EDMOND – Republican state legislators, including two representing Edmond, are asking Gov. Kevin Stitt to grant Julius Jones clemency. Jones was convicted for the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, but he has maintained his innocence and received two positive votes for commuting his death sentence to life with the possibility of parole in recent months.
On November 1, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole, citing doubts about Jones’ guilt and inequities in sentencing.
Rep. Garry Mize and Rep. Preston Stinson, both Republicans representing the Edmond area, are urging Gov. Stitt to approve the recommendation of the Parole Board.
Republican legislators speak up in support of Julius Jones
Rep. Mize said the death penalty should never be used when an inmate’s guilt is in question.
“The last thing the state should be doing is taking the life of someone who may be innocent,” said Rep. Mize. “There is too much doubt here, especially given that Julius Jones’ codefendant has confessed to being the real murderer. We can’t move forward with an execution under these circumstances in good conscience. I hope and pray Gov. Stitt accepts the recommendation of his Parole Board.”
Rep. Stinson argued that the Pardon and Parole Board had issued an appropriate recommendation for clemency.
“Paul Howell’s murder was a terrible tragedy for his family and this entire community,” said Rep. Stinson. “More than two decades later, however, I have many constituents who still have questions. Our judicial system gives judges and juries the responsibility to determine guilt and sentencing. However, the Pardon and Parole Board also plays a role in this system, and in this case they have recommended clemency. For that reason, I am asking Gov. Stitt to take him off of death row and accept the recommendation of his Pardon and Parole Board.”
Joining Stinson and Mize in support of clemency are Rep. John Talley, Rep. Logan Phillips and Rep. Kevin McDugle, all Republicans.
“If we believe, as conservatives, in law and order and the criminal justice system, then we have to make sure the system is getting it right,” said Talley. “In this case, the Pardon and Parole Board spent several hours looking at the case, during two separate hearings, and determined that it may not have. We should not execute a man in that context.”
Lawmakers cite reasonable doubt
Rep. Phillips said there was too much doubt in this case to proceed with an execution.
“You just can’t be sure in this case,” said Phillips. “There is a lot of information – including an alibi, a witness description and a confession from another man who says he’s the real killer – that the jury never heard. With so much uncertainty, I urge the Governor to take the recommendation sent to him twice now by his Pardon and Parole Board.”
Rep. McDugle added, “Putting someone to death should be the highest bar to meet, and when there is doubt we just can’t do it!” Earlier this year, he wrote a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt asking him to commute Jones’ sentence and avoid a “grave miscarriage of justice.”