Op-Ed: Why reasonable doubt should free Julius Jones from prison

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Published: Last Updated on
oklahoma death row reasonable doubt julius jones

In the opening argument of every jury trial, the prosecution always utters these same words: “the prosecution will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt” or “beyond reasonable doubt”.

After the jury hears both sides and the closing arguments, the judge instructs the jury of the charges and informs them to not return a guilty verdict if there is even an ounce of doubt.

Frankly put, the jury got it wrong 22 years ago when it comes to Julius Jones. The state of Oklahoma doesn’t have to double down on that wrong by executing him.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Amanda Bass successfully showed reasonable doubt at September commutation hearing

For Julius Jones, there was enough reasonable doubt present to make Julius the first person in Oklahoma history to be given a commutation hearing after being sentenced to death. Not only was he given a commutation hearing, the Pardon and Parole Board voted in favor of commuting his death sentence to life with the possibility of parole, another first in Oklahoma history.

At the commutation hearing in front of the Pardon and Parole Board, Julius’ attorney Amanda Bass masterfully showed instance after instance of why there is enough reasonable doubt to free Julius from prison.

Bass showed how Julius’ trial lawyers were inexperienced, never having handled death penalty litigation before.

“They were under-resourced and over-worked, in way over their heads, did not call a single witness, did not call Julius himself to testify in Julius’ defense in the guilt stage of his trial. Had the jury heard this evidence of Julius’ innocence, we know because at least three jurors have said so in sworn affidavits, that it would have made a difference”.

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members from left to right: Scot Williams, who recused himself from voting at the September 13, 2021 commutation hearing for Julius Jones. Kelly Doyle, who voted yes for commutation. Chairman Adam Luck, who voted yes. Larry Morris, who voted yes. Richard Smothermon, who voted no.

Evidence adds to reasonable doubt

A finger print analysis eliminated Julius as a suspect in numerous robberies that prosecutors used to build a case against Julius in his murder trial. The DNA on the red bandana that the state used as a key piece of evidence was also “overstated and oversimplified,” Bass said.

DNA testing has improved since 1999, and so have the standards in determining matches. A partial profile of the DNA on the red bandana showed that Julius couldn’t be excluded, but it wasn’t conclusive that the DNA belonged to him. That’s reasonable doubt.

Another element Bass pointed out during the commutation hearing was the racial prejudice that took place during the trial. “We also know that systemic race prejudice played a role,” Bass said. She highlighted a sworn statement from a juror who said they heard another juror use the n-word and call for a lynching outside the courtroom before hearing all of the evidence. A racist juror, that’s reasonable doubt.

Prosecution used professional informants to place the blame on Jones

Two of the state’s key witnesses were people with prior felony convictions, a point the prosecution argued at the commutation hearing disqualified testimony from inmates who have come forward in recent years agreeing that Chris Jordan framed Julius Jones and bragged about making a deal with the prosecution.

Not only did the state’s key witnesses have felony convictions, they were professional, confidential informants for the Oklahoma County and Edmond police. That’s reasonable doubt.

An eye witness for the prosecution testified at the trial that she saw the shooter, saying “half an inch of hair was sticking out from underneath a stocking cap”.

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members from left to right: Scot Williams, who recused himself from the vote. Kelly Doyle, who voted yes for commutation. Chairman Adam Luck, who voted yes. Larry Morris, who voted yes. Richard Smothermon, who voted no.

Julius Jones should be freed

A photograph taken of Julius just days before the murder that was never shown to the jury would have shown that Julius’ hair was too short and he did not meet the description. Chris Jordan on the other hand did. That’s reasonable doubt.

Julius’ mom, dad, sister, and brother have all said unequivocally that Julius was at home at 9:30 on July 28,1999, the time of the murder, yet none of the family was ever called to testify at the trial. That’s reasonable doubt.

Commutation and clemency hearings are put in place precisely for this very reason: because our justice system sometimes gets it wrong. There was enough reasonable doubt at the trial to not warrant a guilty conviction, and there is far more evidence now that shows Julius should not have spent the last 22 years on death row.

Supporters of Julius Jones react to the news that the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has voted 3-1 to recommend commutation at his historic commutation hearing on Monday, Sept. 13. (The Black Wall Street Times photo. / Mike Creef)

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5 comments

Mrinspctrman October 30, 2021 - 7:56 pm

The DNA found on the bandana conclusively showed by 1 in 110million, that jones was wearing the bandana that was in his room, wrapped in the clothing in the physical description. There is no reasonable doubt. The jones family are liars. May julius jones rot in hell.

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piratekingray October 30, 2021 - 9:11 pm

7 out of 21 loci should not be conclusive.

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Gregory B November 1, 2021 - 10:07 am

The witness did not say that the hair was “half and inch long”, they said that their was a “half an inch of hair visible between the stocking cap and bandana”, meaning the surface area of visible hair was half an inch long. Check the court transcript if you don’t believe me.
DNA tests on the bandana were done recently, not in 1999. They are accurate and match jones, and exclude chris jordan.
The family’s alibi were not included in the trial because it would have been perjury. Jones himself told his own attorneys that it was a lie. They had a witness to prove they were talking about the day prior to the murder.
There are a number of facts you fail to include here, including the fact that Jones’ gun was proven to be the murder weapon, Jones’ clothes he was seen in before and after the shooting matched the description of the shooter, and the fact that he confessed to a witness while trying to sell the car he stole.

It is UNDENIABLE that Julius Jones committed this murder. You can argue that he should not receive the death penalty, but only on the basis that you disagree with the death penalty. He is GUILTY.

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Parole Board members ask Court to sanction AG O’Connor for trying to “delay and disrupt” proceedings November 11, 2021 - 2:03 pm

[…] watch cell, with lights on 24/7 and virtually no personal belongings near the death chamber. He’s claimed his innocence for over 22 years regarding the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman and father Paul […]

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Aaron Jones November 16, 2021 - 11:19 pm

Amongst many other erroneous statement made in this article, I would also like to point out that Julius did have the opportunity to testify in his own case. The transcript shows that the judge asked if he wanted to testify and he said it was HIS PERSONAL WISH to not testify.

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