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Supporters of Julius Jones, an Oklahoma man serving a life sentence after surviving death row, will hold a week of action marking the two-year anniversary of his planned execution Monday, November 13, to Sunday, November 19.
The week of events includes a national virtual prayer call, a community town hall, prayer vigil and a concert.
Next week marks two years since Julius Jones, a Black man, became the first Oklahoma death row prisoner to have his sentence commuted to life. Millions around the world advocated for his innocence in the 1999 killing of White Edmond businessman Paul Howell. He’s maintained his innocence for nearly a quarter of a century.
The global pressure from conservatives and liberals of all shades, creeds and religions, along with student walkouts across the state, led Republican Governor Kevin Stitt to stop his execution just hours before it was scheduled to take place.
In an unprecedented move in state history, the Oklahoma Pardon Parole voted twice to recommend Jones receive life with the possibility of parole. Instead, Gov. Stitt signed an executive order specifically ordering Jones to remain in prison for life.
Family continues fight to free Julius Jones
In a previous interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Jones’ sister Antoinette expressed gratitude at his life being spared. However, she sees the executive order as a slower death sentence.
“I’ve never heard a governor step in and add that to somebody’s stay of execution,” Antoinette Jones said last year.
“Can I say, that hurts every day to know that someone in power that considers themself a child of God would make that mandate,” she added, holding back tears.
Oklahomans are no longer hearing chants in the streets to “Free Julius Jones.” Yet, two years after millions around the world advocated for his innocence, his family and supporters remain focused on bringing him home.
For his part, Julius Jones has stood ten toes down for his innocence, even as he faces high barriers to his freedom.
“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,” Julius Jones told The Black Wall Street Times last year. “They’ve been told lies. I didn’t take Mr. Paul Howell’s life. I want it to be acknowledged. I’m not gonna stop until it’s acknowledged.”
Julius Jones Week
On Monday, Nov. 13, Julius Jones Week kicks off with a national prayer call at 7 p.m. CT / 8 p.m. ET. It will feature Pastor John Gray and Jones’ sister Antoinette. To register for the call, click here.
Saturday, Nov. 18 will feature a community town hall commemorating two years since Jones’ execution was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Overwhelming evidence points to his innocence, including a racist juror, ineffective counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. Nevertheless, Gov. Stitt refused to heed the calls from millions demanding his immediate freedom.
The community town hall will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1600 Springlake Drive in Oklahoma City.
Later on Saturday, organizers will host a prayer circle and vigil, reminiscent of the many prayer circles activists organized ahead of Jones’ planned execution. The prayer circle and vigil will take place at 6 p.m. at the Oklahoma History Center.
Finally, Julius Jones Week will close with a free concert at Beer City, located at 1141 NW 2nd Street in Oklahoma City. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the concert starts at 7 p.m.
Making the case “relevant” again
Ultimately, it would take a reversal of Gov. Stitt’s executive order or potential action from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office to free Julius Jones from prison.
Notably, Attorney General Gentner Drummond is a moderate Republican who won election with a pledge to clean up state corruption. In an unprecendented move earlier this summer, he’s advocated for Richard Glossip. He’s a White man on death row with evidence pointing to his innocence.
In July, AG Drummond took the unprecedented of filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Glossip’s innocence. It comes after a group of conservative state lawmakers, led by Reps. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow) and Justin Humprey (R-Lane), have pushed to revive a moratorium on the state’s death penalty.
Earlier this year, The Black Wall Street Times asked AG Drummond if he planned look into Julius Jones’ case.
“I don’t have any plans to look into his case right now since it was commuted,” AG Drummond said, adding that he would reconsider if “it becomes relevant again.”
It’s unclear what relevance the AG is looking for or measuring. It appears the family and supporters of Julius Jones are ready to find out.