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NBA Stars fight to save death row inmate Julius Jones

Julius Jones is currently on death row in Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester for a crime he still pleads not guilty of. He was convicted when he was 19years old and charged with first-degree murder, and he has been living on death row for close to 20 years in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Julius Jones was arrested and convicted in 2002 for the murder of Paul Howell. The victim was 45 years old and was found dead while in a tan GMC suburban with a bullet in his head In a driveway close to his parent’s house in Edmond, Oklahoma. They found two shell casings at the scene, and the only eyewitness was Megan Tobey, Paul Howell’s sister. The suspect was described as a young black male wearing a stocking or skull cap, a white shirt, and a red bandana covered his face.

After three days for search, Jones, then 19, was taken into custody.  “As God is my witness, I was not involved in any way in the crimes that led to Howell being shot and killed,” Jones said in his clemency report. “I have spent the past 20 years on death row for a crime I did not commit, did not witness, and was not at.”

Jones had his clemency filed in October 2019, where he asked his sentence to be reduced to time served. Julius Jones has used up all of his appeals and is currently set for an execution date, which is most likely to be as soon as this fall. A group was put together to pursue Jones’s innocence called the Julius Jones Coalition, which comprised of Family, some friends, and community organizers.

 

NBA stars show more support for Julius Jones

In recent months, more support has been gathered as NBA stars, Russell Westbrook, Buddy Heild, Blake Griffin, and National Football League quarterback Baker Mayfield wrote and sent letters to the office of the Governor. Each letter hits some crucial points that led to Julius Jones’ conviction, some of which include; a flawed investigation, racial bias, an ill-equipped defense that shows a wrong person sitting on death row. “[Jones’] conviction was tainted by a deeply flawed process,” Westbrook, the longtime face of the Oklahoma City Thunder who is now with the Houston Rockets, wrote in his letter. “As more details come to light regarding his situation, I join with many voices to express sadness and profound concern regarding his conviction and death sentence.”

All the athletes happen to have ties to Oklahoma, and the organizers are hoping the name recognition of the athletes would resonate, especially in this present “Black lives Matter” movement. Anti-police brutality protests across the United States are still ongoing, the Black lives Matter chapter in Oklahoma City includes a commutation for Julius Jones in the list of demands that were presented to the Mayor of Oklahoma City, Mayor David Holt. “I never realized the impact people could have in making sure justice is truly served. I’m willing to do anything.” -Blake Griffin

Will Jones be executed?

The state has a history of mishandling of two executions in both 2014 and 2015, and this makes the momentum behind the Jones case possible. All executions were put on hold in Oklahoma City following scathing reports that have led to the full review of the prison’s procedures and resignations, and this is what has kept Jones from getting an execution date. However, in February, the state announced that it had plans to resume the executions this year.

According to Jones’ legal team, he will most likely be one of the first to go through it. The death row chamber has been remodeled since its last use, and Jones’prison cell is a couple of hundred feet from it. It is a new model to replace the 1950s version with a 111 executions count. The operations area is on the other side of the execution room’s chemical chamber, and two new cream-colored phones are part of the renovations.

One of the phones is labeled “internal extension” which is connected to the execution room to alert the warden on when it is time to begin, another phone is labeled”external extension” that leads out of prison. It is the hope of the people fighting for Julius Jones’ freedom that the Governor heeds their call.

 

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