Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board on Monday recommended the governor commute the death sentence of convicted killer Julius Jones, who has maintained his innocence in a case that has garnered national attention, per the AP. The board voted 3-1 to recommend Jones’ sentence be commuted to either life or life without parole after one of its five members recused himself. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt will ultimately decide the fate of Jones, who claims he was framed for the 1999 shooting death of Edmond businessman Paul Howell.
Jones’ case drew widespread attention after it was profiled in The Last Defense, a three-episode documentary produced by actress Viola Davis that aired on ABC in 2018. Since then, reality television star Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, and Trae Young, have urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life. Jones alleges he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant who was a key state witness against him.
But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and the state’s former attorney general, Mike Hunter, have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming. Information from trial transcripts shows that witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and placed him with Howell’s stolen vehicle. Investigators also found the murder weapon and a bandana with Jones’ DNA in an attic space above his bedroom, but Jones claimed in his commutation filing that the gun and bandana were planted there by the actual killer.
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