Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt has called off the execution of Julius Jones, who was sentenced to death for a 1999 murder he says he didn’t commit, just hours before the man was set to die by lethal injection at an Oklahoma prison.
“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,” governor Stitt said in a statement on Thursday.
Jones became the subject of a passionate nationwide “Justice for Julius” innocence movement.
ones, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for the 1999 shooting death of Edmond businessman Paul Howell during a carjacking.
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 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.