WA few hours before the execution of the American Julius Jones, the governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. The Republican followed a recommendation from the American state parole board. With Governor Stitt expressly denying 41-year-old Jones the option of early release, the convicted murderer must now spend the rest of his life in prison.
The case had reinvigorated debates in the United States over the death penalty, possible wrongful convictions, and discrimination against blacks. The African American was convicted of the murder of businessman Paul Howell in Edmond, Oklahoma City, in the summer of 1999. The jury considered it proven that the then 19-year-old Jones ambushed Paul Howell, his sister and daughters with an accomplice to get the family’s SUV. In Jones ‘parents’ house, investigators later found the murder weapon and a red headscarf described by witnesses. Jones’ accomplice, Christopher Jordan, also testified against him.
After the death sentence, the convicted Jones protested repeatedly that he was not responsible for Howell’s death. Several appeals followed that upheld the death sentence. After discussions about lethal injection, the state of Oklahoma temporarily suspended all execution dates in 2015.
6.6 million Americans signed the petition
Three years ago the case caused a stir again when Oscar winner Viola Davis portrayed it as an example of weaknesses in the American legal system in the documentary series “The Last Defense”. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kerry Washington and rapper TI also began calling for the death sentence to be overturned on social media. As of Thursday, nearly 6.6 million Americans signed an online petition against lethal injection for Jones. Allegedly, the court denied him the right to testify during the criminal trial. Behind the scenes, the public prosecutor’s office is said to have promised his accomplice Jordan easing the sentence for an incriminating testimony.
The relatives of the murdered Howell, including his two daughters, who were then witnesses to the attack, finally set up JusticeForPaulHowell.com to counter the speculations about alleged procedural errors with trial documents and testimony. “We read all the files one more time. There is no doubt that Jones did the deed. He murdered my father, “said daughter Rachel Howell to ABC. Despite the overturning of the death sentence, the 30-year-old thanked the judicial authorities: “It is reassuring for us as a family that Governor Stitt’s decision confirms Julius Jones’ guilt once more. He is not allowed to apply for early release for the rest of his life, any mitigation of punishment is excluded. “