By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The event will be held on Friday, November 15, from 6 – 9 p.m., in the Lecture Hall in the Liberal Arts Building South (bldg. 30 – see map), on E. Hurd Street, off S. Baumann Avenue, in Edmond. Free parking available. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Executive produced by Academy award winning actress Viola Davis, three episodes of The Last Defense docu-series will be shown which focus on Jones, who has spent 20 years on Oklahoma’s death row. A discussion and Q&A session will follow.
Panelists will include: Brenda McCray, Investigator at the Oklahoma County Public Defender Office; Jimmy Lawson, Rose State College adjunct professor, founder of the John Marshall Impact Team, and longtime friend of Julius; Rex Friend, attorney and Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty board member; and Rev. Sheri Dickerson, director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma. McCray and Lawson both appear in the documentary.
According to Davis, The Last Defense spotlights serious flaws in the American justice system – and in particular the high rate of exonerated death row inmates.
Dr. Elizabeth Overman, UCO Professor, Department of Political Science and OK-CADP Vice Chair said, “Please invite your friends, acquaintances and associates to attend. This evening will be devoted to a serious examination of an important civic issue, the flawed implementation of the death penalty in Oklahoma.”
The Nov. 15 event is sponsored by the UCO Master of Public Administration Program, Pi Alpha Alpha Global Honor Society for Public Affairs & Administration, UCO Debate Club, Criminal Justice Club at UCO, Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society in Political Science, Julius Jones Think Tank, and Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP).
“Julius Jones has firmly maintained his innocence while spending the last 20 years on death row,” said Don Heath, OK-CADP Chair. “His story is finally heard in The Last Defense. People are moved when they watch the documentary; it has caused a groundswell of public support to free Julius.”
Last month, Baich, a member of Jones’ legal team, filed a petition of clemency on Jones’ behalf with the state Pardon and Parole Board and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. The petition asks for the board to commute Jones’ death sentence to time served.
Baich and co-counsel, Amanda Bass, both federal public defenders from Arizona, have worked since 2017 to save the life of Jones, who was accused, tried and convicted for the July 1999 murder of Edmond insurance executive Paul Scott Howell.
Since the filing, a massive letter writing and social media campaign has begun to encourage people who support Jones’ clemency application to contact their state officials.
Kim Kardashian West took to Twitter only days after the filing to ask Gov. Kevin Stitt to “give thoughtful consideration to an Oklahoma death-row inmate’s petition for clemency.” Kim also tweeted contact information for Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to her over 62 million followers who began asking how they can help Jones.
Letters of support been written by attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), U.S. Congresswoman Kendra Horn (D-OK); State Senator George Young (D-Oklahoma City); County Commissioner Carrie Blumbert; Witness to Innocence founder Kirk Bloodsworth; and Kris Steele and Susan Esco of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.
“Advocates and supporters have been working hard for over a year to shine light on Julius Jones’ tragic situation,” said Cece Jones-Davis, Julius Jones Thank Tank curator. “We are hopeful about his clemency application, which is now before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Our state has made great strides in Criminal Justice Reform efforts, but we know the work is not done. We need Julius Jones back.
To watch “The Last Defense” online, click here.