US death row inmate Julius Jones has been granted clemency by the Oklahoma Governor just hours before his scheduled execution.
Jones has long maintained his innocence and was due to receive a lethal injection on Thursday, 18 November, 2021.
He will now serve life in prison without parole.
His stay of execution came following a recommendation from the state pardon and parole board, leading to Governor Kevin Stitt reducing Jones’ sentence for the murder of Paul Howell, an Oklahoma City businessman, in 1999.
Julius Jones has been granted clemency. Thank god for everyone who brought attention to this cause.
Abolish the death penalty.
– Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) November 18, 2021
“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,” Stitt said in a statement.
Jones’ execution has been protested across the US, with students in local Oklahoma schools walking out of classes and prayer vigils held across the state.
Stitt met with Jones’s attorneys and Howell’s family before handing down his decision.
The case also drew the attention of a number of celebrities and sports stars, who voiced their support for Jones. Jones’ case drew widespread attention after it was profiled in The Last Defense, a documentary produced by actress Viola Davis that aired in 2018.
Jones, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder for the shooting of Howell during a carjacking. He maintains he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant who was a key witness against him.
The Capitol crowd discovers #JuliusJones sentence has been commuted. He will not be executed. pic.twitter.com/XusoC2HukH
– Nuria Martinez-Keel (@NuriaMKeel) November 18, 2021
Amanda Bass, a lawyer representing Jones, said that the team had hoped Stitt would grant Jones a chance at parole however they’re still grateful he won’t be executed.
“Governor Stitt took an important step today towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man,” Bass said in a statement.
Jones’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, spoke ahead of his planned execution this week to plead for her son’s life.
“I don’t want to go to a lynching tomorrow,” Davis-Jones said. “Why would I want to see someone hang? We should be through with that. Do you want your baby, your child to be hanged?”
And more than six million people have signed a Change.org petition, titled Justice for Julius, asking Stitt to intervene and prevent his execution.
Thank you so much Governor Stitt for commuting Julius Jones sentence to life without parole and stopping his execution today.
– Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) November 18, 2021
The pardon and parole board twice voted 3-1 to recommend clemency.
As reported by 9News, the evidence against Jones includes witness sightings and the murder weapon which was found wrapped in a bandana with his DNA in an attic space above his bedroom. Jones maintains the weapon was planted there by the actual killer.
Kim Kardashian West has also been a vocal advocate for Jones and tweeted her support after the decision.
Oklahoma ended a six-year moratorium on executions – brought on by concerns over its lethal injection methods – last month.