By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Senior Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY — To raise awareness about his upcoming September 13 commutation hearing, the Justice for Julius Jones Coalition has announced a series of virtual and in-person events hosted by supporters, well-wishers and activists. The week of Monday, Aug. 30 through Saturday, Sep. 4 is being dubbed “Julius Jones Week.”
Jones is on death row in Oklahoma, despite maintaining his innocence and compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted.
On Monday, August 30, a socialmedia event will takeplace themed “Justice for Julius Instagram Live Kickoff.” Supporters and advocates will talk about the week’s upcoming events and why they are supporting Julius Jones. The Instagram kickoff event will take place on Instagram @justiceforjulius (IG) at 7 p.m. (CST).
A private Virtual Prayer Circle for Julius Jones will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. Community members will join Julius Jones’ mother, Madeline Jones, for a time of prayer and reflection as the 9/13 commutation hearing approaches. The virtual vigil will feature Oklahoma City clergy and advocates.
On Wednesday, September 1, a Witness to Innocence (WTI) event to support Julius will be held at 6:30 p.m., at the Church of the Nazarene, 4400 NW Expressway, in Oklahoma City. Four national death row exonerees from Witness to Innocence will travel to Oklahoma City to tell their stories of how the criminal justice system almost killed them and discuss the prevalence of wrongful convictions in the U.S as well as their support for Julius Jones’ commutation application. The WTI event is open to the public and will be available online via live stream here.
On Thursday, September 2, Julius’ best friend, Jimmy Lawson, will host the Julius Jones HoopFest, which t includes a series of 5 on 5 basketball games in honor of Julius Jones. The event will be held at the Oklahoma Athletic Center, 3333 West Hefner Road, from 6 – 8 p.m. The public is invited to watch.
A special Justice for Julius 5K Walk/Run will be held on Saturday, September 4 and will step off from Kindred Spirits restaurant and bar, 1726 NE 23rd Street at 9:30 a.m. The public is invited to join this free event hosted by activist and musician Jabee Williams and the New Year, New Justice team for a 3-mile walk/run in anticipation of Julius Jones’ 9/13 commutation hearing.
At 10 a.m., on Monday, 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.
In 1999, authorities arrested Jones days after businessman Paul Scott Howell was killed in a predominantly white suburb of Oklahoma City. Jones has been on death row in Oklahoma since 2002.
At the time of his arrest, 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.
Last February, a group of over 100 faith leaders, activists, and family members of Jones gathered at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City to support Jones’ effort to have his death sentence commuted. The group marched three blocks to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board where they presented a petition with over 6.2 million signatures supporting Jones’ innocence.
Jones’ case first came to national attention after the release of the ABC documentary titled, “The Last Defense,” which was seen by many as riddled with racism and prosecutorial misconduct.
As reported by Jessica Bruno of KFOR TV, Pardon and Parole Board Executive Director Tom Bates issued the following statement regarding the upcoming hearing:
“The second stage commutation hearing for Julius Jones will be on the September 13th docket. It was set in September to allow new administrative rules to go into effect concerning enhanced second stage hearings in cases that the Pardon and Parole Board determines warrant more time to hear from advocates for the offender as well as victims and trial officials. Our current rules only allow relatively short periods of time for these hearings.”
To read the commutation application and learn more about Julius’ case, visit justiceforjulius.com.