By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter –
OKLAHOMA CITY – Due to extreme weather, the Justice for Julius Rally and Petition Delivery, previously schedule for February 18, will take place on Thursday, February 25. On that day, supporters of Julius Jones—including local clergy, elected officials and members of the Jones family – will present the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board with a petition calling for Jones’ death sentence to be commuted.
On Thursday, Julius’ supporters will meet at 12 p.m. at the Wesley United Methodist Church of Oklahoma City, located at 1401 NW 25th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73106. The group will hear from a number of faith leaders and will listen to the performance of a gospel choir.
At approximately 12:30 p.m., Julius’ supporters will walk three blocks from the church to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board offices at 2915 N Classen Blvd.
Upon arriving, members of the Jones family and the clergy will present state officials with the petition and signatures calling for Jones’ release. Letters of support of Julius’ innocence written to the Pardon and Parole Board and Governor Kevin Stitt will also be presented.
The letters raised concerns about evidence of racial bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and poor legal representation, and other issues, creating serious doubts about Jones’ guilt.
Jones has been on death row in Oklahoma since 2002 despite compelling evidence of innocence.
In 1999, authorities arrested Jones days after businessman Paul Scott Howell was killed in a predominantly white suburb of Oklahoma City. Julius Jones was a 19-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma on a partial academic scholarship and a former high school basketball state champion and star football player with an apparently bright future.
“We will rally and pray at the Wesley United Methodist church, then proceed three blocks to the Pardon and Parole Board office to deliver the Change.org petition that has over 6 million signatures,” Jones Davis said.
Jones’ case has garnered the support of celebrities including activist Kim Kardashian West and renowned attorney Bryan Stevenson as well as NBA players Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, and Blake Griffin.
According to the press release, the next step in Julius’ commutation application, supporters hope, will be for the Pardon and Parole Board to grant Julius a “stage one” hearing, or a brief overview of his case, before voting on whether or not to advance his application to “stage two,” a lengthier process that might result in a recommendation to commute his sentence.
Pastor Jon Middendorf with the Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene said that standing up for Julius has become an important issue for his congregation.
“As people of faith, we can’t just stand by and let this man be executed,” said Middendorf. “There is real and compelling evidence that Julius is innocent. Taking his life would be a grave injustice as well as a terrible tragedy. We are lending our voices and prayers to this effort in the hopes that we can finally bring Julius home to his family.”
Members of the Jones’ legal team, federal public defenders Dale Baich and Amanda Bass, filed a commutation application for Julius with the state Pardon and Parole Board on October 15, 2019. The Jones’ commutation application can be accessed here.
Baich’s hope is for commutation of Jones’s sentence to time served.
Since 1973, 173 former death-row prisoners have been exonerated – ten are from Oklahoma.
“It has been incredible to see Oklahomans from all walks of life and all political beliefs come together in support of Julius,” Baich told The City Sentinel. “To me, that reflects a universal understanding that executing someone when there is compelling evidence of innocence is fundamentally at odds with the values of Oklahomans.
“The purpose of this event is to drive home that point, and to remind the Pardon and Parole Board that the people of Oklahoma are watching and want the Board to deliver a just outcome,” Baich added.
“Julius’ case needs to be reviewed thoroughly and fairly,” he said. “At a minimum, that means granting him a ‘stage two’ hearing in front of the Board.”
The Julius Jones’ commutation petition and more information regarding his case can be found at justiceforjulius.com.
This story first appeared online on Feb. 13, 2021.