A week before the state of Oklahoma plans to execute Julius Jones, Pardon and Parole Board members push back against the attorney general.
People around the nation watched for months as both Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and appointed Attorney General John O’Connor sued and attempted to remove specific members who voted in favor of Julius Jones.
Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle, both appointed to the Board by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt in 2019, are asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to sanction AG O’Connor. Specifically, the request accuses the unelected official of trying to “delay and disrupt” the Board’s proceedings. Additionally, it blasts AG O’Connor for making an untimely filing in that attempt.
“This court may sanction a party for filing a frivolous application seeking to invoke the Court’s original jurisdiction. Okla.Sup.Ct.R.1.191(j),” respondents wrote in a filing posted on November 10. “Petitioner had no good faith basis for filing his untimely Application seeking to disqualify Respondent Doyle from participating in the Pardon and Parole Board proceedings involving Julius Jones.”
Unelected attorney general interferes in legal proceeding
On Monday, October 18, the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a request by DA Prater to remove Luck and Doyle from voting on the Board.
“The request…directing Respondents to disqualify from participation in the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board proceedings relating to inmate Julius Darius Jones is hereby denied,” the Court wrote. It dealt another blow to DA Prater’s attempts to intimidate, obstruct and interfere in the administrative duties of a state body.
Meanwhile, Attorney General John O’Connor, who Governor Kevin Stitt appointed this summer, filed an identical request. He asked the Court to remove Doyle and Luck on the same day DA Prater’s request was denied. “Petitioner requests that this matter be placed on a Fast Track Docket so it may be disposed of before the currently scheduled clemency hearing,” O’Connor wrote to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Despite the attempted interference in a legal administrative proceeding, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted twice for Jones. He achieved a commutation recommendation from the Board in a 3-1 vote in September. It represented the first such recommendation in the state’s history for a death row detainee. Nevertheless, Gov. Stitt wasn’t willing to break precedent. Stitt instead said he would wait to make a decision until after the clemency hearing.
Over a month later, on November 1, the Board once again voted 3-1 in favor of Jones. It recommended clemency, life with the possibility of parole.
Jones’ mother prays for her son as Governor lets clock tick ahead of November 18 execution
However, over a week after the second positive vote for Julius Jones, Gov. Stitt remains silent on Jones’ fate. Jones sits in a cramped, death watch cell, with lights on 24/7 and virtually no personal belongings. He’s claimed his innocence for over 22 years regarding the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman and father Paul Howell.
Meanwhile, millions around the nation wondered when someone would clap back at AG O’Connor’s intimidation.
“I would like to just hold my baby boy,” Julius Jones’ mother Madeline Davis-Jones said to thousands of supporters on a conference call this week. Supporters of Jones have grown to include millions of people. They include clergy across the state and nation, along with both Democratic and conservative Republican legislators.
Request by Doyle seeks sanction, attorney’s fees
Ultimately, Board members Luck and Doyle are standing up to the attorney general’s obstruction efforts.
“Petitioner attempted to interfere with the Pardon and Parole Board proceedings by putting forth frivolous arguments designed to create a method and basis for disqualification which is not permitted by the Oklahoma Constitution or Oklahoma Statutes. The Oklahoma Constitution and Oklahoma Statutes address the qualifications for removal and disqualification of Board members and neither authorize the use of this Court’s original jurisdiction to remove or disqualify a Pardon and Parole Board member under the circumstances alleged by the Petitioner.”
Overall, the latest filing wouldn’t be the first time Oklahoma’s unelected attorney general faced a rejection of his actions. In 2019, the Standing Committee of the American Bar Association unanimously rated him unqualified for a federal judge position. The nearly unprecedented ruling came after Donald Trump nominated him.
“Respondent Doyle requests that this Court sanction Petitioner and that the sanctions include awarding Respondent Doyle the costs and attorney’s fees associated with responding to Petitioner’s Application and submitting this request for sanctions.”