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Oklahoma’s new attorney general appears eager to spill blood after a years long hiatus from state executions. He’s even gone as far as requesting an execution date for a Black man who’s about to argue for his innocence.
Death row inmate Julius Jones is scheduled to take part in the second phase of his commutation hearing on September 13 at 10 a.m., where he’ll make a final case for his innocence in front of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
Despite the scheduled hearing, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor has asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to set an execution date for Julius Jones on October 28.
The request comes weeks before the Pardon and Parole Board is able to make any recommendations on whether Julius Jones’ sentence should be commuted. AG O’Connor included execution dates for Jones and six other prisoners on death row in his request.
Obstruction of Justice?
The latest action by the AG has many wondering whether the crime obstruction of justice applies to state officials who attempt to influence the decisions of parole board members before they’ve even conducted a hearing.
Some Oklahoma residents had already accused Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater of obstructing justice when he filed a lawsuit against parole board members and Governor Kevin Stitt, asserting improper proceedings and a conflict of interest in some commutation cases.
Significantly, the new AG was not even elected by the people of Oklahoma. Governor Stitt appointed him to the office after former Oklahoma AG Mike Hunter resigned as news reports began to surface citing an extramarital affair.
“In 2016, two-thirds of Oklahomans voted to insert capital punishment into the constitution. My job as the state’s chief law enforcement officer is to enforce the laws of the state of Oklahoma,” AG O’Connor said in a statement.
Majority of Oklahomans support commutation for Julius Jones
Consequently, despite a recent poll showing 6 in 10 Oklahomans support commuting Julius Jones’ death sentence, and despite a petition in support of Jones that has gathered more than 6.3 million signatures, AG O’Connor is ready and willing to ignore the will of his constituents.
Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, a family friend, faith leader and organizer with the Justice for Julius Campaign said “It is shocking-and quite frankly, outrageous-that the promise of a fair hearing, which former AG Mike Hunter agreed Mr. Jones has a right to, might now be short-circuited because of this rush to resume executions.”
”We are urging the Pardon and Parole Board and all those in power to stay the course and give this man an opportunity to finally tell his story on Sept 13,” Rev. Jones-Davis added.
Oklahoma has a history of botched executions
Dale Baich, Julius Jones’ attorney, urged a halt to all executions given the state’s infamous history with botched executions.
“The drug protocol that was problematic seven years ago is the same one the state seeks to use again. Given that history and the unresolved questions about the constitutionality of the states execution protocol that are pending before the federal district court, Oklahoma should not move forward with any executions at this time,” Attorney Baich said.
“To allow executions to proceed when there is a chance the court could find a constitutionally unacceptable risk that a person could suffer because of the drug combination used, is just plain wrong,” he added.
In recent years, evidence has surfaced pointing to the innocence of several Oklahoma death row inmates, including Julius Jones.
“Nothing should be done by our public officials to further undermine confidence in our system,” Rev. Jones-Davis said.
Supporters of Jones are asking residents to contact the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board through this link. You can also call the board at (405) 521-6600.
The Court of Criminal Appeals has not made a decision yet on whether to approve the execution dates at the time of publishing. Follow The Black Wall Street Times for updates.