The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board has recommend clemency for death row inmate Julius Jones, attorneys for Jones said Monday. Jones, who was convicted in 1999 at the age of 19 for the murder of Paul Howell, has maintained that he was innocent and race played a role in his conviction.
On October 27, Jones spoke publicly for the first time in over two decades at the hearing, according to CBS affiliate KWTV. The families of Jones and Howell were both there, in a hearing that lasted over three hours.
"I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubt, and put simply, I have doubts in this case," the board's chairmanin September when he recommended Jones' sentence be commuted to life in prison rather than execution.
Now, the final decision regarding Jones' fate is now in the hands of Governor Kevin Stitt, who is expected to make a decision before Jones' scheduled November 18 execution date.
Howell was murdered on July 28, 1999, in front of his family. Witness told police that they saw a Black man with a red bandanna and 1 to 2 inches of hair shoot Howell and steal his SUV.
Jones was arrested three days later by those who said he matched the description, but his family said he had a shaved head and was at home during the time of the shooting.
Jones and his family have argued that his death row sentencing only took place because of injustices in the legal system. They allege Jones was not allowed to testify about specific details and witnesses were not cross-examined because of an inexperienced public defender.
"The truth about my brother is, he is an innocent man on death row." Jones' sister Antoinette JonesCBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal. "We are fighting for a man's life. What you are seeing us do is what should have been done 20 years ago."
The story of Howell and Jones was featured in a 2018 documentary called "The Last Defense," which highlighted an accessory, Christopher Jordan, who was convicted of driving the getaway car.
According to witnesses, Jordan told at least three others that he framed Jones for Howell's murder, a claim Jones never agreed with on record because he was afraid of retaliation.
"I mean, this is probably my greatest downfall, that I never said anything to the police," Jonesfilmmakers while in prison. "But where I grew up, you're not supposed to be telling other people's business because bad things can happen to you. These people set me up to take the fall. Because they knew someone was going to fry for this."
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