Published 03/08/2020 | Reading Time 1 min 45 sec
By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder, director and executive editor
While Nathaniel Woods’ family prepares for his burial after Alabama Gov. Kay E. Ivey denied Woods the right to live despite knowing that he didn’t pull the trigger that led to the deaths of three police officers, Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. a former Klansman and the last living convicted American terrorist — that led to the deaths of Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair, four little Black girls killed at the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, which fueled the Civil Rights Movement — will be up for parole again in 2021.
Woods had the support of the EJI and Martin Luther King Jr. III as well as various celebrities. Hours before his execution Supreme Court Justice Clarance Thomas ordered a temparary stay, but that was later lifted and Woods was executed at 9:01 PM on Thursday, March 5, 2020.
Woods was executed despite never pulling the trigger and already surrendering himself to police.
In 2016 Blanton went before the Alabama Board of Pardons, asking the Board to allow him to “die a free man” in his petition statement; however, the Board of Pardons denied Blanton’s request. Notably, Blanton wasn’t convicted of the racial terror bombing and murders until 2001, dodging sentencing for his horrific crime for 38-years.
Blanton is currently serving four back-to-back life sentences at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama and to all appearances has not accepted responsibility or showed any remorse for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church nor murders.
Woods and Blanton are both from Alabama.
Julius Jones was convicted of murdering Paul Howell in 2001 despite not matching the description of Howell’s murderer that the victim’s own sister gave during the hearings. Moreover, Jones was never given an opportunity to testify in court, nor was Jones’ family members, who claim that he was home with them during Howell’s murder.
Actress Viola Davis narrates Jones’ innocence in ABC’s The Last Defense.
Nevertheless, Nathaniel Woods and Julius Jones, both Black, were sentenced death penalties despite clear evidence that they were innocent of the crimes they were convicted for.
Like Woods, Julius continues to gain support from across the nation from civil right icons like Bryan Stevenson, who inspired the film Just Mercy, and Hollywood celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted a few days after Woods’ death in defense of Julius’ innocence, saying, “We cannot execute another man especially for a crime he didn’t commit! Everyone has to hear about Julius Jones, he is innocent and yet sentenced to death in Oklahoma.”
Kardashian West even tweeted a video created by The Black Wall Street Times in partnership with Blue House Productions that includes Black men from the community reading Julius Jones’ clemency letter to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.
The double standard of justice in American continues to be a problem, especially if you’re poor and Black. Hopefully, the governor of Oklahoma will continue to turn the tide for prison reform in his state by granting Julius Jones clemency.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder, executive editor, and director of The Black Wall Street Times, a digital news media company that believes access is the new civil right. He graduated with a general studies degree from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and a political science degree from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and was a member and chapter president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. Today, he is a blogger for Education Post, based in Chicago, IL, and a board member for the Tulsa World, Tulsa Press Club, and Tulsa’s Table. He is also a public school educator at a local community-led charter school and is a member of Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Education Task Force for Equity and Inclusion. In 2017, Frank became a Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, a 2018 Black Educators Fellow and gave a TED Talk at the University of Tulsa.