OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt spared Julius Jones’s life, a prominent death row inmate. 

Stitt granted Jones clemency on Thursday following a recommendation by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. This reduced Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without parole.

“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 statement.

As a condition of granting clemency, Stitt ordered that Jones shall never be eligible to apply for or be considered for a commutation, pardon, or parole for the rest of his life.

Stitt’s decision is slightly different from Jones’ recommendation by the Pardon and Parole Board to reduce Jones sentence to life imprisonment with parole. Jones, if that had happened Jones would be eligible immediately for parole following his murder conviction. 

Jones will be executed on Thursday after the governor announced his decision. Stitt’s announcement came just hours before the execution began.

Stitt’s decision to grant clemency marks a partial win for a diverse group of Jones activists and supporters who have proclaimed the inmate was wrongfully convicted in the murder of an Edmond man. Jones was sentenced to death almost twenty years ago. 

Jones supporters will likely not accept Stitt’s decision that Jones be kept behind bars. 

Jones was set to be executed for the 1999 fatal shooting of Edmond insurance executive Paul Howell during a carjacking.

2002 Trial: Jurors voted for the death penalty.

Jones has maintained he is innocent, claiming his co-defendant shot and killed Howell and pinned the slaying on him.

There are increasing numbers of Jones supporters who have proclaimed Jones innocence and asked Stitt for clemency. A petition was signed by millions in support Jones following the 2018 documentary about Jones’ innocence that ABC aired. 

Prosecutors have disputed Jones’ claims of innocence, saying the trial showed clear evidence of his guilt and the campaign to free him is based on misinformation. 

Jones was recommended by the Pardon and Parole Board to be allowed to live. The board voted 3-1 to recommend that Jones be sentenced to life imprisonment with parole. 

Stitt had the option to adopt, modify or reject the parole board’s recommendation. An execution stay could have also been granted to Stitt, which would have allowed him to take more time considering the recommendation. 

Stitt appointed two of three parole board members who recommended that Jones be granted clemency. Scott Williams was unable to vote. 

Stitt previously told reporters he would meet with members of the Howell family and prosecutors and defense attorneys on the case before making a decision. 

He stated that he would also take into consideration the recommendations of the board. 

Stitt stated that Jones’ sentence was being commuted in September. “I must faithfully perform my role as governor and that is not something I take lightly.”  

Jones’ SupportKim Kardashian speaks out in advance of the execution plan for Julius Jones.

Recommendation from the Board:Oklahoma parole board recommended clemency to Julius Jones. He faces execution Nov. 18

Clemency is rarely granted by an Oklahoma governor. It has only been done four times throughout Oklahoma’s history. 

Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry was a Democrat and granted clemency three death row prisoners. Former governor Frank Keating granted clemency just once. 

Dating back to when Keating was in office, Oklahoma governors have denied clemency at least nine times.  

Oklahoma is home to one of America’s most busy death chambers.

The state executed more than 100 people under Stitt’s 24 year tenure as governor. 

Source: USAToday.com

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