And just like that, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has spared the life of convicted killer Julius Jones.
The decision, recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, was made public Thursday (Nov. 18), and Stitt expressed that it was not an easy one to make.
“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 news release.
Jones was a young man – just 19 years old – when he was named as the prime suspect in the 1999 killing of 45-year-old businessman Paul Howell.
A student at the University of Oklahoma at the time, Jones was close to scoring a basketball scholarship when he was detained and charged with Howell’s murder. Three years later, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death at just 22 years old.
Jones still maintains his innocence, and while family and friends of the now 41-year-old celebrate the courts ruling feels Gov. Stitt should have so easily dismissed previous rulings regarding the case.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor’s spoke on the matter, stating that he appreciates Stitt adding in the condition of life without parole despite his disappointment in previous court rulings have been “set aside.”
“I appreciate the governor’s condition that Mr. Jones never be released from prison. However, we are greatly disappointed that after 22 years, four appeals, including the review of 13 appellate judges, the work of the investigators, prosecutors, jurors, and the trial Judge have been set aside,” O’Connor’s office said in a news release. “A thorough review of the evidence confirms Julius Jones’ guilt in this case and that the death penalty was warranted. Our office will continue to work for justice and for the safety of all Oklahomans, including families like Paul Howell’s. We recognize that the pain of losing a loved one never ends, and our hearts and prayers are with the Howell family.”
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