Oklahoma prosecutor urges panel to reject inmate’s claims
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The evidence implicating an Oklahoma death row inmate whose case has drawn national attention is overwhelming and his application for a commutation is filled with “demonstrable falsehoods,” Oklahoma County’s top prosecutor wrote in a letter this week to the state’s Pardon and Parole Board.
The murder conviction of Julius Jones, 40, for the 1999 shooting death of Edmond businessman Paul Howell in front of Howell’s two young daughters has drawn the attention of reality television star Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, who have urged Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater detailed the evidence against Jones in a 15-page letter on Monday to the state’s Pardon and Parole Board in which he urged the panel to deny Jones’ request for a commutation hearing.
“To this day, Jones has not expressed an ounce of remorse for his callous actions,” Prater wrote. “Instead, he continues to victimize the Howell family by fueling a media circus with outright lies and by making a farce of this clemency process.”
Jones is scheduled for a phase one commutation hearing next week before the five-member parole board. If approved, the case would move to a more in-depth hearing that could ultimately lead to a commutation recommendation to the governor, who has the final say.
This week, Jones’ legal team released a video and a letter from a man who served time in an Arkansas’ prison with a man who was with Jones when Howell was killed, testified against him and served 10 years in prison. That man, Christopher Jordan, has since been released. In the video, Arkansas inmate Roderick Wesley alleges that Jordan confessed to killing Howell and framing Jones.
Prater’s letter didn’t specifically address this most recent allegation, but noted that appellate courts rejected claims that Jones’ attorneys were ineffective for not calling two other inmates who made similar claims that Jordan confessed to killing Howell.
“Questions about allegations of innocence made by the murderer, his counsel or his supporters are addressed in the filing,” Prater said in an email to The Associated Press when asked about the latest allegation from Wesley. “Continued misinformation espoused by the killer’s PR firm will not be responded to.”
Jones’ attorney, Dale Baich, said appellate courts have never looked at the merits of the claims by the inmates and criticized Prater for not taking a closer look.
“It seems like the district attorney is ignoring all this new evidence,” Baich said.
Prater’s letter also addresses numerous other claims raised by Jones’ defense team, including that a juror in his trial alleged 15 years later that another juror used a racial epithet to describe Jones, who is Black. Prater said this allegation also was dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeals, which determined it was “highly improbable.” The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected this claim.
Jones has maintained his innocence and claims in his application for clemency that he was framed by the real killers.
“At the time Mr. Howell was shot, I was at my parents’ house, with my family, miles away,” Jones wrote. “I did not commit, did not witness, was not at, and had nothing to do with Mr. Howell’s murder.”
Although Jones has exhausted all of his appeals, a date for his execution has not been set while Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols are being challenged in federal court.