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Gov. Kevin Stitt delays decision to commute Julius Jones' sentence, cites need for clemency hearing

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A truck outside of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, OK, during a rally for Julius Jones Sept. 13. 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced in a Tuesday press release he would be delaying his decision on the case of former OU student Julius Jones until after a clemency hearing conducted by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.   

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board decided in a 3-1 vote  on Sept. 13 to recommend commuting Jones' sentence from the death penalty to life in prison with the possibility of parole, after over twenty years on death row. Stitt rejected the board's decision, citing his belief that a clemency hearing is necessary rather than a commutation hearing.  

"Clemency hearings are more intensive and thorough than a commutation hearing and include the option for the inmate to speak publicly before the Pardon and Parole Board as well as the victim's family and attorneys from both sides," Stitt wrote in the statement. 

Stitt also wrote in the release clemency hearings for death row inmates are the precedent in Oklahoma. 

Rev. Cece Davis-Jones, the Justice for Julius campaign director and the creator of a petition  with over 6,000,000 signatures for Jones's innocence, said she feels disappointed over Stitt's decision to ignore the parole board's commutation recommendation.  

"Every day that an innocent man spends on death row is like 100 years," Davis-Jones said. "However, we are resolved in our belief that justice can still prevail. We will be patient and respect the process." 

On Sept. 1, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board set clemency hearing dates for Jones and five other death row inmates who had exhausted their legal appeals, with Jones’s trial set for Oct. 5.  The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set Nov. 18  as Jones's execution date. 

Davis-Jones believes a clemency hearing will be the next step for Jones and the campaign.  

"Julius goes on deathwatch (with stricter conditions) on Oct 15. That is an unnerving thought for all of us," Davis-Jones said. 

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