On Thursday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt granted clemency to Julius Jones, a death row inmate.
Jones, who has been on death row for nearly two decades, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday. Stitt’s decision came just hours before the execution.
In a statement, Stitt said “After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole”.
Jones was convicted for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell. He was 19 at the time and has continued to claim he is innocent.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor released a statement Thursday saying “I know Governor Stitt is making what he believes to be the right decision”.
“I appreciate the governor’s condition that Mr. Jones never be released from prison. However, we are greatly disappointed that after 22 years, four appeals, including the review of 13 appellate judges, the work of investigators, prosecutors, jurors, and the trial judge have been set aside,” O’Connor added.
O’Connor noted that Jones’ guilt was confirmed by “a thorough review of evidence”.
Evidence against Jones includes witnesses identifying him as the shooter and placing him with Howell’s stolen vehicle and the murder weapon wrapped in a bandana. The weapon was found in an attic above Jones’ bedroom and his DNA was discovered.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended that the sentence be changed from the death penalty to life in prison with the possibility of parole. They voted 3-1 to recommend Stitt grant clemency to Jones.
Amanda Bass, one of Jones’ attorneys, said their legal team is grateful for the decision but are disappointed Jones will not be able to seek parole in the future.