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OKLAHOMA CITY — The ACLU of Oklahoma announced this week that the Julius Jones Coalition will be the recipients of the prestigious Angie Debo Civil Libertarian Award. This award is given in recognition and celebration of the coalition’s courage and tenacity in challenging the systemic biases and injustices of Oklahoma’s capital punishment laws, according to a press release.
The name Julius Jones became widely known following the release of the ABC 20/20 special edition of The Last Defense.
And the world watched as Oklahoma’s Governor waited until the final minutes before deciding to follow the recommendation of the Pardon and Parole Board to grant clemency. For over two decades, Jones has maintained his innocence in the 1999 carjacking murder that killed Edmond businessman Paul Howell.
From the very beginning, the Julius Jones Coalition, led by Reverend Cece Jones-Davis, has worked tirelessly to expose the massive deficiencies in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, to humanize Oklahomans on death row, and to bring together a community from across the world, the press release continues.
“It feels unbelievable to be honored after all the years of so much work. I’m truly blessed to see how the Julius Jones Coalition has helped turn things around for Julius in a huge way,” Rev. Cece Jones-Davis told The Black Wall Street Times via email. “I know that we have a journey ahead to bring him home to Mama Jones. We are more determined than ever.”
ACLU of Oklahoma honors Julius Jones Coalition for civil rights advocacy
Hours before Julius Jones’ scheduled 4 p.m. execution on Thursday, November 18, 2021, Governor Kevin Stitt’s statement calling it off sent a wave of relief across the state and nation. Yet, for the Julius Jones supporters posted outside the McAlester Penitentiary on the rocky gravel, for the students who had walked out of schools across the state, and for the organizers desperate to save a Black man’s life, the internalized trauma was overwhelmingly visible.
Ultimately, while Gov. Stitt eventually spared Jones’ life, he also wrote an executive order requiring Julius Jones to remain in prison for the rest of his life, despite evidence pointing to his innocence.
“Can I say, that hurts every day to know that someone in power that considers themself a child of God would make that mandate,” Antoinette Jones, Julius’ sister, told The Black Wall Street Times in March.
Explaining her experience with her brother’s decades-long imprisonment, Jones said that Oklahoma Courts don’t make it easy for convicted prisoners to bring up new evidence on appeal. She said Julius Jones’ appeals were denied on technicalities. Still, the family and the Julius Jones Coalition remain determined to see Julius Jones freed.
Highest honor given by the ACLU
The Julius Jones Coalition will accept the award virtually at the Annual Membership Meeting of the ACLU of Oklahoma this Saturday, April 23, 2022. In addition to the presentation of the Angie Debo Award, new members of the ACLU Board of Directors will be announced. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.
The Angie Debo Civil Libertarian Award is named in honor of the writer, historian, and civil rights advocate Angie Debo, who relentlessly pursued justice in cooperation with the ACLU of Oklahoma during the late 1960s and 1970s. It is the highest award presented by the ACLU of Oklahoma and has been presented annually since 1971 for outstanding achievement in the fight for civil rights and civil liberties.
“The truth should matter. The truth is I’m hurting because I’ve been treated this way. My family been treated this way. The Howell family been treated this way. They’ve been told lies. I didn’t take Mr. Paul Howell’s life,” Julius Jones told The Black Wall Street Times in March via an audio recording. “I want it to be acknowledged. I’m not gonna stop until it’s acknowledged.”