On Thursday, Nov. 18, just hours before the scheduled execution of Julius Jones, the governor of Oklahoma spared his life.
Jones’ death sentence was reduced to life in prison by Governor Kevin Stitt. His execution was to take place at 4 p.m.
The decision sparked significant outrage amid allegations that he was involved in the death of a businessman more than two decades ago.
“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt. said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
A joyful mass of Jones supporters gathered at the Oklahoma Capitol shortly after noon on Thursday, Nov. 18, to hear the outcome. In addition, more than a hundred people gathered outside the McAlester prison to show their support.
Jones’ attorneys filed a last-minute emergency plea for a temporary stay of execution on Thursday, Nov. 18. The reason for this was because, in Oklahoma, the lethal injection process offered “a serious and substantial risk of severe pain and suffering to inmates.”
Jones’ attorney, Amanda Bass, expressed hope that Stitt would grant Jones a pardon. They were grateful, however, that he was not executed.
Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder and condemned to death in the carjacking and shooting death of Paul Howell, a businessman from the Edmond suburb of Oklahoma City, in 1999.
Jones argued that the assailant was a high school acquaintance of his. He and his family claim he was at home the night Howell was killed. And none of this was ever brought up in court.
Oklahoma’s current attorney general, John O’Connor, said on Thursday, Nov. 18, that he respects Stitt’s choice to decrease his sentence. O’Connor, however, continues to believe that Jones is guilty.
Witnesses identified Jones as the shooter, and he was linked to Howell’s stolen vehicle, according to evidence from the trial.
Investigators also discovered the murder weapon wrapped in a bandana containing Jones’ DNA in his bedroom.
Jones refuted that evidence. He claimed that after the murder, the true killer went to Jones’ residence and left the gun and bandana there.
Megan Tobey, Howell’s sister, was in Howell’s SUV at the time of the carjacking.
According to Tobey, Jones shot her brother.