Hours before Julius Jones was scheduled to be executed, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Who Is Julius Jones?

Julius was a 19-year-old student athlete attending the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship in 1999.

On the night of July 28, 1999, Paul Howell, a 45-year-old businessman from an affluent Oklahoma City suburb, had returned home from a shopping trip with his two daughters and his sister, Megan Tobey, when he was shot and killed during a carjacking.

Megan Tobey testified that she distinctly remembers seeing Julius Jones shoot her brother. 

Despite eyewitnesses placing him at his parents’ home at the time of the murder, hours away from the crime scene, Julius was convicted of Howell’s murder in 2002. 

Julius has spent nearly 20 years of his life on death row and was scheduled to be executed on Thursday, November 18 at 4 p.m. central time.

The Last Defense

In 2018, Viola Davis and Julius Tennon brought new attention to the case with their docs-series, “The Last Defense.” 

Watch the trailer below. 

Watch Julius Jones’ case on “The Last Defense.”

Kim Kardashian, Russell Westbrook, And Others Advocate For Julius’ Execution To Be Halted

As the execution date drew near, millions including the public, community leaders, athletes and celebrities urged Governor Stitt to spare the life of Julius Jones.

A petition launched on Change.org garnered over 6 million signatures. 

In 2020, NBA star Russell Westbrook wrote a letter to Gov. Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Members advocating for Julius.

The letter read in part: 

Jones’ conviction was tainted by a deeply flawed process.

As more details come to light regarding his situation, I join with many voices to express sadness and profound concern regarding his conviction and death sentence.

Kim Kardashian has championed Julius’ case after visiting him in prison in 2020. 

She took to Twitter writing: 

I want to give u all an update on Julius Jones. We are all anxiously awaiting a decision from Governor Stitt.

He can choose to accept the recommendation (for a 2nd time) from the Parole Board, to grant Julius Clemency/Life w. the possibility of parole or have him executed Thursday the 18th.

Julius, his family and everyone on his team are  still hopeful Stitt will do the right thing. Today Julius’ family and close friends received invites to his execution. I can’t even imagine how they all must be feeling right now.

I want to share with you what the process of the execution is like in Oklahoma. 

#JuliusJones has been on death watch for more than 2 weeks. In preparation for his execution on Nov. 18, he is alone in his prison cell just feet away from the executioner’s chamber.

He has been strip searched, x-rayed, and issued a new set of clothes, shoes, mattress & bedding.

Julius is being closely monitored by staff – every meal he has and every liquid he consumes is logged. His personal property has been catalogued and he has designated who is to receive it after he is put to death. He has also designated who will receive his remains.

The state is so bent on vengeance that they will make every effort to ensure they get to kill Julius- including reviving him if he happens to go into cardiac arrest prior to the execution.

Like all incarcerated people put to death by the Oklahoma Dept of Corrections, #JuliusJones organs are not eligible for donation. The staff who will administer his execution are being selected and trained to put him to his death.

On Thursday, the Inspector General will obtain the body bag and tag from the medical examiner’s office and all witnesses for the execution will be selected. Next week, they will restrict access to the unit where Julius is housed and they will perform equipment checks.

At 9pm the day before his execution, #JuliusJones phone privileges will be terminated and he will receive his last meal. He will be checked on every 15 minutes for the last four hours of his life. Then, he will be put to death.

This is the cold machinery of the Death Penalty in America. In just over two weeks, 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.

Read the original tweets here.

Governor Kevin Stitt Commutes Julius Jones’ Death Penalty

In the hours before Julius was to be executed, Governor Stitt made the decision to commute his death penalty to life in prison without parole.

He released the following statement:

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.

The condition of Executive Order 2021-25 is Julius shall never again be eligible to apply for, be considered for, or receive any additional commutation, pardon, or parole.

So regardless of his innocence he will still spend the rest of his life in prison.

After Governor Stitt commuted the Julius’ life sentence to life without parole, Kim Kardashian took to social media to thank him. 

Thank you so much Governor Stitt for commuting Julius Jones sentence to life without parole and stopping his execution today.

I spent most of my day on the phone with Julius yesterday in between his lawyer meetings and family visitation which still are not contact visits. Meaning he cannot still hug his family members before being executed. He hasn’t in over 20 years.

While I was on the phone with him somebody came in the room to try to give him his anti-anxiety meds that you usually are forced to take before you are executed so that you can be more calm about the fact that you are about to be executed.

However Julius refused because he said he has a clear conscience and that gives him peace knowing he is innocent and did not want to be drugged up.

He also wanted me to pass a few messages along that were really important to him. The most important is that you have to always make sure you are doing the right thing. Julius was hanging out with the wrong crowd and that landed him in the position he’s in today.

He said if you are doing something your mom wouldn’t approve of then you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s that simple!

I’m so grateful to everyone who used their voice and helped to save Julius’s life today.

Thank you to the parole board and Governor Stitt. ????????❤️

See her original tweets.

Paul Howell’s Family Reacts

The victim’s sister, Megan Tobey, who testified she distinctly remembers seeing Julius kill her brother, still believes he’s guilty.

He is the same person today as he was 22 years ago. He’s still getting into trouble. He’s still in a gang. He’s still lying. And he still feels no shame, guilt or remorse for his action.

We need Julius Jones to be held responsible.

Julius Jones Maintains His Innocence

As God is my witness, I was not involved in any way in the crimes that led to Howell being shot and killed.

I have spent the past 20 years on death row for a crime I did not commit, did not witness and was not at.

Sources: Washington Post, ESPN