Julius Jones’s family says he’s ‘just beginning to fight’ as Oklahoma erupts in celebration after stay of execution

Family of victim Paul Howell say his murder forever changed their lives and they take comfort knowing Julius Jones will remain in prison for life

Justin Vallejo
New York
,Josh Marcus
Thursday 18 November 2021 22:12
Crowd cheers as Julius Jones’ life spared hours before execution.mp4
Leer en Español

Supporters of Julius Jones broke out in celebration and sang Amazing Grace after the death row inmate narrowly escaped execution for murder.

Jones’s sister, Antoinette Jones, told The Independent the family was overjoyed but that it was “just the beginning” of his fight.

“I feel lighter, at peace. It’s not over. This is still just the beginning. The fight, we press on,” Ms Jones said.

“This is just the beginning. I thank everybody for leaning in, lending their voice, lending their platform.”

Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt commuted Jones’s death sentence hours before he was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection.

Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for the 1999 shooting death of Edmond businessman Paul Howell during a carjacking.

Mr Howell’s daughter Rachel Howell, who witnessed her father’s murder, said in a statement to Oklahoma broadcaster KOCO that Governor Stitt had faced a difficult decision.

“We take comfort that his decision affirmed the guilt of Julius Jones and that he shall not be eligible to apply for, or be considered for, a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life,” the statement said.

“Julius Jones forever changed our lives and the lives of his family and friends.”

While his death sentence was commuted, Jones remains convicted of the killing and will serve out the rest of his sentence in prison.

The Innocence Project, which led the push to spare Jones’s life along with celebrities like Kim Kardashian, said it would continue to fight for a reduced sentence.

“Julius will live and his fight for justice continues,” it said in a tweet.

Kardashian herself said she spoke to Jones yesterday and he maintained his innocence, adding that he was just hanging out with the wrong crowd and that is what landed him in prison.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who used their voice and helped to save Julius’s life today. Thank you to the parole board and Governor Stitt,” Kardashian said.

Jones’s defence attorney, Amanda Bass, said the stay of execution was an important step towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system.

“While we had hoped the Governor would adopt the Board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’s innocence, we are grateful that the Governor has prevented an irreparable mistake,” Ms Bass said in a statement.

The Office of Oklahoma’s Attorney General, which pushed to continue with the execution, said it was “greatly disappointed” at the stay of execution.

“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,” the statement said.

“A thorough review of the evidence confirms Julius Jones’ guilt in this case and the death penalty was warranted.”

Jones’s mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, said she has been “haunted” for more than 20 years by the idea of watching her son die in an execution chamber.

“I still believe that every day Julius spends behind bars is an injustice, and I will never stop speaking out for him or fighting to free him,” she said in a statement. “But today is a good day, and I am thankful to Governor Stitt for that.”

Responsible Business Initiative for Justice CEO Celia Ouellette said the decision to commute Jones’s sentence demonstrates the breadth of support for ending the death penalty.

“Those campaigning for Julius’ life may not agree on everything, but they could certainly agree on one thing: an execution wasn’t the answer,” Ms Ouellette said.

“We are one step closer to dismantling America’s machinery of death. This coalition has been inspirational - and ones like it will drive abolition over the line.”

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in