Oklahoma City police officers have begun erecting barricades around the governor’s mansion, the Black Times reported, as governor Kevin Stitt considers stopping the impending execution of controversial Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones.
The state parole board has twice recommended that Jones, sentenced to execution for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, be removed from death row, citing doubts about his true guilt. The decision, however, ultimately rests with Governor Stitt, and the execution will take place on 18 November unless he elects to grant Jones clemency.
The Independent has contacted the Oklahoma City Police Department and the governor’s office for comment.
The OKCPD said on Tuesday on social media it put up the barriers to create a “safe place” for peaceful protest, at the request of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Family members and activists supporting Jones have been camped out around the clock at the state capital, praying, chanting, and hoping to meeting with governor Stitt as he considers whether to allow the execution to go forward. So far, however, the governor hasn’t directly addressed the group or spoken with Jones’s family, though faith leaders supporting Jones have met with governor’s office officials.
Instead, the governor is reportedly in “solitude praying.”
A passionate innocence movement has sprung up around Jones’s case in recent years, and high-profile backers of the “Justice for Julius” campaign rallied to his defence as his execution date grows closer, including actor Mandy Patinkin and reality star Kim Kardashian, who has visited Jones in prison.
“This is the cold machinery of the death penalty,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, “an innocent man could be put to death. My heart breaks for Julius and so many others who have suffered from such tragic miscarriage of justice.”
Julius Jones has long maintained his innocence, and alleges that systemic racism, flawed police work, jury bias, inexperienced public defenders, and an unfair trial put him behind bars for more than two decades for a crime he didn’t commit.
Meanwhile, the Howell family, as well as a number of current and former Oklahoma law enforcement officials, argue courts identified the correct killer, and that Jones has had ample legal appeals to prove his innocence, all of which have failed. The murder weapon was found in Julius Jones’ home, wrapped in a bandanna containing his DNA, though he contends his co-defendant placed the gun there, and that the DNA test is inconclusive.
Jones is one of a number of Oklahoma death row inmates in a lawsuit challenging the state’s execution process as unconstitutionally cruel, arguing its lethal injection drugs don’t do enough to sedate people before they are executed.
Oklahoma didn’t execute any inmates for six years, after a series of botched killings in 2014 and 2015, where problems arose such as inmates being injected with the wrong drugs. In October, the state resumed executions when it killed John Marion Grant, who convulsed and vomited before dying, leading to condemnations from human rights experts who said the state hadn’t learned its lesson.
In the summer of 2020, Oklahoma City was home to large peaceful Black Lives Matter protests as well as riots after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the 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.
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