The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board approved Julius Jones’ request for a commutation hearing today, despite a letter of rejection by Oklahoma County’s top prosecutor.
In 2002, Jones, a former OU student, was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty for the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell. Jones has since maintained his innocence and amassed millions of supporters in his plea for innocence, including Kim Kardashian West.
District Attorney David Prater wrote a 15-page letter on Monday urging the Pardon and Parole Board to reject Jones’ request for a commutation hearing, according to the Associated Press.
Justice for Julius supporters said in a Feb. 6 Twitter post that a commutation hearing would be Jones’ last chance at freedom. Without it, he will face the death penalty.
Despite Prater’s rejection proposal, the Pardon and Parole Board voted to move his case to a Stage 2 commutation hearing, allowing Jones to speak his case to the board directly, according to an article in The Frontier.
Justice for Julius supporters delivered a petition with over six million signatures calling for Jones’ freedom to the Pardon and Parole Board offices Feb. 25.
“Julius is not somebody who people think of (when describing) people on death row,” Justice for Julius supporter Malissa Hurry said Feb. 17. “(He) is intelligent, he's compassionate and he deserves to be out of prison after spending 21 years there.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter issued a press release criticizing the decision.
“With the exception of Judge Allen McCall, I am disappointed in the members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board,” Hunter wrote in the release. “The three members who voted in favor of moving Jones to stage two did not apply objective standards to the law or the evidence. I encourage those members to go back and look at the 33-page protest letter and 849-page appendix we submitted last Monday, which completely invalidates every claim that Julius Jones is innocent.”
Hunter wrote his office will “continue to stand on the irrefutable facts of this case” by “opposing Jones’ request for relief.”