By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
OKLAHOMA CITY – A recent poll shows that a majority of Oklahomans believe that Governor Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board should commute the sentence of Julius Jones, an Oklahoman on death row for a murder he says he did not commit.
The poll was conducted by the Oklahoma public affairs firm Amber Integrated from June 24-June 28. It included a pool of 500 registered voters in Oklahoma and has a margin of error of 4.38 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval.
Julius 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.
Since his trial, multiple inmates have independently signed sworn affidavits alleging that Julius’ co-defendant framed him for the murder and testified against him in return for a plea deal.
The poll found that 50 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents support commuting Jones’ sentence to “something other than death.” Just 29 percent of Republicans, 20 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of independents favor moving forward with his execution.
While Black voters overwhelmingly support commutation, at 72 percent, a solid majority (57 percent) of white voters also support commuting Jones’ sentence.
Support for Jones comes despite an aggressive pro-execution campaign waged by both former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who has resisted calls to turn over his office’s case files.
Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, a faith leader and an activist with the Justice for Julius Campaign, said the polling results show a growing awareness that the evidence in Jones’ case points to his innocence.
“Oklahomans of all political ideologies, all races and all ages don’t support killing someone who is innocent,” said Jones-Davis. “It’s as simple as that.”
Over 6 million people have signed the petition calling for a commutation of Julius’ sentence on Change.org.
Celebrity activists that include Kim Kardashian, Bryan Stevenson, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Baker Mayfield and Trae Young have all worked to raise the profile of Jones’ case.
On September 13, Jones will have a “Phase Two” commutation hearing in front of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. He is the first person on death row in Oklahoma to receive such a hearing.
“We have been saying for years that if anyone takes a close look at Julius’ case, it is obvious that he did not receive a fair trial and that Julius is innocent,” said Federal Public Defender Dale Baich, a member of Julius’ legal team.
“As the people of Oklahoma learn more about Julius and his circumstances, they are drawing that same conclusion,” Baich continued. “Our hope now is that the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and Governor Stitt approach his case with the same rigor and open-mindedness that the public has.”
For more information about Julius Jones’ case, visit justiceforjuliusjones.com.