct the failures of the Oklahoma criminal justice system in this case. Our ask of you echoes that of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose August 21, 2018 letter stated, “…we ask that you take a close and careful look at his case, and use your authority to correct this wrongful conviction. Justice requires it.”  We believe it is in your authority to act swiftly on behalf of Julius Jones.  If any aspect of Mr. Jones’ story as depicted on “The Last Defense” is true, there has been an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

 Thank you for your serious and kind consideration of this important life and death matter. As Oklahomans and people across the country, we are counting on you to do what is right on Mr. Jones’ behalf and for the sake of our collective integrity and moral compass.