A death row inmate spared in extremis in the United States after a strong mobilization
Sylvie Claire / November 19, 2021
The mobilization of millions of people has paid off: the authorities of the U.S. state of Oklahoma renounced on Thursday to execute Julius Jones, a 41-year-old African-American sentenced to death for a murder of which he always said he was innocent.
With less than four hours to go before the injection of a controversial lethal cocktail, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, under intense pressure, commuted his sentence to life in prison. Julius Jones will not be eligible for further commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life, he said in an executive order posted on the website of the conservative, rural southern U.S. state. We thank the governor for preventing an irreparable error, commented the convict's lawyer Amanda Bass in a statement, while noting that she had hoped that he would fully follow the recommendations of the pardon office. That office, noting doubts about Jones' guilt, had twice recommended that his sentence be commuted to life in prison and that he be allowed to file for early release.
I am so grateful to everyone who spoke out and helped save Julius. Thank you to the pardon office and Governor Stitt, tweeted reality TV star Kim Kardashian, one of the figures behind the mobilization for the convict. Julius Jones was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of a white businessman, Paul Howell, which he has always denied.
He claims that he was framed by the perpetrator, that he was poorly defended by his original lawyers, and that he was discriminated against at trial. His legal appeals have all been rejected and Mr. Howell's family, including his daughter, remains convinced of his guilt. The flaws in the case have been the subject of a documentary series and a podcast, and have swayed some opinion in his favor. As his execution date approached, celebrities, sports champions and the European Union (EU) ambassador to the United States, as well as six and a half million signatories to an internet petition, had called on Governor Stitt to intervene. On Wednesday, hundreds of high school students walked out of their school in Oklahoma to protest and try to get the governor to back down. Protesters had also camped out near his residence in recent nights, according to local station Koco. The governor finally announced his decision in extremis after praying and reviewing the documents presented by all parties, according to a press release.