With less than four hours until Oklahoma was scheduled to execute Julius Jones, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he issued an executive order to commute the death sentence of Jones, sparing his life.
“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 news release.
Jones, who was convicted of murdering Edmond businessman Paul Howell in 1999, is scheduled to be executed at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He maintains his innocence. The Howell family argued the evidence is overwhelming and Jones’ execution should be carried out.
The governor’s executive order, which was announced at 12:10 p.m., commutes Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole, on the condition that he shall never again be eligible to apply for, be considered for, or receive any additional commutation, pardon, or parole.
When the News Broke
‘Today is a Good Day’
The Rev. Keith Josell, spiritual advisor for Julius Jones, spoke to the crowd assembled in McAlester near the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. “Today is a good day.”
(Below) A demonstrator’s rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
What They’re Saying
Reaction to Stitt’s commutation of Julius Jones’ death sentence from around the state, nation and political spectrum:
Sister Helen Prejean, whose story was featured in the movie “Dead Man Walking” starring Sean Penn and is an ardent opponent of the death penalty. Sister Prejean was outside the gates of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 2015 when :
“While Julius Jones’s death sentence was commuted to life without parole on condition that he can never again apply for a pardon or commutation, this does not preclude Julius from pursuing legal exoneration in state or federal courts.” via @helenprejean/Twitter
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and husband of Mercedes Schlapp, former President Donald Trump’s director of strategic communications:
“Thank you Gov. Stitt for discerning a path of mercy for Julius Jones. We realize that for all the families involved, including the victim’s loved ones, this has been traumatic. But a life was spared today at the urging of experts who looked at facts. May God’s love bring healing.” via @mschlapp/Twitter
In October, Schlapp co-authored this letter to Stitt: