By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
Oklahomans looking to cool off this weekend will be able to purchase a shaved ice treat and know their dollars are helping to free an innocent man from death row, according to Gomez.
On Saturday, one hundred percent of profits earned by the SugaShack located at 1228 N. Interstate Drive in Norman, will go towards the effort to commute Julius Jones’ death sentence and release him from prison. Proceeds will be donated to the Julius Jones Coalition.
Supporting Jones’ cause is second nature to Gomez and her employees.
“Over twenty years ago, a young Black man was railroaded into a death sentence and never got a chance to share his story,” said Gomez.
“I believe Oklahoma has changed and people think differently,’ she added. “I want to contribute to that positive change in every way I can, including with our business. I hope we sell a lot of snacks and shaved ice this Saturday, because saving Julius Jones’ life is a cause we should all be getting behind.”
Jones was arrested and convicted of the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, an Edmond businessman who was shot and killed during a carjacking.
Jones, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, has maintained his innocence and says he was nowhere near the scene of the crime. Multiple people have signed sworn affidavits saying that Jones’ codefendant Chris Jordan has repeatedly confessed to the murder.
Over 6.3 million signatures have now been gathered on the Change.org petition supporting Jones’ commutation which was started in 2019. 6.2 million signatures were delivered to the Pardon and Parole board on February 25 of this year.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board will hold a Stage Two commutation hearing for Jones on Monday, September 13, during which his attorneys will have the opportunity to present the case for his innocence.
Recent polling indicates that six in ten Oklahoma voters support commuting his sentence to something other than death. The Julius Jones Coalition has organized rallies, digital forums and other events to advocate for his release from prison.
“Erica Gomez is a powerful example that it takes all of us to use whatever resources we have to save a person’s life,” Cece Jones-Davis, an ordained minister, activist and founder of the Julius Jones Coalition stated. “The Julius Jones Coalition is made up of passionate, courageous people like Erica, and we are grateful that SugaShack is helping Julius in such a creative, generous way.”
Cece first became aware of the Jones case by watching the ABC documentary “The Last Defense” executive produced by Academy Award winning actress Viola Davis. The three part docu-series examined the flaws of the case revealing new evidence of Jones’ innocence.
Prior to the murder, Jones graduated high school on the honor roll and was a student at the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship with dreams of joining the basketball team.
In 2020, a two-hour abridged version of the documentary, “The Last Defense: Julius Jones – ABC 20/20 Special Report, revealed updated details of the crime and trial.
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.
Jones’ attorneys continue to uncover new evidence in the case.
Addi’s SugaShack, located at 1228 N Interstate Drive, Norman, OK 73072, will be open from 12 to 9 p.m. this Saturday, July 24. For more information, visitaddissugashack.com.
To read the commutation application and learn more about Julius’ case, visit justiceforjulius.com.