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Relatives and advocates for Julius Jones, an imprisoned man who survived Oklahoma’s death row and execution in 2021, met with Vice President Kamala Harris’ legal team Friday to advocate for reforms in the criminal legal system.
Julius Jones remains in prison without the possibility of parole for a 1999 murder he maintains he didn’t commit. He has nearly seven million supporters who’ve signed a petition in support of his innocence.
“It’s been a long road for my brother and my family. This nightmare still isn’t over. We want to do what we can to change the system so that no other family goes through what we’ve been through,” Antoinette Jones, Julius’ sister, told The Black Wall Street Times in a statement. “We are so grateful to the Vice President’s office for allowing us to share our journey and our hopes for the future.”
Attendees included: Julius’ mother Madeline Jones, his sister Antoinette Jones, Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, Rev. Marcus Carruthers, friend, rapper and OKC community leader Jabee Williams, friend and OKC community leader Jess Eddy, and J’Shawna Hayes.
While sharing Julius Jones’ story with the legal team of the most powerful woman in the world, the group also advocated for others.
They discussed policy reforms that included:
- The Repeal of the Federal Death Row.
- Prevention of Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection.
- Robust Federal Funding for Programs that Exonerate the Innocence.
- The Repeal of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
Julius Jones Institute launches
Friday’s meeting with the office of the most powerful woman in the world comes during Julius Jones Week. Supporters have organized a week of events, including prayer vigils and town halls, to commemorate the second anniversary of Jones’ November 2021 execution date.
The meeting also comes a day after the launch of the Julius Jones Institute. According to its website, the institute’s mission is to “teach, train, and mobilize advocates and leaders to shape and modernize systems in Oklahoma, as well as advocating for, enlightening, and inspiring youth to create a more equitable future.”
Governor Stitt’s silence in the face of Jones’ pending execution resulted in a public outcry. Liberal and conservative politicians across the world urged Stitt to act, students across the state walked out of class, and hundreds participated in a prayer rally at the Oklahoma Capitol.
After his own daughter voiced opposition, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt finally stopped Jones’ execution four hours before the scheduled time.
Mother of Julius Jones feels “heard”
At Friday’s meeting with VP Harris’ legal team, the Julius Jones family, friends and supporters shared his story.
“We were so honored to meet with members of the Vice President’s team today to tell our story and talk about the many changes that need to be made in our criminal legal system,” said “Mama” Madeline Jones, Julius’ mother.
Notably, she pleaded for her son’s life in front of the world two days before his scheduled execution date. Ahead of the execution date, she had tried to hand deliver a letter to Gov. Stitt. The Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus escorted her to his office, but Gov. Stitt refused to meet with her.
“I felt genuinely seen and heard today. My heart is filled with gratitude,” Madeline Jones said regarding the discussion with VP Harris’ legal team.
Julius Jones supporters seek reforms with Vice President
Evidence of racial bias and prosecutorial misconduct led the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to recommend life with the possibility of parole for Julius Jones, the first such recommendation for a death row detainee in state history.
Instead, Gov. Stitt signed an executive order requiring him to spend life in prison without the possibility of parole. Two years after news cameras turned away from the fight to liberate Julius Jones, his relatives and supporters continue to keep the fire of hope burning.
“We had a huge opportunity today to utilize Julius’ horrible experience to propose much-needed reforms that can help others – including the repeal of the federal death penalty and prevention of racial discrimination in jury selection,” Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, a leader of the Julius Jones Coalition, said.
“We thank the Office of Vice President Kamala Harris for so generously listening to our stories and perspectives. It was a beautiful gift. “
During Friday’s meeting, the group hand-delivered letters from Julius Jones to the VP’s legal team.
They also called for a ceasefire between Israel in Hamas in a conflict that has led to the deaths of 1,200 Israelis and nearly 12,000 Palestinians. Millions around the world are calling for a ceasefire as the Israeli military continues to kill civilians and civilian infrastructure with unverified claims of Hamas hideouts.
Can Vice President help free Julius Jones?
Despite spending more than 20 years on death row, weeks in a death chamber, and hours preparing for his own execution, Julius Jones refuses to remain silent about his captivity in an Oklahoma prison.
“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 told The Black Wall Street Times last year.
In February, The Black Wall Street Times asked Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, a moderate Republican, if he would consider reviewing Jones’ case.
“I don’t have any plans to look into his case right now since it was commuted,” AG Drummond responded. He said he’d reconsider the case only if “it becomes relevant again.”
Ultimately, through the founding of the Julius Jones Institute, and the high-profile meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris’ legal team, Jones’ fight for freedom appears far from over.