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Oklahoma files motion to set execution date for former OU student Julius Jones; supporters pursue commuted sentence

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Julius Jones
A screenshot from the ABC docuseries, “The Last Defense”, shows Julius Jones' arrest in 1999.

Newly appointed Attorney General John O’Connor requested Thursday that execution dates be set for seven Oklahoma inmates, including former OU student Julius Jones.  

Julius was sentenced to death in 2002, after he was convicted of the murder of Paul Howell. Julius was a 19-year-old engineering student at the time, and has maintained his innocence since. He was the first death row inmate scheduled to have his case heard by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. 

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set an execution date of Oct. 28 for Julius, upon O’Connor’s request. Julius is also scheduled for a commutation hearing on September 13th

“It feels evil. It feels like the Attorney General is in a rush in some way to kill (Julius) when there are so many other credible claims to his innocence,” Cece Jones-Davis, the Justice for Julius campaign director — which currently has 6.3 million signatures — said. “I think that the Attorney General would like nothing more than to see him disappear because of the national outcry that has occurred on his behalf.” 

O’Connor said, Thursday, his thoughts remain with the families of the victims of the death row inmates and claimed the lengthy appeal process is delaying justice. 

Jones-Davis said she feels the disparity between the treatment of the families of the victims and the families of the inmates could be related to race. Julius’ attorney claimed his original case was tainted by a racist juror who said authorities should “shoot him behind the jail.” 

Oklahoma’s incarceration rates also reflect racial disparities, as 3,796 out of 100,000 Black individuals from the U.S. are incarcerated compared to the white incarceration rate of 767 per 100,000.

“I think that maybe the Attorney General only cares about certain people. Maybe because the Attorney General is not as committed to justice,” Jones-Davis said. “I don't know for sure because I don't know the Attorney General, but those would be my speculations, and I feel pretty good about my speculations.”

O’Connor is requesting the first executions since 2015. Oklahoma was forced to halt all lethal injection executions after a series of botched executions in 2014 and 2015

In 2015, potassium acetate was mistakenly used instead of potassium chloride in the execution of Charles Warner. Warner's last words were, "My body is on fire." In 2014, Clayton Lockett died from a heart attack after 16 failed attempts to set an IV line, which caused Lockett's vein to explode. 

As executions resume, Oklahoma intends to return to its former three-drug protocol for lethal injections. Among three of the chemicals in that drug protocol is midazolam, a drug that was also used in the two botched executions in the state. This has caused concern for many, as the state is still embroiled in a federal lawsuit over the botched lethal injections.   

“The governor of Oklahoma has made great strides toward reasonable, reasonable reform,” Jones-Davis said, “But I don't think we can trust the judgment of district attorneys and attorney generals, who would rush to put someone to death, when there are still so many outstanding questions about his guilt.”

Antoinette Jones, Julius' sister and biggest supporter, said his family remains in continuous prayer and is thankful for the community's continued support of Julius. 

“We're going to keep doing what we're doing,” Antoinette said. “Julius is still holding on. He's still staying calm. Sometimes people don't realize the effect the community has on uplifting people, but community is everything. I appreciate my Oklahoma community.”

Antoinette said the request of O’Connor felt personal, citing a recent poll that claimed six in 10 Oklahomans believe Julius should have his sentence commuted. 

“My brother is truly humbled by the continued support and the number of people speaking up on his behalf and being encouraged to learn more about his story,” Antoinette said, “People are learning more about things that weren't said at the beginning, and how it was all one-sided.”

Jones-Davis asked that supporters write and call the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to ask them to continue Julius' commutation hearing. She also requested that people contact Gov. Kevin Stitt and O'Connor to ask them to reverse this motion.

“I have always done this work with a cautious optimism, understanding that this is a David and Goliath situation, and I am not Goliath,” Jones-Davis said. “But I don't believe we've come this far for God to leave us. You know, I don't think that we've come this far and made this kind of progress for Julius not to ultimately receive justice.”

Editor's note: This article was updated at 11:43 a.m. on Aug. 30 to reflect the proper spelling of Attorney General John O’Connor's name. It was also updated at 1:42 p.m. on Sept. 14 to indicate Cece Jones-Davis is the Justice for Julius campaign director, not the founder. 

junior news reporter

Mikaela DeLeon is a journalism junior and junior news reporter at The Daily.

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