By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
This story first appeared online on Nov. 27, 2020.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Celebrity and activist Kim Kardashian West made a personal visit to Oklahoma death row prisoner Julius Jones in McAlester, Oklahoma on Monday. Jones has been on death row in Oklahoma State Penitentiary for over 20 years.
Jones, who is Black, was convicted in 1999 of shooting a white businessman in Edmond but has always maintained that he is innocent, stating that he was never even at the scene of the crime.
Kardashian West became involved in the Oklahoma-based “Justice for Julius” campaign after seeing the three-hour ABC documentary, “The Last Defense.” The documentary which examines Jones’ case, states a litany of exculpatory evidence that supports Jones’ claims of innocence, including secret plea deals and suspect testimony from Jones’ co-defendant, Chris Jordan, (who matched the eye-witness description of the shooter), an inadequate and unprepared defense team, and racism on the jury.
Over six million people have signed a Change.org petition asking the Pardon and Parole Board and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence. In June, Attorney General Mike Hunter acknowledged the board had the authority to do so.
Kardashian West met with Julius on death row, accompanied by Julius’ attorney and federal public defender, Dale Baich.
Kardashian West later met in Oklahoma City with Julius’ family, which included his mother, father, sister and brother.
Also in attendance was longtime friend Jimmy Lawson and Scott Budnick, executive producer of the film “Just Mercy” based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Budnick told ABC News, “I first heard about Julius Jones from Kim Kardashian and Jason Flom. I felt in my heart having researched the case that Julilus is innocent and that Oklahoma is at risk of executing an innocent man. I don’t think there’s anybody on the planet, no matter your race, your religion or political party that can say that Julius got a fair trial.”
“Our family knows that Julius did not commit this murder, because Julius was at home with us at the time of the murder,” said Julius’ mother Madeline Jones. “We were at home playing board games and eating spaghetti.
“The judge and jury that convicted and sentenced my son to die never heard that we were having a family game night,” Madeline added. “Julius’ attorney never gave us the opportunity to tell them about where Julius was. My son did not kill anyone because he was home with his family.”
Jones’ defense team during the trial now admits to being unprepared and that they never presented Jones’ alibi or called any witnesses to his defense. They failed to show photos that prove that Jones did not match the eye-witness description.
According to reporter Vincent Hill of KJRH Channel 2 Tulsa, Megan Tobey, the only eye witness in the murder of her brother Paul Howell, described the shooter as a black man wearing a red bandana over his face and a stocking cap over his head. A photo of Jones taken 10 days before the murder shows Jones with short hair. Tobey described the shooter’s hair as much longer.
Since Jones’ conviction, multiple prisoners have also come forward to offer sworn statements that Jones’ co-defendant bragged about framing him in exchange for a reduced sentence (read the affidavits here).
A John Marshall High School graduate with Jones, Lawson stated, “We are very grateful that Kim Kardashian took the time out of her busy schedule to come to Oklahoma City to advocate for Julius Jones. Because of who she is and her platform, her voice speaks volume.
“She has so much passion for the wrongfully convicted, and she believes strongly that Julius Jones is innocent,” Lawson added. “We are encouraged that with her support, as well as Scott Budnick’s, that the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and Governor Stitt will hear Julius’s clemency petition as soon as possible.”
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board can recommend that Julius’s death sentence be commuted and reduced. Governor Kevin Stitt would then have the ability to accept that recommendation.
Justice for Julius Coalition leader Cece Jones-Davis said all Julius wants is a chance to tell his side of the story and present the evidence that should have been presented at trial.
“Here is a man with an alibi, who did not match the eye-witness description of the shooter, and who was convicted by the testimony of incredibly unreliable witnesses motivated by secret plea deals,” said Jones-Davis.
“It has been more than one-year since Julius submitted his commutation application and we want the Pardon and Parole Board to grant Julius a hearing that will be full and fair and will also allow the board to consider the new evidence,” she continued. “Anything less would be a tremendous miscarriage of justice.”
To learn more about Julius’ case, visit justiceforjuliusjones.com.