A slow, melodic gospel song spread through the crowd of Oklahomans as they made their way down Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The crunch of the pavement blended with the news helicopter flying overhead as a cool wind whipped through streets. Songs turned to chants and calls for exoneration as the marchers moved toward the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Compound. This is where Julius Jones was to receive justice today. But that justice is has been delayed once again.
Julius Jones was 19 when he was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in the murder of Paul Howell 22 years ago. He has maintained his innocence ever since.
In the past several years, mounting evidence has sustained Julius’s claims of innocence. Just last month, the state’s Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend Julius’s death sentence be stricken and he be sentenced instead to life with the possibility of parole. In spite of this, the state has given Julius an execution date of November 18th, and time is running out to save him.
Community members pray and march in a call for justice
Monday night, Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board informed Julius’s family that his clemency hearing was postponed. After the state announced executions would continue, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear a case to stay all executions in the state. With the outcome pending, Julius would have to wait until November 1st to plead his case for clemency once more.
That decision, however, did little to deter more than one hundred Oklahomans from standing in solidarity at this morning’s prayer vigil and march.
Led by Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, members of Julius’s family and activists and clergy from across the state, Tuesday’s vigil pleaded with a higher power to intercede.
“In life, when things seem to be out of our control, we can trust and know that God is in control,” said Rev. Marcus Carruthers during the time of prayer.
“The word of the Lord tells us that no weapon formed against us shall prosper,” Carruthers continued. “He didn’t say it wasn’t going to be formed, but he did promise that it would not prosper.”
Calls for Julius Jones’ clemency reach across the nation
Ahead of his game against the OKC Thunder, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry met with community members in Oklahoma City. During a conversation with Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Curry recorded a brief video message of hope and encouragement to the family and friends of Julius Jones.
“I’m Stephen Curry and I stand with Julius and his whole family,” Curry said in the video. “I pray that justice is served for our brother and that he is a free man soon.”
Curry is the latest to elevate Jones’s story to a national level. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and James Corden have used their platforms to expand the reach of Julius’s story as well. On Monday night, MSNBC host Ari Melber dedicated a segment of his show to discussing Jones’s case on national television.
In the segment, Melber highlighted the racist language used by one of the jurors in Jones’s trial.
“Well, they should just take that n****r out back and shoot him,” the juror reportedly said. That juror allegedly continued, claiming “it didn’t matter what happened because this was a Black man on trial for murder”.
These sorts of findings, along with mounting evidence of prosecutorial errors, resulted in the Pardon and Parole Board recommending Governor Stitt commute Jones’s sentence back in September.
However, despite this evidence, despite national calls for clemency and numerous state agencies urging action, Governor Stitt has refused to grant it. Now, Julius’s family and the community leaders fighting to save his life continue to face stonewalling and opposition while Julius waits on death row.
“I’m in pain, but I’m not broken”: Julius’s family members urge Oklahomans to push for justice
“Julius is standing on his faith and hoping he is going to have the opportunity to speak his truth,” Dionne Carruthers, Julius’s cousin, told The BWSTimes. She said Julius’s nature is, and always has been to put others before himself, and that remains true now.
“He wants his family to be okay,” she said. “He wants everyone else to be okay and he wants the Howell family to be okay, because he knows that he did not bring this hurt upon them. Julius is innocent.”
Carruthers is calling on Governor Stitt and the Parole Board to “right this wrong”.
“There is so much reasonable doubt,” she said. “He does not fit the eye witness description and another person has confessed to this crime. Just right this wrong.”
She and her family urge Oklahomans to write and call the Governors office and the Pardon and Parole Board and urge them to grant clemency. She also urges people to “read the transcripts” of his commutation hearing from September 18th for yourself.
At the historic September commutation hearing, Julius’s defense attorney Amanda Bass spent hours laying out instances of prosecutorial error, racial bias and incomplete evidence that amount to nothing less than a reasonable doubt about Julius’s guilt. For Dionne Carruthers and her family, it is clear Julius did not get the fair trial he deserves. It is a warning signal she hopes all Oklahoma families hear.
“This can happen to anyone,” she said. “And we wouldn’t want it to be happening to you or anyone else. We would be lending our voice for you. We would be standing with you as well.”
Carruthers said the real and raw emotion of the hurt is there. She remarked that Julius is unable to sleep because the lights in his cell remain on 24/7 now.
Still, she says, his spirit remains strong.
“I’m in pain, but I’m not broken,” Julius told her over the phone. “I’m in pain, but I’m not broken.”
Relatives and supporters are now urging the community to show up for Jones’ newly scheduled November 1st clemency hearing at 9 a.m.
To learn more about Julius’s case and to take action to save his life, visit www.justiceforjuliusjones.com.