OKLAHOMA CITY — Amid growing public concern about the fairness and reliability of the conviction and death sentence of Julius Jones, numerous letters of support from bipartisan and prominent civil rights leaders, faith leaders, experts on criminal justice policy, and others accompanied Jones’ application for clemency which was filed Tuesday.
Julius Darius Jones sits on death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary following his 1999 murder trial for shooting Edmond resident Paul Howell to death.
Jones was 19 at the time the shooting took place. Christopher O’Neal Jordan testified against Jones. Jordan was sentenced to prison for 30 years before he would be eligible for release. Jordan was released from prison after 15 years.
Howell was a 45-year-old insurance executive when he was brutally murdered upon opening the door of his 1997 Chevy Suburban parked in his parents’ driveway.
Paul was with his sister, Megan Tobey, and his two children returning from a shopping trip when he was rushed by two men at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 1999. The Howells and Tobey had gotten ice cream at Braum’s Ice Cream and Burger Restaurant. Paul was shot in the head, his body thrown out of the car and his two legs broken by the retreating SUV after he was slammed to the ground. He survived for a few hours longer. Tobey was able to escape into the house with Paul’s two daughters.
DNA test results of a red bandana linked to the weapon used to murder Howell are positive for multiple individuals including that of Julius Darius Jones, according to analysis.
The letters, addressed to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, echoed concerns raised in Jones’ clemency filing, including serious doubts about Jones’ guilt, never-considered evidence of racial bias, evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, and poor legal representation, among other issues.
The Black Ministerial Alliance of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumbert, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, Witness to Innocence, and prominent national Evangelical leaders submitted letters urging a grant of executive clemency in Jones’ case.
Many of the letters discussed disturbing evidence that racial bias tainted Mr. Jones’ case. As the letter from evangelical leaders states, “From the start, (Mr. Jones’) case was riddled with racial discrimination. Upon his arrest, according to Julius, a police officer used the “n word,” and the state was successful in removing all prospective black jurors except one … At least one juror harbored racial prejudice that influenced his vote to convict and sentence Julius to death. One juror reported that a fellow juror commented that the trial was a waste of time, and that “they should just take that n….. out and shoot him behind the jail.”
Some of the letters cited a 2017 study called “Race and Death Sentencing for Oklahoma Homicides 1990-2012,” which found that a black accused of killing a white male victim in Oklahoma at the time his trial and sentencing was nearly three times more likely to receive a death sentence than if his victim were a non-white male.