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Marking Monday, October 10 as “World Day Against the Death Penalty”, an organization advocating for the release of former death row prisoner Julius Jones will join a group of people who were exonerated from death row to deliver a petition to Republican Governor Kevin Stitt at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
The petition calls on the governor to stop currently scheduled executions and to place a moratorium on the death penalty.
Twenty-four people are scheduled for death at the hands of the state over the next two years. Despite a 2017 report calling for a halt to executions amid dozens of issues, including racial bias, Stitt’s administration has moved full steam ahead in the dealing of death.
“Oklahoma has the highest execution rate per capita of any state. But half of the death sentences have been overturned due to mistakes and legal errors,” The Julius Jones Coalition and Witness to Innocence stated in a joint press release on Friday.
Julius Jones Coalition joins death row exonerees in fight to end Oklahoma death penalty
The Julius Jones Coalition is a national, nonpartisan advocacy collective fighting against the death sentence and wrongful conviction of Julius Jones in Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Witness to Innocence is an organization of, by, and for death row exonerees on a mission to end the death penalty in the U.S.
Julius Jones spent over 20 years on death row for a 1999 car-jacking murder despite evidence of ineffective council, racial bias among the jury, and testimony that another man, Christopher Jordan, admitted to the killing.
In 2021, as Governor Stitt’s administration relaunched executions in the state, a grassroots movement in support of Jones led to international efforts to halt his execution.
On Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021 Gov. Stitt eventually stopped it four hours before the scheduled execution after high school student walk outs across the state, prayer rallies at the Capitol, and the arrest of an OKC pastor.
Antoinette Jones, Julius’ sister, has been fighting for her brother’s innocence and release for much of her life. She, along with Herman Lindsey of Witness to Innocence, will attempt to hand-deliver the petition to Governor Stitt on Monday morning.
“I’m still humbled by all the people who showed up to save my life. Now I want them to show up to help bring my freedom back,” Julius Jones previously told The Black Wall Street Times via a voice recording shared by Antoinette.
Witness to Innocence
Herman Lindsey was wrongfully convicted in Florida in 2006 and spent three years on death row before being exonerated by a unanimous verdict from the Florida Supreme Court. It ruled in July 2009 that there wasn’t enough evidence to find Lindsey guilty of anything, much less sentence him to death, and that he did not receive a fair trial. Now, he’s the leader of Witness to Innocence advocating so that no one else experiences what he did.
“How many innocent people may die before Oklahoma stops executions? Lindsey and Jones asked in a press release.
Former Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK) placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2016 following two botched executions, one of which resulted in a 45-minute long painful heart-attack related execution of Clayton Lockett.
On top of calling for a halt to the death penalty in the state, petition organizers are also calling for the state to follow the recommendations made by the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission in 2017.
“Due to the volume and seriousness of the flaws in Oklahoma’s capital punishment system, Commission members recommend that the moratorium on executions be extended until significant reforms are accomplished,” the panel’s report said.
As Oklahoma remains on pace to hold the infamous title of top ten in state-sanctioned killings, the anti-death penalty groups are putting Gov. Stitt’s “small government” conservatism to the test less than a month before election day.
Death Penalty Action, Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, Catholic Mobilizing Network are also co-sponsors of this call to action.
Petitioners will deliver the document to the governor at his office on the 2nd floor of the Oklahoma State Capitol Building. Directly following the delivery, petitioners will hold a press conference on the 2nd floor rotunda.