Several major supporters of Julius Jones will fast to show solidarity while he’s placed on death watch, a period of strict supervision of an offender on death row, o Friday.
On Sept. 20, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set Jones' execution date for Nov. 18. The state's Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend commuting Jones' sentence from the death penalty to life in prison with the possibility of parole on Sept. 13.
Gov. Kevin Stitt rejected the board's decision, citing his belief that a clemency hearing, which pardons the convicted person, is necessary rather than a commutation hearing, which lessens the sentence. Only four death row inmates have received clemency in Oklahoma’s history. Jones’ clemency hearing is now set for Oct. 26.
Jabee Williams, a supporter of the Justice for Julius movement and an Oklahoma City rapper, said fasting was an idea that would allow him to sacrifice in solidarity with Jones and his family.
“When I realized he was going on death watch, I just said, ‘We need to be on death watch too,’” Williams said. “That's just kind of how I started — just thinking about how alone he's going to feel and he's going to be. And I was just like, ‘Man, I can't let him go to that alone. He needs to know people are out here and right there with him.’”
Williams said he’ll fast for the entirety of the time Jones is on death watch. He plans to give up sugar, alcohol and most things he enjoys, as well as taking time each day to meditate and pray for Jones.
Other community members are also participating in acts of support for Jones on Friday. The African and African American Studies department will hold a Freedom Vigil for Julius Jones on Friday at noon on the South Oval to show further support for Jones. The Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, the Justice for Julius campaign director, said she will also join Williams in his fast by cutting out all food for the first day of death watch.
“The fact that the state is insistent at this point on killing him, and the fact that the deathwatch starts a grim process towards the execution chamber — we are obviously in a very serious stage,” Jones-Davis said. “We’re standing in solidarity, and doing the least we can do by giving up something that is … special to us to do our part to empathize with what is going on with him … and pray with his family.”