OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) will host a free public screening of the ABC documentary The Last Defense on Friday, October 26 from 6 – 9 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The event will take place in the Communications Building (#13), Bill Burke Film Screening Room #120, on the UCO campus in Edmond.
First airing last summer, three episodes of The Last Defense will be shown that evening (approx. 2 hours), which focus on Julius Darius Jones, who has spent the last 19 years on Oklahoma’s death row. A discussion and Q&A session will follow.
Panelists include: Joi Miskel, former Oklahoma County Public Defender, now a criminal defense attorney with her own practice; Jimmy Lawson, Rose State College adjunct professor and longtime friend of Julius Jones; Cece Jones-Davis, Sing for Change founder; and Rev. Don Heath, Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty chair.
Heath stated, “Julius Jones has firmly maintained his innocence while spending the last 19 years on death row. His story is finally heard in The Last Defense. People are moved and appalled when they watch the documentary. They can’t believe that things like this are still happening in Oklahoma.”
The project was executive produced by Academy award winning actress Viola Davis and her husband Julius Tennon, founders of JuVee Production, to “give a voice to the voiceless through strong, impactful and culturally relevant narratives.” The couple partnered with XCON Productions and Lincoln Square Productions for this project.
The first episode, JULIUS JONES: The Crime, revisits how in 1999, Jones, an African American 19-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma on academic scholarship, was arrested days after a businessman was shot to death during a car-jacking gone wrong in Edmond, Oklahoma.
“The second (The Trial) and third (The Fight) episodes explore police and prosecutorial misconduct in the case, racism in the criminal justice system, as well as during Julius’s criminal proceedings, and raises serious questions about whether Julius was wrongfully convicted,” stated Dale Baich, a member of Jones’ legal team.
According to Davis, The Last Defense spotlights serious flaws in the American justice system – and in particular the high rate of exonerated death row inmates.
“This evening is devoted to an examination of the arbitrary and racist nature of the death penalty,” said Dr. Elizabeth Overman, UCO Professor, Department of Political Science.
“The underlying and rattling issue is the execution of innocent individuals. Since 1973, 163 people have been released from death row in the United States because they were proven innocent – ten from Oklahoma,” Overman added. “Application of the death penalty is bad public policy. It needs to be abolished.”
The Oct. 26 event is sponsored by the UCO Master of Public Administration Program, Pi Alpha Alpha Global Honor Society for Public Affairs & Administration, the UCO Debate Club, Criminal Justice Club of UCO, Sing For Change, and the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
“After learning about Julius Jones’ story on ‘The Last Defense’ and hearing directly from him, we are confident that when viewers see the final episode of his case, they will be shocked by the new information we have uncovered; information that his lawyers believe could ultimately compel the courts to revisit his case,” said London Square producer Gemma Jordan.
Free parking will be available – nearest lots are 4 -7. Those attending the event are encouraged to park near the UCO Liberal Arts Building, located off Baughman St. on the east side of campus. (See map)
“A wind is blowing through Oklahoma City that we cannot contain,” Jones-Davis said. “It is as if God has opened the door to a dark room to shine light on the once-forgotten Julius Jones case. It’s time for Oklahomans to deal with it.”
On Thursday, Nov. 1, The Last Defense will be shown at Oklahoma City’s Auditorium at the Douglass, 600 N. High Avenue at 6 p.m., sponsored by Sing for Change and OK-CADP.