Update: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has voted in favor recommend grace for Julius Jones. Read our previous story below.
A man in Oklahoma on the verge of death for a murder he says he has not committed will have one last chance to reprimand his case at a mercy hearing today.
In 1999, at the age of 19,was convicted of killing Paul Howell. Jones has always maintained his innocence, and his family says he was home at the time of the murder.
In September, Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended Governor Kevin Stitt change Jones’ sentence to life in prison. The chairman of the board said, “I believe there should be no doubt in the death penalty cases, and in short, I am in doubt in this matter.”
Both families want the same thing – justice – but they look at the matter very differently.
Paul Howell’s daughter is convinced that Jones killed her father and that the evidence supports it.
The Jones family says Julius is innocent, that the breed played a role in his beliefs, and the system failed him when he was 19 years old. They say now is the time for his side to be heard.
Julius’ sister, Antoinette Jones, is leading the force pushing to keep her older brother alive.
“We’re fighting for a man’s life,” Antoinette told correspondent Mireya Villarreal. “What you see us doing is what should have been done 20 years ago.”
Villarreal asked, “What is the truth about him?”
“The truth about my brother is that he is an innocent man on the death row.”
On July 28, 1999, Paul Howell was murdered outside his parents’ home in front of his family. His SUV was stolen, and witnesses reported seeing a black man with a red bandana and 1-2 inch hair shoot the father of two.
Three days later, 19-year-old Julius Jones was arrested at his home. His family says eyewitness accounts do not match Julius, who at the time had a shaved head.
Villarreal asked Antoinette, “What makes you so sure they have the wrong person?”
“Because I know where my brother was the night Mr. Paul Scott was murdered,” she replied. “He was at home with his family. We ate spaghetti and cornbread. Before we ate spaghetti and cornbread, we played Monopoly.”
For years, the family has claimed that neither Jones nor his family were allowed to testify about critical details because his defense team was inadequate. They say his public defender was inexperienced and not cross-examined witnesses.
They also say the race played a role, pointing to a white jury member and the officer who arrested him, allegedly calling Jones the N-word.
A 2018 documentary about Jones, “The Last Defense,” focused on evidence, attorneys who were not present at the trial of Christopher Jordan.
Jordan was convicted of murder for driving the getaway car in Howell’s death, but he has reportedly admitted to at least three others that he shot Howell and hit Jones.
Jones spoke to the film crew from prison and said he regretted not saying it was Jordan who committed the crime.
“I mean, it’s probably my biggest downfall that I never said anything to the police,” Jones said. “But where I grew up, do not tell other people’s things because bad things can happen to you. These people set me up to take the fall. For they knew someone would roast for this.”
Since the documentary aired, Jones’ case has garnered attention from celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Stephen Curry.
Rachel Howell was nine years old when her father was killed, and was with him that day. “There’s a lot of misinformation about this case,” she said, “and the public has been given a false narrative about this case.
“Julius Jones and his family and their supporters claim he was not given the opportunity to testify in court,” Howell said. “It’s completely false. You can find it in the transcripts if you do research. They asked him several times if he waived his right to testify, and he agrees that he did not want to testify.”
Jones’ mercy hearing is the first time she’s actually going to confront the man convicted of killing her father. Howell told Villarreal: “He was an innocent man who took his children to get ice cream with my aunt. He was murdered in front of me and my sister and my aunt. Understand that we are the victims here. We have done nothing wrong, and it almost feels like we’re doing something wrong by saying no. ”
Their hope for truth is a feeling that the Jones family shares.
“They want justice,” Villarreal said.
“They want justice, we want justice,” Antoinette Jones said. “That’s why every time I say ‘Justice for Julius’, and every time I fight for my brother, I fight for Mr Paul Howell.”
Several appellate courts have upheld the verdict, saying the case was conducted fairly.
If at today’s hearing mercy is recommended, the last word goes to Oklahoma’s governor. He decides whether Julius Jones lives or dies. If he gives pardon, it does not mean that Jones will immediately go out of jail.
If he does not receive mercy,.