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In just ten days, the state of Oklahoma will execute Julius Jones – unless Governor Stitt steps in. One week ago, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended for the second time that Julius’s receive commutation and clemency. Governor Stitt has yet to approve the recommendation or make any statement about the case since then. Now, at least one Republican in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives is joining a chorus of conservative voices calling for mercy.
Kevin McDugle, one of the more conservative members of the State House, spoke exclusively to The Black Wall Street Times about Julius Jones and his desire to make changes to Oklahoma’s death penalty practices.
“My belief is this,” McDugle said, “I don’t care who it is, we cannot put somebody to death if there is doubt.”
“I’d fight for anyone who’s in that situation,” he continued, “and that includes Julius.”
The Republican lawmaker has spent the last few years advocating on behalf of another death row inmate, Richard Glossip. McDugle, who wrote a letter urging for Jones’s sentence to be commuted to “avoid a grave miscarriage of justice“, says he sees many similarities between Jones’ case and Glossip’s.
Questions of guilt lead to calls for change in the state’s death penalty policies
Glossip, according to McDugle, did not receive a fair trial. Even though his defense attorneys called no witnesses to testify, McDugle says more than 200 people have now bene interviewed to give additional information. Unfortunately, new evidence can only be presented up to 90 days after a trial. A jury convicted Glossip of murder in 1997. He has spent more than 20 years on death row.
Both of these cases are causing the state representative to push for new laws regarding the death penalty.
“There are flaws in our system,” McDugle said, “and it very much concerns me.”
This is why McDugle is advocating for two bills to ensure “everyone on death row” has their case reviewed. The first, he says, requires DA’s offices to provide all evidence in death penalty cases when an attorney requests it. The second would allow for a third party investigation of a death penalty case to take place prior to an execution.
McDugle says pardon and parole boards “only have 40 minutes to look at a case”. He hopes these measures will do more to ensure the “human element” of sentencing doesn’t allow errors to go unchecked.
Justice over politics
In his interview with The BWSTimes, McDugle agreed that this moment is about justice and not politics.
“The Governor has to dig a little deeper and make a decision,” McDugle said. “I do hope they take [Julius] off of death row.”
McDugle’s support for Julius Jones comes as clergy once again urged Governor Stitt to follow the pardon and parole board’s recommendations at a press conference inside Tulsa’s Greenwood Cultural Center on Friday.